Beauty of the beasts

Show truck builders turn chrome and stain­less steel into art

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Working Wheels - JAMES STAN­FORD james.stan­ford@cars­

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


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