By Suzanne Stempinski
What a difference a year makes. MATS 2010 was optimistic, enthusiastic and hopeful. Last year is thankfully in our rear view mirror and fading fast. A smorgasbord of amazing trucks competed for trophies and bragging rights as a pair of competitions – The Paul K. Young Truck Beauty Championships and the Mid-America Big Rig Build-Off – once again graced the parking lot at the Kentucky Fair Grounds and Exposition Center in Louisville.
The Paul K. Young competition showcases a combination of everyday working trucks; trucks that work but not as hard (limited mileage); trucks that used to work hard (antique); and some that are young enough to be working, just not long enough to be road challenged (new trucks).
Every inch of these trucks was checked and inspected by veteran judges – blinding chrome, aluminum and stainless, paint that gleamed, interiors that were simple or simply mind-boggling. Specially made floors, custom upholstery and cabinetry, stereos and multiple monitors, lights inside and out – the possibilities were endless. And every truck was somebody’s favorite.
“We’re back,” OOIDA Member Bob Brinker said after collecting Best of Show – Working Bobtail honors along with four additional trophies for his 2000 muraled Freightliner Classic XL, “The Legend of the Black Pearl.”
Brinker and wife Shelley sat out the 2009 truck show season. Running was a priority over competing in truck shows, and they wanted to make a few changes to their instantly recognizable, pirate-themed truck. So the octopus is gone. Now cannons peek out of gun sights notched along either side. The interior has been revamped from red to blue, sporting velvet curtains and map-fabric seats, along with enough bounty to shiver your custom-painted frame rail timbers.
“We keep thinking of things to add or change,” Shelley said. “It just keeps evolving over time.”
After taking MATS by storm in 2008, Don Doverspike and his “Clarion County Kids” came back in 2010 in an even bigger way.
Doverspike is a shop instructor at the Clarion County Career Center in Shippenville, PA, a vocational education option for high school students from seven school districts. The students work together and learn in an active shop environment. They provide service and maintenance to area trucking companies to develop and refine skills that can create job opportunities and life skills, which will benefit them long after graduation.
They’ve taken wrecked trucks and rebuilt, revamped, refurbished and restored them to roadworthy, head-turning status. With the help and encouragement of family and friends, they’ve devoted thousands of hours to the projects, from fundraising and soliciting sponsors to learning skills they didn’t already possess – from design to welding to mechanical to upholstery.
A group of more than 30 current and former students, along with Doverspike and a collection of assistants and chaperones, brought four trucks: a 1980 Kenworth W900A; a 1985 Marmon; a 1995 Peterbilt 379; and the 1993 Peterbilt 379, “The Educator,” that was their first completed project.
An armload of trophies, along with cheers from competitors and fans alike, warmed the hearts of these students and sent them away with encouragement for future endeavors.
OOIDA Member Cliff King of Castle Rock Transportation, Brechin, Ontario, is no stranger to innovation.
King, who hauls furniture across the U.S. and Canada, is always thinking of ways to improve life in his 2007 Peterbilt 386 and 2006 Wabash dry van. Out for 10 days at a time, King designed the interior of his ICT sleeper to be a comfortable home away from home. With walnut cabinets, a flat-screen monitor that lowers from the upholstered ceiling, Italian leather cushions, gourmet kitchen, shower and an amazing stereo system wired into his trailer (why not listen to music while you’re loading or unloading), King wasn’t done. He installed a barbecue grill on a slide-out from a cab-mounted toolbox.
The judges recognized him with three trophies for his efforts, including First Place Custom Aftermarket Sleeper. He’s planning on taking his truck to the Great West Trucking Show in Las Vegas in June. So if you missed him at MATS, plan on stopping by for a chat and a burger.
Best Limited Mileage Bobtail was awarded to Doug Flegal’s sleek and streamlined 1985 Kenworth W900B and Best Limited Mileage Combo honors went to Cecil Wolfe’s 2007 white and green Peterbilt 379 and 2010 bottom dump.
The highly coveted People’s Choice Award didn’t just reflect the crowd’s feelings about a truck. It honored and recognized a family. Jonathan Eilen’s 2010 black and orange Peterbilt 389 pulling late brother Jake’s 2008 Mac round tube trailer is a rolling tribute to the family member who died in a tragic accident a little more than a year ago.
Jonathan, his family and co-workers exemplify the best of the trucking industry – hard-working, successful and kind – with trucks that always look good even when they’ve been hauling sand and gravel around the Midwest.
The Eilen family also created an award, the Jake Eilen Annual Memorial Award, to recognize long-term excellence in the show truck community. This year they presented it to OOIDA Member Billy Baker, who showed a 1949 Kenworth bull nose cabover pulling a 1999 Utility reefer.
In addition to the PKY, the sixth annual Mid-America Big Rig Build-Off provided a forum for master truck builders to showcase and display their creative endeavors. They don’t just think outside the box; they offer a new and different vision of what trucks can be. Two shops entered the competition to be judged by five professional truck builders.
Alex and Andy Gobel, along with Nic Gillan and Jon Gill of Outlaw Customs and Western Trucks Parts, Henderson, CO, were awarded 2010 Grand Champion for their masterful redesign of a 1984 Peterbilt 359.
On a 300-inch wheelbase, this chopped, shaved custom ride with suicide doors is completely strapless (air cleaners, exhaust, fuel tanks, air tanks). Painted Cadillac-white and a knockout by anyone’s standard, the engine gleams copper. It’s the kind of truck you need to keep looking at, discovering unique features and details at every turn.
Optimism, excellence, effort. It is what every trucker brought to the parking lots at the Mid-America Trucking Show. It’s what keeps us moving forward every day. LL