Family Affair

MURAL MANIA. Harvey and Karen Zander’s icicle-draped International edged out Rusty and Tina Wyrick’s Mardi Gras-themed Western Star to take home top honors in Custom Paint Mural, Bobtail.

See a slideshow of participants and winners.

Wesley Perry had no plans to participate in the 2004 Overdrive Pride & Polish at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas this fall. He’d bought his 1998 Peterbilt 379 only one month before, from the parents of a trucker friend who was killed in an unloading accident.

But when Perry learned his late friend DeLeon “Duke” Branch had redone the fenders, lights and interior of the truck, preparing to show it for the first time at Pride & Polish, he decided to enter the show in honor of Duke, says Perry, who lives in Eagle Lake, Minn. As a tribute, Perry and Branch’s family placed on the fifth wheel flowers and a T-shirt featuring Duke’s photo and the words: “In loving memory of DeLeon ‘Duke’ Branch, Sept. 18, 1972-June 19, 2004.”

Perry’s decision to show the truck meant a great deal to Branch’s widow, Claudia, who attended the show with her father-in-law, Melvin Booker. “If Duke could speak right now, he’d be extremely thankful and so happy,” she says. “He was really proud of that truck.”

Each of the 64 Pride & Polish contestants takes immense pride in a gleaming rig and in the hard work of the relatives and friends who make participation in a show of this caliber possible. “Everybody is like a big family,” says Carol Ann Schlussler of New Richmond, Wis., a longtime participant who took top honors with her 2005 International in the Conventional Bobtail 2002-Newer category.

“We always try to make it a family thing,” Frankie Story of Stephens, Ark., says of participating in Pride & Polish with his wife and children. Story’s bright yellow 2000 Kenworth W900L placed first in the 2000-2001 Conventional Bobtail category. “I like to change it up a little bit every year,” he says. This year he added a yellow gearshift column cover and a checkered flag motif to his chrome gauges to match his paint scheme.

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The Schmitzes, of Odessa, Texas, also make truck beauty contests a family affair. “Everybody stayed up all night long to get it ready,” John Schmitz says of the family’s 2000 Peterbilt 379. His wife, Mary Jo, and daughters Rachelle, 21, Stephanie, 19, Mary Elizabeth, 10, and Katie Rose, 6, all pitched in.

“The girls like the respect they get when everyone says how hard they work,” says Mary Jo. “People tell us how inspirational it is to have a family working together.” The hard work paid off with a third-place trophy in the Conventional Bobtail 2000-2001 category, a win the girls credit to the truck’s cleanliness. But hard as they worked, time ran out, and with the windows still not quite spotless, they resorted to good old-fashioned ingenuity. “We rolled them down for judging,” Rachelle says.

The family members brought to the show by Karen and Ray Pierce of St. Augustine, Fla., didn’t do much cleaning, but attendees lined up to pet Skeeter and Baby Bug, the couple’s good-natured rat terriers, who held court in the Pierces’ over-sized sleeper.

With a large refrigerator, a futon that folds down into a double bed and wood paneling, the sleeper is the Pierces’ home away from home for the 10 months of the year they haul military freight for Landstar Ranger. The planned addition of a washer/dryer and shower will make the sleeper, which the Pierces built themselves from the body off a Mack Toolbox step-van, even more self-sufficient. The Pierces’ 2000 Peterbilt 379 took second place in Bridgestone-
Firestone Technology.

Another do-it-yourselfer, Debbie Brown, knows a thing or two about decorating on a budget. “Growing up with six girls in the family helps you learn to make do without a lot of money,” she says. Taking her inspiration from TLC’s Trading Spaces, and with a Harley-Davidson theme as her guide, she transformed the interior of the 1999 Freightliner Classic she shares with her husband, Russ. She painted the cabinets orange over a base coat of leather primer, stitched Harley patches into the upholstery and fit Harley emblems in the middle of the steering wheel and on the gauges. Curtains made of Harley flags hang on stainless shower curtain hooks. Her decorating talents brought the couple third place in the Original Equipment Sleeper category. “She’s my secret weapon,” says Russ.

The Oklahoma City couple took home top honors in the Bobtail 1998-1999 category, debuting their new exterior look, which continues the Harley theme. It features 7-inch headlights from a Harley motorcycle, a hood pull designed by Russ to resemble Harley handlebars and stainless step boxes with Harley foot pedals. “It’s blowing me away, the way it’s being received,” says Russ of the response to the truck, which they transformed in a mere three weeks.

It took much longer for Rusty and Tina Wyrick of Mansfield, Ohio, to give a Mardi Gras theme to their 1998 Western Star Constellation, which had a Gone With the Wind theme when they bought it in 2001. Rusty started by researching the history of Mardi Gras and New Orleans’ French Quarter. Then the planning began.

“I did it all on paper with a pencil,” he says. Murals on the hood and both sides of the sleeper depict a Mardi Gras float, a jester and Jackson Square. Rusty designed spinners on the wheels in the shape of theatrical masks; the Wyricks place carpet under the truck and add a neon “French Quarters” sign to complete their presentation.

“I get accused of going too far with my decorating,” Rusty says. The judges must have felt he went just far enough. The couple took home four awards, including the coveted Best of Show Bobtail, an honor the Wyricks shared with veteran show truck participants Harvey and Karen Zander and their 2003 International 9900ix, Icy Blu 2.

When truck beauty show newcomer LaDonna Salo started fixing up her 1992 Peterbilt 379 after she bought it in 1996, she had no plans to show it. “I just wanted a nice ride,” she says. Since then, the Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., trucker has lengthened the wheelbase and added decorative lights and plenty of chrome to Optical Illusion. “I call it my Johnny Cash truck,” Salo says, referring to the artist’s song “One Piece at a Time,” about a guy who built a car over several years.

A chrome “Boeing 425” plate on the side of the truck stems from a comment by one of Salo’s customers about her quick deliveries. “He said: ‘She’s not a Peterbilt, she’s a Boeing,'” Salo recalls, admitting that she has “a little lead foot.” The 425 refers to the horsepower of the truck’s Caterpillar engine.

Heading into her first truck beauty show after 32 years as a trucker, Salo wasn’t sure she’d do it again because of the expense. But being around “all the cool people” changed her mind. And winning first place in the 1981-1992 Bobtail category probably didn’t hurt, either.

Another first-time truck beauty show participant, Michael Fields, who hauls less-than-truckload for Central Freight Lines, took home two awards in the Interior Excluding Sleeper and Charity’s Choice categories. Although he and his wife, Deborah, wash their 2002 Peterbilt 379 every Sunday after church, it still took “lots of wax and polish to get it ready” for the show, Deborah says. She cleans the interior chrome using Q-tips, but says “baby diapers are the secret” to making the rest of the truck shine. One of the things Deborah liked best about Pride & Polish was seeing “wives here working right beside their husbands.”

Victor Garza relies on his girlfriend, Vivian Vasquez, to help get his 1997 Peterbilt 379 show-ready. “I figure he lets me ride in it, so I can clean it,” she says. Garza, who hauls dirt, sand and gravel, spends a week to a week and a half getting ready for a show, work that’s well rewarded by the many compliments he receives.

A veteran of three GATS Pride & Polish shows, Garza enjoys meeting the other participants and checking out the competition. “I see other people’s trucks and think, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?'” he says. First place awards in the Engine Category and in Combination 1992-1999 have only whet his appetite for more. For next year’s shows, he plans to redo his interior and repaint the entire truck the same color, but using better paint.

Father and son team Johnny and Bill Culver also look for ways to keep improving their 1990 Peterbilt 379, winner in the Specialty category. “We thought this might be something different,” Bill says of pulling off the hubcaps and painting the axle ends orange with chrome nut covers, to match the rig’s orange and yellow paint scheme. The Culvers also changed fender styles, cut the frame 30 inches, put a back window on the cab and painted the fuel tanks. “He raised us to take pride in what we do,” Bill says of his father.

Pride is literally the name of the game for Jeff England. His company, Pride Transport, took home five awards, including Best of Show Combination for its 2002 Peterbilt 379. “The work paid off,” England says. A four-person team hand-rubbed every inch of the trailer, including underneath. It takes such attention to detail to compete, he says. “The competition’s gotten pretty intense. There’s some really fancy stuff out there.” England sees a trend toward trucks with a retro look. “That’s what we did to this truck,” he says. “It’s a new truck we made look old.”

Brett and Cliff Wilkins did just the opposite. They took a 1969 Peterbilt 359 and added contemporary touches, such as a customized sleeper and a hood that raises and lowers hydraulically. The combination of new and old impressed the judges and the other participants, earning the pair a first place award in the Antique category and Participants’ Choice, determined by votes from the other contestants.

“My dad and I did all the work,” Brett says, including extending the cab 18 inches, extending the hood 8 inches and adding headlights from a 1931 Cadillac. The pair bought the truck nine years ago and just finished the renovation two months ago.

“We changed our minds several times,” says Cliff, who drove over-the-road for 29 years but now runs a truck repair and parts store with Brett in Tonkawa, Okla. “We tried not to put anything on it that you just buy,” he says. “Everything’s built ourselves.” They wanted an uncluttered look, with all lights hidden except the headlights and taillights. “You got to be different,” Cliff says. “That’s what Elvis Presley said.”

Truck makers work hard to make cab interiors functional and inviting. But achieving the personal touch that reflects each trucker’s personality and interests takes creativity and plenty of hard work.

No one knows that better than the four student teams from the Art Institute of Dallas and Texas Christian University who participated in the second Big Rig Redo, sponsored by Freightliner. With a budget of $1,500 per truck, the teams worked around the clock for three days to completely redecorate the cab and sleeper interiors of four Freightliners, following themes selected by the truck owners. This year’s themes were Beach, Kentucky Horse Racing, Patriotic and Mardi Gras.

Ron and Marcia Shifflet’s beach-themed truck, redesigned by Brandi Yancey, Michelle Fester and Jamie Johnson of the Art Institute of Dallas, placed first in two categories: Most Creative and Best Use of Budget. Bill Ater’s truck, redesigned with a patriotic theme by Angela Green and Montanya MacRall of the Art Institute of Dallas, placed first in Best Use of Theme. The Team Spirit Award was awarded to the Texas Christian team that gave Troy and Amy Sampey’s truck a Mardi Gras theme.

The Art Institute of Dallas also won a $2,000 scholarship for their school by earning the most total points.

Thanks to our sponsors
Overdrive’s 2004 Pride & Polish was sponsored by Alcoa, Bridgestone/Firestone, Chevron Delo, Freightliner, Interstate Connections, Mobil Delvac, Panelite, Peterbilt, Pilot and United Pacific.

Bridgestone/Firestone gave a set of steer tires to the winner of its Most Technologically Advanced Cab award. Second and third place winners received a collectible truck and a multipurpose tool. Best of Show, Charity’s Choice and Participants’ Choice winners received Mobil Delvac jackets. Alcoa gave a set of wheels to the Best of Show winners. Chevron Chrome Corner winners received a trophy, jacket and free oil change. Freightliner provided breakfast and lunch vouchers for all participants. Pilot gave each entrant a $40 fuel voucher.

BEST OF show
1998 Western Star Constellation Rusty and Tina Wyrick
2003 International 9900ix Harvey and Karen Zander
BEST OF SHOW 2002 Peterbilt 379 ext. hood Jeff England, Pride Transport
1969 Peterbilt 359 Brett and Cliff Wilkins
2002 Peterbilt 379 Michael Fields
1st 1992 Peterbilt 379 LaDonna Salo
2nd 1991 Western Star Larry Beggs, Downing Trans.
1st 1999 Freightliner Classic Russ and Debbie Brown
2nd 1998 Peterbilt 379 Mike and Ruth Knezevich
3rd 1998 Kenworth T600 Arvil Lewis
1st 2000 Kenworth W900L Frankie and Renee Story
2nd 2000 Kenworth W900L Thomas and Maryann Quick
3rd 2000 Peterbilt 379 John Schmitz
1st 2005 International 9900ix Carol Ann Schlussler
2nd 2005 Peterbilt 379 Frank Chipman
3rd 2002 Kenworth W900L Mike Sladek, R&C Trucking
1st 1981 Peterbilt 362-CO Robert Young
2nd 1984 Kenworth K100 Jeff Rudisill
3rd 1973 Peterbilt 352 Calvin and Ellen Long
1st 2004 Peterbilt 379 Jeff England, Pride Transport
2nd 1986 Peterbilt 359 Jeff Hardage, J&C Investments
3rd 1994 Peterbilt 379 Al Bowers, Ken Wood Trucking
1st 2004 Kenworth W900 Greg Stanley, Muirhead Trucking
2nd 2000 Freightliner Century Darrell Caldwell, Jr., Conwell Corp.
3rd 2005 Mack CXN613 Roger Turcotte, Oakley Transport
1st 2003 International 9900ix Harvey and Karen Zander
2nd 1998 Western Star Constellation Rusty and Tina Wyrick
3rd 2004 Peterbilt 379 David Goode
1st 1986 Kenworth W900 Gailand and Bonnie Johnston
2nd 1998 Peterbilt 379 Tyler Dugan
1st 1992 Peterbilt ext. hood Joel Brantley
2nd 2004 Peterbilt 379 Randy and Michelle Kramer, High Country Carriers
3rd 2001 Peterbilt 379 Curtis Turk
1st 1997 Peterbilt 379 Victor Garza, Garza Brothers
2nd 1999 Peterbilt 379 Larry and Pat McCanns
3rd 1997 Peterbilt 379 William Mercroules
1st 2002 Peterbilt 379 Jeff England, Pride Transport
2nd 2000 Peterbilt 379 Don Wilson, FFE Transportation
3rd 2002 Peterbilt 379 George Elosegui, Muirhead Trucking
ANTIQUE 1st 1969 Peterbilt 359 ext. hood Brett and Cliff Wilkins
2nd 1963 Mack B-83 Jeff Hardage
ENGINE 1st 1997 Peterbilt 379 Victor Garza, Garza Brothers
2nd 2002 Peterbilt 379 Jeff England, Pride Transport
3rd 1998 Western Star Constellation Rusty and Tina Wyrick
1st 1998 Western Star Constellation Rusty and Tina Wyrick
2nd 2001 Peterbilt 379 Curtis Turk
3rd 2004 Peterbilt 379 Randy and Michelle Kramer, High Country Carriers
1st 1998 Peterbilt 379 Mike and Ruth Knezevich
2nd 1992 Peterbilt ext. hood Joel Brantley
3rd 1999 Freightliner Classic Russ and Debbie Brown
1st 2002 Peterbilt 379 Michael Fields
2nd 2000 Peterbilt 379 Bill Hopkins
3rd 1986 Kenworth W900 Gailand and Bonnie Johnston
1st 2001 Peterbilt 379 Curtis Turk
2nd 2002 Peterbilt 379 Jeff England, Pride Transport
3rd 2004 Peterbilt 379 Randy and Michelle Kramer, High Country Carriers
SPECIALTY 1st 1990 Peterbilt 379 Bill and Johnny Culver
2nd 2001 Peterbilt 379 Steve Vidrine
3rd 2003 Kenworth W900L Chris Schmidt
CHEVRON CHROME CORNER Overall 2000 Kenworth W900 Willie and Lori Goodmote
Interior 2000 Kenworth W900L Thomas and Maryann Quick
Exterior 2000 Peterbilt 379 Billy Hopkins
1st 2000 Kenworth W900L Thomas and Maryann Quick
2nd 2000 Peterbilt 379 Ray and Karen Pierce
3rd 2001 Peterbilt 379 Curtis Turk