Events, Truck Shows

All the way to Reno

Reno, Nevada was the venue for the 2023 annual American Truck Historical Society Convention, attracting a stunning array of rigs from across North America, along wth a few Aussie tourists.

Just out of curiosity, what’s everyone doing in early June 2027? Anyone got any plans? No? Well let me steer you towards a fantastic idea. Go online now and book a room at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada. I’m not kidding around, I’m deadly serious.

If you are reading this story, then chances are you have already skimmed through all the photos and it has sparked your interest, right? Obviously it has sparked your interest enough for you to be reading this piece in order to learn more. Well, let me lay out the facts for you. These photos are from the American Truck Historical Society Convention in Reno, Nevada. Let me lay out another fact for you, you are only glimpsing a fraction of the amazing trucks that were on display during the three-day event.

Now having seen just a portion of the trucks on display, are you hearing that little voice in the back of your head going ‘I wish I had been there’? If that’s the case, then I ask again. What are you doing in June 2027? Because if you love old trucks, cool trucks, historic trucks … hell, if you like trucks full stop, then this is a show that you cannot miss. I seriously implore you to stop procrastinating and start planning. Because the American Truck Historical Society Show is days and days of pure trucking porn, all neatly packaged in an amazing location, with everything you need on hand.

Whether you love classic trucks in original condition, or incredible creations in unbelievable condition, it’s an experience not to be missed. It will also be back at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in another four years. Hence, I suggest you book your rooms quickly because this show at this location is fast becoming a must-see for not just Americans, but for worldwide travellers. And me, being the kind-hearted soul that I am, put my home life on hold, cancelled my Netflix for a week and went over to check this show out, just so I could let everyone know what it is like. You are welcome. 

Truck historians

Aside from the hundreds and hundreds of photos I uploaded to my editor, I have also included a bit of a travel writer’s rant on what this Nevada adventure entailed. Let us deal with the event’s hosts first.

The American Truck Historical Society or ATHS as we’ll refer to it from now on just to save me typing it out every time. The ATHS is a worldwide non-profit group of truck-loving historians that originated out of the United States. You don’t even have to own an old truck to be a member, you just have to have a love of historical trucks and/or machinery. There are ATHS chapters all over the world now, including one here in Australia. Worldwide, the ATHS has nearly 20,000 members.

The US is still the cultural home of this fast-growing organisation, and this is where they hold their yearly convention – their marquee event, their showcase gala. Throughout the year local chapters run many social and fundraising events for their members, but it’s the big convention that everyone hangs out for. 

What makes the ATHS annual convention something a little bit different is the fact that they move its location every year. Well sort of, they have four locations. Reno Nevada. York Pennsylvania. Cleveland Ohio and Madison Wisconsin. These four locations are spread throughout the greater United States, representing East Coast, West Coast and Middle America. Now you see why I kept asking about June 2027, because that’s when the rotation lands back in Reno.

There is a method in their madness, it’s not solely about spreading the joy of this incredible event. The fact is the US is a big country. There are many miles between the sunglasses and sandshoes of the west coast and the suits and ties of the east coast, though you can still get liquid cheese across the whole country, just so you know.

Anyway, with the US being so huge and with many of its members having trucks that pre-date cell phones and cassette players (and some even pre-date indoor toilets), it’s a big ask to get them out to display. Expecting guys from the west coast to get their pride and joy all the way over to the east coast, and vice versa, is a bit much. Therefore, moving the annual convention across the country each year allows all its members an opportunity to experience an annual convention at some stage.

That’s not to say there aren’t those that make the annual pilgrimage every year. Hell, half the fun is getting trucks that were designed, built, and worked well before the interstates, out of the sheds for an exciting excursion across the US.

That’s a great segue into defining what qualifies for an American Truck Historical Society vehicle. For that answer, I will pass the microphone over to Laurence Gration. Laurence is an expat Aussie who for the past five years has held the position of executive director of the ATHS. He has seen their annual showcase event explode in popularity.

I asked Laurence the question of what classifies as a historical vehicle. “If you talk age, it’s 25 years,” Laurence says. “My argument though, and most people have bought into this argument is, for example, the one-millionth Peterbilt to roll off the assembly line was a historical vehicle in 2019. The last manual transmission Mack to come off the assembly line was a historical vehicle in 2022.”

The ATHS is looking more now at historical relevance of a vehicle as opposed to just its age. It is a very valid argument and one I agree with. If only because it means there are more and more cool trucks rolling into the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino.

Once again, I have managed another brilliant segue that now allows us to investigate the location for this year’s ATHS convention – the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino. The high-rise hotel has nearly 2000 rooms spread throughout several towers. As the name suggests it features all the perks of a resort – cocktails, valets and pools, as well as all the perks of a casino – cheap drinks, cigar smoke and gambling. If you are finding it difficult to keep all those greenbacks (that’s slang for US dollars) in your wallet, there are over 100,000 square feet of pokies and gaming tables for you to donate your money to.

It’s not all about the booze and betting at the Grand Sierra though; there is a massive nightclub operating during the weekends, just in case you need to get your groove on. If listening to live music is more your thing, the indoor concert hall has seen the likes of Kiss and The Killers performing as well as bands with cool names like Grand Funk Railroad and Flogging Mollys. I can’t say who is booked for June 2027, but we can keep an eye on things.

If you are after something more athletic, you could step outside for the resort’s driving range or just take the elevator downstairs where you will find the 50-lane bowling alley. Yeah, you read that right, 50 lanes. They take their bowling seriously over in Reno. I won’t even get started on the restaurants and shops, there’s way too many to list.

All of the aforementioned features are within walking distance of your room at the resort. Considering the convention is at the resort itself, you can easily just stick with that. I strongly suggest you don’t though. Renting a car in Reno is a must. I could list all the cool things to go and see, however, I am going to stick to just three. Lake Tahoe, Donner Pass and Two Chicks.

Let us deal with Two Chicks first – the best breakfast place in Reno. Those who know me would be aware of how much I love my food, so trust me when I make this claim. Two Chicks is a must. Now back to the touristy stuff. Lake Tahoe is a fantastic drive and a pretty cool place to go visit. It’s one of those places where big money goes to relax, and people like me can go there to judge big money. I mean one guy had a lift for his boat! He literally has the boat lifted up to the dock, you walk on and then the boat gets lowered onto the lake. 

The Donner Pass is another must-see for truck fans and driving purists. It’s one of those roads made famous by reality TV shows. In the middle of winter, the whole road and mountain range can disappear under a blanket of snow with traffic still pushing through. The place is packed with stunning views and steep climbs. I dragged my apprentice up and down the pass several times during our visit, catching some shots of the trucks, the snow and the scenery.

Truck talk

With the location and setting covered, let’s take a look at the convention itself. You will notice I repeatedly refer to it as a convention rather than a truck show. That is deliberate. There is no judging, there are no prizes and in fact, due to an overabundance of new EPA laws creeping in from California, there isn’t even any truck washing going on in the car parks. The ATHS Convention really is just about an opportunity for truck fans to assemble and talk trucks. Half the resort’s car parks are closed off in order to organise and display the nearly 900 entrants while the other carparks are filled up with all manner of trucks and truckers attending the event.

The chin-wagging isn’t restricted to just the exterior carparks though. The convention also sequestered the resort’s convention rooms where they were running several expert lectures and discussions. This year’s event saw a special display from Kenworth as they celebrated 100 years of trucks in the US and as such there were plenty of Kenworth-based speakers. Subjects like ‘Evolution of a Legend: The Kenworth K100, 1963-1984’, ‘The Kenworth W900 and Family, 1963 and Up’. Even one of our very own Kenworth Klassic legends, Bruce Gunter, had his time in the spotlight with a rather informative talk on the history of Kenworth in Australia.

I also attended a great talk on the real star of Smokey and The Bandit, Snowman’s W900(s) and, just out of curiosity, I found myself attending a talk on timber hauling in the Pacific Northwest. 

Finally, we should focus a little on the ‘bells of the ball’, the lolly scramble of trucks that swamped the parking lots around the resort. That’s what we all go looking for and there is no escaping them. What I love about this show is you can purchase your ticket and wander among the hundreds of trucks that are on display, including makes and models I had never heard of or seen before. You can wear the soles of your shoes just in the gated areas.

Then once you have strapped on some fresh pluggers you can head out to the open car parks and the RV park. Here you will see all manner of transporters and trucks that couldn’t fit elsewhere. The RV Park is door-to-door trucks, from extreme motor homes to the most pimped-out hay lifter you will ever see. There really isn’t much point in me telling you about the ATHS trucks on display as the pictures included paint a much more inviting scene.

In summary, I would like to just plagiarise the legendary Nike motto ‘Just Do it’. June 2027, book the babysitter, sell the dog, do whatever you need to but make it a priority to get over to the ATHS Convention. You may wear out a few pairs of shoes and you will definitely fill your phone camera up. You will not, however, regret it. 

Photography: Warren Aitken

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