New Orleans Renaissance

| April 07, 2005

Rusty Wyrick’s 1998 Western Star, named ‘French Quarters,’ features scenes from New Orleans and Mardis Gras and subtle details that carry the festive theme throughout the truck. Wyrick has even etched Carnival masks (left) into the stainless steel.

When Rusty Wyrick bought his used Western Star, he had a show winner. That’s because Wyrick bought the well-known show truck “Gone With the Wind.” But Wyrick didn’t stay with the Rhett Butler-and-Scarlet O’Hara-theme on the truck. He wiped it clean and started over.

“It took one and a half to two years to do all the work,” he says, surveying the truck at the TravelCenters of America in Lodi, Ohio, where he was entered in the 21st annual Shell Rotella SuperRigs truck beauty show in June. “I wanted a bright, powerful and colorful truck.”

And today, that’s what he has. Wyrick has adorned the truck with sprawling murals of New Orleans street scenes – one of a boy playing trumpet, the other of a voodoo queen in the French Quarter – and a giant menacing jester on the hood. There are also subtle details like festival masks etched into the stainless steel trim. The effort brought home a second in Best of Show at the Shell show.

Wyrick says the truck has a lot of added mystique – two brothers did the mural on “Gone With the Wind,” and Wyrick employed two more brothers, Alberta, Canada, artists Dave and Al Thomas, to do his new murals. The trucker, who hauls furniture out of Mansfield, Ohio, says he got the idea for the street scenes from magazines and photos because he doesn’t visit New Orleans regularly and has never been to a Mardi Gras.

Wyrick’s remodeled truck finished second behind California trucker Vlad Bilik Jr.’s black, orange and chrome 2001 Peterbilt 379, which took top honors for the second time in three years, winning Best of Show and the People’s Choice Award, which is voted on by other entrants.

Bilik said he’s only added a few exterior details to his truck since he won the contest in 2001.” I’ve put the suicide doors and the hood on remote control,” said the Santa Clarita, Calif., trucker. He’s also added a retractable license plate, a stainless belly plate in between his trailer axles that matches one covering his drive shaft on the tractor frame and a chromed kickstand to go with his hotrod theme.

Vlad Bilik was selected as Best of Show and won the People’s Choice Award, selected by other entrants.

The show drew a number of unusual relics from trucking’s past. Jim Conrad brought his 1919 White straight truck by the show; the truck churned miles for decades at the Akron, Ohio, Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant before it was sold for scrap. The scrap dealer rescued it and sold it to Conrad 10 years ago. “I take it to a lot of shows in Ohio,” he says. “It weighs 10,400 pounds and has a top speed of 18 miles per hour.” The truck even has solid rubber tires.

The truck and engine were both manufactured by White. Conrad has 13 old trucks, the youngest of which was built in 1929. Three still run, including the 1919 White he drove through for judging, even though the truck no longer does any hard labor and is therefore ineligible for the contest, which rewards only working trucks.

Eddie Watson, son of trucker Sam Watson, showed up to help his dad clean his 1974 Kenworth W900A. The striped truck won the show’s Classic division and was photographed for the 2004 Shell Rotella SuperRigs calendar. “It’s awesome,” Watson says. “We just did get it done in time for this show. We worked the last 40 hours straight with five guys to get it done.” Eddie, also a driver, says he helped redesign the truck, which features dramatic red and blue stripes on the hood, sleeper and even engine.

The Watsons, who have a small trucking fleet out of Weston, W.Va., haul containerized logs and pipes with the truck, which has more than 2.1 million miles on it and is four years older than Eddie.

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