Shell Rotella SuperRigs at White's Travel Center

Published: Jun. 15, 2018 at 6:43 PM EDT
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At the Shell Rotella SuperRigs show, the trucks are lined up for judging, and by judging, they mean business.

“They’ll come back in here, rub down, and see if it’s clean or it’s dirty,” says David Kuhn, a detailer for Lanita Specialized Trucking, as he reaches back into a tiny crevice in a truck's engine.

Which means guys like Kuhn are putting in a lot of hours on this.

“It takes a lot of time and passion to be able to get in here and spend a day or two just on a motor,” he says.

"Well my son and I got here yesterday, and we started polishing on this around 9 o’clock yesterday," says John Byers of Montpelier, Va, standing next to his shiny, red truck. "And we finished up around 5:30.”

Byers found his truck as wreck nearly a decade ago. But he had a little experience with trucks.

“This year makes 52 years I’ve been driving,” he explains.

He and his entire family worked to rebuild it.

“It’s a family affair, you know, and that’ the way I like it," Byers says. "And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

But these aren’t delicate show pieces. The rules say every one has to be a working truck.

“We expect between 80, at least 85,000 miles a year," Contest judge Jami Jones says. "So most of them are running 100, 120. We’ve had several trucks come through this year that have a million, more than a million miles on the engine, and we’ve had some two million mile trucks come through.”

But, of course, “working” can be a relative term, like for Manuel Trucking’s "One of Many" truck.

“Everything is DOT legal on it and is road ready and ready to go," says Jason Louderback of Manuel Trucking. "But there is a lot of customizations to the truck that we’ve done that are dedicated to autism awareness.”

Like the individually welded puzzle pieces on the cab’s floor, or the puzzle-shaped cutouts on the wheels.

“And you know," Louderback says, "The one cool thing is when you see a family or a child that gets excited about the truck and knows what it means and everything. And seeing them be able to get up in the seat and the smile on their face, that’s kind of what brings it all to us.”

Maybe a reward as good as a trophy.