Thursday, July 23, 2015

Peterbilt royalty

Editor’s note: It’s “Throwback Thursday” and we’re diving back into Land Line’s digital archive to bring you a June 2011 piece from former columnist Bob Martin, aka “Cowpoke.” Longtime readers of the magazine may recall his standing column “Spitballin’ with Cowpoke.” He passed away from cancer later that year. As you can see, he was a huge fan of Peterbilt trucks.

Peterbilt royalty? Who me? Hardly. But I did try to start a rumor once that I was T.A. “Al” Peterman’s grandson. Peterman was a successful logger who bought out Fageol Trucks in 1938 and founded Peterbilt Motors in 1939.

I often feel like Peterbilt “royalty.” That’s probably because of the various honors and the recognition awarded to my truck and us by Peterbilt.

My wife Geri and I were featured in their magazine First Class in 1996. Some 12 years later we were featured in the “379: End of an Era” special edition with the same truck. With all those team efforts and well-heeled big rides out there we got the spotlight. I’m not kidding myself, we were just a pair of “oval-heads” in the right spot at the right time.

Some of the twists and turns that got us there are worth rambling about.

We started showing our ’95 Pete beginning with Louisville in 1995, did some more shows that summer then after Louisville the next year  we decided we wanted to do either Las Vegas or Boston shows which were like 10 days apart.

It turned out that I got a load to Boston and did that show and headed home. Geri was disappointed, she wanted to do Vegas. I told her to throw her stuff in the truck and we’d bobtail out there (1,800 miles) with the real possibility we might have to bobtail all the way back. Through a strange set of circumstances some things fell in place for us, ended up making money after all and ended up Walcott I-80 for the Shell SuperRigs show.

At Walcott we hit it big, made the Shell SuperRigs calendar for the next year.

Maybe 10 days later I got a call from Peterbilt’s publishing company that they were looking for a one man, drive it yourself, extended hood 379 with factory sleeper. It was for a three-page spread in First Class, which comes out quarterly and seldom features a one-truck operation.

I found out later that they got a list of Peterbilts at the Vegas show from the promoter.  I also found out later that I was down on the list but after they weeded out the short hoods, fleets, aftermarket sleepers, drivers who were job hoppers, had six ex-wives, etc., we ended up getting the call.

Our truck fit the parameters, I had the same lease 14 years, and was still married to my starter wife. We did some shows the next couple years and burnt out on it and stopped.

Intermission, it ain’t over yet.

For about nine years, our truck never saw a polish rag, just truck washes. Then I saw where SuperRigs was holding their 25th Anniversary show in Joplin, Mo. This was June 1997. I gotta go to this one. I did break down and have the paint buffed out and stuck a new bumper on it to spiff it up a little.

When I got there I saw where they were having a makeover contest and to be one of the six finalists you had to submit an essay on why you wanted to win.

At the time 4 State Trucks, home of the Chrome Shop Mafia, were on the hit TV show “Trick My Truck” where they did makeovers on people’s trucks. A lot of times it was helping someone down on their luck to get back on their feet with a like new truck.

When I thought about this essay thing I figured there would be a lot of sad stories, I didn’t know any so I decided to just do a tongue in cheek top 10 list.

That essay made us a finalist, everybody that had a drivers license could vote the next day for the truck to win the makeover. A lot of people there knew the truck or us from previous shows and we won the big prize – a makeover worth more than $50,000.

The best of show won $10,000, I would have probably blown that on stuff like new brakes for the pickup and new linoleum for the kitchen floor.

While Jim Raines and S&J Truck Sales in Fort Wayne, Ind., were doing the makeover, I emailed the First Class publisher and reminded  them of our spread in 1996 and told them what was going on now with the same truck and makeover all these years later.

They called after we were presented our truck back at Dallas show and wanted to do a feature in the special edition of Pride and Class honoring the end of an era, the 20-year run of the model 379 Peterbilts. More than 230,000 of them were built. A lot of 379s in that issue but the last one off the assembly line and ours were given the three-page spreads.

All of this came directly from three truck shows where we never won a dime in prize money or a trophy. Go figure.

I would like to think we done Grandpa Al proud.