There is a chill in the air as the leaves on the trees are beginning to change and summer makes way for fall. If you live in the area near Englishtown, New Jersey, it can only mean one thing – the roar of hundreds of diesel engines, gleaming chrome and stainless, and thousands of spectators. I’m talking about the largest one-day truck show on the east coast, and quite possibly the largest in the country – the 36th Annual U.S. Diesel Truckin’ Nationals, Presented by Truck Buyers Guide and Elizabeth Truck Center, held every year at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, a quarter mile drag strip. The show was held on Saturday September 15th, with trucks arriving as early as Friday afternoon, lining-up early at the gates so that when they opened on Saturday morning they could get a prime parking spot. But as many would soon find out, this year’s parking setup and rules were quite different.
In the past few years, the diesel pickup scene in the surrounding areas has exploded and become quite huge – large enough that the track gave the diesel pickups their very own event in the middle of the summer, but it never really took of in popularity. Last year, at the 35th annual show, the pickups out-numbered the big trucks by a majority well over 3 to 1. To put it nicely, it was a giant mess. There were also a couple incidents last year, including a child being hit by someone flying through the staging lanes, as well as a teenager falling off the back of a pickup that was doing a burnout and injuring her head quite seriously. Drinking, partying, and just a lack of security and control over the last few years have left a lot of people upset, so much so that a few big-name local companies actually opted to just stay home last year. But, fast-forward to 2012, because everything has changed!
This year, all of the pickups were required to park on the other side of the track – pickups without commercial plates were not allowed in the big truck area unless they were company support vehicles. Local police were constantly patrolling the crowd and they had D.U.I check points at all of the exits when the show ended. It may sound a bit extreme, but the overall public opinion from the people I talked to was that it was the best show at Englishtown in years, and I have to agree with that. The show sponsors and officials at the track did a great job of improving public safety and the overall environment of the show.
Another plus this year was the fact that it was the first time in years that the chance of rain was not looming over the event – it was an absolutely beautiful day with a bright blue sunny sky, some passing clouds, and a nice cool breeze. It did get a bit chilly at night during the show on the track, but after a long day of walking in the sun, it felt pretty good to be a little cold. But enough about the past and this topic, let’s talk about the show itself, and the massive turnout of well over 1,000 hard-working trucks.
Elizabeth Truck Center (ETC) yet again this year sponsored the show, and like always, had an amazing turnout of trucks in their area, which also included their chrome trailer and shirt sales tent. Taking a walk through the ETC area, you could see trucks from various decades. Steve Markovich’s freshly-restored Kenworth W900A was absolutely perfect from front to back – it looked as if it was right off the dealership lot. Gary Galleries’ 2012 Kenworth W900L called “Twisted” was the centerpiece of their booth this year. Gary built the truck and did most of the major fabrication himself, then took it to the crew at Car Craft Truck Works, ETC’s Staten Island location, where they took it apart, did some final fabrication, and then painted it bright green and silver. Green Outlook Trucking of Sparta, New Jersey had their brand new, bright orange and gun-metal grey 2012 Peterbilt 389 glider on display. A couple other cool trucks parked in the ETC area included DSM’s killer black and orange Seminole-striped W900L day cab, Warex Terminals’ deep red with silver stripes “Lyon’s Den” Peterbilt 389, and several others.
ETC wasn’t the only show sponsor or booth setup with some cool displays. Lincoln Chrome and RoadWorks were both setup, and RoadWorks had their current show truck parked near their booth. Ice Road Trucker star Maya Sieber was on-hand to meet her fans and sign autographs in the ETC area. Walking around the vendors’ area, you could see everything from engine manufacturers to diesel performance companies, die-cast toys for the kids and adults to chrome shops and accessories, truck dealerships, and of course, you are in Jersey, so you can’t forget about the food – sausage and peppers, burgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes, steak sandwiches, and much more! So, after spending all my money at the vendor booths and on food, it was time to take a walk and look at all the trucks (good thing I was wearing comfortable shoes).
With over 1,000 trucks on the grounds, judging could be difficult, but not at Englishtown. This show features something that is different from most other shows out there – they have a drive-through judging area. Those wanting their truck to be judged (not everybody does) simply drive over to the judging lanes and then wait for their turn. The judges come to you, look over your entire truck, fill out all the paperwork and forms, and then send you back to your regular parking spot. After getting your truck judged and parked, it’s a great time to walk around the show and see all the great trucks. Also, a lot of companies use the show as a place to have their annual company picnic, cooking full meals on-site for their people, or having the whole affair professionally catered. Hillwick Trucking was one such company – they had an impressive setup with some amazing food for their drivers and friends, offering them a fully catered lunch and dinner at the show.
Walking around the pit area, which is over 3/8 of a mile long and four to five rows deep packed with trucks, you will see everything from everyday working trucks to full custom show trucks. Here are just a few that caught my eye. CRA Trucking of Landing, New Jersey, showed off their brand new dark blue Peterbilt 389 glider kit that they built fully in-house. Todd and Beth Roccapriore of Hebron, Connecticut (Clean Slate Environmental) had their latest creation – a 2007 Legacy Edition 379 Peterbilt called “Low Life” that they also built themselves. This rig has been cleaning house at every show this year!
Englishtown regulars, Hillwick Trucking, had an impressive line-up that included every one of their trucks – all 31 of them! Brian Jones had a few of his fleet on-hand, including his wicked Kenworth show truck and his new A-Model KW service truck. Chris Dohney, a driver from S.C. Ballard, showed off his brand new bright yellow and black-striped 2012 Peterbilt 389 glider kit which he brought all the way from North Guilford, Connecticut. Larick Towing had a super-clean, all white, Peterbilt 379 car carrier with custom blue flamed graphics, which was spotless from top to bottom – and it works everyday.
Izzi Trucking & Rigging, a company that was celebrating nearly four decades of service, had an impressive line-up of their fleet. Right across from Izzi was Warex Terminals, a fuel hauling company from Newburgh, New York, which also had a huge part of their fleet of clean, tricked-out, working trucks lined-up for all to see. One of the coolest trucks at the show was owned by Trans-American Trucking. If you don’t know, they are a heavy haul company that moves some of the heaviest loads around, with trailers ranging from normal flatbeds all the way up to 19-axle super load trailers. Trans-American had their new 2012 Mack Titan tractor on display. This truck was completely loaded with every single option available, including the Rawhide interior, which has never been done in a Titan. But what really set this truck apart was the fact it had a true set of dual transmission boxes (twin sticks), as well as a fully-custom headache rack.
For those who have never been to this show, there are a few things that set it apart from every other show out there. E-town is not just a truck show – all day, pick-ups and big rigs drag race and show off some amazing horsepower and speed. A few standouts were Joe Dipalo’s 1974 W900A Kenworth with a V-12 Detroit, which ran an impressive 14.6 second run (the sound of this truck was insane). Another standout was a black Kenworth W900L day cab running mid to low 13-second runs. After the trophies were handed out to the big rigs, the real show began with the class finals of drag racing, monster truck racing, jet dragsters, jet funny cars, and Bob Motz and his Kenworth W900B jet drag truck. To top it all off at the end of the night, the winners in every class of drag racing went up against each other in bracket-style racing to compete for the “King of the Hill” prize of $5,000 (and bragging rights). So, for those of you who think that this is just another truck show, think again, because it is so much more than that.
So, before I make your eyes hurt as much as my feet did that day, I will end this by saying that if you are in the area or just want to attend a show that covers absolutely everything from A to Z in trucking entertainment, this is the one to attend. The dates for next year have not been announced, but it is usually the third weekend in September. We hope to see you there.
EDITOR’S NOTE: at the time of this printing, no winner’s list was available. If we get one, we will post it here.