Not your ordinary antique show

July 24, 2003
If anything can be gathered from the recent 24th annual Antique Truck Show, it is that all sorts of people own antique trucks.

1939 Mack FH


1940 Mack EF

A college professor and a dentist drove from Colorado to show their unique class 8 tractors and trailers that they drove while working their way through college. A farmer from New York displayed 10 trucks used to transport cattle, produce, and milk. My own restored 1940 Mack EF cab and chassis was shown for the first time after five years of effort.

Put on by the American Truck Historical Society (ATHS), the event brought nearly 1,000 antique trucks from all over the country to the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. Vehicles on display ranged from those that were professionally restored to their original condition, to those just pulled out of the barn. All antique trucks were welcome regardless of condition; ATHS does not judge for trophies or special recognition of any kind. Attendees could see pickups, tractors, trailers, tankers, flat beds, tow trucks, and fire trucks.

Members attending such events will gather enthusiastically around the trucks to discuss features, specifications, engine displacement, transmissions, gear ratios, load-carrying capacities, and so on. These conversations are a reminder of how antique trucks contrast with their modern electronically controlled counterparts. Mechanical brakes and underpowered engines were the norm, as were nonsyncromesh transmissions that force the driver to "double clutch" during shifting. ATHS members are keeping history alive by preserving many of the nameplates of the past: Autocar, White, Sterling, Brockway, Diamond T, and Reo. Long- forgotten and obscure nameplates were represented as well: Lynn, Ruggles, Differential, Stewart, and Walter. The surviving nameplates were dominant: Mack, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Freightliner, Ford, GMC, Chevrolet, and Dodge were present in all sizes from half-ton pickups to heavy class 8 tractors.

The ATHS is dedicated to the preservation of trucks, the trucking industry, and its pioneers. It publishes "Wheels of Time," a bimonthly publication that documents trucking history. The ATHS can be reached at (816) 891-9900 and on the Web at

 - Kerry Day, Cable Manufacturing & Assembly Co. Inc.

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