OOIDA members win big in the Pride & Polish national championships at GATS

By Suzanne Stempinski, Land Line contributing field editor | 8/30/2014

What’s more fun than a three-ring circus? A truck show. Why? Because you can still have popcorn and be amazed by the entertainment, but no one has to sweep up after the elephants.

The Great American Trucking Show in Dallas had all the fun, excitement and energy of a high-wire act. There were beautiful show girls prancing in their high heels; hawkers and gawkers, kids with eyes as big as saucers; and, oh, those beautiful show trucks. Standing tall, their stacks reaching for the roof, 70 of the most spectacular trucks to attempt death-defying feats of grand gloriosity.

Two truck shows in one stellar location; the culmination of the 2013-2014 Pride & Polish National Championship series, and the kickoff of the 2014-2015 Truck Beauty Championship season.

Reigning National Champion Limited Mileage Combo with his distinctive orange and purple 2013 Peterbilt 379 and matching 2009 MAC curtainside trailer, OOIDA Member Vinnie Diorio swept the competition to repeat and retain his National Champion title.

So, what sets his truck apart from the ordinary? “It’s the little details that the average person doesn’t see, but guys that have done custom stuff can appreciate,” explained Diorio. “Going down the road, it just looks like a nice shiny truck. But when you get up close, it’s things like the fact that the frame bolts from the back of the bunk to the end of the frame have been shaved and countersunk so the rails are completely smooth. The inside of the frame rails are painted orange and the outside is purple.”

Every detail of this truck has been carefully planned and executed. And the more you look, the more you realize that sometimes it’s what you don’t see that makes it special. No visible bolts, welds or handles. This truck takes smooth and clean to an exceptional place.

Bringing not just one but two trucks to compete for National Champion Working Combo, OOIDA Member Bill Rethwisch brought more than his “A” game. Last year’s National Championship Working Combo – his 2012 orange and white Peterbilt 389 and 2008 Polar Tanker – was the third-place finisher this year; while his 2013 green and white Peterbilt 389 and 2013 Polar tanker earned Rethwisch a second consecutive National Champion Working Combo title.

Rethwisch gives much of the credit for his success to his friends and family. “I’ve learned so much from Vinnie (Diorio). He talked me into bringing a truck to SuperRigs last year, and that started the things that have brought me here. The friendships we’ve made are just remarkable. They carry over way more than just on the parking lots.”

There’s not much OOIDA Members Bob and Shelley Brinker hadn’t won with their 2000 muraled Freightliner Classic XL. And now they can add a National Championship Working Bobtail to the list. After winning a qualifying event in Wildwood, Fla., earlier in the year and taking another best of Show win in LaCrosse, Wis., in June, their truck seemed unstoppable. And, in fact, it was. “I always get anxious before a show,” said Bob. “Even though we’re as clean and detailed as we’ve ever been, you just never know what the judges are going to find. I’m really glad it turned out this way.”

According to Shelley, “we’ve talked about redoing the truck and changing the artwork. But now, we’ve got our grandkids coming to live with us and the murals on this truck are part of their childhood memories, so it will be tough to make a change.”

Land Line reader Austin Ashley’s feet may not hit the ground for another couple of months. The young man from Raleigh, Miss., not only earned his first National Champion Limited Mileage Bobtail title, but he was also awarded Truckers’ Choice with thousands of votes cast online for the public’s favorite truck.

Ashley took home his first Best of Show at his very first show in Dallas in 2012 with his 2007 purple and white Peterbilt 379, and he’s been trying to hit the top spot again since then.

Ashley will be hearing wedding bells in October instead of competing at the PDI Customer Appreciation and Dyno Event in St. George, Utah. “I thought I had the dates figured so I could do both, but I think I’d better stick with the plan and get married,” he said. Smart man.

Opening the 2014-2015 Pride & Polish Truck Championship season makes heads turn. The first of five qualifying shows leading to next year’s National Championship event began with some big, bold and beautiful trucks.

Lil Ray Rodriguez, who is always a tough competitor, brought three spectacular trucks to town. He has a ready smile and a warm greeting for everyone he meets. His latest Best of Show Limited Mileage Combo is a shiny 2015 lavender and purple Peterbilt 378, pulling a 2015 Western step deck, named “Wicked.”

Old school updated is elevated to the level of art when Jerry Kissinger does it. His newest old truck, a 1978 black cherry Mack Superliner is the result of thousands of hours of effort, showcasing his love of trucks, family and skills as a builder. “My brother, Jack and I worked on trucks together and separately,” Kissinger explained. Jack passed away earlier this year. “He would have been proud of the way this one turned out.” Visibly emotional when he was awarded Best of Show – Limited Mileage Bobtail, Kissinger and wife Kay talked about the project. “I started with two frame rails and built it up from there. There isn’t any piece of this truck I haven’t personally handled.”

Best of Show Working Combo was won by Greenville, Texas, native Dustin Pope. His 2003 red Kenworth W900L and 2010 Utility reefer, muraled to tell stories of his dad and his heritage have wowed crowds and won fans since it debuted at GATS in 2012.

If you hear the sound of a cat purring, take a look around. It just might be OOIDA Member Mike Lemley’s 2000 red Peterbilt 379. Named Cathouse, this truck has more than the cat’s meow driving it down the road. He’s hanging on to the Best of Show Working Bobtail trophy he earned with this lit-up and dressed-to-impress ride. Lemley hails from Mustang, Okla.

At the end of the show is the parade of trucks as they exit from the convention center. For the Pride & Polish participants, it’s the trip to the next dock, ready to pick up that load going somewhere down the road.

The circus moves on, leaving smiles and good memories behind. The brooms are busy, no elephants today.

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