SHOW AND SHINE: The Langevin brothers entered a blue and white '85 Pete, which they stripped and rebuilt from the ground up, in the recent Toronto Truck show.Photo by Katy de Vries
TORONTO, Ont. – They grew up playing with trucks as kids and today they’re still at it.
Brothers Steve and Phil Langevin of P.A. Langevin Transport in Ottawa, Ont. say they feel like kids who get to play all day long because they rebuild trucks and enter them in truck beauty contests, like the one recently held at a Toronto truck show.
The brothers, who finished second in the Limited Mileage combo category at the show, were presenters at a workshop on how to prep your truck for a show and shine.
Their entry was a blue and white 1985 Pete, which they stripped and rebuilt from the ground up. A lot of fun, indeed, but getting a truck like that up to show standards is also a lot of hard work.
“After I finished the first truck, I didn’t think I’d do another one but I’m addicted now, and I’ve got another on the go right now and a couple waiting,” said Phil Langevin.
It’s easy to become obsessed, said the brothers, especially since the judges of these contests are so particular about what they look for.
“Every spring, we get out the chemicals and degreasers and hit everything we can on the truck, and sometimes even take the aluminum right off,” said Steve Langevin, who has also done some judging himself in the past. “A working truck can get extremely dirty.”
Anywhere that a judge can see or reach should be very clean, they said. Dirt and grime will build up under the cab and bunk, behind the wheel wells, fuel tanks, under the brake drum, the axles and in all the tiniest nooks and crannies that truckers who don’t show their trucks normally wouldn’t clean.
Ensuring the unseen parts of the truck are clean could be a tiebreaker in a contest, they pointed out. Sometimes it’s even worth it to get someone who isn’t accustomed to seeing your truck to take a look and see what he finds.
“It’s a matter of pride,” said Suzanne Stempinski of Stars and Stripes Show Truck Events, which organized the contest. “It’s being proud of being a truck driver and proud of the industry. It’s all about the amount of effort you put into perfecting it.”
Whatever works the fastest is the best, said Steve Langevin, because when you need to put this much time into preparing a truck, you often need to take time away from driving, and that costs money.
“It’s all the little things that count,” counseled Neal Holsomback, with Stars and Stripes Show Truck Events and who also trains show truck judges. “Make sure that what you do best is what the judges will see first, and be aware that judges usually carry white towels with them and by the end of seeing a truck the towel is often black.”
The drivers who are most successful at showing their trucks are the ones who are always polishing and cleaning when they stop along the road, said Holsomback.
“Whenever I stop for fuel, I spray down the rig with water and I always shine up and polish the truck whenever I can,” Holsomback said.
The drivers who follow the show circuit are from all over North America, and even though terrain and climate varies in different parts of the continent, the playing field is even, Holsomback said, as long as you take care of the vehicle and continue to clean and polish it regularly.
Is there a secret to the right polish? Not really, Holsomback admitted, adding “…since there are so many types of polish products on the market and since every truck is so individual, there is one that will work for everybody.”
Be sure that the polish you decide to use will wipe away easily, however, he said, because this problem often causes grief for truck showers.
“If you can’t reach the roof of the truck, some drivers have devised a pole with a cloth on it that will polish the roof nicely, or some people have their kids climb up there safely to wipe away any polish or wax,” he added.
Stempinski advised putting flour on a towel or a diaper and wiping the aluminum rails down with that.
“Almost every show we do, we come away with more little tips and tidbits of knowledge just from talking to the entrants,” said Stempinski.
“Another great way to learn about showing a truck is to talk to the winners and see what they do from start to finish. They love talking about their rigs and it’s a great way to make friends in the process.”
Showing a truck is hard work, no doubt. But as the Langevin brothers attest, what can often start as a curiosity can turn into interest, followed by passion and ultimately obsession.