Monday, October 21, 2013

OOIDA Heart of America Trucking Show showcases some beautiful big rigs

I’m not an expert on semi-trucks, but I know if something is cool when I see it.  And there was plenty of cool stuff to look at when the Heart of America Trucking Show headed to Kansas Speedway over the weekend.  This is a huge event for the Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA), and big rigs from all over the country were on hand to celebrate the 40th-anniversary of that organization.  Some of these trucks rival even the most high-dollar hot rods.  With a combination of custom bodywork, chrome, and lights, you can be sure that these guys and gals go all-out for their one-off creations.

Take this ’65 Peterbilt Model 251 from Pleasant Hill, Mo.  You can tell just by looking at it that this is one bad machine.  But that big, hunkered-down look didn’t come naturally.  Everything from the stretched and louvered hood, to the custom paint was planned out in meticulous detail.  The vintage Mercury sleeper, low front bumper, and huge, chrome stacks all contribute to the effect.  And the interior is just as impressive, with hardwood floors, leather and suede seats, and enough chrome on the dashboard to blind you on a sunny day.

We talked to M.K. Myers, the owner of this ’51 GMC HDCR 650, for quite a while.  M.K. and his wife Kathy drove this to the show from Augusta, Ill.  This truck has a huge, four-cylinder Detroit Diesel engine with a supercharger.  M.K. says it’ll run about 65-mph on the highway.  The cab has been upgraded with a Vintage Air system, but the aluminum-finished Mercury sleeper is period-correct for this truck.  This is only the second show this truck has been in since its restoration, but you can bet that there are lots of trophies in its future.

This 1973 White Freightliner cab-over is one of several entries from the Crouse Cartage Company in Carrol, Iowa.  This thing just looks scary to drive to me with that stubby cab and cargo box ahead of the trailer.  But you did used to see things like this around sometimes.  The Crouse Cartage Company started way back in 1941, and the current owner, George Crouse, still drives trucks to this day.  Freightliner custom built trucks like this for Crouse when they were new.  Jerry Wilson was the brave man who drove it down to be in the show.

Troy Huddleston’s 1991 Freightliner is a real over-the-top custom.  The cab and sleeper appear to be chopped, and the gullwing-style doors are real attention-getters.  Headlights moved to the big, chrome bumper give it a really unique look, although you have to wonder who much they jiggle around at night being attached to the frame.  The inside is just outrageous, with chrome and dials everywhere, a chain link steering wheel, and a gear shift that almost touches the roof. There was a crowd around this radical ride all day.

This one is so ugly it’s cool.  It is a ’57 Diamond T Model 923 COE.  Some people refer to them as “China Closets.”  A year after this truck was built, Reo acquired Diamond T.  Rio continued to build trucks like this, but the chrome upper grille bars disappeared in place of a more utilitarian slab of mesh.  So in 1957, even this truck, which was essentially a tool for moving freight, couldn’t escape the influence of 1950s style and unnecessary chrome.  Well, I shouldn’t say unnecessary.  These are the kind of details that make these trucks awesome.

I actually really enjoyed the Heart of America Trucking Show “Beauty Contest.”  It was great to get the chance to look at something a little different than I’m used to, and the commitment these people have to their rides is out of sight.  There are 253 pictures in the slideshow below, or click this link for a nicer version.


  1. WOW! These trucks are pretty awesome! I love the one on the first picture! I hope one day there will be an event that would feature these cool trucks! I know a lot of people would like to watch a number of pretty trucks all in one place!


  2. Great trucks! I love seeing beautiful custom trucks especially the vintage trucks. I also like the huddleston’s 1991 freightliner. Actually, I have a truck like that and I'm using it on hauling heavy equipment.

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