The victors in this year’s Truck-Lite Trophy race demonstrate that winning means being distinctive.
The top three positions in the 2003 National Association of Show Trucks national championship went to OOIDA members with remarkable, imaginative trucks.
First place in the Truck-Lite Trophy competition went to Bob and Shelly Brinker, Grayling, MI. Gary Patterson, Fredonia, PA, came in second, followed by Danny Mizer, Elyria, OH.
The Truck-Lite Trophy has become the symbol of excellence in show truck competition. It is awarded to the national champion of each year’s NAST competitions, based on total points. All winners’ names are engraved in the original Truck-Lite Trophy, a walnut and etched crystal original design, which is kept at Truck-Lite headquarters in Falconer, NY.
Each year’s winner receives a reproduction of the trophy with a picture of his tractor engraved on the center of three crystal panels. Second- and third-place winners receive smaller trophy reproductions. All reproductions are handmade of the same walnut and crystal, similarly engraved with the winners’ names.
Truck-Lite also awards cash prizes to the three winners.
Trophies will be presented during the NAST annual meeting March 26, 2004, at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY.
The Brinkers’ 2000 Freightliner Classic XL, Dragon On, is painted like a dragon, while the interior is tiled and decorated like a dungeon. The entire exterior was airbrushed as the dragon’s head, including the sun visor as the dragon’s eyes. The frame rails are painted to look like scales. At shows, both Bob and Shelley dress as a wizard and witch, carrying out the truck’s theme.
Bob has been driving since 1981. Shelly, a full time sergeant in the Michigan Army National Guard, also holds both a CDL and its military equivalent. She is responsible for logistics at Camp Grayling, and was a co-driver for 10 years.
They got interested in showing when they got their Freightliner, finishing eighth in their first show. But they watched and learned, and found a theme that set their truck apart.
“Be different,” Bob said. “Don’t do what everyone else does. And don’t be afraid to try.”
As befitting the Truck-Lite Trophy winner, Dragon On has more than 120 Truck-Lite LEDs arranged to enhance, rather than overwhelm, the theme.
Gary Patterson also dared to be different, showing his beautifully detailed 1982 maroon International conventional. He had been showing bobtail, but went to combination class when he bought his 2002 Great Dane trailer.
Gary got his tractor “in junkyard condition,” as he puts it, in 1992. “There wasn’t much you could buy for the truck,” so he, his wife, Janet, and sons Chad and Shean made nearly all the accessories, from the hardwood door panels to the stainless steel dash to the ceramic tile cab floor. They have more than 350 LEDs on the combination.
“We come up with ideas,” Gary said of his family’s involvement, “then the boys and I put them on the truck. It’s our vacation time, traveling around the country (to NAST shows), seeing things we otherwise wouldn’t.”
Unlike other competitors, Gary has no sponsors. “I ain’t one to ask for things.”
He uses his truck on a dedicated run between Erie, PA, and Indianapolis, making three or four turns a week.
Danny Mizer started showing his third-place-winning 1997 Peterbilt 379 four years ago and won his first trophy, a second place, one year later in Wheeling, WV. The truck belongs to Brandau Transportation, but they encourage Danny to customize it as he sees fit. Danny has no crew to help him prepare the truck. He does all the cleaning, polishing and detailing himself. By the start of the 2003 competition season, the Peterbilt had 152 LEDs, including accent lighting under the truck.
“I didn’t want to use neon underneath, because it’s not DOT legal. I wanted everything legal so I could run the lights all the time.” Danny claims his is the only Peterbilt 379 with a factory-equipped green interior.
—by Paul Abelson, technical editor Paul Abelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.