02 July 2012
Party time at Truckfest - Celebrating 30 years of the UK's premier truck show ...
There can hardly be a collector of diecast model trucks who has not at some time attended one of the several Truckfest shows held both in the UK and Ireland every year. Quite aside from the spectacle of some of the best-prepared and finished trucks in the country, the shows are also generally supported by a number of diecast manufacturers and retailers and can be a very good place to find an elusive model or possibly a real bargain. This year sees Truckfest celebrating its 30th anniversary so we thought it would be of interest to take a brief look at how Britain’s premier truck event has developed over the years.
A changing image
Colin Ward was always destined to work with trucks in one form or another. His entire family were involved in the road haulage business – his cousin owned a fleet of lorries, his brother and father were both drivers and even the father of his business partner, Robert Limming, at one time drove trucks in Canada!
Way back in the early 1980s Colin’s brother remarked on a change in the road transport industry. It was a subtle change but a very important one. Lorry drivers were becoming truck drivers! Casting aside the rather grubby, dirty image, hauling 40 tons of juggernaut around was becoming a skilled vocation. Perhaps inspired by films like ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ and ‘Convoy’, which gave them a more macho image, drivers were starting to take a real pride in their vehicles and were going to enormous lengths to ensure they were smartly presented. This gave Colin the idea to put on a show specifically for trucks and truck drivers. Way before anyone else had coined the term ‘fest’, Colin launched the very first ‘Truckfest’ in 1983. The rest, as they say, is history!
Early days at Newark
The very first show was staged on the showground at Newark. It was chosen because it had two old runways surrounding it which provided a perfect hard-standing area for parking and driving trucks. Many other showgrounds without such a facility were reluctant to allow such large vehicles onto their sites. With the date fixed for Easter 1983, Colin and Robert set about inviting the truck industry to take part. But the response from the dyed in the wool, conservative truck manufacturing companies was disappointing. In fact the only truck manufacturer to take part was a Mercedes dealership – beginning an association between ‘Truckfest’ and Mercedes that continues to this day.
Fortunately the truck drivers were more enthusiastic! Although they had no idea whether it would work Colin and Robert decided to hold a ‘Concours d’Elegance’ for current working trucks as well as classic and historic vehicles. Without the benefit of modern day mobile communications and email, they cleverly set about marketing the show using CB radio and then hoped that word of mouth would spread the news amongst the trucking community. They needn’t have worried because the very first ‘Truckfest’ attracted almost 200 working trucks and their drivers, all of which took part in a ‘convoy’. The event was a huge success and paved the way for a bigger and better show the next year.
Peterborough hosts ‘Truckfest 2’
The truck industry was now far more supportive but lobbied for a timing change to slightly later in the year, mainly due to the vagaries of the English weather. The early May Bank Holiday was chosen but sadly this was too close to the long-established Newark and Notts Show and so an alternative venue had to be found.
The East of England Showground just south down the A1 at Peterborough welcomed ‘Truckfest’ with open arms and there the show blossomed into the enormous annual event it has become today. Such was the early success that the show concept has expanded and today there are ‘Truckfest’ shows in Ireland, Scotland and at Shepton Mallet in the West Country. Last year as a special one-off there was also welcome return to Newark for an Autumn Show to kick-off the 30th Anniversary. Again it was a hugely successful show and now looks set to become a permanent addition to the calendar.
Entertainment and celebrity play important roles
Since the first event in 1983, the road haulage industry in the UK has seen massive changes. During tough times for the industry ‘Truckfest’ has provided a constant support and a meeting place for all those with an interest. But it is far more than just an industry ‘bash’ and ‘Truckfest’ has always been proud to present true family entertainment. Spectacles like the Pirelli Pro-Jet jet truck, or in 1992 the first UK appearance of a Bigfoot monster truck, are typical attractions. Celebrity has always played an important role too, from the very first show, where Lewis Collins of ‘The Professionals’ fame made a guest appearance to modern times where stars like Lisa Kelly from ‘Ice Road Truckers’ have proved to be massively popular.
But at the end of the day the popularity and success of ‘Truckfest’ is down to the hauliers that take part and, despite the economic conditions competitor entries have been increasing year on year throughout the current recession. The standards of finish and detailing are constantly improving and the battle for prizes is as competitive as ever. The show appears to be as relevant and important to the industry today as it was 30 years ago and the future looks bright! Role on ‘Truckfest 50’!
Corgi ‘Truckfest’ range
With the ever-increasing levels of detailing and custom paint jobs being applied to the trucks competing for the prestigious Truckfest awards, Corgi saw an opportunity to showcase some of the latest techniques in diecast decoration by replicating some of these fantastic trucks in diecast form.
In 2004 it entered into an agreement with the organisers and launched a 1/50 scale ‘Truckfest’ range. This featured only the tractor units but selected some of the most impressive entries from the Truckfest competitions. Many of the models used a combination of mask spraying, tampo printing and the very latest decaling techniques to replicate the intricate finish of the originals. Extra chrome work in the form of light bars, exhausts crash bars and other accessories added a finishing touch to a really prestigious range of models.
Of particular note were the Scania T Cabs. Relatively few of these impressive units were sold in the UK because the extra length of the cab restricted the length of the load it could haul legally on the UK roads. However, many were purchased for the prestige and ‘wow’ factor, with showing in mind almost as much as working. Over the years many have been traded on the secondhand market and re-liveried for the ‘Truckfest’ shows where they are always a popular attraction. Corgi’s model is available in several variants and makes an equally impressive and popular 1/50 scale model.
The Truckfest range is now no longer produced by Corgi so these models may well become highly collectable in the future. DC