On an early San Antonio morning in May, a photographer and his pack of assistants swarmed around Curtis Christians’ 2000 Peterbilt 379.
Hours before sunrise, Christians, an owner-operator from Rock Port, Mo., and friend Ty Glauser washed and polished the black and red rig for one brilliant moment: the sunrise behind the city’s Spanish-style Amtrak station.
But the sun refused to appear, thanks to an early morning cloud bank. Christians frantically washed dirt and bugs off his truck while the photography staff struggled to erect its own sun in the form of generators and light pods.
Christians joined more than 60 other truck owners for the 2001 Shell Rotella SuperRigs Truck Beauty Show. For Christians, whose combination placed fifth in the tractor-trailer division, competing in the show was somewhat of an afterthought; he was in Texas for the calendar.
Every year, dozens of owner-operators and truck drivers flock to Shell’s SuperRigs Show, held this year on May 17-19, for more than $10,000 in prizes and cash. Many of them, like Christians, come not so much for the show, but to earn one of 13 coveted spots in the company’s 2002 Rotella SuperRigs calendar. Trucks are chosen for the calendar based in part on how well they mesh with the scenic settings.
For Christians’ truck, it worked: The colors and artificial morning light underscored the Pete’s orange flames and retro styling.
SuperRigs was Christians’ second show. Leased to Bar Tran Co., he hauls popcorn and produce. Christians, whose father is leased to the same company, says he has wanted a show-quality truck ever since he began driving at age 18. For the past few years, he’s been buying and stockpiling fenders and custom parts.
“I’d buy a little bit here and there. I had a lot of help along the way.”
In July 2000, he bought the truck with a partner and began turning it into a show truck. The truck went back on the road full time in September.
The SuperRigs calendar and show are favorites among many truckers because only working trucks are eligible. The trucks are expected to have mileage levels that correspond with their age. Christians’ Pete, for example, has 320,000 miles on it.
Rick Torres knows how hard it is to keep a working truck clean. His 1992 Peterbilt 379 earned him third in Best of Show.
“We just kept rubbing it down,” Torres says. His 1993 Ravens trailer looks as if it’s covered in chrome, but it’s actually shiny aluminum. “It took a good week to polish that aluminum. It’s unique, and it looks nice.”
Torres’ truck and another one that placed in the show are owned by Sandvik Trucking in Escondido, Calif. President Bill Sandvik says he rewards his hardest working drivers with the two trucks.
The contest is sponsored by Shell Rotella T heavy-duty multigrade motor oil. The show has three classes: Tractor, Tractor-trailer Combination and Classic.
First place overall for the competition went to Vladimir Bilik Jr., an owner-operator from Santa Clarita, Calif. Bilik, whose truck also made the calendar, says he’s added a lot of small chrome details since he bought the truck in July 2000. Those additions included a wider bumper with a recessed license plate holder, 90-degree elbows on the stacks and a chrome bottom cover that hides most of the drive axle.
“I love coming to these competitions just to meet the other truckers,” he says. “Everyone here competes for different reasons, but we all have a lot in common.”
By Sean Kelley