If the Mid-America Trucking Show is any indication as to how the rest of the year will be in trucking, then the road ahead should have smooth sailing. This show is always the biggest and the best, but this year it was even bigger and better! Held on March 27-29, 2014 at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville, this 43rd annual event drew in people from all facets of the trucking industry from all over the world. As usual, the weather was a factor, with everything from snow, freezing cold temperatures, rain, and even some sunshine by the time it was all over. If there’s one thing we have come to expect in Louisville, it is to expect the unexpected.
Being the largest trucking show in the world, MATS did not disappoint. With 1.2 million square feet of indoor exhibit space spread out in three large buildings, almost 1,100 exhibitors, and 79,061 qualified attendees, the aisles were packed all day, every day. And with new product unveilings from all of the major manufacturers, free concerts, informative seminars, giveaways, ride and drive opportunities to test-drive new trucks, and the PKY Truck Beauty Championship featuring 100+ of the finest working and show trucks competing for trophies and bragging rights, there was a lot to see and do during the three-day trucking extravaganza.
Walking the show floor, we were happy to see so many people in attendance and amazed at the quality of exhibits and exhibitors – we were told that the show “sold out” all of its available floor space about a week before the event, so there was no “filler” – it was wall-to-wall displays! Mack hosted a concert in their booth featuring country music artist Julie Roberts, who performed on a raised stage above a Mack truck. Peterbilt was celebrating their 75th anniversary and had on display, among other things, one of the original Peterbilt trucks from 1939 alongside their latest 2014 offering, the model 579, both decked-out in anniversary-edition red and cream colors.
Over in the Western Star booth, the new “Optimus Prime” truck, which will be featured in the upcoming “Transformers 4: The Age of Extinction” movie this summer, was a crowd favorite, for sure. In fact, it was probably the most photographed vehicle in the entire show! We posted a picture of the soon-to-be famous Western Star 5700 (a new model which will be available to the public later this year) adorned with red and blue flames on our Facebook page during the show and it did not get favorable reviews from the Transformers purists. But, we thought it looked cool – it certainly looks more futuristic than previous Optimus Prime vehicles.
While checking out the giant South Wing, where most of the big OEM booths were located, we stumbled upon the Firestone booth just in time to watch them give away a truck! Five finalists, chosen at random from a contest they entered, were brought to Louisville where they were each able to select a key from a basket. The one with the correct key, that started the truck, got to take it home. We watched as the first guy tried to start the truck – nope. Then the next – it fired right up! Brad Peterson of Wellington, Colorado, was the grand prize winner of the “Drive a Firestone Sweepstakes” and took home a 2013 Firestone Edition Class 8 tractor. Sitting in the truck for several minutes, honking the horn and revving the engine, Brad was very excited.
The 10-4 booth, as usual, was a beehive of activity in the North Wing. Show management hooked us up with a new booth location and it was awesome (thank you, Toby). Handing out thousands of free copies of the magazine, along with hundreds of free posters and centerfolds, we ran out of everything on Saturday afternoon with still four hours of show left. We also debuted a new t-shirt, which turned out to be very popular. It was great seeing so many old friends, fans and advertisers, and getting to meet a few new ones, as well. But as fun as it was to hang out in the booth and visit with everyone, the real action was outside in the back parking lot.
For 25 years now the PKY Truck Beauty Championship, which runs in conjunction with MATS, has been the “big daddy” of all the truck shows – not because it is the biggest show, but because it consistently brings out the best rigs and officially kicks off the new truck show season. Everyone brings their “A-game” to Louisville, and most of the nationally-known, recently-built, extreme trucks make their debut at MATS. To win a Best of Show or People’s Choice award at MATS is reserved, quite simply, for the best of the best. And this year was no different.
Coming all the way from Apache Junction, Arizona, our friend Theresa DeSantis was floored when they called her name as the Best of Show winner in the Working Bobtail class. Her beautiful 1985 Peterbilt 359, which she has been running every day since it was new, has 2.5 million miles on it – but you would never know by looking at it. With a stock, classic feel, the old Peterbilt still sports its factory red with orange stripes paint scheme, but it was recently freshened-up a bit to get it ready for the show. Obviously, her work was well-received by the judges. Our enthusiastic congratulations go out to Theresa, who did a great job of representing the west coast!
A few other big winners at MATS included Billy Rethwisch Jr., whose lime green, black and white 2013 Pete 389 and matching 2012 Polar tanker earned four 1st place trophies and the Best of Show award in the Working Combo class. Larry Graves of Farmers Oil did well, too. His silver and blue 2013 Peterbilt 389 and matching 2014 Mississippi tanker took home four “Best of” awards, in addition to the RoadWorks “Best Use of Chrome” award, and the Best of Show trophy in the Limited Mileage Combo class. Earning the top honors in the Limited Mileage Bobtail class was a pristine black and gold 1978 Kenworth W900A owned by Bill Bowling of Fostoria, Ohio.
The coveted People’s Choice award went to Brian Davis of Davis Bros. in Owensville, Indiana and his “Superfreak” rig. The 2005 Peterbilt 379 and 2012 Wilson trailer, painted blue and black, features some extreme modifications, including a pop-up entertainment center with integrated speakers and TV screens on the deck plate, several big speakers mounted underneath the front of the trailer, a custom interior with a tile floor, and a whole lot of lights. The Jake Eilen memorial “Pride in Your Ride” award went to Josh Ihlenfeld of Tralo in Owatonna, Minnesota and his sweet black and red 2014 Kenworth W900 and matching 2008 Utility reefer.
In addition to all of the big winners, there were also a lot of other amazing trucks that were not as highly-decorated but deserve just as much credit and respect. Some of our favorites were Ryan Derrickson’s beautiful baby blue and white 1999 Peterbilt and matching Great Dane reefer, Eric Bilgo’s black, orange and gold 1995 flattop Peterbilt, and Patrick Coughlan’s “Phat & Phlat” red and white 2003 Peterbilt 362 cabover and matching East flatbed. A few other standouts included Daniel Brubaker’s lime green and black 2014 Peterbilt 389 and Wilson livestock trailer, Dan Doran’s classic-looking brown and gold 1985 Peterbilt 359, Jason Schmidt’s blue and white 2001 Peterbilt 379 and Reitnouer flatbed with a curtain, and Mike Manuel’s over-the-top 1984 Peterbilt 359, which has amazing lighting, a sweet interior and tons of custom fabrication.
A truly unique truck at the show was the “Danger” rig, which is owned and was designed by Alex & Armando of A & A Stainless in Miami, Florida. This flat-black and yellow beast, which started out as a 1997 Pete 379, features all kinds of uniquely-designed pieces including the front bumper (which looks like the front of an old train), custom air intake tubes, gatling-gun inspired exhaust pipes, flip-out doors, custom-cut wheels, vertically-mounted 389 headlights, and all sorts of interesting body work and lighting effects. This is one of those trucks that people love or hate. But, whether you like it or not, mad props need to go out to these guys for thinking outside of the box and creating a truly unique rig.
MATS 2014 was an incredible event. We had a great time hanging out with our truck show family, and can’t wait until next year. Thanks to everyone who came by our booth and had kind words to say about us and the magazine – it really means a lot. The dates for next year are March 26-28, 2015. If you have never been to the Mid-America Trucking Show, you are missing out. We hope to see you there next year!
WORKING TRUCK CLASSES
WORKING BOBTAIL (1999 & OLDER): 1st Theresa DeSantis, 1985 Peterbilt 359; 2nd Joel Dawes, 1988 Peterbilt 379; 3rd Troy Huddleston, 1991 Freightliner 120 Classic.
WORKING BOBTAIL (2000 & NEWER): 1st Dallas McCord, 2007 Peterbilt 379; 2nd Mike Badyk, 2014 Peterbilt 389; 3rd Marty Warner, 2013 Peterbilt 388 Glider.
NEW TRUCK (BOBTAIL): 1st Nate Mason, 2013 Peterbilt 389; 2nd Rodney L Smith, 2013 Peterbilt 389; 3rd Chris Faine, 2014 Freightliner Coronado.
COMPANY-OWNED (BOBTAIL): 1st Isaac Aguilar, 2005 Peterbilt 379; 2nd Ron Miles, 1998 Peterbilt 379; 3rd David Green, 2013 Freightliner Cascadia.
FIRST SHOW (BOBTAIL): 1st Chad Sand, 2013 Peterbilt 389; 2nd Dana Casto, 2005 Peterbilt 335; 3rd Larry Derr, 2014 Kenworth 680.
PAINT & GRAPHICS (BOBTAIL): 1st Bob & Shelley Brinker, 2000 Freightliner Classic XL; 2nd Theresa DeSantis, 1985 Peterbilt 359; 3rd Dallas McCord, 2007 Peterbilt 379.
LIGHTS (BOBTAIL): 1st Dallas McCord, 2007 Peterbilt 379; 2nd Bob & Shelley Brinker, 2000 Freightliner Classic XL; 3rd Chad Sand, 2013 Peterbilt 389.
WORKING COMBO (2005 & OLDER): 1st Ryan Derrickson, 1999 Peterbilt 379 & 2014 Great Dane; 2nd Eric Bilgo, 1995 Peterbilt 379 & 2014 Mac Flatbed; 3rd Kenneth Fisher, 1997 Peterbilt 379 & 2007 East Flatbed.
WORKING COMBO (2006 & NEWER): 1st Bill Rethwisch Jr., 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2012 Polar Tanker; 2nd Shawn Cielke, 2007 Kenworth T600 & 2014 Wabash Reefer; 3rd Dewight Earle, 2007 Kenworth W900L & 2015 East Dump Train.
NEW TRUCK (COMBO): 1st Daniel Brubaker, 2014 Peterbilt 389 & 2015 Wilson Livestock Trailer; 2nd Juan Jose Covarrubias, 2014 Freightliner Cascadia & 2013 Wilson Curtainside; 3rd Mike Kleean, 2014 Peterbilt 389 & 2014 E-Pack Dump.
COMPANY-OWNED (COMBO): 1st Tom Scholton, 2012 Peterbilt 389 & 2013 Utility Dry Van; 2nd Zac Pletcher, 2012 Kenworth T-800 & 2013 Mac Flatbed; 3rd Steven McDermid, 2000 Kenworth W900L & 2007 Great Dane Reefer.
FIRST SHOW (COMBO): 1st Alan Tepool, 2006 Peterbilt 379 & 2015 Wilson Livestock Trailer; 2nd Mark Francois, 1985 Peterbilt 359 & 2003 Reitnouer Flatbed; 3rd Brian Martin, 2003 Kenworth W900L & 2014 Wilson Livestock Trailer.
PAINT & GRAPHICS (COMBO): 1st Bill Rethwisch Jr., 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2012 Polar Tanker; 2nd Ryan Derrickson, 1999 Peterbilt 379 & 2014 Great Dane; 3rd Eric Bilgo, 1995 Peterbilt 379 & 2014 Mac Flatbed.
LIGHTS (COMBO): 1st Bill Rethwisch Jr., 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2012 Polar Tanker; 2nd Daniel Brubaker, 2014 Peterbilt 389 & 2015 Wilson Livestock Trailer; 3rd Shawn Cielke, 2007 Kenworth T600 & 2014 Wabash Reefer.
INTERIOR (CAB ONLY): 1st Daniel Brubaker, 2014 Peterbilt 389 & 2015 Wilson Livestock Trailer; 2nd Theresa DeSantis, 1985 Peterbilt 359; 3rd Eric Bilgo, 1995 Peterbilt 379 & 2014 Mac Flatbed.
INTERIOR (CAB & SLEEPER): 1st Bob & Shelley Brinker, 2000 Freightliner Classic XL; 2nd Theresa DeSantis, 1985 Peterbilt 359; 3rd Eric Bilgo, 1995 Peterbilt 379 & 2014 Mac Flatbed.
ENGINE: 1st Bill Rethwisch Jr., 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2012 Polar Tanker; 2nd Ryan Derrickson, 1999 Peterbilt 379 & 2014 Great Dane; 3rd Bob & Shelley Brinker, 2000 Freightliner Classic XL.
ANTIQUE: 1st Dave Friend, 1986 Peterbilt 359; 2nd Matt Kelley, 1987 Mack R-Model; 3rd David P. Schnautz, 1981 Kenworth W900A.
LIMITED MILEAGE CLASSES
LIMITED MILEAGE (BOBTAIL): 1st Bill Bowling, 1978 Kenworth W900A; 2nd Ryan Almon, 2014 Peterbilt 389; 3rd Ryan Van Haitsma, 2012 Peterbilt 389; 4th Rick Anderson, 2014 Peterbilt 389; 5th Johnny Boulay, 2005 Kenworth W900L.
BEST LIMITED MILEAGE PAINT (BOBTAIL): Bill Bowling, 1978 Kenworth W900A.
BEST LIMITED MILEAGE LIGHTS (BOBTAIL): Ryan Almon, 2014 Peterbilt 389.
LIMITED MILEAGE (COMBO): 1st Larry Graves, 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2014 Mississippi Tanker; 2nd Vinnie Diorio, 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2008 Mac Curtainside; 3rd Brian Davis, 2005 Peterbilt 379 & 2012 Wilson DH501; 4th Mike Manuel, 1984 Peterbilt 359 & 2013 Benson Flatbed; 5th Donald Bowling, 2006 Peterbilt 379 & 2012 Mac Doubles.
BEST LIMITED MILEAGE PAINT (COMBO): tie Vinnie Diorio, 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2008 Mac Curtainside AND Larry Graves, 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2014 Mississippi Tanker.
BEST LIMITED MILEAGE LIGHTS (COMBO): Larry Graves, 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2014 Mississippi Tanker.
BEST LIMITED MILEAGE INTERIOR: Larry Graves, 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2014 Mississippi Tanker.
BEST LIMITED MILEAGE ENGINE: Larry Graves, 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2014 Mississippi Tanker.
ROADWORKS “BEST USE OF CHROME” AWARD (BOBTAIL): Bill Bowling, 1978 Kenworth W900A.
ROADWORKS “BEST USE OF CHROME” AWARD (COMBO): Larry Graves, 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2014 Mississippi Tanker.
JONES PERFORMANCE “BEST THEME” AWARD: Shawn Cielke, 2007 Kenworth T600 & 2014 Wabash Reefer.
FIRESTONE’S “MOST TECHNOLOGICALLY-ADVANCED CAB” AWARD: Rick Stearns, 2014 Peterbilt 579 & 2013 Benson 524.
ROCKWOOD’S “RUNNIN’ LATE” AWARD: Marty Warner, 2013 Peterbilt 388 Glider.
JAKE EILEN MEMORIAL “PRIDE IN YOUR RIDE” AWARD: Josh Ihlenfeld, 2014 Kenworth W900 & 2008 Utility Reefer.
BEST OF SHOW WORKING BOBTAIL: Theresa DeSantis, 1985 Peterbilt 359.
BEST OF SHOW WORKING COMBO: Bill Rethwisch Jr., 2013 Peterbilt 389 & 2012 Polar Tanker.
PEOPLE’S CHOICE: Brian Davis, 2005 Peterbilt 379 & 2012 Wilson DH501.