Beauty of the beasts
Show truck builders turn chrome and stainless steel into art
IF there is ever a global shortage of stainless steel, I’d direct the blame at the guys who build the incredible custom trucks that duke it out in the Mid-America Truck Show’s Truck Beauty competition in Louisville.
It is the first round of the national PKY Truck Beauty Championship, but one of the entrants tells me it is more important than the others.
‘‘ This is the king of shows. You win here, you’ve pretty much won everything,’’ says Jared Whittwer.
We’re standing in front of his black Peterbilt show truck that he says owes him about $500,000.
All that money and countless man-hours of work by him, custom truck builder Todd Roccapriore and others has created the truck called Family Buziness (his spelling not mine).
Whittwer runs Utah’s Performance Diesel Inc, so the truck was always going to have some muscle under the bonnet. He tweaked his diesel to produce a whopping 1343kW (1800hp) at the wheels, a truly astounding amount of power.
A hot camshaft, big intercoolers, special pipe work, bigger turbos and a mean engine tune all turned the C16 CAT engine into ‘‘ an animal’’.
‘‘ When we put it on the (rolling road) dyno, if you don’t strap the front left side down, it will lift off the ground.’’
Whittwer says he had a test truck, running this engine, sideways at nearly 200km/h when it started spinning the wheels. He didn’t crash but says he needed fresh underpants.
The bodywork is remarkably detailed, with major sections replicating PDI’s logo. Even the turbo piping is shaped in a way that ties in the theme.
But none of this is enough to secure Whittwer the win, which goes to another Peterbilt.
Whittwer was not the only one to spend up on his truck. Of the more than 150 rigs in this year’s Truck Beauty contest, none was done on the cheap.
The carpark behind the undercover part of the truck show is filled with three lines of trucks with so much stainless steel it would probably be visible from space when the sun shines.
American trucks rule here, with Peterbilt a clear favourite from Kenworth and then Mack and the rest.
Showgoers love the custom trucks and walk slowly through the rows admiring the craftsmanship, the paint and the chrome.
Kenny Meadows has brought his six-year-old grandson, Issac, who is taking particular interest in a Peterbilt with a flaming paint job and stainless steel wheels sporting pointed studs straight from a Ben Hur chariot.
‘‘ We like to look at some of the new trucks but it’s really the pride and polish that we come for,’’ Meadows says.
The crowd isn’t all male, lots of women come and check out the trucks and some couples even bring their dogs.
Owners seem to spend as much time naming their trucks as they do working on them. Some of the more interesting were: Flirtin’ with Disaster, Cream Puff, Highway Vacation, Wicked Obsession and Slick. The owners also express themselves with interior touches. One rig features a steering wheel and giant gear-shifter made from steel chain links.
Paint is one of the most important elements and some of the airbrushing is truly art. These guys seem to be less interested in the kinds of murals seen at Australian shows, opting more for certain colour combinations and patterns, with the odd picture.
Even engines are included in the paint scheme. One truck has flames painted on the cylinder head and tube work, which could be seen as inviting disaster.
Another has $100 bills painted on the turbo tubing, drawn to look as if the notes are getting sucked into the engine— a clever observation of how costly these remarkably impressive machines can be.
Peterbilt that Jared built: Whittwer’s $500,000 show truck produces