We just got back from a visit to the Volo Auto Museum () in Volo, Ill. While we were there, we sat down with President of Sales Jay Grams and discovered that many of the 1,000 vehicles Volo sells annually are pickup trucks, panel trucks, stake bed trucks and sedan deliveries.
Grams buys and sells the vehicles that Volo sells. On a personal level, he is not a truck enthusiast himself, but he’s very enthusiastic about how small trucks are selling. The trucks that people buy from Volo range from Model T Fords to 1980s Chevrolets. Some are totally stock and others are modified.
Small trucks also showed up at the American Truck Historical Society’s () 2017 convention in Des Moines, Iowa. However, big trucks were much more popular there. The 435-acre Iowa State Fairgrounds hosted about 1,270 trucks and most were of the “Motor Carrier” (tractor trailer) variety.
Big trucks also dominated the ATHS Southern Wisconsin Chapter Meet at Baraboo, Wis., a week after the Des Moines convention. Out of the just-over-100 trucks at the show, the bulk were “big rigs,” with a couple of large dump trucks and tow trucks tossed in for good measure. Even a few rat rods showed up.
Another place we saw tractor trailers on display earlier this year was at the Milwaukee “World of Wheels” in late February. For the past few years, this event has included a long row of semis. This year the “big rig” area grew a second row.
Why are trucks getting so popular with collectors? Think of it like this: In 1998, the automotive world underwent an historic change that has had a major effect for the past 18 years. That was the year that Wards Automotive Yearbook reported that more trucks than passenger cars were produced in North America.
That was the first time automobile factories built more trucks than cars and it was—at least so far—a permanent change. Out of a total of 16,032,875 vehicles manufactured in 1998, 8,102,907 were trucks, Moreover, in 2014 and 2015, truck production surpassed 10,000,000 units, while the car count was just over 7,000,000 in each of those years. Since 1951, passenger car production crested 10,000,000 only five times: in 1965, 1972, 1973, 1977 and 1978.
All of this helps to explain the swing towards trucks, but there are other factors. Truck collectors are friendly and talented and usually don’t worry a great deal if their rigs are changed from factory specs. Truck collectors share parts and restoration tips. They also share the common goal of bringing old workhorses back to life. And if you’re careful not to scratch paint or dent sheet metal, trucks can also be used to bring big items home from the “big box” store.