Heavy Metal, Heavy Workload
by Jim Park
Lying on the ground, soaked to the bone and covered in grease, Mike Cheslock was cleaning the backs of his fuel tanks when some bystander at the recent Dupont Show and Shine in Toronto mused aloud, "What the heck is he doing?"
"There's no way to defend what we do," he acknowledges. "It's just about bragging rights for a year. That's all it is."
Aside from the tractor, Mike's six-axle trailer has a dozen wheels to polish, and a dozen tires to letter and turn in preparing for a show, taking him way over the top in terms of workload. His friends think he's completely bent, and he doesn't disagree.
Mike has had trucking in his bones since he was 12, thanks to a family friend, Wayne Schumm, a driver with FAG Bearings in Stratford, Ont., who'd haul young Mike around on his days off school. He wrote his Class 'A' licence test on his 18th birthday and bought his truck six years later, eventually hooking up with IFS International Freight Systems in Tilbury, Ont. He now hauls steel around the Great Lakes region.
Mike got hooked on showing his truck after seeing the pictures of other show trucks in magazines. He figured he could do as good a job as them, and did keep a clean truck, so he started with the Fergus Truck Show a few years back.
"It's a little embarrassing to think what the truck looked like then," he says. "A can of Tremclad, a good wash, and some new nut covers were all I could manage at first. Every year I get a little better, but so does everyone else. The competition just keeps getting stiffer."
And staying ahead of the competition is what it's all about, so he's been adding to the truck steadily over a few years. So far he's earned 11 firsts, and one second, in two years of showing around southern Ontario.
The truck, called Heavy Metal, is a 1995 Peterbilt 379 on a 270-in. wheelbase. He says he'd go out to 370 if he could get a way with it, then hire a shunt truck for the tight spots. He's got a 475 Cat in the engine room, which he admits is a bit light for what he does. He's not at all ashamed of the way it pulls, though, saying that it may take a bit to get it rolling, but it smokes at cruise speed. His 18-double-over and 3.55 rears see to that.
The exterior is adorned with stainless-steel air cleaners and light bars, oversize stacks, a custom sun visor and a few 'extra' air horns. He's got the big Texas-style bumper, and three neat blue Peterbilt emblems on the hood and grille, rather than the standard red ones.
Inside the cab you'll find a hardwood floor, and the gunstock hardwood trim that's becoming popular. All the controls are chrome, stainless, or brushed aluminum, and he's got several hand-made bits of stainless trim around the CB that you won't see anywhere else.
The trailer is a six-axle Lode King flatdeck with a full side-kit (all those aluminum posts are polished, too, by the way). Each and every axle is meticulously cleaned before a show, the wheels are all polished, and the tires are lettered and turned in proper show form. If you don't think that's a ton of work, you're mistaken. And he does it alone. The back of the trailer is trimmed in stainless, and of course, it's washed and polished before every show.
The truck itself is spectacular enough, but next time you see it, check out all the little nooks and crannies. You'll find no dirt anywhere. If nothing else, Mike Cheslock deserves to cart home a trophy for the hardest working trucker of the show.
Mike will be pulling a float in the Santa Claus parade in his hometown of Woodstock, about an hour west of Toronto, again this year just as he always has. It's become a tradition, and one he looks forward to with relish, mostly because 'the judges' aren't there just to see him.