ATHS truck convention hosts record 1,269 entries

ATHS truck convention hosts record 1,269 entries

ATHS ShowBy John Gunnell

The American Truck Historical Society’s ( annual national convention turned Des Moines, Iowa into truck country from May 25-27. The convention includes a giant truck show that drew a record 1,269 entrants this year. Someone remarked that the 435-acre Iowa State Fairgrounds, where the show was held, was a mile long on each of its four sides. That weekend, about 75 percent of that real estate was covered by trucks of every type.

Commercial vehicles came from everywhere. Cards on the vehicles we photographed listed the truck owners’ home cities, which stretched from New York to California. We saw at least two big rigs from Canada, one of which was a special 25th Anniversary Kenworth with red maple leaf graphics. Canadian Kenworth produced these special edition trucks in 1979-’80 to mark the 25th anniversary of Kenworth in Canada. There were 25 cabover K 100 VIT and 25 W 900 VIT conventionals with the special paint combo, badges and interiors. As VITs, they were all large sleeper trucks, that were rare in Canada in the late ’70s.

The other Canadian semi was a long-hooded 1951 Duplex Howe conventional operated by B & N Specialized Transportation Incorporated out of Kitchener, Ontario. This truck belongs to Brian Vivian of Cambridge, Ontario. While big trucks dominated the rows and rows of rigs, there were some very neat light-duty trucks around, including many interesting four-wheel-drive vehicles.

ATHS ShowThe oldest 4×4 was a 1918 FWD Model 8 cab-over-engine with a beer barrel-full wood body that belongs to Tim Hoover of Saltsburg, Pa. A sign on the side identified it as “Hoover’s Hooch Hauler.” FWD, of Clintonville, Wis., claims to have invented the first four-wheel drive vehicle (a car called the “Battleship” that still exists) in 1908. The Four Wheel Drive Auto Co. was formed a year later.

While FWD advertises that it was the birthplace of four-wheel drive, the Coleman Truck Co. of Littleton, Colo,. advertised its products as “the first practical four-wheel-drive trucks.” There was also a Coleman at Des Moines. This 1929 model belongs to Larry and Melanie Maasdam, of Clarion, Iowa.

Moving ahead 19 years, Ken Voight brought his original looking 1949 Willys 4WD pickup to Des Moines from Armour, S.D. According to the badge on the rear edge of the hood, it’s technically a “Jeep Truck.” Interestingly enough, there were not a lot of Jeeps of any kind at the show. The other one we saw was a 1960 FC170 forward-control model owned by Bryan Pigg of Rogersville, Md.

Dodge Power Wagons were another type of 4×4 that seemed hard to find in Des Moines. The earliest example we saw was a 1954 fire truck brought by Greg Risk of Toledo, Ohio. On the door, it said “Bedford Twnsp Fire Dept. No 1.” While it was totally unrestored, Larry McFee’s 1957 Chevrolet 3100 pickup with a NAPCO four-wheel-drive conversion looked like new. It was displayed in the indoor truck show. This truck is based in Maysville, Mo.

IH Scouts were probably the most popular small four-wheel drives at the ATHS Convention. There were three early editions: Keith Silbernick’s 1963 Scout 80 out of Little Falls, Minn., Mike Miller’s 1964 edition from Grand Junction, Colo., and a white soft top version. Phillip Davis, of Pennsylvania, also brought a 1973 Scout SSII with all of the bells and whistles and bright orange paint.

In general, the show featured quite a few IHC/International models including a two-tone Travel All that was once owned by a filmmaker and a very clean 1967 D-2 that Mike Shannon brought to Iowa from Manhattan, Kan. There were also IH farm trucks, service vehicles, fire trucks and tractor trailers. We know that over the years, there has never been a big IH club, so maybe all the IH owners are gravitating towards joining the ATHS.

ATHS ShowIt isn’t too often that you see a nicely restored 1977 Ford F250, but that’s exactly what John and Judy Frauenkron brought to the truck show from Winona, Minn. It was a pretty unit with its shiny brown paint, tan roof and sun visor and ‘70s-style pickup bed cap also finished in tan.

As far as interesting trucks without four-wheel drive go, a couple were Mike and Dee McQueen’s 1937 Diamond T restored with a Corvette engine. It also had a 700R4 automatic transmission, a customized interior and fender skirts. Mike Heitkamp’s 1938 Hudson Terraplane was another pickup with art deco styling and rear fender skirts. As far as survivor vehicles—which are hot these days—Henry J. Fowler, Jr., of Mechanicsville, Md., hauled his Cantrell-bodied 1947 Dodge WC Series woodie wagon out to the Midwest.

The show included a large indoor vendor area complete with air-conditioned comfort to escape the heat. Exhibitors were selling toy trucks and custom-made reproduction radiators. Other booths promoted antique truck shows and big rig shows. There was also a small outdoor flea market area with signs, petroliana and truck parts. The ATHS had a number of booths set up for show truck registration, sales of old truck photos and new memberships.

Several things about the show stood out. First of all, virtually no two trucks in the show were alike. Secondly, there were a lot of ATHS members who are focused only on one type of truck. Third, ATHS members are interested in truck history and trucking industry stories. Fourth, from the graphics and lettering on the trucks, it was clear they came to Des Moines from all over the country.

Other convention related activities included a truck cruise, tours, speakers and an  appearance by Tim Ridley of the Road Dog Trucking channel and Greg Evigan of “B.J. & the Bear” TV fame. There were meetings for chapters and one-make collectors, and childrens’ entertainment. The event ended with a cruise.

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