by Jim Park
The DOT car emerged from its hideout under the bridge, pulled up behind Chester Mallow's '98 Freightliner, and flipped the lights on. Safe, and out of harm's way on the side of the freeway, the officer assumed The Stance alongside the driver's door, saying, "I don't want your registration, and I don't want your log book. I'd just like to know who did the work on your truck."
He gets that all the time. Mallow pulled into a scale in North Dakota recently, rolled the steer axle, then the drives, onto the scale. The red light came on. Mallow waited, and waited, for the inspector's instructions, expecting to hear "Pull 'er around back and bring 'er in." Instead, the voice floated back. "Okay driver, we're finished gawking at the cab, you can pull the trailer axles up any time."
That's par for the course when you're driving an 18-wheeled work of art. Of course, there's a downside to all this: "I couldn't tell you how many times I've had to repeat the story of the pictures to those folks, and just about everybody else, for that matter," Mallow says. "And to the judges at the shows as well. But for them, I make the time."
He calls the truck Cat Slayer, referring to the woman in the illustrations doing battle with a large feline. We think. Mallow says the battle is a representation of a true tale of another encounter with a big cat, but he wouldn't elaborate.
He could have called it Moose Slayer. A while back, with Mallow in the bunk, his co-driver nailed one of those swamp-donkeys and put the truck out of commission for three months. While he was down, he added the most recent of the murals to the inside and outside of the hood on the truck, bringing the total to seven.
The story begins on the outside of the hood. A woman emerges from a cave, walking through a stream of water. The water flows down off the hood and onto the fenders. The next painting in the sequence, on the passenger door, shows the first of her encounters with the tiger; the battle continues on the right side of the sleeper. The painting on the rear wall of the sleeper shows the heroine cleaning and nursing her wounds after the battle. The final picture, on the driver's door, shows her standing victorious above the cat, sword in hand.
Altogether, Mallow says there's $7000 and close to seven weeks of work in the murals, all trapped beneath two layers of clearcoat. The work was done by air-brush artist Dale Lawrence, who lives about 20 miles north of Winnipeg, in Warren, Man. Mallow's truck was Lawrence's first attempt at painting trucks. But it wasn't his last.
Late last August, Mallow cleaned up at the Performance With Pride Show and Shine in Saskatoon, taking home Best Overall, Best in Category (2000 Combo), Best Lights, Best Mural, Best Custom Graphics, and Best Interior. Not that he really needed it, but he also came away with honorable mention (third) in the engine competition.
His first entry in a show, ever, was the Sun Valley Restaurant Show and Shine in 1999, in Winnipeg. He didn't place first in anything during the Winnipeg edition of Performance With Pride in 2001, but he more or less stole the show at Saskatoon just two months later.
In 2002, Mallow says he plans to attend one of the bigger U.S. shows, probably in Wildwood, Fla., in the fall. He'll be making a return trip to Performance With Pride, and wants to go to Mission, B.C., as well for their big summer show. And hopes are still running high for an appearance at Truckworld 2002 in Toronto this fall.
The 1998 Freightliner Classic, which is the canvas for all this artwork, features a 500-hp 60 Series Detroit, turning a set of 3.90 rears through an 18-double-over transmission. Mallow owns the trailer too, a 2002 Great Dane reefer. Both are covered with lights and stainless steel for a really stunning appearance. The interior features an outstanding stereo system and tons of polished hardwood. Again, chrome and stainless steel compliment the décor rather than dominating the landscape.
Chester may be new to the show circuit, but he's no stranger to trucking. He's been at it for 25 years, and presently works with JP Transport, a 30-truck fleet based in Aubigny, Man. His outbound haul is usually either meat or french fries, and he comes back with produce of some description.
"I was getting a little tired of the same old stuff here in Canada, and I'd never run south of the border before," says the 43 year old Mallow. "So, I sold my Super-B's in December of 2000 and bought this outfit."
So far, he says he's doing really well and enjoying the change of pace.
"I'm enjoying driving again. Running in the States has opened up a whole new chapter in my life and my business," he says, adding with some conviction, "This will be the last truck I own, unless something pretty dramatic happens to the rates."