When I was two years old, my family took a month-long road trip in our VW van from Chicago to Colorado. My lasting takeaway from that journey was that trucks were cute.
Yeah, I said it.
The only explanation I can offer is that, at the time, we had a big old stocky mutt named Tank, and I’m sure during my formative months of “tummy time” on the floor of our suburban home, I saw a lot of his squared back end while he lumbered from place to place around me. The long trek across I-80 had the same effect—me crawling around the van and staring at the back ends of big old stocky Great Dane and Fruehauf and Utility box trailers lumbering on by. I mean, I’m no child psychologist or anything, but from a tender age I was hooked, and all I ever wanted as a boy was to drive trucks.
I made the dream a reality in my early 20s when I got my commercial driver’s license and then spent a few months hauling tomatoes in double trailers up and down California’s Central Valley. I loved it, but a single summer spent standing on the heavy clutch of an International 9000 destroyed my already-bad left knee, and my trucking career came to an inauspicious end. But damn, I still love me some trucks.
It’s no surprise, then, that I couldn’t get enough of the vintage rigs on display at the Antique Truck Club of America’s 40th annual National Meet. More than 850 trucks graced Macungie Memorial Park in Macungie, Pennsylvania, over Father’s Day weekend. It’s the perfect venue, because the park is big enough to accommodate a dozen Flying Js’ worth of big rigs, it’s got plenty of shade, and it’s a stone’s throw from Mack’s cab and vehicle assembly plant. (There were even buses making regular trips over to the factory for tours.)
This was Mack country for sure, and many of the trucks on hand wore the chrome bulldog. But you didn’t have to look far to see Peterbilts and Kenworths, Freightliners and Western Stars, Whites, Autocars, Diamond Ts, Divcos, Brockways, GMCs, Fords, and more. Most of the rigs were trailerless, or bobtail, if you like, though there was an area for vintage combinations, too.
One guy had installed a vintage Lark travel trailer inside his vintage Great Dane box trailer so he could live out of it at shows. Nearly all of the cabs were driven to the park, and plenty seemed to do double duty as both working trucks and show trucks, though several came in strapped to flatbeds and lowboys. More than a few attendees crashed in their sleeper cabs.
The camaraderie among truck owners was not unlike that seen at car shows, with a few key exceptions: Their jeans were dustier, their fingernails blacker, their boots steel-toed. And so many of them seemed to know each other well. More than once I overheard conversations about this or that guy who pulled this or that truck out of so-and-so’s place. After all, the realm of vintage big rigs isn’t so large. Mileage and the extreme demands of the job took a heavy toll on these things, and most were never regarded as objects worth saving, so the ones that have been saved are almost universally admired by the men (and they are nearly all men) with a fondness for old diesels, no matter the badge on the nose.
Snobbery has no place here, in other words.
And for those simply milling about and taking them all in, like yours truly, their appeal was equally undeniable. ATCA secretary Mike Fowler said it best: “Everything we wear and eat and use every day came to us by truck. You can’t help but appreciate them.”