From 1939 until the mid-1980s, the company was based in the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California. The original plant was in Oakland, which closed and in 1960, to move to Newark, California, also in the East Bay. Its headquarters and a new state-of-the-art manufacturing plant opened in Newark in October 1960. Truck production there ended at the close of 1986. Division headquarters and engineering remained in Newark until 1992, when a new administrative complex and a new engineering department at the Denton plant were completed. The new Madison/Nashville plant opened in 1969 in Madison, Tennessee, for the east-coast market. Originally it only manufactured the 352/282 cabover, then conventional production began in the 1970s, until it was closed in 2009. Production of class 8 trucks continues at the Denton, Texas plant.
In the early part of the 20th century, Tacoma, Washingtonplywood manufacturer and lumberentrepreneurT.A. Peterman was faced with a lumber logistics problem. He could not get logs from the forest to his lumber mill quickly or efficiently. He sought to improve upon the methods of the day: floating logs down river, or the use of steam tractors and horse teams. Peterman knew that if he could develop the then-nascent automobile technology and build trucks, he could solve his problem.
Peterman was rebuilding surplus army trucks, improving the technology with each successive vehicle. Then he put a battery on the starter (instead of the crank) and soon purchased the assets of Fageol Motors of Oakland, California in 1938 to supplement his need for a custom built logging truckchassis. Fageol had gone into receivership in 1932. By 1938, the Great Depression had driven the value of the assets to nearly zero. Peterman acquired the defunct truck manufacturer and although he produced two chain-drive logging trucks, they were unsuccessful. In 1939 he began selling his trucks to the public. T. A. Peterman died in 1944. His wife, Ida, sold the company (less the land) to seven individuals within the organization. They expanded it into a major producer of heavy-duty trucks. In 1958, Ida Peterman announced plans to sell the land to develop a shopping center. The shareholders, not wanting to invest in a new manufacturing facility, sold the company to Pacific Car & Foundry Co., then primarily a manufacturer of railroadfreight cars, which was looking to expand its truck manufacturing presence. Pacific Car & Foundry Co, which had acquired the assets of Kenworth in 1944, was already a competitor in the heavy truck market. In June, 1958, they acquired Peterbilt Motors as a wholly owned subsidiary. One year later, Pacific Car started construction of a modern 176,000-square-foot (16,400 m2) manufacturing facility in Newark, Calif. In August, 1960 Peterbilt moved to the new facility and became a division of the parent firm. Pacific Car and Foundry Co. changed its name officially to PACCAR in 1971.
Peterbilt model numbers traditionally started with a "2" for single drive rear axle tag axle models, and with a "3" for dual drive rear axle model from 1939 until 1981 with the 362. Peterbilt eliminated this distinction in the late 1970s.
200/265: Small truck with Volkswagen/MAN G90-based cab. Similar to the L80 cab series, Volkswagen production continues today in Brazil
260/334: On-highway, built 1939–1941.
270/334/345: On- highway, built 1941–1949.
354/355/364: Heavy duty, built 1941–1949. Twenty-eight Model 364s sold to Navy contractors in 1942.
280/350: This is the classic "iron-nose" conventional built from 1949 to 1957. It has distinctive cycle-type front fenders, and a long grille with vertical shutters.
281/351: The classic narrow-nose butterfly hood Peterbilt made from 1954 until 1976. The truck was made notorious with the public with the release of Steven Spielberg's 1971 thriller Duel, which featured a 1950s Peterbilt 281. (This truck was not a 351 because it had one tag axle.) The 351 was also available after 1971 in a setback front axle (SBFA) configuration (Peterbilt's first such design) aimed at the east coast market. Nicknamed "The Autocar Fighter" by some staff. The design of the companion trucks made way for later models, as the 351 SBFA evolved into the 353.
282/352: Tilt-cab cab-over-engine model that replaced the Model 351 (non-tilting) cab over with "Panoramic Safe-T-Cab" in 1959. Formally nicknamed the "Pacemaker" by a staffer at Peterbilt after an in-house name contest in 1969 (the winner got a color TV). 1959-early 1969: headlights closer to radiator. The UniLite cab was all hand tooled. Pacemaker style sheet metal 1969–1980. The Pacemaker cab was refined through the 1970s. Pacemakers 352s were available in cab sizes ranging from 54" to 110" bumper to back of cab (BBC). A 352 Pacemaker appeared in Knight Rider as super-truck Goliath, and the "cab-over Pete" is referenced in the classic CB radio song "Convoy".
352H: high cab model introduced circa 1975 for larger engines, with higher cab and 1,512 sq in radiator, instead of the normal 1,050 sq. in radiator. The 352H was available in 86" and 110" BBC lengths and the very rare 63" BBC cab.
358: The 358 (288 single drive) was Peterbilt's first tilt hood. Basically a tilt hood 351. Later available with a fiberglass hood. Peterbilt's design engineers received a U.S.Patent for the tilt hood design. 358 was available from 1965 until 1976.
359: Introduced in late 1967 this was the first wide-nosed conventional for Peterbilt, even though it did offer a "tropic radiator" wide-front 351 for export at the time(289 single drive). 359 was available in 119" and 127" long hood BBC configurations. The long hood was only available for specific engines such as the Detroit Diesel 12v71. In 1967–1972 it had the small-windowed "Unilite" cab. In 1973, the 1100 series cab with bulkhead-style doors debuted (late 1972) The Distinctive "Dash of Class" was developed in 1976. The 359 was in production until 1987, when it was replaced by its successor the model "379". In late 1986 Peterbilt offered a special "limited edition" "359 Classic", a limited run of 359 trucks with numbered dash plaques, although more than 359 were built. The bulkhead style doors of the 1100 series cab are still used today.
346: The second-rarest Peterbilt ever made. It was made from 1972 to 1975, and only 10 were made. The 346 was intended to be a concrete mixer, dump truck, or snowplow with 4×4 versions planned but never built. The first 346 featured the Unilite cab and was sold to Rinker Construction. In Traverse City, MI, there is a 346 crane truck still in operation. (JB Selvidge)
348: The 348 was a fiberglass hood aimed at mixer and dump truck applications. The sloped hood afforded additional visibility. This was Peterbilt's first fiberglass sloped hood (1970). The 348 was in production from 1970 until 1986. The 349 was similar but with a slightly wider hood. 349 was later marketed for lightweight highway duty in the 1980s. The 348 6×6 used a modified 359-113 SBFA hood.
353: The 353 replaced the 351 flat-fender and 381 construction models in 1973. The 353 had flat "pit style" fenders, butterfly hood and was aimed at construction.
387: The 387 (1975–1987) looked similar to a 353 but had a heavier frame, longer hood, full flat fenders and under cab steps, larger bumper and overall heavier specs. Originally designed as a coal hauler, the first 387 was built in the Madison, Tennessee plant in 1976 and can be seen in the 1977 Working Class brochure as a coal truck. (JB Selvidge)
362: The 362 replaced the aging 352 in 1981 as the company's flagship cab over. The 362 was available with a large one-piece center windshield with three wipers or two center pieces with two wipers. The later refinement was the 362E, which had a slightly set back front axle for longer front springs. The last 362 was built as a SBFA for oilfield use in August 2005. The 362 was available in cab sizes from 54" to 110" BBC with SBFA and tandem steer options. There was also an 8×8 362.
372: Designed for high efficiency and driver comfort, this was the most aerodynamic Peterbilt cabover ever built. The nose piece of the cab flipped forward (similar to the old 350 COE of the 1950s) allowing access to maintenance items. The 372 was in production from 1988 until 1993. The 372 proved that 10+ MPG can be achieved with a class 8 truck. The truck has the distinction of being the most unusual Peterbilt design offering a sinister Darth Vader look that some[by whom?] also thought looked like a motorhome (think Winnebago) or a football helmet.
377: Peterbilt's aerodynamically designed conventional with a fiberglass hood and headlights incorporated into the fenders. Available in set forward front axle (SFFA) with a 122" BBC and set back front axle (SBFA)in 120" configurations. Available late 1986 until 2000. Replaced by the 387 in theory but continued as a 385-120.
378: Similar to the 379, the 378 has a fiberglass hood and steeper hood slope. It was not available in a long hood, but was available in set back front axle (SBFA) configurations. The 378 was popular in local and vocational trucking, as well as over the road applications. Available 1986–2007. Whereas the 378 and 379 both are available in a 119.5" BBC, the 378 sits two inches ( higher above the frame rails compared to the 379. This accounts for the slight downward angle to the hood.
357: The 357 looks like a 378, sharing the various hoods (SBFA, SFFA, Vocational "Heavy Haul" and short hood versions), but is heavier spec'd for construction and heavier applications. The 357 was available in a 111" BBC also. The 357 was also available with flat fenders as the 357-123, much like the 353. The 378 and 357 SBFA received a new hood and grille/crown for 2004. The vocational hood debuted in 2004 for customers needing a front engine power take-off (FEPTO). This model quickly became popular as a heavy truck or tractor and became known as the Heavy Haul option.
385: The 385 looks like a 377 with a more sloped hood. The 385 has a more sloped hood, shallower grille surround/crown than 377 had (later year 377s and 385s were nearly indistinguishable). No set-forward 385 was produced. BBC's were 112 and 120. Produced to be a direct competitor to the Freightliner FLD. 385[clarification needed] 1996–2007.
379: The 379 was Peterbilt's flagship truck from 1987 until the 2007 model year maintaining the nameplate's signature long-nose styling. Available in standard (119" BBC) and long hood (127" BBC) lengths. Replacing the "359" in 1987, it remained in production until March 2007 with the last 1000 379s called the "Legacy Class 379." The 379 family received interior changes through the 20-year run, like the "Original (Square) Dash" from 1987 to 2000, the "Ergonomic Dash" from 2001 to 2005, and the current "2006+ Dash" currently available in Arctic Gray, Saharan Tan, Burgundy Wine, and Maritime Blue configurations. Peterbilt dropped the long running "American Class" interior in 2005 with the end of the "Ergonomic Dash." The main dash color was black up until the 2000 model year, which was the last year for the "Original Dash;" you could either order it in gray, tan, or black. Peterbilt also made changes to the cab doors in late 2004 when the vent window post was eliminated and the mirrors moved from the door to the cab. (Interestingly the "original cab" from Fageol had no vent windows and thus a retro look was achieved). The passenger door received a much larger peep window. New door release handles and lock sets replaced the 1972 units. The 2005 models had a flat door window lower ledge. For 2006 and 2007 the doors received a new window with an angled-towards-the-hood lower ledge allowing for additional visibility, especially to the right. Rear corner windows also became available. The new for 2005 cab mounted mirrors allow for enhanced view and allow the driver to keep his view facing forward without leaning to see the mirror. The rear window of the cab saw changes from the original 36" × 28" window. The Unibilt Daycab window size became standard around 2003.
387: The 387 was introduced in 1999 and is an aerodynamic over the road conventional. It uses the same bare cab shell its cousin with different sleeper, roof, cab skin, interior and hood, and Peterbilt frame. The 387 was available in two sleeper lengths: raised roof, mid roof and a daycab. The Model 587 replaced the Model 387.
386: Entered production in fall 2005, as an aerodynamic truck. It is only offered with a 126" BBC (Bumper to Back of Cab dimension.) and aside from not having external air cleaners, it is available with most all of the options of a 389. It was discontinued in 2015.
389: Peterbilt introduced the 389 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in 2006. The 389 replaced the 379-127." The BBC of the 389 comes in at just over 131" making it the longest hood Peterbilt has ever offered. The 389 features new headlamps with a stylish wraparound design, new fender front and rear trim (the rear bracket is a styling cue back to the step on the old 351 fender). The 389 offers the same popular configurations that 379 offered. The 389 went into production in late 2006 as 2008 models and officially replaced the 379 in March 2007. The built-after-January 1, 2007 EPA compliant engines dictated many of the changes to the new Peterbilt models. The 389 model is also available in Australia as right hand drive conversion from 3rd party companies. Converted cabs are also available for export worldwide.
388: The 388 replaced the 378-119." Sporting a 123" BBC, the 388 shares the same styling as the 389. Both 388 and 389 are Peterbilt's aluminum hood "traditional styled" trucks. The 388 and 389 are subtly different yet remain very true to the bloodline.
384: The 384 is a shorter BBC version of the 386. The 384 went into production during mid-2007.
367: The 367 replaced the 357 and the 378. Both have new 123" BBC lengths with fiberglass hoods. SBFA as well as HeavyHaul configurations are available. The 367 retains the older "379 family" headlight options, although now mounted to the hood skin rather than the grille surround and crown.
365: The 365 replaced the 357-111". The 365 has a 115" BBC and is aimed at the construction markets.
330, 335 and 340: These models are the class 6, 7, and "baby 8" units for pick up and delivery, short hauls and vocational applications. Built in the Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec plants, the 330, 335, and 340 are becoming popular platforms for snowplows, fire apparatus, and construction trucks.
325: The Model 325 is ideal for the complete range of Class 5 applications including vehicle recovery and towing, lease/rental, pick-up and delivery and business services such as parcel delivery, landscaping and construction. The Model 325 began production in mid-July 2007.
320: The 320 is the oldest model in the Peterbilt line up. A direct descendant of the 300 and 310, the 320 is a SBFA COE aimed at the refuse and concrete pumper market. The Model 320 is available in a full range of axle selections, FEPTO and REPTO provisions and multiple drive configurations for added versatility.
210/220: Both COE use a DAF cab and are targeted to the local pick-up and delivery market. The Peterbilt Model 210 has a wrap-around windshield and tight turning ratio for the ultimate in maneuverability. Ideal for the urban environment and drivers without a CDL, the Peterbilt Model 210 is available as a Class 6 straight truck with GVW rated at 26,000 pounds. The Model 220 delivers a combination of maneuverability, visibility with a GVW of 33,000 pounds.
587: The EPASmartWay® certified Model 587 features an integrated cab and sleeper that matches luxury with efficiency and productivity. The spacious and ergonomic cab interior provides plenty of legroom, swivel seats, dual arm rests and easy access to switches and power controls for added comfort and convenience. It includes a full 30-inches of walk-through space between the seats, offering easy access to a sleeper that surrounds the driver with functional amenities and accessible storage space such as cabinet enclosed closets and under-bunk storage. The 587 is available in two sleeper lengths: raised roof, mid roof and a daycab.
579: The 579 is Peterbilt's latest aero model which features a 2.1 meter cab. The Model 579 has a wide, spacious cab that surrounds the driver in comfort and efficiency. Through interviews and testing, drivers helped to design the optimal size for the new cab. A detachable sleeper adds versatility and the longevity of a second life for highest resale value. The 579 provides efficient fuel consumption and optimized aerodynamics to deliver the most cost-effective Class 8 model to date. It has a lightweight aluminum cab, newly designed ergonomic dash, standard air disc brakes, 123" BBC and detachable sleeper.
567: The new Model 567 is specifically designed with rugged durability and quality construction to endure the rigors of dump, logging, construction and the harshest of vocational applications.The new aluminum cab structure is stronger for long-lasting endurance and ruggedness and comes standard to meet severe-service requirements. The durable Metton® hood is lightweight and strong, withstanding impacts that would shatter or crack fiberglass, and it opens a full 90 degrees for easier access to key service points for improved serviceability. Construction Equipment magazine road tested a 567.
In the 1960s and 1970s, 30" and 36" sleepers were available. If a buyer wanted a larger sleeper, Peterbilt worked with Mercury Sleepers for 40", 60", and custom sized sleepers. Mercury would paint the sleeper to match the factory paint or the sleeper came with polished quilted aluminum. In 1978 Peterbilt's engineers were tasked with making a bigger sleeper. They designed the 63" sleeper with rounded doors and a walk-through from the cab. The sleeper debuted on a 359-127" and can be seen in the 1978 brochure "Best in Class". This truck also featured the first set of rectangular headlamps. The first raised roof (high cube) sleeper was on a 359 in 1986 and with changes (no right hand forward door) carried through to the 379 family. In 1994 the Unibilt sleeper debuted with air-ride suspension for the cab and sleeper with a large cab to sleeper opening. The Unibilt sleeper suspension had a one piece shock/air bag mount system from 1994 to 2006, until Peterbilt redesigned the suspension system for the 2007 model year, making the shock and air bag system on separate brackets. The Unibilt cab/sleeper option allowed for the sleeper to be removed for a daycab conversion. The UltraSleeper was Peterbilt's largest and most luxurious. At 70" long, it featured a right-hand access door, table, closet and a small "wet closet" accessible from the driver's side to store boots, gloves, and other 'damp' items. The last UltraSleeper was built in 2005.