By Larry Pruitt
When you make the decision to start showing your truck, the first thing to look at is the segment of trucking you’re involved in. You might be involved in dry van work and all you do is drop and hook and never leave the paved road. There are other segments like grain hauling when you load on farms and elevators and the dust gets to be an inch thick. Dust is not so bad by itself but when it rains you can have a real mess. Take a look at other decked out trucks in your segment and use your own experience to determine which accessories work for you and what will not.
I found myself having to change the decking on top of my frame behind the fifth wheel so I could detach the gooseneck on our lowboy trailer. We decided to use a rhino lining on top because the stainless would get scratched. Eventually we decided to put rhino lining all of the decking to make it balance out. When you decide how to accessorize your truck, you have to take into account the segment you are working in. You can’t put mud flaps that run an inch off the pavement and be hauling grain off of a farm road.
During the planning phase, keep in mind what end result you are trying to accomplish. You want to make the truck look balanced; for example, don’t put a ton of lights on the front end and nothing toward the rear. Take some extra time to plan the lighting. Try to keep the lights the same type throughout the project. We went with clear lens on Bustin’ Out! just to be different and try to set it apart from the others. Using the same type, lens color, and size of lights is good because it allows you to keep a stock of lights for replacements also. If you use a different style of light it may not be readily available at the local truck stop on the road.
The next part of the project to look at is, shiny or painted? I’ve seen a lot of trucks that had almost everything on it painted, such as mirrors, tanks, even the front bumper. I’ve seen trucks with just the body painted and everything else chrome, aluminum, and stainless steel. The painted route is easier to get ready for a show; sand it down, repaint and you are done. I’m too much of an old school guy I guess, I like the balance of paint and chrome. The bad thing about the shiny route is there is a lot of polishing and rubbing. We have had our share of black and purple hands at different shows but we feel that it’s worth it.
The last part of this process, as far as we are concerned, is the CLEANING. You may think that cleaning shouldn’t be in the planning process, but it is part of the process and a part of the maintenance of a show truck. Probably the most overlooked part as well. It’s very important to clean the parts everybody can see and even the parts they can’t see. Pressure wash the underside on a regular basis as well as the engine compartment. The frame takes the most abuse and is cleaned the least. For a small price, you can get your frame sanded, painted, and clear coated. It makes a big difference when the judges show up and is money well spent. I can’t stress enough the importance of staying on top of the washing of your ride. If you get lax on keeping it clean it will just be more of a chore to get it to level you want to maintain. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, make sure you get ALL of the WATERSPOTS!
The interior of the truck is just as important as the exterior. This doesn’t take a lot of time or effort after you get it real clean. Every couple of days run a duster over the dash and over the shelves in the sleeper. Keep the carpet clean, or if you have a rubber mat, take a wet rag to it when you dust the dash. Everybody knows that a clean truck runs and drives better when it’s clean.
Building a show truck can be done slowly and methodically. Set a budget amount each month on how much you want to spend. Slowly get the truck where you want within your means. Moving at a slow pace gives you an opportunity to change your plan as you go along. Next time, we will discuss getting ready for the judges at your first competitive show.
Larry Pruitt is an owner-operator with over 20 years of experience and has been involved in trucking for close to 40 years. He is a firefighter in North St. Louis County Missouri and resides with his wife, Jeanette, in Saint Clair, MO.