Still Hammerin’
Rob Fortier headshot
Style … Full Circle

hile I’m a tad bit young to be a true “first-gen” classic trucker, I have been around and involved since the hobby first started taking root. But my official involvement didn’t actually begin until what I consider the second phase—the classic truckin’ of the early ’90s when I started my career as a gearhead photojournalist. So, over the years, I’ve seen styles come and I’ve seen them go … some I Iiked, others I was glad to see them go! Ironically enough, as with pretty much every fad, many, if not most, of those earlier trends have come back in style!

Back in the late ’80s into the early ’90s, Pro Street was all the rage: Full-girth Mickey Thompsons, aka Sweet Meats, wrapping a set of Convo-Pros or Weld Drag Stars tucked up under the rear of bright yellow (or red/blue/green) ’56 F-100s were the staple of the hobby at the time. Crazy graphics were just about to hit the scene—but before that, custom painters got busy with all kinds of interpretive designs: splash/wet flames, scallops, simulated granite, you name it. (Many loved it … I thought most of it was gross!) At the time, mini-truckers were doing their thing—big time—but I’ll touch back on that later.

But once the wheel diameters began to grow past the 14-/15-inch norm, that’s really when the hobby began to change … and grow.

I remember seeing the first set of 17-inch billets that Boyd Coddington carved out and thought to myself, “those are insane!” Little did I know they would nearly double in size before too long! With the advent of the bigger billet wheels came a whole new era for classic trucks; SEMA builds were (and still are) all the rage, and an industry of its own was born and literally grew overnight. Boyd, Budnik, Billet Specialties, and Colorado Custom became household names. And it was at the same time that adjustable suspension—airbags—entered the scene … big time. If your truck wasn’t bagged, well, you were likely over 30!

As the hobby made its way into Y2K, it seemed like the hobby as a whole began to shift, both from a truck styling perspective as well as the types and ages of people building and owning them. I took an extended leave of absence (from a magazine aspect) in the early 2000s, and when I came back officially shortly before launching Classic Truck Performance, boy were things different!

Not only was the scene bigger and more diverse than ever, there were so many new faces and names (to me), that I almost didn’t recognize the hobby I was once fully immersed in! A number of those aforementioned mini-truckers were now major players in the game, and the level of trucks build-wise was beyond what I’d ever imagined it could be. That said, there was yet another element of classic truckin’ that I’d never expected, either.

It’s 2022, and guess what’s back “in vogue”? Yep, Pro Street and all those early trends I was glad to see disappear at the time. But oddly enough, whether I’ve matured or my style palette has broadened, I’m kinda digging on both! I doubt I’ll ever own a lavishly graphic illustrated OBS … but a Pro Street Squarebody? Highly likely!

(Editor’s note: Just as I finished this editorial, I opened up the ol’ ’gram to learn the terrible news of the death of one of the key figures in the classic truck world, and one of my earliest mentors, Steve Stillwell. This editorial is dedicated to him … may you rest in peace, Steve.)