My head’s still swirling from being at our Louisville Pride & Polish event. Walking around admiring 69 Bobtails and Combos, and trying to figure out which of the three Big-Rig Build-Off trucks to vote for will do that to a person who loves custom vehicles. If you didn’t have the chance to attend, you missed a great turnout–and pretty decent weather to boot. (Although I did hear a few grumblings on Friday morning as everyone scrambled to dry the rain puddles off their trucks and trailers before the judges rolled through.)
What struck me about this year’s event was although the economy is in a dive everyone at the show had a very upbeat attitude. And the rigs that showed up were, well, awesome. They spanned at least 50 years of trucking and every one held a different story as their owners were happy to relate if you took the time to stop and chat.
The one I found the most intriguing of all, as did the judges, was Marcel Pontbriand’s ’89 Pete pulling a dry van. This guy hails from Beloeil, Quebec, and has a fleet of 20 rigs in his Owner Operator Systems, TLC company. But this one is his baby.
At first glance the truck looks a lot like a rolling trinket store with all kinds of little nick-knacks attached to the fenders, hood, steps and sleeper. It even has a couple pioneer dolls riding on a covered wagon attached to the sleeper’s back wall.
The rig is also covered with art work and murals from end to end. When you look close it’s obvious these are not the typical air brush artist’s renderings, rather they look very much hand-painted–even the huge murals that cover the sides of the van. In all, a bit hokey to the casual observer.But take a few moments to ask Marcel questions and the intrigue comes into play.
As it turns out, Marcel’s “Little Train of Happiness” as he fondly calls the old Pete, is a combination rolling diary of his life and his tribute to the trucking/transportation industry that has put bread on his family’s table for 35 years.(His father was a truck driver and Marcel started driving trucks on Canada’s ice roads at 14!)
The murals are a map of his life–and the “trinkets” remembrances from the places he’s hauled loads in teh U.S. and Canada. He hand-painted the murals, sculpted the wooden train that serves as a trailer-wide flap weight, and laid the mosaic tiles in the cab floor. In fact he did all the custom work alone–and spent more than 600 hours painting the murals on the trailer and covering them with 18 coats of acrylic clear so they’d last for years.
The tractor is the first he’s owned free-and-clear of more than 125 trucks he’s driven over the decades, and he’s spent15 years so far painting and decorating it as a continuing honor to the industry he honors so much.He also keeps it spotless inside and out.
As Marcel told me, through his wife Valerie’s translation of his French, “This is my life,” reaching out to touch the side of the trailer as we walk along. “And it will evolve until I breathe no more.” Now that’s passion for your work–and your custom rig!