10-4 Magazine

Story & Photos by Suzanne Stempinski

They say that everything is big or tall in Texas – big sky, tall guys, tall trucks, big times. The Great American Trucking Show (GATS) in Dallas, held Sept. 10-12 was full of big and tall stuff – including a Big Rig Redo Competition, the annual Pride & Polish Truck Beauty Contest with more than 60 tall trucks, plenty of exhibits and a couple of awesome concerts. It wrapped up with the 1st Annual Truck Driving Challenge of the Genders which benefited Special Olympics. And that wasn’t all.

Truckers filled the aisles of the Dallas Convention Center, finding new jobs, new trucks, chrome, stainless, polish, insurance, oil, stuff to improve a truck’s performance, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (they signed autographs), and of course, those beautiful show trucks. Incredible concerts by talented performers – Diamond Rio and Ronnie Milsap – entertained GATS-goers after the show closed on the first two nights. After several days walking the aisles, lots of tired dogs were barking as weary feet headed out into the night.

A couple of new products caught my eye. At the top of the list, a product called Rescue Tape®. A self-fusing silicone tape which requires no adhesive; it bonds to itself in seconds, creating an air-tight, water-tight seal that resists oil, fuel, solvents, salt water, road salt and UV rays. It will quickly and easily repair hoses, fuel lines, electrical wiring or other broken lines. It will even work on wet, dirty or oily surfaces. Once fused together, it will not come apart unless cut – unlike Duct Tape which can unravel or loosen over time. Built to government specifications, it resists temperatures up to 500°F – perfect to keep in your side box – and will last 20 years or more. Check it out at www.rescuetape.com or call 877/847-2628.

Slightly more whimsical, but also practical to carry while driving long distances, is a product called Anti Monkey Butt Powder. Nope, we’re not kidding about the name – apparently it’s a common handle for what can happen to motorcycle riders, while horseback riding, truck driving and other “butt busting” activities. That chapped and rashy feeling will be soothed with this combination of talcum and powdered calamine without the burning sensation you’d get from a powder with menthol in it. For more information, visit them at www.antimonkeybutt.com or call 800/884-8914.

In the big truck department, Freightliner was pleased to announce the augmentation of their Business Class line of trucks with the M2 106V. This truck is designed to operate in snow plow or crane businesses, along with other construction, agricultural, refuse, utility and governmental service applications. Peterbilt announced the availability of Caterpillar C15 engines rated at 600 and 625 hp for order with new 379 and 379X model trucks. Also available as an option in all new Peterbilt trucks are Bostrom’s Wide Ride seats. These leather or fabric seats are roughly two inches wider and longer than standard seats, offering a more generous seating area. They’re available in high-back or mid-back versions, with optional arm rests and integral heaters.

Resolving a rivalry that sprang up a few short weeks before, the 1st Annual Truck Challenge of the Genders concluded with a fierce but friendly competition in the truck parking lot adjacent to the convention center. Late one night, Garry “Diaper Rash” Thomas, a driver for Swift Transportation with 18 years of experience, called in to the “Truckin’ Bozo Show” during a discussion of NAFTA to stir up a little hate and discontent. His expressed opinion – that women would be better off out from behind the wheel and home in the kitchen – which would result in more and better freight for Mexican and American men – generated a barrage of irate calls.

Ingrid “Halfpint” Bell, a 23-year veteran behind the wheel, took “Diaper Rash” to task, and offered to clean his clock on a driving course – with proceeds to benefit the Special Olympics. Continuing late night jabs and a cooperative spirit enabled these two to pull together, in about six short weeks, a roster of sponsors and enthusiastic supporters in their efforts to contribute as much as possible to Special Olympics.

A series of driving maneuvers was closely monitored by four judges. While both participants performed admirably, the judges’ unanimous decision awarded top driver honors to “Halfpint.” The most important result – these two professional drivers, through their fund-raising efforts, generated more than $10,000 to support Special Olympics. Now that’s really standing tall – Texas style!!!!!!

The single most popular destination at GATS was the collection of show trucks in the large Pride & Polish area. Long-time participants and newcomers mingled as the smell of polish and freshly waxed paint filled the air. The tall, tall trucks gathered seemingly endless streams of compliments as visitors oohed and aahed over the rides and details. Participants like Cliff and Brad Wilkins, a father and son duo who have spent almost 10 years refurbishing their 1969 Peterbilt 359. Sporting a 315” wheelbase, a 3408 Twin Turbo V8 Caterpillar engine, and 6x4 overdrive twin stick transmission, this spectacular ride earned the prestigious Competitor’s Choice Award along with being tops in its class (photo 4). All the work on the truck was done by the two, with the sole exception being the painted graphics which complement this fine ride. The Wilkins’ did it all, including everything from metal fabrication – they even made a press to bend metal – to upholstery to stretching the hood and cab to putting on the paint – they changed their minds about the colors on the way to the shop to buy materials!

It didn’t matter to Larry Beggs (photo 2) whether or not his 1991 Western Star brought home a trophy. He was proud just to be there. Nicknamed Blue Coon, his truck goes back and forth to work every day. Beggs unloaded in time to bring the truck to the convention center and get it parked. Doing all the work himself, he expected nothing but maybe a few cheers from his friends. He got much more – a second place trophy for a job well done. As he walked up to receive his award, he fingered the safety pin attached to the left sleeve of his t-shirt – he has one on all of them. His granddaughter hooked up the first one a couple of years ago – a safety pin to make sure he stays safe on his trip. A much-loved man with a cheerful outlook that he shares with everyone he meets, Beggs is a great role model for the trucking industry.

In the Pride & Polish area, more was going on than just the display of incredible show trucks. The second annual “Big Rig Redo” generated a steady stream of curious traffic as four Freightliners (the event sponsor) were customized by teams from Texas Christian University or the Art Institute of Dallas. With a budget of $1500 per truck and the chance to earn a $2,000 scholarship for their school, the teams worked tirelessly to transform ordinary interiors into something really special. Four different themes were chosen by the teams and the winning trucks. Ron Shifflett’s wife Marcia entered his truck to surprise him. When his cell phone rang one morning to tell him his truck was going to be redone, he had no idea what a big project it would turn out to be! His 1997 Freightliner FLD120 with a Classic interior was morphed into a tropical beach themed oasis, complete with grass-skirted lighting, sea shells, leaping dolphins on the seats, and a night sky filled with stars. The Shiffletts took the opportunity to enjoy a long-delayed honeymoon – celebrating 13 years of marriage. Their truck received several awards for design, creativity and use of budget.

In 2005, GATS will be held August 25-27. Mark your calendars and start planning now for a big and tall time in Texas! And the Great American Trucking Show 2004 winners were:

BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE TECH: 1st Thomas & Maryann Quick; 2nd Ray & Karen Pierce; 3rd Curtis Turk.
PETERBILT COUNCIL OF CLASS: 1st Curtis Turk; 2nd Jeff England; 3rd Randy & Michelle Kramer.
CHEVRON CHROME CORNER (Interior): Thomas & Maryann Quick.
CHEVRON CHROME CORNER (Exterior): Billy Hopkins (photo 3).
CHEVRON CHROME CORNER (Engine): Brett & Cliff Wilkins.
CHEVRON CHROME CORNER (Overall): Willie & Lori Goodmote.
INTERIOR (OEM Sleeper): 1st Mike & Ruth Knezevich; 2nd Joel Brantley; 3rd Russ & Debbie Brown.
INTERIOR (Custom Sleeper): 1st Rusty Wyrick; 2nd Curtis Turk; 3rd Randy & Michelle Kramer.
INTERIOR (Cab Only): 1st Michael Fields; 2nd Billy Hopkins; 3rd Gailand & Bonnie Johnston.
ENGINE: 1st Victor Garza; 2nd Jeff England; 3rd Rusty Wyrick.
ANTIQUE: 1st Brett & Cliff Watkins; 2nd Jeff Hardage.
CABOVER BOBTAIL: 1st Robert Young; 2nd Jeff Rudisill; 3rd Calvin & Ellen Long.
CONV. BOBTAIL 1981-1992: 1st LaDonna Salo; 2nd Larry Beggs.
CONV. BOBTAIL 1998-1999: 1st Russ & Debbie Brown; 2nd Mike & Ruth Knezevich; 3rd Arvil Lewis.
CONV. BOBTAIL 2000-2001: 1st Frankie & Renee Story; 2nd Thomas & Maryann Quick; 3rd John Schmitz.
CONV. BOBTAIL 2002-Newer: 1st Carol Ann Schlussler; 2nd Frank Chipman; 3rd Mike Sladek.
CONV. COMBO. 1992-1999: 1st Victor Garza; 2nd Larry & Pat McCann; 3rd William Mercroules.
CONV. COMBO. 2000-Newer: 1st Jeff England; 2nd Don Wilson; 3rd George Elosegui.
PAINT BOBTAIL: 1st Harvey & Karen Zander; 2nd Rusty Wyrick; 3rd David Goode.
PAINT COMBO: 1st Gailand & Bonnie Johnston; 2nd Tyler Dugan.
PAINT (NON-MURAL): 1st Joel Brantley; 2nd Randy & Michelle Kramer; 3rd Curtis Turk.
FLEET-OWNED BOBTAIL: 1st Pride Transport/Jeff England; 2nd J&C Investments/Jeff Hardage; 3rd Ken Wood Trucking/Al Bowers.
FLEET-OWNED COMBO: 1st Muirhead Trucking/Greg Stanley; 2nd Conwell Corp/Darrell Caldwell, Jr.; 3rd Oakley Transport/Roger Turcotte.
SPECIALTY: 1st Bill & Johnny Culver; 2nd Steve Vidrine; 3rd Chris Schmidt.
CHARITY’S CHOICE: Michael Fields.
COMPETITOR’S CHOICE: Brett & Cliff Wilkins.
BEST OF SHOW BOBTAIL: (tie) Rusty Wyrick and Harvey & Karen Zander (photo 1).

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