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Todd Dills

When trucks were trucks: Familiar faces at Fitzgerald’s

| June 29, 2013

I caught up with two familiar faces at the back of the lot at Fitzgerald’s in Crossville, Tenn., today — the pair of Bill Blankenship and Tobby Donalson, old friends and coconspirators from the McMinnville, Tenn., area I’ve met in past during various Middle Tennessee American Truck Historical Society chapter shows. I wrote about Blankenship’s 1978 Kenworth W900A, which he uses in his Blankenship Farms and Nursery business, on the occasion of an ATHS Music City Chapter show in Crossville last year.

Detail: Bill Blankenship's 1953 GMC 630 tractorAnd to Fitzgerald’s Blankenship brought out this classic GMC 630 with an 18-inch factor coffin sleeper that comes from a time — model year 1953 — when, Blankenship says, “trucks were trucks.” It’s got a 4-cylinder Detroit diesel, 5-speed transmission with 2-speed rears and a 4-speed auxiliary.

It pumps out a hefty 134 horsepower, he says.

Four-cylinder Detroit engine in GMC 630“I can still run the roads with it,” without a trailer, Blankenship says. Evidence: He drove it out to Fitzgerald’s in Crossville from his home base in McMinnville, after all — Donalson he says rebuilt the motor shortly after, two years ago, Blankenship acquired the truck and “broke it,” he adds. Before the truck’s former McMinnville-based owner passed away, “he and his brother used it to haule antique tractors around to shows,” Blankenship says. “It’s in pretty good shape.”

And a nice reminder to Pride & Polish competitors and attendees of truck history, should they have needed it, I’d wager.

Bill Blankenship's 1953 GMC 630

  • Jimmy the Greek

    The candy assed drivers of today would not last three days on the road in a tractor like that , I can rember staying out three weeks in a GMC astro or a cab over White , with no ac

  • Marty DiGiacomo

    ’74 Freightliner cabover (spring ride, of course), with no A/C running TEAM all 48 states pullin’ that 42′ box with a side door. Thought I was in heaven when I ran solo and went to “a yellow & black one stack Mack with a shack on the back, so cut me some slack, Jack!”

  • martymarsh

    LMAO, had more heat coming up thru the shifter boot than the heater could put out. Ugly ugly ugly.

  • godfearingrebel

    Hahaha hey i have an idea. All of these so called driving schools must now use an cornbinder 9600. The average IQ level of american truckers would gain about 30 points

  • Jimmy the Greek

    The 9600 was a fine tractor , i pullde a tanker for three years with one , I drove a transstar and a emeryvill to

  • Jimmy the Greek

    A truck don’t need to be pritty , its a tool to make money with !

  • martymarsh

    I couldn’t agree more, BUT, would I go back and drive that 67 B model mack or that F model mack, not on your life.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    The first tractor i ever drove was a brockway , all it needed was a roof top A/C

  • martymarsh

    I got to drive one of those as well, in the cab over version.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    The cab over cabs were made by mack in PA and shiped to the brockway factory in elizabeth n. j. i lived in elizabeth , the factory was off north av near rt 1 + 9

  • martymarsh

    Yes I remember that well, I also know the area well, my wife is from Elizabeth and I’m from the corn fields of north west Jersey, a little town called Hamburg.
    Elizabeth is like a zoo today, all of the big money paying manufacturers are mostly gone.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    I used to hang out a the white castel on elmora back in 68 to around 70, When they still had car hops . I stayed in the corn fields in jamesburg When i pissed off the judge when i was 13 , took me 20 mo to make prole and was C class the hole time , Lol . M first real job when they let me out was with H R Ritter trucking , on hazelwood ave , Rahway , i was 16 and had to take the bus the first year , i was the truck washer Lol , when i got a drivers licence at 17 they put me in the shop as a helper , And i did the road calls for flats , thats how i learned to drive

  • martymarsh

    My oldest brother use to play in the corn fields of Jamesburg also, only he never straighten out, he moved on to bigger and better things, right up to the fed pen with the big boys.
    I started out on a garbage truck while I was still trying to find myself. I seen a conventional Pete one day which was practically unheard of on the east coast at the time, and I was hooked, 1971.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    That is when the max was 55foot long 32,000 per tamdem gross was 73,280 , 58,000 was the max gross in va it was like a road block on the east coast , back in the late 70s ill, mo, and miss, was 73280 when all the rest of the states went up to 80,000

  • martymarsh

    I’m trying to forget all of that.

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