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Mickey Gwillim is a show trucker. He and his brother Scott operate Gwillim Trucking, Inc., a third generation family operation founded in 1936 and based in Carlinville, Ill. They have a championship show truck: a lime green customized Peterbilt 359 with a Great Dane spread axle trailer.
Last year, the brothers hosted the first-ever World of Large Cars show truck meeting. It wasn’t a show in the traditional sense. There were no judges, no trophies and no call for “Rags down!” About 50 show trucks were there for a weekend of food, music and, above all, camaraderie.
Bette Garber, arguably the finest photographer of trucks in North America, if not the world, attended the first World of Large Cars in 2008. She was “completely blown away” by the interaction among the truckers in the casual, pressure-free environment of the show. It immediately became one of her favorites.
Among the drivers Mickey became friendly with at truck shows across the country, Jake Eilen stood out. The oldest of three sons who made up Eilen & Sons, Hampton, Minn., Jake came on the show truck scene in 2003 and promptly won a coveted place in the Shell Super Rigs calendar.
Last November, Bette lost a battle with pneumonia and Jake died in a single car crash near his home. Former champion show trucker Kim Grimm, an associate of Garber’s, and Bob Guy, also a champion and past president of the National Association of Show Trucks, approached Mickey Gwillim with the idea of dedicating this year’s World of Large Cars to Bette and Jake. He readily agreed.
Bette’s family, the Friedmans, came from Chicago, Pennsylvania and even California. The Eilens came from Minnesota with Jake’s pride and joy, his black 2007 Peterbilt 379 with its unique red ghost flames mated to its black 2007 Mac trailer.
Special activities at the World of Large Cars honored Jake and Bette. A video presentation with highlights of their lives was shown at the Macoupin County Fair Grounds, site of the gathering. An auction of trucking gear raised more than $5,200, split between each one’s favorite charity. Rockwood Products donated various interior panels, and Truck-Lite gave a set of their new LED headlights. More than a dozen industry suppliers donated gift certificates, apparel and assorted truck gear.
Thanks to the Gwillims, Bob Guy and Kim Grimm, show truckers got together for a fitting tribute to Bette and Jake that showed the esteem each earned within the show truck community and the entire trucking industry.