More MATS, please
Eye-pleasing, mouth-watering show trucks and the people who make a living with them always leave you wanting more

By Suzanne Stempinski, field editor

“I know these trucks don’t work.”

If we heard it once, we heard it a thousand times from folks admiring the trucks on display outside the Kentucky Fair Grounds and Exposition Center. Well guess what ... most of these trucks do work.   

Their owners and drivers just pull out all the stops to clean and polish and enhance their rides to share them with tens of thousands of showgoers at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY.

Two separate competitions crowned champions and acknowledged excellence.

Outside the North Hall, the National Association of Show Trucks (NAST) wrapped up their 2010 season by awarding the Truck-Lite Trophy Series trophy to Jonathan Eilen of OOIDA member-owned Eilen & Sons Trucking, Hampton, MN.

His striking black-and-orange 2010 Peterbilt 389 with 2008 Mac Round Tube trailer scored big with the judges as well as the crowds. But it was no easy feat. Only one point separated Eilen and runner-up OOIDA Member Jeremy Hassevoort’s white and gold 1986 Peterbilt 359 and 2001 Utility reefer. Jeremy is from Hamilton, MI.

Behind the West Wing were more glorious trucks on display and in competition at the Paul K. Young Memorial Truck Beauty Championships.

Where do these amazing ideas come from? How much time do they spend in their heads going down the road to come up with this stuff?

It boggles the mind and intrigues the senses. A truck with see-through fuel tanks by the Chrome Shop Mafia. Fenders and deck plates that lift into the air. Built-in barbecue grills, a big screen the size of an SUV; hidden APUs and tucked-away tool boxes. Chrome and stainless and lights that dazzle.

If you’ve never seen a working fireplace in a truck, check out OOIDA Member Colin Stuart’s unique 1984 Peterbilt 359.

Stuart, Harvard, IL, hauls printing machinery. He designed his dream truck in 1978. He drew a picture of it and carried it with him. He had the opportunity to buy this truck as a junker in 2001. It had a 63-inch sleeper that he immediately took off. In fact, by the time he was done stripping it down, the only things left original were the cab, frame and VIN number.

So Stuart started at the beginning and built the truck of his dreams on a 310-inch wheelbase. He did almost all the work himself, including airbrushing murals of horses on the sides of the 120-inch sleeper.

The bunk combined two Kenworth Aero 1 sleepers. The oak cabinetry inside was not built by a carpenter or cabinet shop. Stuart kept making trips to Menard’s and built them himself. Nothing was done by happenstance. It was carefully and meticulously planned and executed over a period of five years.

He extended the hood and made it a little more needle-nosed, combining his favorite parts of Petes and Kenworths into one sweet ride. He added 8 inches to the cowl and moved the cab and engine back. Under the hood is a 3406 B 450-hp Caterpillar engine with 3.70 rear ends and a twin stick 6x4 transmission.

In addition to being featured on the cover of Leland Martin’s brand new album, Stuart brought home five trophies, including Most Technologically Advanced Cab. Not bad for an old truck.

Old isn’t a bad thing at all and old favorites keep coming back to stand tall again and again. Just ask Bob and Shelley Brinker, Grayling, MI. Their 2000 Freightliner Classic XL, “Legend of the Black Pearl” earned six trophies including Best of Show Working Class Bobtail. There’s another Pirates of the Caribbean movie coming out this year ... and that will mean a few more changes to this truck that stays at the top of its game year after year, hauling freight and hauling home trophies.

Trophies come in all shapes and sizes. Being at MATS and having the opportunity to chat with visitors from all over the world is a thrill for OOIDA Member Shawn Cielke, Haugan, MT.

Cielke brought wife Amy; their two daughters, Ally and Chloe; and Jack Russell terrier “Sasquatch” to MATS and loved every minute of it. Their Kenworth W900L pulling a Utility reefer is decked in camouflage. The Cielkes dress in camo – Even the dog sports a camo coat.

The truck is accessorized with camo-covered fenders, steps, deck plate, carpet and dash. Antlers adorn the back wall of the bunk, and a grizzly bear skin rug is draped across the bed – trophies of their hunts. They relocated to western Montana from Florida to enjoy a lifestyle that embraces hunting their own food. Roaming the woods on foot or on four-wheelers, they are very particular about what they take.

“Some days we just go out and watch the deer and elk. We love trucking and we love hunting,” explains Cielke.

While the deer and the antelope play out west, OOIDA Member Jerry Beaudoin is hauling hazardous dirt on the East coast. His 2003 orange Peterbilt 379 and sparkling 2011 Mac end dump are a familiar sight going in and out of dumps and demolition sites. But he sure does clean up well ... and took home five first place trophies and Best of Show Working Combo. Jerry is from Southington, CT.

Leaving home is never a problem for OOIDA Member Lynn Baxter and wife Shelly. Their home is their truck. Hauling expedited freight for Landstar out of Jacksonville, FL, the Baxters are proudly patriotic and have decorated their truck inside and out with flags and military memorabilia.

Their son, a Marine who just came back stateside for some R&R before returning to Afghanistan, and his wife, who is being deployed to Afghanistan soon, are larger than life on the passenger side of their truck. Both sides of their families are filled with veterans of all the branches of our armed forces. Their passion is to keep people’s thoughts with our military.

“We don’t have the power to say whether or not we should be there,” said Lynn. “But we need to support the men and women who keep us free.” Three new trophies for their efforts adorn their home on the road.

Scott Diller’s 1981 red and black Kenworth lit up the lot and the hearts of the judges and attendees as he was awarded four trophies, including Best of Show Limited Mileage Bobtail. Scott is from Myerstown, PA.

OOIDA Member Jeremey Graves, Anthony, KS, named his new truck “Momma Cried.”

“I like the song,” he explained with a grin. “And when I told her I wanted to build another show truck, she wasn’t too happy.”

This is a truck that will stop you in your tracks and make your pulse race a little faster. A 2011 Peterbilt 389 glider kit pulling a 2010 Mississippi tanker, this combo is painted, chromed, customized and accessorized.

Graves put a 2003 reman Cat C15 under the hood in order to avoid new emissions regulations. What appear to be four fuel tanks (two on each side) are really two fuel tanks, a tool box with drawers and fitted compartments on the driver’s side and a 5,500-watt Onan generator tucked in on the passenger’s side. He shaved the hood straps and put up a set of 8-inch pipes. An elliptical bumper and custom grill with the Farmers Oil logo are part of the package.

The factory brown and gold paint gleam from the frame to the motor, inside the skinned hood and around the trailer. No flake, no orange peel. This is a work of art. There’s chrome in all the usual places and in a few that are not. Take a look at chrome spring shackles, shocks and PTO shaft. Chrome actuators operate the controls on the tank.

There’s a polished aluminum fifth wheel. And the lights. There’s a ring around the back of the tank that has 58 bullet lights. That’s the tip of the iceberg. A whopping seven Best awards including Best of Show-Limited Mileage Combo, the Best Peterbilt award and People’s Choice made it a clean sweep for Graves.

Momma’s not crying now. Graves insisted the truck was going to work the Tuesday following the show. Look for it going down the road.

The Clarion County Career Center kids were there from Pennsylvania, along with teacher Donnie Doverspike. They brought their latest truck project “Extra Credit” to the show. With the assistance of 36 sponsoring companies including OOIDA, these young men have built trucks from scrap and won the hearts of thousands while learning technical and mechanical skills that will take them into their futures.

If you get the chance to check out these trucks on the road or parked in a truck stop somewhere, stop and visit with their drivers. Or just say hey. They all have the kind of pride and passion that set a great example for our industry. LL