I recently had the pleasure of visiting my old friend Bob “Gunrunner” Guy, one of the original truck show legends from way back in the day and a Marine, as well. And like they say, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” I know that Marines greet each other with a loud “Oohrah” and that Semper Fi means Always Faithful, and to Bob, that really means something. He also taught me the six P’s of the Marines – Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
Bob is a Vietnam Veteran, and in 1994 he put a truck and trailer together that was very personal to him. Its sole purpose was to raise awareness about his brothers and sisters that were Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA), and to pay tribute to those that didn’t make it home.
The project began in the parking lot of a little truck stop on the 120 Loop in Acworth, GA when friend and painter Don Davis started painting the names of 2,259 POW and MIA soldiers by state, alphabetically, on the sides of Bob’s 1983 Utility trailer. Another friend, John Brubeck, suggested adding “May They Have Peace” – so those words were added, and the project snowballed from there. The barbed wire running down the flagpole and around the names on the trailer represents the wire around prison camps. So many details were included in the paint job, which helped the truck do exactly what Bob had intended it to do.
When I asked Bob about the truck’s name, he looked at me and said, “Well, the truck needed a name, didn’t it?” His CB handle was “Gunrunner” so that became the name of the truck that would touch hundreds of people that crossed her path as Bob ran produce.
Pulling the truck into a little shed near the truck stop to be painted with the appropriate murals, Bob told Don “surprise me” – he had no idea what the truck was going to look like when it was backed out of that shed. Later, when he saw it finished, he wasn’t surprised – he was blown away! The attention to detail really showed everywhere you looked.
The back of the bunk depicted an “LZ” (landing zone) scene, with a door gunner firing as they came into a landing zone taking fire. They would drop red smoke if they were going in hot and taking fire. The left side of the bunk has a napalm scene, with helicopters flying over the jungle, while the right side of the bunk featured a river scene and showed a black soldier being rescued. As Bob put it, “Over there, we all bled red.”
The shed that they used to paint the murals was so small that Bob had to back the truck out to roll the hood over. When he saw the hood for the first time, it brought tears to this Marine’s eyes. The helmet on top of the weapon, stuck in the ground, and again the words “May They Have Peace” was so powerful!
The night they backed the truck out of that shed they put new stacks on her. Don had also painted a sign that would be the “brag board” for Bob’s first truck show. Once everything was done, Bob headed north on I-75, made a left at I-64, and ended up in Louisville, KY at the Mid-America Trucking Show. This show was going to be Bob’s first lesson in showing a truck, as he had no clue about all the places that were supposed to be clean and what the judges would be looking for.
It was there in Louisville that Bob first met our dear friend Bette Garber. He was there with some pretty heavy hitters back in the day – people like Bob & BJ Montgomery with their Space Shuttle tribute truck, and Dick John with his “For Kids Pleasure” rig, which had horses running down the side of the truck and trailer, just to name a couple. These people would become friends, and Bob couldn’t have known then that one day he would be president of an organization that would be started to help make the classes and judging as fair as possible at the big national shows at the time.
At the Walcott Trucker’s Jamboree in Walcott, IA that same year, Bob was brought to tears again when his name was called for the Trucker’s Choice award. This is the award every driver wants, because it’s the drivers you are competing against who pick your truck as their choice. Bob had no idea there was even such an award, and this is one trophy he is still so proud to have won. Bob also lead the Memorial Day Parade in Cincinnati for several years, and once delivered a new commander for Vietnam Vets to the White House in Gunrunner.
Friends Dave Sweetman and Bill Hudgins both told me that on several occasions they witnessed people finding names of people they knew on the side of Bob’s trailer and breaking down. They said that this truck was not about Bob – it was about the message. Bill is one day older than Bob, and they always joked about Bill being his “older brother from another mother” at the shows, including Mickey Gwillim’s World of Large Cars show in 2009 and again in 2017, when I got to see them together at the Richard Crane Memorial Truck Show, which is held each year in St. Ignace, MI.
At the time, many drivers were not happy with the way they were judged at the different shows and they wanted the rules to be the same everywhere they competed. In 1995 I was in attendance when a group of drivers got together and the National Association of Show Trucks (NAST) was born. Bob served as President for a few years, and Dave Sweetman was on the Board of Directors at the same time, as well. Dave told me that Bob was really good at getting sponsors for the shows, and he worked hard with drivers to help write rules that would make the judging and final results fair – and it didn’t matter who you were, if you broke the rules you were out.
Dave and Bob got to work together again in 2006 when Bob went to work for Horseless Carriage and began hauling high-end cars. Bob liked this job and took it very seriously. Dave remembers an event where a client tossed Bob the keys to a $2 million-dollar car and said, “It’s okay to take it to lunch.” I asked Bob for advice he might give to someone just starting out and he said, “Get up and go to work. You have to earn respect, and you can’t do that if you don’t work!” He also said to tell the people you love “I love you” every day, and don’t just tell them – show them you love them.
Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it, so autograph your work with excellence. I think Bob has done this with all his accomplishments. This marine will be strong till the end. We at 10-4 Magazine want to thank all the men and women who served in Vietnam (or anywhere). And to all the POW and MIA soldiers and their families – as Bob and his truck would say – “May They Have Peace.”