Celebrating the chrome

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Somewhere out there is a guy who‘s sure his truck looks better than yours. Here‘s a chance to kick him right in the spread axle.” -Motto of Mercer Transportation‘s monthly show truck competition.


Ah, the show truck: all that polished chrome, the high-dollar paint schemes, the countless hours spent cleaning every single square inch, including the unspeakably filthy underside of the chassis.


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(Photo by Tom Schoening, Peterbilt of Norfolk)


It may indeed be an anachronism in this day and age of five-dollar diesel, environmental consciousness, and concern over profits, but man do they look SHARP. And truck shows are springing up everywhere to help celebrate the enduring passion for chrome in this industry, sponsored by truck stops, radio stations, even carriers themselves.


I love show trucks myself and get to really binge on them at the Mid America Trucking Show every year, collecting countless digital images for my files - some that never even get used in print or on the Internet. It‘s really a rolling work of art, the show truck, and I just wish someone with some seriously deep pockets would one day build a museum to house a good chunk of them.


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(Lynn Bierschenk of Molt, Montana, touches up the tires of his big rig in preparation for the truck show. Photo by Tom Schoening, Peterbilt of Norfolk.)


Tom Schoening, communications director for Peterbilt of Norfolk, Nebraska, sent me some shots from the second annual “Pride and Polish Truck Show” sponsored by the Prime Stop truck stop off I-81 in Nebraska and co-sponsored by local radio station US 92. You'll see four of them in here, including a good one of a bunch of "future drivers" climbing all over a show truck minitaure.


More than 2,000 people enjoyed looking at about 100 customized working rigs at this particular show, held May 31 at the DeVent Center in Norfolk. The show also featured the by-now famous Chrome Shop Mafia, a team of top-notch designers working out of 4 State Trucks in Joplin, Missouri, whose work has been chronicled by the Country Music Television (CMT) network over the last several years on the series “Trick My Truck,” raised the profile of show trucks and the trucks that own and operate them to new heights, giving national exposure to a great subculture within the trucking industry.


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(Youngsters play on a miniature 18-wheeler during the truck show. Photo by Tom Schoening, Peterbilt of Norfolk.)


Sadly, the Chrome Shop Mafia and CMT are going their different ways after 41 episodes and three seasons, parting over the usual creative differences that occur when a show like this becomes a hit, with all but two members of the original cast choosing not to be part of future episodes. The biggest concern raised by 4 State Trucks centered on how the program began drifting away from ‘big rigs‘ to feature more small trucks, pickups, service trucks, etc. - all very worthy of attention, but definitely not in a show dedicated to showing off show trucks.


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”One of our main objectives this past few years is to promote the image of the trucker and the trucking industry in a positive and respectable way,” 4 State Trucks said. “Our goal ... is to offer the best selection and widest range of truck parts and accessories in the nation. We are committed to maintaining an inventory of quality products that allows us to achieve this goal and, in conjunction with this effort, we also intend to promote the awareness of ‘custom trucks‘ within our industry.”


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(Leroy McRoberts judges the big rigs on May 31 during a truck show in Norfolk. After taking home top prizes in last year's contest, he was appointed as one of the judges in the second-annual truck beauty contest. More than 2,000 people enjoyed looking at the customized and polished work vehicles under a warm sunny sky. Photo by Tom Schoening, Peterbilt of Norfolk.)


These guys also like to stress that show trucks and their owners are part of what they like to call “real-working America ... not Hollywood,” which is ever so true. It‘s not cheap to turn a commercial Class 8 tractor into a show rig by any means (the paint job along can cost $40,000 or more in some cases) and all that money comes out of the trucker‘s pocket. Yet show truckers do it not only for themselves but also as a way to show off their pride in what they do for a living.

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Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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