Shine on you crazy diamond – a show’n’shine primer

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TORONTO, Ont. — Veteran show’n’shine winner Michael ‘Motor’ Rosenau admits to having OCCD: Obsessive Compulsive Chrome Disorder. The 2009 Truck News O/O of the Year has 25 trophies to his name. And he spends $10,000-$15,000 on his current truck project per year. But it’s his passion that impresses you when you talk to him about what makes a winner.

“Some people think I’m crazy for putting so much money and time into my truck,” says Rosenau. “My friends say ‘why spend so much money on a tool you use to work with?’ They just don’t understand why, when I could be doing something else…”

Many of the details that have made Rosenau’s current showpiece (a working 1997 Freightliner FLD 120 day cab) a winner are custom-designed and made – by Rosenau himself.   

“I like lots of stainless, and I’m a do-it-yourself kind of guy, so I do a lot of laser cutting myself,” says Rosenau, whose handiwork includes a custom grille that looks like it belongs on Rolls Royce, a stainless extension on his fibreglass visor and side faring pieces.

But custom designing and cutting aren’t all Rosenau does. He’s also a clean freak.

It can take up to three days for him to polish his truck, thanks to a recent back injury.

“It takes a lot out of me,” he admits. “It hurts my shoulder and neck so much.”
Rosenau says he thinks it’s his detail work that gets the attention of judges.

“I think they like to see something a little different. A lot of people say they see something different every time they look at my truck, like nut covers and etching on some of the stainless and other simple nice touches,” the O/O says.

It could just as well be Rosenau’s efforts when it comes to cleanliness that make him a winner, at least according to Sherry Clarke. Clarke is a former Fergus Truck Show organizer and now the coordinator for the Grand Bend Big Rig National show’n’shine, heading into its second season this Aug. 28-29 at the Grand Bend Motorplex in Grand Bend, Ont.

“Sure, the guys that go for extra bells and whistles, extra chrome and lights and fancy paint jobs do make an impression, and  judges will look at these additions to see if they’re consistent,” says Clarke, a 25-year show’n’shine veteran. “For example, if the frame is painted, they’ll check to see if it’s been painted everywhere and not just touched up.” 

But what’s most important is how clean the truck is, she adds. “Is the fifth wheel clean of grease and so on…In fact, I’ve seen judges get under the truck to see what’s going on. Cleanliness on the suspension and frame is key…are the hoses and chains neatly stored, are the tires Armor All’d, is the fuel tank clean of spills, are the grille and pipes clean of smoke marks and what’s the overall general appearance in terms of cleanliness? And believe me, the guys showing know it – some of them will do things like pick out all the stones between the treads of their tires. In fact, at one show I saw a fella who jacked up every tire on his truck to get it clean – even the part that would be resting on the ground. I asked him why and he said he wouldn’t feel he’d done a complete job unless he knew the whole tire was clean.”

Clarke is convinced it’s this kind of obsessive devotion to truck upkeep that impresses judges.

“Some guys even retouch the white lettering on their tires with tiny paint brushes so they will look all neat and clean. These guys are so proud of their trucks, they love to put them on display. They cost them a lot of money and they want to share their baby,” says Clarke.

No babes and bikinis
Rosenau is a firm believer that letting truck judges know just how much you care about your truck is key to getting noticed. To that end, he includes signage in his display that details spec’s and describes exactly what he’s done to make his truck special.

“My sign board explains everything about the truck – year, mileage and that it’s driver-driven year round,” says Rosenau.

But bugging the judges while they’re on the job is a no-no, says Clarke. And so is trying to influence judges with babes and bikinis as part of your display.

“Babes and bikinis don’t impress the judges, in fact, I think they may actually take away from your overall score,” she says. “Of course, there are some guys who will put plants around their display, just to make it look warmer and that’s nice. But girls in bathing suits just give the wrong impression.”

Indeed, Clarke received an overwhelming number of phone calls years ago, when a Supreme Court challenge led to the legalization of toplessness for Ontario women.

“I was astounded by the number of calls we got from truckers who were afraid there were going to be topless women at the Fergus show. They were worried because truck shows are and always have been shows for the whole family. They wanted to make sure they could bring their wives and children out.”

Truck photographer and all-Canadian Wow Trucks Big Rig calendar producer David Benjatschek agrees that while cleanliness and chrome do contribute to the overall score of a truck show contender, cuties out front of your display definitely do not.

“I think that marketing is everything and that’s a good thing,” admits Benjatschek, who himself has officiated as a judge at several truck shows. “But that means hanging out and playing with other people’s kids and answering questions. You can get votes for the People’s Choice truck that way for sure. But bikinis and babes, well let’s just say I don’t produce that kind of calendar, and I don’t think that’s what makes a positive impression on judges. In fact, I think it would backfire. I don’t think it sends the message you would want to send.”

Benjatschek includes three major winners from each of the four major truck shows across Canada every year in his calendar, including one which he himself selects.

“I include the People’s Choice truck, the judges’ overall show pick, and then my own wild card pick,”  says the photographer, who has some definite ideas about what makes certain trucks winners.

“The People’s Choice truck is always a reflection of the lifestyle of the trucker and his pride in his or her job. They’re not always the most decked-out trucks, but the driver is really cool and loves his or her work and the people who vote for him or her love celebrating that,” says the former Shell marketer.

“The judges’ choice is generally based on finer details – they really go over the truck with white gloves, literally. They’ll look all over for dust and dirt and underneath and inside the engine and through every part to check for cleanliness and uniqueness and a whole bunch of other things.”

Uniqueness, according to Benjatschek, can include everything from lights to fenders to tail pipes and hood covers, “anything that can add to the overall wow factor,” he says. “As for what makes an impression on me, obviously it has to be a nice clean, well-maintained truck, but it’s also about the story of the trucker and how the truck matches him or her. And it’s got to be someone who’s a positive representative of the industry.” Indeed, when it comes down to it, show’n’shine winners are really what judges deem to be the best reps of the industry as a whole, agree show insiders.

In the words of Clarke, “Really, shows are about showcasing the industry, not winning an award. Focusing on the award is just taking the fun out of it. Really what it’s about is giving truckers an opportunity to share their passion with other people, maybe even people from outside the industry, and changing their minds about what trucking is. And that’s what makes everyone a winner.”


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