Never too old to be a star

| May 01, 2006

Businessman Gary Mahan of Basking Ridge, N.J., owns a small fleet of beautifully restored antiques, including this 1923 Mack AC, originally owned by the Olympia Fruit Market in Reading, Pa.

“You had to be there,” the old saying goes. To some extent, that’s true when attempting to describe how much fun it is to attend the annual national convention and truck show of the American Truck Historical Society.

To whet your appetite for this year’s event, May 25-27 in Baltimore, we thought we’d introduce you to a few of the people and trucks we saw at the 2005 convention in Auburn, Ind.
A record-setting 1,055 trucks were registered, representing more than 60 manufacturers – many of them as long-gone as Brylcreem. Fortunately, many of the old trucks are still around, as are the people who love them.

For more information on this year’s show and on membership in the society, which includes a subscription to Wheels of Time magazine, visit this site.

Trucks with Agents
Dee Cameron of Prescott, Ariz., admits he’s no Leonardo DiCaprio: “They don’t want fat movie stars like me.” His trucks, on the other hand, have their own agent.

Cameron’s 1932 Mack and 1927 Autocar appear in the Hell’s Angels sequence of Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, starring DiCaprio as wealthy moviemaker and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes. Both trucks also appear in the science-fiction thriller The Thirteenth Floor, which involves a computer-generated 1930s Los Angeles.

The Mack will turn up again later this year, co-starring with Cameron’s 1948 Ford, in the upcoming 1940s murder mystery The Black Dahlia, starring Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank.

Cameron says his trucks are in demand in Hollywood because, first of all, they run; and, second, he lets film crews redecorate them however they please. “They can make whatever they want out of this truck,” he says.

Cameron’s Ford was on Fox Sports Net’s Best Damn Sports Show, Period, towing a catapult from which TV sets were launched. Cameron was paid $4,000 for that gig.

But restoring antique trucks and hauling them around the country is not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme, Cameron says. “Any money I make on these trucks goes right back into the trucks.”

Down Under
Gary Johnson of Wyanet, Ill., spent much of the day underneath his truck – doing not PM, but PR.

“I’m just showing them my sliding kingpin,” said Johnson, whose 1955 International RDF 405 pulls a 1963 Aero-Liner trailer. Everyone who stopped to chat quickly joined Johnson beneath the trailer to see the kingpin.

“See this pin under here? It’s just like a kingpin. See these holes? There are six of them under there. It has a 36-inch spread. I’m in the 18-inch setting now.”

“What kind of suspension does it have?”

“Timken.”

“That’s something. I heard of these, but I never saw one before.”

“That was the forerunner of the sliding fifth wheel, wasn’t it?”

The tour over, Johnson emerged from beneath the truck to say he paid $3,750 for the tractor and $1,500 to have it brought home from the West Coast, plus $1,700 for the trailer.

“I don’t know the history of this trailer, but someone took good care of it,” Johnson said. “Still, when I first got this trailer, that kingpin didn’t move. We spent three or four hours torching and hammering, and we finally got it broke loose one Sunday afternoon.”

Another passer-by walked over. “Oh, an Aero-Liner. No sliding kingpin?”

“Yeah, it’s got one,” Johnson said, “but it lacks an exterior lever and groove on the side, for adjusting. This one is beneath.” Back underneath the trailer Johnson went. “See? There’s the kingpin on the trailer, and it fits into this plate right here

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