A sideshow to the Mid-Amer­ica Truck­ing Show, the PKY Truck Beauty Cham­pi­onship takes show ’n shine events to a whole new level. A rugged-up War­ren Aitken re­ports from Louisville, Ken­tucky

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Part of the Mid-Amer­ica Truck­ing Show, the PKY Truck Beauty Cham­pi­onship was a chilly but re­ward­ing event

TRAV­EL­LING IS PART and par­cel of be­ing a truckie. We get paid to do it all week, so a lit­tle plane ride is noth­ing. How­ever, three plane rides and 26 hours’ worth of travel is about as ap­peal­ing as back-to-back-to-back safety in­duc­tions. What can make it all worth it, in­clud­ing air­ports with over­priced food, cramped seats and toi­lets that are not mile­high-club friendly, is the Mid-Amer­ica Truck­ing Show (MATS) and the PKY Truck Beauty Cham­pi­onship. MATS has been run­ning for more than 40 years. It has grown to be­come the largest an­nual event of its kind in the world. I could baf­fle you with num­bers but, to put it into per­spec­tive, if you’ve worn out your work boots walk­ing around the Bris­bane Truck Show then you can be damn sure you’ll need much com­fier shoes when you get to Louisville, Ken­tucky.

MATS is at least three times the size of the Bris­bane Truck show and has more than 1000 ex­hibitors. If you are short of pens, stubby cool­ers or new shop­ping bags then three days strolling around MATS will sort you out. Ev­ery­one from man­u­fac­tur­ers, re­cruiters and de­sign­ers to state po­lice, knife salesman and the ‘Ci­ti­zens for To­bacco Rights’ are there to off­load free­bies.

Run­ning along­side the Mid-Amer­ica Truck­ing Show is the PKY Truck Beauty Cham­pi­onship, the ex­tremely well-pol­ished car­rot at the end of my ar­du­ous jour­ney. The PKY Truck Beauty Cham­pi­onship is in its 29th year. Tak­ing up one huge park­ing lot out­side Louisville’s Ken­tucky Ex­po­si­tion Cen­tre which hosts MATS, the show is viewed as the start of the Amer­i­can truck show cir­cuit.

Paul K Young was the head of a pri­vate man­age­ment group that be­gan MATS back in 1972 and it’s a trib­ute to him that his ini­tials pre­fix the ti­tle of one of North Amer­ica’s top show-and-shines.

The Mid-Amer­ica Truck­ing Show is a three-day trade event be­gin­ning on a Thurs­day and run­ning through to Satur­day. But the PKY Beauty con­test technically starts on the Wed­nes­day night pre­ced­ing MATS, open­ing with a light and sound show that you

could eas­ily mis­take for an open-air night­club, al­beit with more coun­try mu­sic and less ‘doof-doof’. For a huge truck fan like me, the truck show be­gins the Sun­day be­fore­hand.

Big­ger in Amer­ica

Just as a bit of a scene set­ter, let me tell you a bit about the Ken­tucky Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre so you can come to grips with the ex­panse in­volved. While the in­ter­nal area that hosts MATS has 1.3 mil­lion square feet of ex­hibit space, there is also nearly 500 acres of out­door area. That’s in­clud­ing the park­ing for 19,000 car parks!

Cir­cling the main ex­hi­bi­tion cen­tre and al­low­ing ac­cess to the dif­fer­ent park­ing ar­eas is the Cir­cle of Cham­pi­ons, a one-way fourlane road right around.

With the scene set, a ‘ticky’ tour along the Cir­cle of Cham­pi­ons on the Sun­day, Mon­day and Tues­day is a great way to fill a day up. Although the shows don’t be­gin for a few days, the worker bees that make all th­ese events pos­si­ble are al­ready hard at it.

Lot D is the open­ing park­ing lot when you en­ter. This area is one of the as­sem­bly points for a lot of the trail­ers that will get taken into the show. I blew my Fit­bit’s tar­get just wan­der­ing around there with my jaw drag­ging.

Next on the ex­te­rior tour was Lot J; my at­ten­tion locked on the new Mack An­them, sev­eral Ken­worth T680s and a tow truck that I’m sure could have hooked up to a build­ing and dragged it home.

A lit­tle bit of time was spent walk­ing my shoes to the point of ex­tinc­tion be­fore I thought, “It can’t get bet­ter than this,” and I was back in the rental car.

With the un­nerv­ing feel­ing of my left arm rest­ing on the win­dow, I left Lot J with a smile as wide as a 909’s turn­ing cir­cle.

I didn’t even make it a kilo­me­tre when I saw Lot H, also known as Gate 4, and now known as, “I’m post­ing my wed­ding ring home and stay­ing right here.”

Lot H is where all the fun starts for the PKY Truck Beauty Cham­pi­onship. Sun­day saw the truck wash­ing teams set­ting up ready for the week ahead, join­ing sev­eral de­tail­ing and pol­ish­ing teams al­ready hard at work. Sev­eral trucks were al­ready on­site en­sur­ing there were guys al­ready knee deep in pol­ish­ing residue.

Jaw drop­pers

For three days there was just a con­stant stream of rigs rolling in look­ing jaw-drop­pingly stun­ning. The own­ers and crew had spent count­less hours turn­ing them into ab­so­lute show­pieces.

I watched the team from Evans De­tail­ing and Pol­ish­ing, one of the most re­quested out­fits there, pol­ish­ing ev­ery­thing from the in­ner trailer wheels to the small­est bolt un­der the diff hous­ings. Watch­ing them pol­ish a car-car­rier’s trailer just made me feel lazy when I

“I swear you ex­pected to see Santa do­ing the judg­ing.”

thought about the ef­fort I used to put in. For­get about eat­ing your din­ner off th­ese things, I swear to you, your dis­patcher could have done his makeup in the floors of the trailer.

Many may think all the ac­co­lades for th­ese trucks go to the clean­ing and pol­ish­ing teams that put in so much work, but the own­ers and driv­ers are right there as well.

In fact, their com­mit­ment to the cause came to the fore with a vengeance on the Wed­nes­day morn­ing, which was when all the trucks were parked up for the start of the PKY Truck Beauty Cham­pi­onship with a night lights com­pe­ti­tion.

Mother Na­ture wasn’t at all wor­ried that it was the first day of spring. She in­stead de­cided to greet the thou­sands of at­ten­dees with eight inches of her finest snow. As pic­turesque as the day was for me, my heart went out to all those in the show. There trucks were blan­keted. I swear you ex­pected to see Santa do­ing the judg­ing.

Did it faze the big-bonnet boys? Not in the slight­est! Home De­pot (like Bun­nings but big­ger and with­out the sausage siz­zle) did a roar­ing trade, with spades brooms and even air blow­ers fly­ing off the shelves. Every sin­gle chamois in Ken­tucky was be­ing used on Wed­nes­day. By the time the sun had set and the stereos were crank­ing that night, there were a few piles of snow to nav­i­gate but every truck looked brand new again.

There are 12 judges tasked with pick­ing holes in each truck. I word it that way be­cause, quite frankly, the stan­dard of the big rigs in­volved means the judges re­ally do have to find the things the guys didn’t do well rather than what they did. The cat­e­gories are sim­i­lar to over here; driv­ers opt­ing into which­ever suits them best, in­clud­ing in­te­rior and en­gine bay cat­e­gories as they see fit.

One of the things that does make the North Amer­i­can shows dif­fer­ent from Oz, though, is there is a dis­tinc­tion be­tween work­ing trucks and show trucks.

“The over­all PKY Truck Beauty Cham­pi­onship win­ner must be a work­ing truck.”

Sev­eral of the trucks shin­ing bright­est are built purely for show and for the show cir­cuit. While they turn heads, the over­all PKY Truck Beauty Cham­pi­onship win­ner must be a work­ing truck. The out­door rave party that is Wed­nes­day’s light show is when the judges be­gin their ar­du­ous task, which they com­plete on the Thurs­day. Prize giv­ing is in one of the sem­i­nar halls on Satur­day morn­ing. Another fea­ture of the PKY Truck Beauty Cham­pi­onship is the show mag­a­zine handed out on the Satur­day after the prize giv­ing. Every truck en­tered gets pho­tographed (a task made dif­fi­cult when the snow came) and the mag­a­zine is printed with all the win­ners ac­knowl­edged.

Like every show ever run any­where, there is al­ways a level a dis­course, com­plaints of pol­i­tics and gen­eral ques­tions of ‘how the F did he win’ that fol­lows. It’s only nat­u­ral. For a truck fan, though, the win­ners and grin­ners were ir­rel­e­vant. The PKY Truck Cham­pi­onship is a whole new level of shine. If you’ve ever thought about go­ing, if you’ve ever been tempted, take Nike’s ap­proach – ‘Just Do It!’ The peo­ple were ex­tremely ac­com­mo­dat­ing and the flights, hell, it’s no worse than try­ing Pen­nant Hills Road on a long week­end Fri­day.

The United States of Amer­ica may be the home of liq­uid cheese and deep-fried ev­ery­thing but it knows how to put on a show!

Above: The pol­ish­ing teams hard at work on a cou­ple of W900s on Sun­day

Top: Davis Brother De­signs built this stun­ning 2000 379 Peter­bilt ‘Fool­ish Habit’ for Thomp­son Truck­ing Op­po­site top to bot­tom: Another stand­out in the light show was John Jaike’s III 1999 Ken­worth W900L; ‘The Goose’ Snow Truck­ings 1996 Freight­liner...

Mid­dle: It’s the at­ten­tion to de­tail that got Brian Dre­her’s en­gine bay first prize

Be­low L to R: The pol­ish­ers get­ting stuck into their Sun­day work; Another stand­out, Jonathon Dona­dio’s W900 Ken­worth picked up sev­eral prizes in­clud­ing best Lights Combo

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