By Suzanne Stempinski
In spite of punishing operating costs and economic challenges, approximately 400 exhibiting companies put their goods and services out to a very interested trucking industry at the Great West Truck Show held in Las Vegas at the end of June.
As with any show, one of the favorite sections for showgoers was filled with gleaming, sparkling show trucks – most working, some on display to delight and inspire. It’s a place where old friends reconnect and new friendships begin. Show veterans share tips, encouragement and sweat with newcomers who aren’t sure where to start – or stop. Everyone would like just a few more minutes, please.
Just ask Ron Kelsey. He’s owned his 1981 Peterbilt 359 since 1983 and runs under his own authority as Sunrise Express. It’s turned 3.2 million miles so far, hauling a flatbed between Phoenix and Los Angeles. Under the hood is a 550 Caterpillar paired with 3.36 rear ends. The transmission is a twin stick – no automated shifting for him.
The fresh, distinctive yellow-to-orange fade paint job is only the second time he’s painted the truck in the past 18 years. It’s part of his signature style.
Inside the cab is leather and tweed upholstery, wool carpet and plenty of custom touches.
Kelsey’s first truck show competition was at Shell Rotella SuperRigs in 1990, where he won Best of Show and his first spot on the calendar – he’s been featured twice. With a truck that always looks like it’s at the top of its game, he’s collected three best of show awards and more than a few trophies over the years. The most recent best of show win was in Las Vegas in 1996.
Keeping his truck clean and detailed is something he works on every day.
“Every morning I spend about 15 minutes wiping my truck down before I get ready to go. I can’t drive a dirty truck,” Kelsey said.
He’s been known to park under an overpass or avoid a storm to keep the shiny side up.
“Even though my truck has a lot of years on it, it never gets old for me. I’ve tried to stay ahead of the curve by keeping current on things that will improve my business. Replacing the engine three years ago allowed me to improve my air quality, reduce emissions, and improve my fuel economy.”
This time, the judges recognized his truck with a third-place trophy.
Bob and Shelley Brinker are on a roll. Their pirate-themed truck, “The Legend,” a 2000 Freightliner Classic XL, racked up another Best of Show – Working Bobtail win, along with four class trophies. From a distance, their truck looks pretty much the same from one show to the next, but when you get up close and personal, the details keep changing.
This time, they added red velvet drapes to the interior. There’s always a swarm of people admiring this truck and asking questions. With a stunningly realistic paint job that looks like old timber around the radiator and on the engine, it’s not unusual to hear someone ask: “What kind of wood is that?”
“Ironwood,” is Bob Brinker’s standard reply.
Tied for Best of Show – Working Bobtail, Jeff Botelho’s 2007 Peterbilt 379 has a distinctive blue-and-green, tribal-flamed design repeated inside and out, reminiscent of his 2007 MATS Big Rig Build Off truck that was also on display. Immaculate inside and out, this truck turns heads wherever it goes.
Michael Most’s bright yellow 1998 Freightliner Classic gets plenty of attention. With M&M’s all around the sleeper, across the engine, on the fan blades, breather tubes and even on the bottom of the oil pan (reflected in a strategically placed mirror), it’s an attention-getter for kids of all ages. Most sweetens the deal by handing out packages of the candies to truck enthusiasts. In addition to taking a first-place trophy in his class, Most took home the coveted People’s Choice Award.
When it comes to working trucks, it would be a challenge to run in a tougher environment than the boys at Eilen Trucking. Hauling in and out of gravel, sand and ash pits and the inclement weather found in Wisconsin and Minnesota doesn’t stop their trucks from standing tall. Once again, Brad Caton’s brightly colored 2007 Peterbilt 379 and 2007 Mac end dump wowed the crowd and judges, scoring five trophies, including another Best of Show – Working Combo award.
There’s no business like the show business. Veterans Bill and Marie Sandvik take a hands-on approach to every aspect, from design to cleaning and polishing along with the help of their dedicated crew. Short on sleep but long on sharing the credit, the Sandviks, their mechanics and drivers all put in long days and nights to keep their trucks in tip-top condition.
This time, they showed three spectacular rides, including Bill’s Best of Show – Limited Mileage Combo, a 1998 Peterbilt 379 pulling a 1991 Ravens flatbed; their 1996 Peterbilt 379 with a Wildside auto transporter showed by Chuck Prigge; and a freshly revamped 1992 burgundy Peterbilt 379 bobtail, entered by Isaac Aguilar. Their efforts paid off with five more trophies for their display cases.
On a hot streak this year, Ryan Danylchuk’s 2001 candy plum-and-orange glow Peterbilt 379 racked up another Best of Show – Limited Mileage Bobtail win. Danylchuk, who hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba, bought his first truck at the age of 15 – well before he was legal to drive. He’s now 23. He’s redone this truck from the inside out. With a couple of big victories under his belt this year, he hopes to continue his winning ways. LL
Suzanne Stempinski can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
2008 Pride & Polish sponsors include:
OOIDA, 10-4 Magazine, 75 Chrome Shop, Alcoa Wheels Division, Arvin Meritor, Firestone, Freightliner Trucks, Howes Lubricator Products, International Truck and Engine Corp., Mobil Delvac, Overdrive’s Custom Rigs Magazine, Panelite, Peterbilt, PPG, Randall Reilly Publishing, Rockwood Products, Roadworks Manufacturing, SAF Holland, Truk Rodz by Jones Performance, United Pacific and Volvo.