Updated March 22, 2021 with additional reflections from Overdrive readers.
Following the airing two weeks back of Andy Harris's film from a late-1970s Overdrive diesel drag race and other events, part of a series that was held on both coasts in that time into the early 1980s, recollections came in from a longtime transportation professional and truck enthusiast named Joe, headquartered today in Stamford, Conn.
Joe had an obsession with trucks and trucking dating back to his early years, and seriously considered over-the-road work around the time of his attendance at one of the Englishtown, New Jersey-held Overdrive drag-race events. He would work in other areas of trucking later on, though, and also "once drove local school buses, small box trucks, and FedEx delivery vans," he said, working for a time in operations for Roadway Express and in sales for Johnson Motor Lines, among other related positions.
Throughout it all, "I was always still around trucks," he added.
From Englishtown in the early 1980s, Joe recalls a lot, but there's one particular truck that dominates his memory, sparked by seeing Harris's film. "It brought back my great memories of the good time that my girlfriend and I had watching [the races at the event] one day in the 1980s," he said. "There were many good looking trucks in different classes there to admire and race.
"I’ll never forget about a beautifully restored class 8 1950s GMC bull-nose tractor with a light-green ... and artistic paint scheme on it there. It looked brand-new. There was also an old 1950s beat-up, drab-looking pickup truck that billowed all kinds of black smoke from its exhaust as it drove around the track before its race. This pickup looked like it was going to fall apart at any second and be in the junkyard.
"Everybody laughed about this worn-out-looking truck."
Yet like the veritable time-honored Tortoise in the stories of old, when it got time for the Christmas tree countdown "to race this other pickup, this truck raced like lightning, and far and away beat its race competitor ... by several truck lengths."
Joe's isn't the only memory to have been spurred by Harris's film since we originally shared its never-before-seen footage the first time in 2016. Back then, Kiersten Demusz sent in the above picture of the "Dirty Dozen" V-12-powered 1971 Model A Kenworth of Richard Smith and family — that’s the rig as it was in 2016, as she said at the time, noting she was then fiancee to Smith’s grandson Rob Smith. It also happens to be the truck that won the drags when Harris was there, driven by Richard Smith, seen here with his wife in a screenshot from the film after the win.
The film “is somewhat of a treasure to my family and I,” Demusz said of Harris’ previously unseen work in 2016. She and Rob in 2016 continued to take the same rig to the Englishtown Dragway every year, she added. "Our dream is to replicate the winning photo taken of his Pop and Nana on that day."
The senior Smith had retired recently by 2016, with his local paper recently paying tribute to his long career, noting that Smith’s R.W. Smith Trucking company, hauling a variety of aggregates from mining operations, was alive and well, and that he’d remain a part of operations and decision-making in his non-driving role. Here’s a tip of the hat to the family, shown below in a photo provided by Demusz in 2016.
And if you missed it last week, catch at the bottom of this post Smith and his wife in the first several minutes of Andy Harris’ film about Overdrive‘s late 1970s diesel-drag-race event.
As for Joe from Stamford, he's carried an enthusiasm for trucks and trucking through the entirety of his career. When he was in sales for a Dallas-based company decades ago, he ran the roads traveling in a four-wheeler with his CB radio on, talking with the other "cars and truck drivers" along the way: "to find out about accidents, delays, emergencies, and where the Smokeys were giving out green stamps ahead of me."
CB handle: "The Incredible Hulk."
He once passed a Piggly Wiggly grocery rig with its big-pig picture on the side of the trailer. "All the CBers were breaking into Channel 19 asking for the driver of that truck." His CB handle? “Porky Pig,” as it turned out. The memories still bring back laughter.