Each year the American Truck Historical Society (ATHS) hosts their annual convention and antique truck show, and each year the location changes. Alternating between locations back east, the Midwest and out west, this year’s event was held in Salem, Oregon at the Oregon State Fair & Exposition Center on May 26-28, 2016. Always a huge event, this show, depending on where it is held, draws in anywhere from 800 to 1,300 trucks! Last year’s event in York, PA set the record at 1,300 trucks, but the ATHS was looking to break that record again in Salem.
Flying in on Wednesday, the day before the show started, we met up with our friends from Stay Loaded Apparel at the fairgrounds and set up our exhibit space. While many vendors opted to be inside a building, we, who like to be near the trucks, had quite the spread set up outside, along with a few others. Once our setup was complete, we headed over to the RAM Restaurant & Brewery for a pre-show “happy hour” party. Hosted by ourselves, along with Ruth Fruehauf, Michael Gulley, George Kirkham and Al Koenig, this little get-together turned out to be quite the shin-dig. With appetizers and an open bar for several hours, there were well over 100 people at this event. After enjoying a few “Oregon Blondes” and “Buttface Ambers” with our guests, we were ready to get the show started!
Thursday morning had cool temperatures and cloudy skies. A few times during the day, the wind would pick up and the clouds would even drop a few sprinkles, but nothing too significant. In the area in front of our booth, we had our May 2016 cover truck (Chris Kikelhan’s 1956 KW and Smokey and the Bandit trailer), as well as our resident poet Trevor Hardwick and his amazing brown and gold Freightliner cabover, hooked to a neat old trailer he had just purchased that was once owned by Richard Crane, a famous show-trucker from back in the 1980s. Both of these cool combinations turned a lot heads, for sure, but not as many as the other ride that was also parked in front of our booth.
Rolling into the show with a rumble, James Davis of JDT Trucking had one of the most talked about trucks in the entire show – a completely custom 1968 Kenworth that he and a crew of friends and helpers restored and rebuilt in just six weeks. The white and orange truck was slammed to the ground and had several one-off pieces, including some unique inset taillights and a complete frame wrap/deck plate with huck bolts for a different look, along with a ton of old-school pinstriping on everything. Under the hood sat a screaming Detroit 8V71 “318 Jimmy” that, when started, was hard to miss. He fired it up a few times during the day and always got a crowd.
Walking around the fairgrounds, there were awesome antiques and classics parked all over the place. Since the show was in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), there were plenty of logging trucks on-hand and more A-Model Kenworths than you could shake a stick at. It is amazing that so many of these rigs from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s are still around – it is a testimony as to how well they were built (and how well they were taken care of by their owners). Virtually every manufacturer of the “classics” were represented at the show including Mack, Sterling, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Autocar, Diamond T, White Freightliner, Dodge, Marmon, Fageol, International, Ford, and even a few made by Hayes, as well.
Mixed in with the old trucks, there were a lot of newer trucks on display, too, including many of our past cover trucks – one dating all the way back to our June 1995 cover (Dale Callen’s yellow 359 Peterbilt RV). Another truck that was getting a lot of attention was parked inside one of the buildings with the other vendors – a 1979 Kenworth K-100C Aerodyne owned by Paul Cox. Painted blue, silver and black, this super-clean cabover just underwent a complete restoration, and it was absolutely perfect.
Another popular “attraction” at the show was Gordon McCracken of McCracken Lines & Signs, a pinstriper who was brought in from Australia by one of the show truckers to stripe his white 1989 Mack Valueliner during the show. Gordon’s style is not the usual “old-school” hot rod type of pinstriping that is so popular here in the States, but instead a more ornate and swirly “scroll” type of striping with a filigree flair. And this guy was good. We watched him hand-paint many fine blue lines on that Mack, and he did not miss a beat. And when he shook your hand, boy did he mean it! He also did some of his amazing custom handiwork on Steven Brown’s green 1988 Peterbilt during the show, right there in the parking lot, giving Steven’s already-nice working truck from Kansas a very unique look.
Teaming up with the ATHS, Chrome and Elegance promoted a Peoples’ Choice award at the show. Not only did the winner get a trophy, but he also got the unique opportunity of being featured in the 2017 Chrome and Elegance wall calendar. The idea of organizing a Peoples’ Choice was developed months in advance of the show, but rather than a conventional ballot box, Alex Mielczarek of Rockwood Products created a computer-driven system. Starting from scratch, the goal was to code a platform that would include everyone, so that both attendees of the show and those at home, around the world, could cast their votes on a selection of pics uploaded to the Chrome and Elegance website. The winner, Rusty Bradeen and his white and black Peterbilt, was photographed in front of the State Capitol in Salem after the show. Look for the new 2017 calendar at a chrome shop near you soon.
Staying at a nice hotel downtown, we were able to walk to dinner almost every night, which was great. On Thursday we took a big group out to a Mexican restaurant; on Friday we ate Greek cuisine; and on Saturday we enjoyed some smoked meat from Adam’s Rib Smokehouse. We would like to thank Fernando and the crew from Stay Loaded Apparel for bringing all of our stuff to the show in their new trailer, Dino and Daniel from K & N Filters for their help and friendship, and our PNW route driver, Derek Williams and his wife Renee, for coming to the show and helping us out in our booth on Friday and Saturday.
Although the show did not break records, with almost 900 trucks in attendance, it was still a pretty amazing collection of awesome antiques and classics. Next year’s show will be held on May 25-27 in Des Moines, Iowa, so mark your calendars now and start making your plans to attend. For more details about this and other antique truck shows, visit www.aths.org.