Winning Wizardry

Michigan owner-operators Bob and Shelly Brinker won the Truck-Lite Trophy with their 2000 Freightliner Classic XL painted and decorated with a Dungeons and Dragons theme.

Originality and creativity were the secrets to success during the 2003 Truck-Lite Trophy series, the 2003 National Association of Show Trucks’ national championship.

First place went to owner-operators Bob and Shelly Brinker of Grayling, Mich., Gary Patterson of Fredonia, Pa., came in second, followed by Danny Mizer of Elyria, Ohio.

The trophy is awarded to the national champion of each year’s NAST competitions, based on total points earned over the show season. Truck-Lite awards trophies and cash prizes to the three winners.

The Brinkers’ first prize-winning 2000 Freightliner Classic XL is named “Dragon On” for its Dungeons and Dragons theme. The entire exterior was airbrushed to look like a dragon’s head, including the sun visor (the dragon’s eyes) and frame rails painted to look like scales. At shows, the Brinkers dress as a wizard and witch.

Bob has been driving since 1981. Shelly, a full time sergeant in the Michigan Army National Guard, also holds a CDL and its military equivalent. She is responsible for logistics at Camp Grayling.

The Brinkers started showing when they got their Freightliner, finishing eighth in their first show. But they watched and learned, and found a theme that set their truck apart. “Be different,” Bob Brinker says. “Don’t do what everyone else does. And don’t be afraid to try.”
Photographs of Dragon On can be seen on the Internet at
Gary Patterson’s 1982 maroon International conventional came a long way to take second prize. He had been showing bobtail, but went to combination class when he bought his 2002 Great Dane trailer. He could compete in the historical class but chose to show the 21-year-old truck as a regular combination.

Patterson got his tractor “in junkyard condition,” he says, in 1992. With his wife Janet and sons Chad and Shean, Patterson made nearly all the accessories, from the hardwood door panels and stainless steel dash to the ceramic tile cab floor.

“We come up with ideas,” Patterson says, “then the boys and I put them on the truck. It’s our vacation time, traveling around the country, seeing things we otherwise wouldn’t.” Unlike other competitors, Patterson has no sponsors. “I ain’t one to ask for things,” he says. He uses his show truck on a dedicated run between Erie, Pa., and Indianapolis, making three or four turns a week.

Danny Mizer started showing the third place-winning 1997 Peterbilt 379 four years ago and won his first trophy, a second place, one year later in Wheeling, W.V. The truck belongs to Brandau Transportation, but the company encourages Danny to customize it as he sees fit. He does all the cleaning, polishing and detailing himself. By the start of the 2003 competition season, the Peterbilt had 152 Truck-Lite LEDs, including accent lighting under the truck. “I didn’t want to use neon underneath, because it’s not DOT legal. I wanted everything legal so I could run the lights all the time.” Danny claims his is the only Peterbilt 379 with a factory-equipped green interior.

Presentation of the Truck-Lite Trophy for the 2003 season will take place at the NAST Annual Meeting, held during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., March 25-27, 2004. A 2004 schedule of NAST shows and pictures of the trucks can be found on NAST’s website,

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