The American Truck Historical Society’s National Convention & Truck Show

Posted by Chris Graham on 11th September 2023

Peter Langdon drove his 1964 Autocar DC-100 to Reno, Nevada, for the American Truck Historical Society’s National Convention & Truck Show.

National Convention & Truck Show

Peter Langdon’s 1964 Autocar DC-100 photographed during the 115-mile drive to on its way to the American Truck Historical Society’s National Convention & Truck Show in Reno, Nevada.

The route from our home in northern California, (800 ft. elevation) took us up over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Reno. The first 60 miles or so is on two-lane roads, then we merged onto Interstate 80. Shortly after getting onto 80, we crested the famous Donner Summit, (elevation 7,700 ft.). Driving the Autocar without pulling a loaded trailer over Donner is easy. But, with a loaded truck, it can be a challenge to the driver’s skill even with having engine, (Jacobs), brakes and a multi-lane Interstate to drive on. This is particularly true in the winter when heavy snow is common.

National Convention & Truck Show

2023 Kenworth W900L Limited Edition.

Once past Donner Summit and the town of Truckee, we eventually dropped down into the Truckee Meadows and the ‘Biggest Little City in the World’, Reno, Nevada, at 4,650 ft. elevation. The reason for the trip was to attend the annual American Truck Historical Society Convention & Truck Show that was being held there.

National Convention & Truck Show

Rolls-Royce Merlin Test Trailer.

Every year the American Truck Historical Society (ATHS), holds a major convention and truck show. It’s held around the first week of June, but the location changes each year, rotating between the eastern, central and western geographical areas of the USA. This gives owners of antique trucks and show visitors the chance to attend one relatively close to where they live. Because of the vast size of the United States, a show can be many hundreds or even over a 1,000 miles from where a possible entrant or visitor lives. Even so, a few do make the trips across country to attend a show.

National Convention & Truck Show

1923 Mack AB.

The shows are usually held at large outdoor facilities, such as State Fairgrounds, because a lot of room is needed for between 700 and 1,000 trucks and various other exhibits. All trucks are welcome, from pick-ups to semis, (artics) as well as truck and trailer combinations. Most of the trucks displayed ranged in age from the early 20th century up to ones less than 30 years old. But there were also a few much newer vehicles on display, too. Of course, with the show being presented by ATHS, the older trucks are more prominent.

National Convention & Truck Show

1923 Packard E.

This year it was the Western region’s turn to host the event, and Reno, Nevada, was chosen as the venue. The Convention and Show took place on June 8th-10th, and was staged at the Grand Sierra Resort (GSR). A big plus with this location is that the hotel and restaurants are on site. With most of the outdoor locations, the hotels can be a few miles from the show ground. The GSR had plenty of room to park 800+ trucks, and multiple meeting rooms for indoor exhibits and sales tables plus truck parking. The exhibits included presentations about trucks and the trucking industry.

National Convention & Truck Show

1935 Custom Diamond T.

Probably the most notable was the one organised by Kenworth. The company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and, apart from a large historic display, it was also showcasing the first of its new, 2023, limited-edition (just 100) W900 models. It’s styled like the older W900 trucks, but has modern electronics and emission-compliant engines. This is necessary so they can be legally operated in commercial service in all 50 States.  

National Convention & Truck Show

1936 Chevrolet.

The two most prominent makes on display were Kenworth and Peterbilt, which wasn’t a surpise as both manufacturers started out in the western US. There were so many beautiful examples of their vehicles on display that it was just about impossible to pick a favourite. However, one notable Kenworth was Paul Cox’s 1979 K100 Aerodyne; he moved to the US from England just like I did. Hopefully, our 1974 Kenworth K100 will be joining them at a future national show. There were also excellent examples of trucks from other manufacturers, including Mack, Freightliner, International, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and GMC. Also, makes that are no longer in production, such as Autocar, White, Diamond T, Sterling, Marmon, Hayes from Canada and Reo. 

National Convention & Truck Show

1946 Chevy three-quarter ton.

The final count of registered entrants was 860 trucks (according the latest information I have). Most of the entrants were from the western States, but there were also a lot of mid-western and eastern trucks on display. This made for a good variety, because there are some design differences between eastern and western trucks (up until recent times). Probably the most notable one is the front axle location of some conventional trucks.

National Convention & Truck Show

1948 Autocar DC-100.

Western conventional trucks at this time usually had the front axles set far forward. The eastern ones usually had the axles set back more, like European trucks. The set-back axles provided better manoeuvrability while the longer wheelbase, because of the forward-set axles, made for a better ride. Also, the roads in the east – particularly in urban areas – tended to be more crowded and often narrower than the roads out west. So manoeuvrability was a higher priority than ride quality. 

National Convention & Truck Show

1949 Diamond T 201.

The show was attended by visitors from all over the world, not just the US and Canada. This made for interesting conversations about the trucks and trucking in general between the different nationalities. Australia, in particular, was well represented. In fact, the ATHS has a lot of Australian members. I was told there were a few attendees from the UK. But, unfortunately, I didn’t come across any of them.

National Convention & Truck Show

1950 Peterbilt 350.

As usual there were other interesting vehicles to look at, including custom golf carts looking like small trucks. One of them was an old aircraft tug doing duties as a golf cart! There were also a couple of special-interest displays, like the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine test trailer. 

1951 Federal.

As well as looking at the trucks and spending money at the various vendors, visitors also enjoyed some very interesting presentations during the show. These were each about one hour long, with topics ranging from the history of certain Kenworth trucks, to an insight of what it’s like to be involved in logging in the Pacific North West. As with all truck shows, it wasn’t just about viewing trucks, but also meeting old and new friends and sharing stories and experiences with each other. Next year’s show is going to be in York, Pennsylvania, and will be held on June 6th-8th. For those interested in American trucks, particularly older ones, it will be well worth attending, and you can find out more by clicking HERE

1952 White 300.


1953 Diamond T Custom.


1955 Peterbilt 350.


1956 Bullnose Kenworth.


1965 Kenworth 923.


1966 Peterbilt 351. 1952 Sterling-White on the right.


1969 Mack R-611T.


1971 Diamond Reo.


1975 Dodge Big Horn.


1978 Kenworth LW-900.

This report comes from the latesrt issue of Heritage Commercials, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE


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