After months of preparing, working, bragging and predicting, a champion was finally crowned at the 1st Annual Big-Rig Build-Off. Five truly amazing machines from shops across the U.S. and Canada showed up at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky to compete for the title, but only one could be called Champion. And when the dust finally settled and the last votes were counted, Elizabeth Truck Center’s brightly-colored “Beast” from the East proved to be unbeatable.
As most of you already know, the Big-Rig Build-Off started as some simple “trash talk” between a couple of the top custom truck builders and culminated with a hard-fought, no-limits competition hosted by Stars & Stripes. Held in conjunction with the Paul K. Young Memorial Truck Beauty Championships at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, the Build-Off proved to be a crowd pleaser. The builders that participated in this first-ever event included Elizabeth Truck Center, 4-State Trucks, Quality Custom Inc, Valley Custom Trucks and K & L Chrome Shop.
The intent of this special competition was to give truck builders the opportunity to show off what they could do with a truck. The rule books were tossed aside - imagination and creativity took over as the most important criteria for success. Even the voting was unique for this event. Electronic card readers were set up on a table next to the vehicles (one for each truck). To cast their vote, attendees simply swiped their show badge through the reader that represented their favorite rig. It was fun to stand around and watch everybody try to figure out what they had to do, but most had no problems.
Collectively, this group of trucks was one of the finest we’ve ever seen. Many of the wild designs these talented individuals created will undoubtedly find their way to a chrome shop near you eventually. Some people in attendance got hung up trying to figure out what this competition was all about - a few even went so far as to complain that it was just a circus that detracted from the “real” working truck competition. But we didn’t see it like that at all. The best way to describe the trucks that were built would be to equate them to the “concept” cars you see at automobile shows. These Build-Off trucks were merely put together to “blow the mind” and to get people to think “outside the box” in regards to the potential of big rig trucks. But everybody’s idea of cool is different. Some builders focused on craftsmanship while others simply went wild. All of the builders should be commended for their efforts, whether you liked their entry or not. These shops spent thousands of hours and dollars to create the vehicles on these pages. And speaking of the vehicles, let’s take a quick look at what each of these fine truck builders brought to the table.
Starting with the 5th Place Challenger, Kelvin Locklear of K & L Chrome Shop put together a wild Blue and White cabover. Kelvin didn’t go for perfection or meticulous detail, he went for the “wow” factor. Starting with two bare pieces of steel, Kelvin and his crew fabricated their own frame rails and then dropped a chopped 1979 KW K100 cab and front end onto them. The truck features a 312” wheelbase and a few very unique items. The regular brakes were removed and replaced with a driveshaft braking system. Instead of running the shifters up through the floor of the cab, they brought them straight up behind the cab. One stick controls the clutch and the other shifts the gears.
To drive this rig, one person sits in the cab and pilots the truck while another stands on the deck plate behind the cab and shifts through the gears. Not much was done to the interior so they just blacked out the windows. Flames were cut out of the deck plating and then the cut-out pieces were welded down the sides of the frame rails. This rig was all about fun. Kelvin wanted to build a truck that was so outrageous that people would simply have to talk about it. He wanted to thank Goodyear for supplying the rubber, Clayton Williams and his crew, and the entire Rat Rod Gang at K & L Chrome Shop for their help. Kelvin plans on hoisting this neat truck 35-feet into the air as a sign in front of his chrome store in Florence, South Carolina.
The 4th Place Challenger was Philip Langevin of Valley Custom Trucks in Ottowa, Ontario, Canada. Philip wanted to build a practical truck that he could actually use after the Build-Off was finished. Many people liked the fact that this truck could (and would) work. The truck started out as a 1997 Pete 379 Extended Hood with a 3406E Cat. The truck was stripped down to the frame and rebuilt. Featuring suicide doors, a chopped cab, polished front fenders, Sable Black paint, a retro-style dash, 7” pipes, modified window glass and much more, this truck looked really clean. This truck was especially appealing to the practical folks out there. Philip and his crew should be commended for their fine work.
The 3rd Place Challenger, Quality Custom, was another Canadian outfit from Brampton, Ontario. Bruce Montgomery and Frank Fenwick were the key players in this design that went for that 1930s roadster look. They did some serious fabrication, like chopping the cab 6” in the back and 8” in the front to slope it down, extending the hood 24” and narrowing it 4” on each side, building their own grille, overlaying fiberglass flames and skulls over stainless hood sides and running boards, and double stacking their air cleaners. They also dropped the floor and built their own Corvette-style dash. Basically, the cab cowl (which is from a 1983 Pete 359) is the only piece on the truck that was not modified. The wheelbase is 282” and all of the fiberglass fenders, front and rear, were made in-house. All of the airbrushing was done by a 20-year-old kid! This truck, which is actually street legal in Canada, is being given away as a door prize at a celebrity golf tournament this September. Like Kelvin at K & L, the guys at Quality wanted to thank Goodyear for supplying their tires, which were Super Singles with custom cut grooves, done just for them.
Coming in as the 2nd Place Challenger was the entry from 4-State Trucks in Joplin, MO. Bryan Martin’s “Mob Sled” gives new meaning to the term “super-clean”. Starting out as a 1994 Freightliner Classic XL, this rig touted a White and Lime Green paint job, with a few neat murals thrown in, and a chopped top. Every rivet (about 1,800 of them) was drilled out and replaced with new countersunk rivets, then filled over. This was a huge job. The truck, which has a 290” wheelbase, also has a custom-built fiberglass hood made by Truck Rodz. The tanks, air cleaners and stacks were all strapless, and the visor, bumper and fenders featured no visible bolts or brackets. The radio was installed in a “trunk” at the back of the truck between the frame rails. The stereo featured 5,600 watts and had six exterior speakers, as well as fourteen inside. The dash panels were all made of billet aluminum and Pontiac seats were mounted directly to the floor. Following a style made famous by rock band ZZ Top, Bryan made the passenger door suicide-style but left the driver door unchanged. Under the hood is a 3406 PC Cat, circa 1978. Bryan chose this old engine because it sounds awesome and blows a lot of black smoke. This truck, which was only built to show, has no exterior lighting, no wipers, no heat and no air conditioning. Bryan wanted to thank CB Grimes and Rod & Kevin Pickett for all their help. He also wanted to thank his painter, Ryan “Ryno” Templeton, who came all the way out from Huntington Beach, CA and spent two weeks painting all the incredible murals on this rig.
And, of course, the Champion was Elizabeth Truck Center’s “Beast” from the East (our centerfold feature for this edition). Featuring an exciting Candy Apple Orange and Candy Apple Red paint job and thousands of hours of fabrication, this truck blew everyone’s mind and was the overwhelming winner. Built by Anthony Pesce and his crew (to be named later), this truck featured a 330” wheelbase, totally custom wrap-around fiberglass fenders (front and rear), a chopped top (cab and sleeper), remote-controlled suicide doors, glassless mirrors (they were just pieces of polished stainless), a 10” stretched hood, strapless fuel tanks, a hand-made grille, Harley headlights and a host of other cool things (too much to mention it all). The interior was covered in Red Ultra Suede and featured a 7,000 watt stereo and several flat screen monitors. This truck defines “long and low” and sets a new standard for quality and craftsmanship - it was flawless! All of the work was done in-house at Elizabeth’s sister company Car Craft Truck Works in Staten Island, New York. Anthony wanted to thank some folks so here is a list of all the names: Steve Pesce Sr., Steven Pesce Jr., John Pesce, Angelo Mazzey, George Mazzey, Diego Mena, Gus Mena, Joe Mavica, Billy Kleber, Andrew Feltenstein, Wynton Pelle, Roger Conti, Bill Streeter and Mike Serenchia. Our congratulations go out to all of these guys and to ALL of the builders involved.
One last important mention would be Carl Carstens of Rockwood Products. Carl made the incredible trophies that were awarded to all of the competitors. As unique and innovative as the trucks, these trophies were works of art as well (photo 1). Carl should be commended for all that he has done for the truck shows out there. In regards to a 2nd Annual Build-Off next year, Bud Farquhar would only say that Stars & Stripes was evaluating the success of this year’s event and, based on the information that comes from that evaluation, it will be determined then if they will be doing this again next year. We hope (and think) that they will. There was just way too much interest and excitement created by this event not to make it even bigger and better next year. Stay tuned!
2005 10-4 Magazine and Tenfourmagazine.com