Lil’ Red: A Semi Truck Dream

by Jamila Douhaibi | photos by Tanya Murchie – 

After over 5,000 shop hours, a pristine deep red semi truck stands in the wide storage bay on Henry Avenue in Sidney. Every detail has been painstakingly worked on and documented, and the stacks of paper manuals can attest to the final product. Still lightly draped with Christmas lights and a Santa riding on a motorcycle on the back, the affectionately-named “Lil’ Red” is Don Carscadden’s masterpiece.

Don and his friend Ken Charbonneau have spent the last several years purchasing parts and working with local professionals on the challenge of putting the 5/8 scale highway semi tractor truck together. Don says “this project came about through a lifetime of involvement with complex machinery and a love of older cars.” Don and Ken got the first part for the truck in January of 2020. They went to Alberta to get a 25-year-old Dodge Cummins diesel engine, and say the trip home was harrowing. It was -20°C near Golden and conditions were so bad that they went off the side of the road. After they got towed out, they continued on to Kamloops and were committed to getting home. The frame of their truck is a Ford F250 pickup and though it took a long time to find the perfect pieces for each aspect of the truck, nothing was as treacherous as that beginning.

When asked “How old is the truck?” Don replies: “Which part?” The engine is the oldest, from 1996, but has been completely rebuilt in Don’s garage. Starting with a 580,000 KM engine, the rebuilt one has only 85 KM on it, with a 750-HP rating. The truck includes hundreds of lights and three sets of horns.

Often up at five in the morning to start planning in their heads, Don and Ken would meet at the garage and have their coffee project mornings. They say that many people dropped by to see the progress and another friend, Peter, joined the team as an “enthusiastic pair of hands” who would help wherever he could. To make sure that even the colour was perfect, Don and his wife Janice spent an entire day going to Victoria car dealerships to find the right red. Dark and shiny, the black leather interior with matching red buttons and a spacious back seat is an enviable beauty, even for those who aren’t vehicle enthusiasts. Don’s statement of “We wanted to build something you don’t see every day,” definitely rings true.

Don and Ken have both been in the Torque Masters Car Club, a Sidney-based non-profit group, for 10 years. They were proud to include Lil’ Red in the annual August car show in Sidney. About 400 vehicles fill the streets of downtown Sidney with crowds of 12,000 people taking in the show. Money raised at the event not only funds the Club’s activities but has also helped to fund a scholarship program at Camosun College, along with donations to Cops for Cancer, Jump Start, Saanich Peninsula Hospital, and more.

Lil’ Red has been described as a “world class piece of rolling art.” It’s also a passion project not just of Don, Ken and Peter’s, but also the many talented local businesses in our community. JetStream Auto in Sidney did the paint and body work, DavLin Upholstery provided the gorgeous interior, All Keeler Metals did a lot of the welding, and JR Marine, Foreman CNC, and ElectroShine worked on components of the truck as well. Don highlights their work to show that this big project involved not only local businesses, but also the support and enthusiasm from the broader community.

Don and Ken will be involved in local parades and car shows across Vancouver Island, so give them a wave when you see Lil’ Red out and about on nice days in our communities.

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