Obsession or expression

by John Curran

WINNIPEG, Man. – The word obsession often conjures up the images strewn through fashion magazines of scantily-clad super models hocking the latest fragrance from France. But Calvin Klein has nothing on the allure of chrome, custom paint and sheer mechanical muscle one can only find at a show and shine.

The competitors you find on the show circuit may be as diverse as their entries, but one common thread ties them together: their love of trucks and all things trucking.

Quest for recognition

For Clarence Falk, the owner of 30-truck CBF Trucking, the obsession with creating the ultimate show truck has lead to Flagship. It’s a late model 379 Pete from Niverville, Man. that is so far up the beauty scale Snow White would have had nothing to fear if it ever crossed paths with her stepmom.

Falk is the chairman of Performance with Pride Truck Show & Shine Inc., which operates a series of competitions across Western Canada every year.

While he doesn’t enter his rig, for fear of any conflict of interest complaints, it’s always a popular draw among the spectators.

A relative newcomer to the truck show circuit, Falk first witnessed the high-end iron making the rounds on the U.S. scene while he attended the 1999 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

“I just fell in love with it,” he says of the idea to put together a tweaked-out truck and trailer.

So about $250,000 – although he doesn’t really like to add it up – and two years later, Falk and his Flagship returned to Louisville; this time poised to compete rather than just gawk at the rigs.

“I came first in the Company Class, first in Murals and third in the OEM Sleeper category,” he beams, “but I also got the one that really mattered to me, Best of Show.”

While he says the competition is nice, it’s not the end-all-beat-all. “If you win, that’s nice. But if you don’t, you still leave happy knowing you had a good time.”

Far more important is the friendly atmosphere.

“Number one is the friends you make, like Neil Holsembach, a buddy of mine from Sugar Valley, Ga.,” he says. “We’ve been friends ever since that first trip I made to Louisville and I even managed to talk him into coming up to judge here in Winnipeg.”

Remembering the past

While many of the show and shine categories are often dominated by new or nearly new trucks, a much larger challenge exists for those willing to stare down the abyss of a possible money pit.

In fact, for Gord Cooper, the owner of Calgary-based O.C.E.A.N. Hauling and Hotshot, taking a truck to its zenith is almost a waste of time if you don’t start with a vintage piece of equipment.

His blue ’57 Kenworth was the only participant in the manufacturer’s 75th anniversary celebrations from north of the border. He insists the ’57 is really the archetype for modern show trucks.

“It’s what everyone is trying to copy to this day – that low slung look,” he says.

He picked the tractor up in 1995 and knew instantly it was something special, although he wasn’t sure how much time he was going to put into its restoration.

“I got excited right away because it had the great needle nose … It has an eight-bag air ride system, which was about as comfortable as the old trucks come, plus it has twice the style of the new ones,” he says. “I was going to do a quick splash-and-dash and actually put the truck to work, but the wiring was atrocious.”

In the end he stripped it down to frame rails and rebuilt it from the ground up. Careful to preserve the original style of the unit, Cooper loves it when those of the younger set stop to look at his truck. A member of the Calgary Chapter of the American Truck Historical Society, he insists truckers today are spoiled by the equipment they have available to them.

“They need to take a look at some of the hard iron still around and imagine going down the road with a single axle, bagged out, grabbing gears and hard pressed to do 10 miles an hour,” he says.

It’s getting a chance to talk to these new and future truckers that Cooper loves most about show life.

But, showing a truck isn’t without its hardships.

Things can get stressful when there’s trouble on the road.

Coming into Manitoba for one event, Cooper says he lost a game of chicken to a low-flying duck.

“I had to rush over to the local Kenworth dealership, Custom Truck Sales, and they put a new windshield in for me – they had to cut one down to get a piece of glass that would fit,” he says. “Ducks and windshields don’t mix.”

Overall attraction

For larger fleets, the joy of competition can mean far more than collecting hardware and bragging rights. Empty trucks mean lost revenue and show and shines offer a great location to deliver a subtle presentation that can fill seats in a hurry.

Recruiting may happen on-site at another location or maybe not at all directly, simply planting a seed in the driver’s mind for later. In any event, it works.

Rick Seitz, a recruiter with Arnold Bros. Transportation out of Winnipeg, spent a fair bit of his time shining up two of the firm’s many trucks. The fleet buffed up a pair of Petes, a 379 and a 387, for the Performance with Pride event in the Peg.

“Sure we do it for the prestige, it draws attention to the company,” he says. “It allows us to make contact with the drivers visiting the event and show them exactly what kind of iron we run.” n

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