Out of America
North American correspondent Steve Sturgess has been ogling the stars of the USA’s beauty contest for trucks
ATORNADO AND TORRENTIAL RAIN IN TULSA, Oklahoma, can’t spoil the fun of North America’s annual beauty contest for trucks – the Shell Rotella SuperRigs 2017.
The 36th staging of the show attracts the usual suspects, plus some exciting new ones – despite the forecast bad weather.
In fact, even the threat of tornados doesn’t put entrants off – just creates a day one rush for the judging line as entrants try to avoid the worst of the predicted bad weather.
In all, no fewer than 43 trucks out of the total of 66 entered pass by the judges on day one.
The lights judging is meant to be held on the first evening of the three-day event, but the weather is so bad that most of the contestants and Shell staff are in the storm shelters: A tornado has been spotted close to the exhibition and equestrian grounds.
More bad weather is predicted for day two but it holds off just long enough to get the judging completed before the heavens open up again with the mother and father of a downpour.
That sees the judges – Jami Jones from Landline, Cliff Abbot reporting for The Trucker, Eric Harley from Dallas-based Red Eye Radio, and me – racing
back to the hotel for a change into some dry clothes and a few beverages to repair the damage.
Judging continues on the third day, with the line closing at 11.30am to allow time to download the scores from the tablets used by the judges. Winners are singled out in the three classes – tractor, tractor-trailer and classic – and in the special categories for low mileage, non-working and show…
And for lights, interior, engine and theme. And to qualify for prizes – more than $40,000 worth – trucks have to be working and proven so, with proper documentation, odometer readings and so on. To back-stop this, Doug Morris – director of government affairs from OOIDA, the number one United States owner-operator association – and a longterm enforcement officer with all the right connections are also on hand to verify contestants’ claims.
There are three best-of-show awards that
include two runners up. So these winners are selected from their different categories, according to their scores.
And the scores are incredibly close, with a couple of ties and no more than 50 points out of a maximum of 500 covering the top contenders.
Judging is on the basis of the overall impression created by the truck and by the creativity and workmanship involved in getting it ready to show. It’s always an international affair, with some amazing trucks coming down from Canada for the event. We’ve yet to see an entry from Mexico, but it likely won’t be long before we do.
Wisconsin trucker Bill Rethwisch takes the top honours with his fuel hauler – the Rethwisch family trucking company putting so much effort into its working trucks that it’s actually a past winner.
This time they not only claim Best of Show with their 2016 Peterbilt 389….they also take out the
awards for best interior and best engine as well.
Says Rethwisch after his $15,000 win (courtesy of Shell Rotella and MAC Trailers) – plus a place in Shell Rotella’s annual calendar – is announced: “My heart was coming out of my chest. I didn’t think we had it.
“This is the third time in four years and four times in the (Super Rigs) calendar out of four tries. I’m ecstatic right now. I’m so proud, I don’t even know which way to think.”
The engine in the Pete is, by the way, a twostage turbocharged Cummins ISX15 with better than 750-horsepower. Remarkably, the Rethwisch team even manages to keep the chromed turbos polished…. where normally chrome will tarnish and blue.
Iowa trucker J.R. Schleuger’s 1980 Kenworth W900A wins him the $7000 for Best of Show
First Runner-up honours, while the 1997 Peterbilt 379 and its 2015 Reitnouer trailer entered by Wisconsin’s Kenneth Fisher is the second runnerup… and wins $4000. T&D
is pic: Bill Rethwisch’s spectacular 2016 Peterbilt – a hard-working fuel hauler, is judged the Best of Show
Above: Remarkably, the Rethwisch Pete also wins the awards for Best Engine and Best Interior - with a suitably dressed Cummins ISX...and a stereo so expensive he could have bought a matching pickup truck for less!
Below: Brad Garetson’s 2016 Peterbilt 389 and 2017 MAC Flatbed Conestoga take the top tractor-trailer prize
Above right: Incredible paint and attention to detail propels Lil’ Ray and Susie Rodriquez’ 1999 Pete, Uno Mas, to top tractor win
Above left: e show-stopper features spectacular dragon images on cab, sleeper, guards and bonnet….and inside, on the oor. Unos Mas is Spanish for “one more”
Above: You want a BIG sleeper, you say? Try this for size: Reliable Carriers’ 6x4 Peterbilt, with its monster sleeper, tows a car hauler dedicated to moving high-value collector cars and prototypes
Bottom left: J.R. Schleuger keeps this 1980 Kenworth W900A in impeccable shape – and is rewarded with Best of Show First Runner-up honours, plus Best Chrome
Bottom right: Outstanding show preparation and creative paint on 1997 Peterbilt 379 earns Kenneth Fisher Best of Show Second Runner-up
Left: Arkansas entrant Brandon Avant’s stunning-looking
2010 Peterbilt 379 wins limited mileage division – but is ineligible for the top awards because the truck only pulls limited loads between shows
Bottom: Jayme and Whitney Snow extended the cab on their 1999 Classic XL Freightliner...get rewarded with the Classic division win
Top & above left: Jake Robakis, a Minnesota police o cer and trucker, wins the show’s Best eme award with this 2006 Peterbilt 379 and Cottrel Car
Carrier dedicated to fallen policemen
Above right: Entrant Al Tocchi’s favourite truck, a 1956 Mack LTL, doesn’t work....so doesn’t qualify for any awards