Bridging The Gap

By Todd Campbell

Lexington, KY is known as “the horse capital of the world” because of its location in the heart of thoroughbred horse country. Its proximity to the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Horse Park and countless breeding ranches dating back to the 1800s gives the area good reason for a title of such a nature. But, for one recent weekend, Lexington, KY could have also been considered “the old truck capital of the world” as well, as the ATHS looked to bridge the gap between yesterday and today.

The American Truck Historical society (ATHS) held their annual national convention and antique truck show this year at Lexington’s Kentucky Horse Park on May 31st through June 2nd, 2018. With around 900 trucks, as well as countless truck-related vendors, this year’s convention was once again a big hit. With over 1,224 acres, the Horse Park offered more than enough space for even that many trucks, participants and spectators. It was also an absolutely beautiful and picturesque venue.

Mother Nature decided to chime in this year, as well, in the same fashion as some may remember back in 2011 at the national convention held in South Bend, Indiana, which featured lots of rain. It was good of her to provide a “natural” truck wash for all in attendance this year, but some did not quite appreciate the treat and decided to stay home and not attend at all, which affected the overall numbers a bit. Fortunately, for all us die-hard truck nuts, it did not rain every day, and we had a sufficient amount of sun to make the show an overwhelming success, anyway. And anytime you have trucks and truck lovers in the same place, it’s going to be a good time.

Whether you prefer a 50s-era gas-powered GMC, or you grew up in the 80s, appreciating trucks from that period, this year’s show provided something for everyone. There was a 1900s-era chain-drive, wooden-wheel Mack that had been completely buried underground at some point in its life that was exhumed a couple of years ago, like an ancient Egyptian mummy, and brought up from underground to be restored. Another cool truck on display at the show was the 1957 H63 Mack once owned by the legendary outlaw Joe Mustang. Daniel Linss wrote a great article detailing this truck’s history for the May 2010 cover feature of 10-4 Magazine that is still well-worth reading. That silver and black Mack is a must-see truck with lots of great history!

Greg Evigan, who played BJ in the 1970s TV show “BJ & the Bear” was on-hand inside the arena, next to Paul Sagehorn’s original BJ & the Bear truck, to sign autographs and pose for pictures with fans. Also, on display in the arena, was Paul Cox’s famous and beautifully-restored blue, silver and gold 1979 Kenworth Aerodyne. The restoration of this truck shows the level of perfection that can be achieved with enough time and attention to detail as Paul put into this project – eight long years, to be exact. There were plenty of other great trucks on display inside the arena, as well, including an amazing 1937 Diamond T pickup truck and a slew of restored International farm trucks.

When it wasn’t raining outside, there were plenty of sights to see, for sure. Lavern Cross of Middlebury, IN debuted his 1982 Kenworth W900A, after being under construction for many years. Besides being such a spotless restoration, what makes this truck special to me is that it is his daily driver. I love show trucks, but there’s just something special about a show truck that works on a regular basis. After seven years of work on the restoration, this one is back on the road, and earning it’s keep.

One of my favorite things about truck shows – besides the trucks – is the people. I love meeting new people at shows. I love talking to people that love trucks. I love explaining things to non-trucking people that happen to be there observing the trucks. I love to hear and share stories from the road with other people who have interesting stories to share, as well. Truck shows are kind of like a homecoming.

I think that one of the things that the ATHS has been good at is bridging the gap between the various generations of trucking people. There will be people that drove trucks back in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the latest generation of drivers, who have been driving only a few years. One person that fits the description of this latest generation is 20-year-old Keith “One Arm” Hodges of Frankfort, IN. He recently obtained a 1979 Peterbilt 352, powered by a V8 Detroit, and brought it to the show. It was only at the beginning stages of restoration, but that’s another of the great things about these kinds (ATHS) of shows – it doesn’t matter at what level of appearance a truck is at, there will always be people there to enjoy it.

One of the “old hands” at the show was Bob Spooner of Batesville, AR with his 1961 yellow Peterbilt that he bought brand new and has been driving for the last 57 years. My wife Debbie and I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes talking with him at the show and found him to be a very cordial, easy-going, professional that represents the image of what makes a truck driver great. Kudos to you, Mr. Spooner, for being a true veteran with a great attitude and a truly legendary rig.

Be sure to put next year’s show on your to-do list, as it will be held in Reno, NV at Grand Sierra Resort during the weekend of May 31 – June 2. The 2019 Reno show is sure to “bridge some gaps” and be an astounding success as historical west coast trucks will surely fill the lot, while trucking tales will fill the air. It will be a blast. 10-4 will be there, and we hope to see you there, too. I personally plan to be there in something “interesting” – maybe even my own piece of west coast trucking history. Stay tuned!

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