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Lamenting the decline of the traditional truck show

The truck show, as it's known today, is at risk of extinction. The type of truck that attracts observers and participants to show'n'shines across Canada is gradually being outlawed by overzealous enviro-minded regulators and replaced with...


The truck show, as it’s known today, is at risk of extinction. The type of truck that attracts observers and participants to show’n’shines across Canada is gradually being outlawed by overzealous enviro-minded regulators and replaced with slippery models that as columnist Mark Lee recently put it, all cast the same shadow on the ground.

Let’s be honest, when the OEMs are all employing the same types of technologies to squeeze out microscopic gains in truck aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, there’s not a lot left to the imagination. (The exception to this might be the International LoneStar, which – love it or hate it – combines classic styling with fuel performance worthy of a SmartWay endorsement).

The latest aero-styled trucks make good business sense, that much is undeniable. But they’re not exactly showing up en-masse at the summer truck shows, which are still dominated by classic-styled trucks like Pete 379s, Kenworth W900s and the like.

This is tragic. The truck show’n’shines will eventually become antique truck shows, as classic-styled truck models are fazed out in favour of fuel-efficient designs that earn the EPA’s nod of approval.

This disappointing trend coincides with another observation: reduced attendance at truck shows that were once can’t-miss events. I chalk the attendance woes at many truck shows not to the impending doom of the traditional show truck, but rather to a general malaise towards the trucking industry. For the younger crowds, these shows have become a place to go to get drunk and rowdy when the sun goes down, with little time spent appreciating the show trucks and the work that went into them.

Is there a future for this type of event? I sure hope so. Is there hope that an interest in show trucks will be reignited in the younger generation trucker? Maybe.  I spent a couple days in early June attending the Shell SuperRigs show in Kenly, N.C. and the event had me second-guessing my own doomsday prognostication. The passion was alive and well at this show, with truckers coming from all over the US and even Canada to show off their rigs in hopes of earning a spot in the prolific SuperRigs calendar.

Shell, in organizing the event, has decided in recent years to reach out to the community and create a more carnival-like atmosphere, inviting nearby residents to a truck parade, light show and fireworks display. What’s important, however, is that the trucks and their owners remained the focal point of the entire event. That can’t be said for all truck shows today.

As I toured the show, I met Tyler and Mickey Gwillim, a father-son duo who were applying the final coat of polish to The Green Hornet, a lime green 1986 Peterbilt with the clever slogan “Going broke in style” painted on the back of the cab. It’s Tyler’s truck, and at 16 years of age, it has gotta be the envy of all his friends.

Over the last 10 years or so, Tyler and his dad Mickey have been painstakingly dressing up the truck to the point where it was one of the more attention-grabbing rigs on the lot. Mickey told me the truck was a gift to his son that keeps on giving; whenever they have some spare time they get to spend it together cleaning or upgrading The Green Hornet.

That time spent together working on the truck and showing it at events (Tyler guesses he’s attended 30 or 40 truck shows) has created a bond that so many other fathers and sons will never know.

So maybe the truck show isn’t dying after all. If truckers like Mickey can instill in their kids an appreciation for fine trucks and for all the work that goes into them, there just may be some hope that the fire keeps burning. That is, as long as the EPA doesn’t pass a law requiring them to tow the older-style trucks to the show behind a SmartWay-approved tractor.


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