“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without the work.” -Emile Zola.
Pictures just don‘t do justice to “The Godfather.”
One of the last 1,000 Peterbilt 379 highway tractors (No. 27 to be precise - a number emblazoned on this truck‘s nose), the Peterbilt of Louisiana dealership ordered it from the factory on a monstrous 320-inch wheelbase, equipped with a 600-horsepower Caterpillar engine and 18-speed Eaton Fuller manual transmission featuring TWO sticks. Lean, low, and clean, “The Godfather” is a sleek machine styled with a 1930s gangster look, with deftly rounded wheel wells and subtle black and tan paint job.
This artistic truck is the brainchild of Scott St. Germain, one of the many unseen designers that work for the famous “Chrome Shop Mafia” out of 4 State Trucks in Joplin, MO, whom you've probably seen on TV. I talked with him and fellow chrome hand Gailand Johnston at the Technology & Maintenance Council last week about this latest example of their “rolling art” handiwork.
(Left to right: Scott St. Germain, Gailand Johnston)
“The Godfather” is meant to promote the talents of the CSM at trade shows and other public venues (like they really need it - doesn‘t EVERYONE know who they are by now?) even though, in comparison to the many other trucks they‘ve tricked out, this one features a much more low-key design. Ah, but it‘s packed with details, if you spend a few moments looking for them.
On the back of the sleeper, for example, Bryan “The Don” Martin (known as the "Bossman" on the show) is portrayed in the middle of his “gang” attired in a three piece suit while flipping a coin. Look closely at the coin, and you‘ll read “In The Boyz We Trust.” The pin striping down the nose and side of the cab is also unique, crafted by Ryan “Ryno” Templeton, the TV show‘s acknowledges paint master.
“The Godfather” doesn‘t lack for gizmos, either - the long-slung front bumper can be raised with the flip or a switch, as can the chrome-plated cover on the chassis between the sleeper and the fifth wheel - opening up like a coffin, though the CSM crew decided at the last minute not to go the distance with that graveyard touch by adding a fake body inside the cover.
It‘s a classic piece of work, but one that almost didn‘t come to life due to the backlog of work at the CSM shop. “This truck sat in our shop for weeks, wrapped up as we were in other projects,” Johnston told me. All told, it took about eight weeks of work to bring “The Godfather” to life - time accumulated in fits and starts. That includes the unusual design for the truck‘s trailer, supplied by Monon, IN-based trailer maker Vanguard.
St. Germain told me that the best thing about “tricking” out trucks versus cars is that there‘s simply so much more room to work with. “With a car, you‘ve got to force everything down into this small interior space; then you have limited exterior area for the paint and art you want to do,” he said. “Trucks are just so big, you can really do almost anything you want. It takes a lot longer because of its size, but the end result just pops.”
St. Germain also did the lead design work for BP Castrol‘s truck makeover contest last year, and will probably repeat that effort again in 2008. Both he and Johnston also epitomize truck chrome and flash fabricators, too - laid back, gregarious, yet modest about their accomplishments. They take obvious pride and joy in their line of work, getting paid to do what originally started out as a VERY expensive private hobby, and they also relish the opportunity to get out in the public eye to show off what they can do.
You‘ll see this truck around in 2008, at truck stops and other trucking events - keep an eye out for it and make sure you to talk to St. Germain and Johnston if you can, for half the fun is getting a backstage view, if you will, about how these designs come to life.