We are sad to report yet another loss to not only the trucking industry but our 10-4 family, as well. Robert Blandino (78) died on June 22 after a battle with cancer. One of the true pioneers of “California cool” and a darn good truck driver (he was once the state champion for backing up doubles), Robert graced our cover not once but twice in our early years. His Freightliner cabover was the second truck to ever be featured on our cover (October 1993), and then his trendsetting 2-axle Peterbilt 379 also appeared on our cover in June 1997. As many of you may know, 10-4 Magazine is like the mafia – once you are a part of our family, you are always in our family, so this loss hits us at a personal level.
Robert was born in Colorado Springs, CO on September 18, 1941. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Los Angeles, where Robert grew up. The first 20 years of Robert’s trucking career were spent driving for Transcon Lines, a large company based in Los Angeles. Over the years, he sunk a lot of his own personal money into his company truck – a blue 2-axle 1969 Freightliner COE – and took it to a lot of truck shows. When the company decided it was time to sell the cabover, Robert bought it.
In 1980, Robert formed Blandino Trucking and, driving that cabover, began hauling building materials and other flatbed freight. Over the next 35 years, Robert would buy many more trucks and trailers and build a nice small fleet – which was always his goal. Retiring around 2015, after 55 years of trucking, Robert sold everything and began living the good life.
Starting with that blue Transcon cabover, Robert made that truck famous when he painted it and the engine red, changed the headlights from single rounds to double squares, added a custom grill, shaved the door handles, added lots of pinstriping, and dipped everything in chrome. Much of this stuff had never been done before on a big truck. When we featured this rig on our “Edition 3” (dated October 15, 1993), it had 3.3 million miles on the odometer and the engine had recently been upgraded from a 290 Cummins to a highly modified 400 Small Cam Cummins.
Back then, being on our cover was special, but it wasn’t as big of a deal as it is today. The picture was not very big, it was black and white, and the “story” was just a paragraph next to the picture, right there on the cover. There was also no photo shoot – just a few printed pictures Robert sent to us in the mail. Nonetheless, it was a great cover and a great issue, and it introduced us (and many others) to Robert Blandino.
Robert eventually sold this truck around 1994, and, as Robert himself told me directly a few years ago on the phone, the new owner blew up the hot rod motor in a matter of weeks and then parked it. Rumor has it that it is still sitting in a field near a hay lot in Blythe, CA. It would be great if Robert’s son Bobby (or someone else) could rescue this rig and bring it back to life.
In 1994, Robert ordered a new 2-axle Peterbilt 379 and then proceeded to give it that “California cool” look he made famous. Back then, lots of bolt-on chrome pieces and murals were popular, but Robert opted instead for a clean – dare I say “sterile” – look, which is still popular today. This truck was powered by a Cat 3406E hooked to a 13-speed and featured 27” tanks, 6” straight pipes, a stainless deck plate, and a custom rear light bar. The paint, although it usually looked black, was actually a special blend of black pearl mixed with lilac, purple and blue. The lowered truck also featured several custom light brackets, which were round tubes with tanker lights mounted on the ends.
For Robert’s second cover (June 1997) things were different. By then, we were doing full photo shoots, and the cover was a full color shot filling the entire page. Also, the story was a full page inside, complete with two black and white photos (full color inside did not come until later). We did the photo shoot at a park in Chino, CA and I remember it like it was yesterday because my wife had just had our first daughter and was still in the hospital. I left there to do the photo shoot, and she was not very happy with me. Now, that daughter is 23 years old, married, and a recent college graduate! Dang, time flies!!
Married in 1960 to his first wife Esther, the couple had two children – Bobby and Tina. After divorcing in the early 1970s, Robert married Marie a few years later, who already had four boys of her own – Ronnie, Tommy, Randy, and Todd. Randy died when he was 45, but the rest are still alive and well, and they created a large family, filled with grandkids and great grandkids, for Robert to enjoy. Robert and Marie were married for almost 50 years before he died.
Diagnosed with cancer back in 2017, Robert was given only six months to live. Being a tough old stubborn trucker, Robert lasted three years! One of his passions was watching his grandson Bobby Jr. (19) play football, and Robert’s dream was to see him play Division 1 football. Recently receiving a full ride scholarship to Portland State University in Oregon, the day Bobby and his wife dropped off their son at school was the day Robert died – June 22, 2020. Although Robert didn’t get to see his grandson play at that level, it seemed like once he knew he would get that opportunity, he was at peace to let go.
Robert’s son Bobby (58) broke away from his dad back in 2004, but the two still worked closely together over the years. Bobby recently bought a new flattop from our friend Clint Moore at Kansas City Peterbilt – a blue and black 389 with Pickett large hole wheels, all hidden LED lights and a weed-burner exhaust (no pipes up the sides), which still carries the Blandino Trucking name. So, if you see it out there pulling a step-deck, that is Bobby carrying on the family name and tradition. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of Robert’s family and friends. RIP Mr. Blandino. You were a pioneer, a gentleman, a Southern California legend and one of our first features – and we will all miss you.