Long road to Reno


Historic trucks from around North America descended on Reno, Nevada, known as the ‘Biggest Little City in the World’, for the American Truck Historical Society’s ‘World’s Largest Vintage Truck Show’

 

It was good to see a familiar looking shape so far from home. Nick Einarson’s stunning looking 1994 FLB Freightliner was another star of the show. The hard-working truck has recently been completely reskinned after Mother Nature remodelled it in a hailstorm. The resheeted product is extremely impressive

One hour and 35 minutes in the air, followed by a one hour and 35-minute layover, then on to a 13-hour and 40-minute flight. Add another four hour and 20-minute layover and topped off with a quick one-hour jaunt. Easy? Bulls#@t! It’s an awful way to spend a day, but it’s necessary. Necessary if you want to spend the weekend at the world’s largest historic truck show.

Trust me, if you love trucks then you do want to make the effort to get to the world’s largest historic truck show. Every year the American Truck Historical Society (ATHS) holds its gala event in a different location. This year saw the event take place in Reno, Nevada and I was lucky enough to find myself holed up in the Grand Sierra Resort, looking out over several carparks full of outstanding trucks.

Before we get into the details of my five days of fun in the "Biggest Little City in the World", I need to let you all know a little information. Some of the more enlightened folks are probably well aware of the information that follows but for the less enlightened, like myself, here goes.

The legendary ‘Bad Bitch’, Denny Edwards homebuilt Peterbilt was a standout. Don’t ask what model it is as it’s a debate for the ages. Denny calls it a 49, with a 70 Cab, the bonnet is homebuilt just so he could add an extra 25 inches to it. The exhausts are aluminium irrigation pipes mixed with a can of BBQ black spray paint ($78 all up Denny tells me). It’s airbags all around with a 335 Cummins under that massive hood. "It doesn’t look any different if you wash it or not," Denny proudly says

GLOBAL SOCIETY

ATHS is not just an historical truck society from America. It is actually an historical society for American trucks. I learnt this little piece of information when I had the pleasure of sitting down with the ATHS’s head of communication and marketing, Rebecca Dye.

Three months into her role and the day before her first show commences, Rebecca was busier than a termite at a sawmill when she was gracious enough to sit down and give me a brief history of what is quickly becoming a world-famous event.

Here’s a quick summary: ATHS was incorporated in 1971 and was forged in an effort to preserve the history of trucks, the trucking industry and the people that pioneered it. The society now has chapters in 23 countries, including one right here in Australia.

The home base for the ATHS is in Kansas City where you will find the mecca for truck historians, the Zoe James Memorial Library. The library is named after the daughter of one of the ATHS founders who started the accumulation of the history records. In that library there are hundreds of thousands of photos, manuals, records, documents and basically anything transport related.

In an effort to spread the word of the ATHS and gather more members, the non-profit organisation started an annual conference and truck show. The decision was made to have it in different chapters each year, normally trying hard to switch between the east and west coast.

The only issue being that each year the show gets bigger and bigger, to the point now where the small team of ATHS employees, plus the huge team of ATHS volunteers, now has to be planning shows three years in advance.

Apparently, the goal will be to find three more permanent homes and float the show every third or fourth year.

So there you have it, all caught up on the history. Now let’s focus on 2019.

Uncle Kenny stands proudly in front of his 1926 Ford Model TT with matching Hickory Logging Trailer. The ‘truck bunk and trailer’ is as original as it was when the Ford 4-banger motor was pulling logs back in its glory days

CLASSICS AND LEGENDS

This year the ATHS rolled into Reno, the Grand Sierra Resort to be precise. Rebecca Dye light-heartedly quipped, "I don’t think they realise what’s coming" when she informed me that the resort had boasted about previously holding a few car shows and such.

With an estimated 10,000 people expected through the show over the course of three days and over half the resort’s car parks full of historic trucks, the place had been abuzz since the day I got there. And I arrived two days before the event.

Trucks started rolling in from as far afield as Canada, Michigan and the US west coast to register. To use a geographically applicable synonym, I was as happy as a tornado in a trailer park watching all the classics pulling in.

Alongside the familiar runway-length bonnets of a legendary Pete and the pitched hood of a classic Kenny, there was the infamous Hayes, a few stunning Sterlings, some gorgeous GMCs and a couple of legendary Dodge Bighorns.

The show itself ran from Friday through until Sunday and featured more than just a bunch of fellow truck nuts showing off their pride and joy.

In addition, informative and interesting presentations took place inside the resort over the three days. As a person who is easily distracted by shiny objects, holding my attention with an hour-and-a-half long slide show is not an easy job, so full credit to Paul Cox for accomplishing this.

Paul was one of the guest speakers and enthralled many with the story of his 1979 Kenworth Aerodyne restoration. I came away from that presentation with a burning desire to get into restoration myself. Therefore, Paul is now off my wife’s Christmas card list!

There was also a queue for both the ‘50 Years of Caterpillar Engines’ and an equally long line for the ‘History of Cummins’ presentation.

For those BJ and the Bear fans, Greg Evigan was there for signings and a few celebrities from the American transport scene were also doing meet and greets.

The ATHS also had daily tours organised for those that wanted to see a bit more of Reno. Personally, with so many stunning trucks parked among three huge parking lots, there was more than enough to keep me within the Grand Sierra’s grounds.

Trevor Hardwick and his wife Alicia brought their 2017 Kenworth W900 with a 1994 Aero1 Kenworth Sleeper. Kevin ordered the truck around the sleeper. He loved the old-style sleeper but as they don’t fit them anymore, he chose to build the truck himself. The rig hauls refrigerated goods between Seattle and the Bay area. Kevin also writes ‘Poetry in Motion’ for the well-known 10-4 Magazine

ELECTRIC TRUCK

After sending my Fitbit into meltdown with 35,000 steps in one day, I did manage to find the oldest truck out of the nearly 1,000 registered, a 1912 Electric F-5. You read that correctly – an electric truck.

Well before Elon Musk attempted to design the least-attractive truck possible, the Commercial Truck Company built electric trucks. In 1912 it delivered an F5 to Curtis Publishing (all in all they actually delivered 22 – the one at Reno was number eight). The big girl was rated at five ton and could crank up to 14mph.

As for the newest, well there were more than a few trucks still early into their trucking lives so that’s hard to tell.

As for picking a star of the show, well that my friends I will leave for you to decide as it’s a job I would hate to undertake.

From the immaculately restored vintage trucks to magnificently maintained work trucks there is something to please everybody at an ATHS show. Whatever knocks your socks off though, make sure you check out the American Truck Historic Society and start planning a trip to Springfield, Illinois for their 2020 show. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

The oldest truck at the show, the 1912 Commercial Electric truck

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