Honoring The Past

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Honoring the past is something we take pride in here at 10-4 Magazine.  The latest and greatest “cool” stuff is fun to feature, too, but remembering where it came from is important for preserving trucking’s history and appreciating where we are today.  This month, we wanted to honor the past and feature not only a neat old (and rare) truck and its owner, who has a bunch of unique antique rigs, but also the man who took these pictures – our very own Erik “Big E” Sieben.  This month marks the third anniversary of his passing, so we dug out these old pictures, which he took back in 2009, that have never seen the light of day.  This month’s cover feature is dedicated to honoring the past – trucking’s past and 10-4 Magazine’s past, as well.

It all started when Bryan Martin at 4 State Trucks decided to host a truck show at his location in Joplin, MO.  The year before, in 2008, they hosted an invite-only customer appreciation event with about 30 trucks, and it was such a rousing success, they decided to do it again the following year and make it open to the public.  Held on October 9-10, 2009, this first-ever Guilty By Association Truck Show (GBATS) drew in about 100 trucks and was an amazing inaugural event, even though the weather was not always cooperative (rain plagued much of the show).  Our very own Erik Sieben (Big E) flew out to be a part of that first show by himself, but the rest of us here at 10-4 haven’t missed one since!

During the show, Erik met Dave Schroyer of Celina, OH who was there showing off this 1986 GMC General pictured here, along with the matching 1983 Peterbilt 359 he hauled it to the show with.  That first meeting of Erik was memorable for Dave, as it was for most people, because Erik could be quite obnoxious (for lack of a better word) when out and about.  Dave recounted the story to me in great detail, even though he had trouble remembering some other simple things from his past, which illustrates just how memorable and impressionable – good or bad – that first encounter was with Erik.

Walking up to Dave’s GMC and asking lots of questions, Erik eventually asked, “What else you got?”  Dave proceeded to answer the question by telling him about the various trucks he owned.  Erik was impressed but didn’t believe him.  He then asked Dave, “Why don’t I know you?”  Dave said, “I just work hard and don’t get out much, I guess.”  Then Erik asked him who he knew in Ohio, and Dave said he knew Jerry Howard, who also owned a bunch of neat old trucks.  Erik said, “Call him!”  So, Dave proceeded to dial up Jerry, and when he answered, Erik took the phone from Dave, told Jerry who he was, and then bluntly asked him, “Is this son-of-a-bitch for real?”

I’m sure that many of you out there are imagining this scene, and maybe even reliving times that Erik said (or did) some things you couldn’t believe.  He was kind of famous (or maybe infamous) for that.  Obviously, Jerry set Erik straight about Dave, because the two had dinner together that night.  When I asked Dave for his thoughts about that first meeting with Erik, he said, “Well, he bought me dinner that night, so I guess he made up for it.”

The next day, on a cloudy Sunday, after the show had ended, Dave and Bryan Martin drove Dave’s two trucks out to the Martin Family property just outside Joplin to do a photo shoot for their upcoming 2010 calendar.  Erik tagged along and did his own photo shoot that day, as well.  I am not sure why we never used these pictures, because I have always loved this truck.  Maybe it was just the way it was all supposed to go – these pictures were tucked away on a hard drive for 13 years and were meant to be held and used later to honor our friend’s memory after his passing (cancer took his life on August 9, 2019).  Whatever the reason, I think these pictures (and this story) are extra special.

Trucking goes back two generations in the Schroyer family, starting with his grandfather, who owned a small grocery store just outside Celina in Tama, OH.  His grandpa used huckster wagons to make deliveries from the store in the 1930s or 40s.  When Dave’s dad graduated from high school, he already had two trucks of his own.  In the late 1950s, he formed Schroyer Inc. and began hauling livestock and poultry products.  The company eventually quit hauling livestock, and made liquid fertilizer, anhydrous ammonia, and propane their main commodities.

Born in 1959 in Canton, OH, Dave is the second oldest of six children.  Along with Dave, his older sister Cindy and his younger brother Craig all went on to work in the family business.  Most of his other siblings did not get involved, but one of Dave’s other brothers owns his own trucking outfit and does do some hauling for the Schroyer’s business.  Dave remembers moving trucks around at nine years old, and at 14 years old he hauled his first load down the highway.  Working in the shop from a young age, he got his license at 16 years old, then began driving full time after graduating high school in 1978.  The first truck he drove was a conventional GMC 9500 with a 238 Detroit 6-71, hooked to a 5-speed transmission, with a 2-speed rear end.

While growing up, Dave’s parents were always busy working and never took time off, but once Dave started working full time, they began taking vacations and leaving him in charge of the business.  Eventually, he took the company over and built it up to 25 trucks.  In 2012, with 15 trucks and 15 owner operators, they sold all their trucks and trailers to a company they had been working with since 1986 called Grammer Industries in Grammer, IN (a trucking company that hauls the same commodities the Schroyer’s did for all those years).  Retaining their property, Dave and his two siblings were hired on at Grammer as employees, and today they continue to run the operation for them.

The family company, Schroyer Inc., does still exists, but today it only has a few trucks that work locally, along with a shop and a couple employees, and over 30 amazing antique trucks.  Dave’s love for old trucks came after he and his dad went to an auction around 1980 or 1981 and purchased a 1919 Model T Ford and then restored it.  Dave still owns this truck, but sadly, his father passed away in 2008.

Other notable trucks in the large Schroyer collection include a rare 1948 Peterbilt with an integral sleeper, a 1931 Kenworth, a 1928 Model A Ford, a 1915 International, a 1962 GMC “Crackerbox” cabover with factory air ride on the front and rear, and a 1957 GMC DR 800 (also with factory air ride).  They also have a 1962 REO cabover, a 1963 Peterbilt, a 1925 AC Mack, a 1985 Mack UltraLiner Magnum cabover (only 64 of these were ever made), and the previously mentioned 1983 Peterbilt 359, powered by a 400 Cummins, with only 470,000 original miles.  And this is not even half of what he owns!

Along with all these other antique trucks mentioned, Dave also owns the unique 1986 GMC “5-Star” General featured here.  Powered by a 475-hp 8V92 Silver Detroit hooked to a 13-speed transmission, the truck is also fitted with a factory installed 60” Bentz walk-in sleeper.  When ordered with the 60” sleeper, other options were available, and this truck has them, including dual rectangular headlights (they were usually round), and a metal grill with eleven horizontal chrome bars (the typical grill was plastic and had eight vertical bars).  Dave has never seen another GMC General with these options but is certain they were from the factory.  Rumor has it GMC was getting ready to release a new truck and these items were prototypes for it.  Which makes sense, based on the truck’s history.

At the beginning of its life, this GMC General was used by General Motors on their test track in California.  After that, it went to an automobile race team.  Dave bought it from a guy named Lowell Austin in August 2008, and Lowell claimed to have bought it from a dealer out west.  To this day, the truck only has 134,000 miles on it!  When Dave bought the GMC it only had 125,000 miles on it, so it would be hard to imagine that too many people (if any) owned it between the race team and Lowell.  And if they did, they did not work it full time.  After purchasing the truck, Dave actually plated it for a year and then ran it locally for a few months.

Not long after getting the truck, Dave had it painted in the signature Schroyer two-tone blue and black colors, and then added a few shiny parts, including polished half fenders over the drive tires and a new Valley Chrome front bumper with extra lights.  He also had RoadWorks make him custom stainless drop panels for the cab and sleeper with extra lights, as well.  But Dave doesn’t like to deviate from stock too far, so most of it was left alone.  The truck is equipped with a top-of-the-line interior which includes the original carpet, a tilt steering column, electric windows on both sides, a built-in ash tray and cigarette lighter on top of the dash, wood cabinets in the sleeper, and a Delco radio and cassette player, mounted overhead, to provide the tunes.  All Dave did inside the cab was change the seats because the ones in there did not match.

The GMC General was made from 1977 to 1987, and the 60” sleeper was not offered until 1986, so as you can imagine, there probably were not many built.  Back in those days, all GMC franchises were required to sell and service their entire line of vehicles, including medium and heavy-duty trucks, RVs, and school buses, along with the passenger vehicles.  This became one of the reasons GMC eventually stopped making big trucks altogether in 1988 after entering into a joint venture with Volvo, who had bought White Motor Company in 1980.  This joint venture created trucks, but most of them were badged under the Volvo-White name, but the history here is murky and confusing.  Long story short – the General was discontinued in 1987.

Currently, this GMC General, along with a few of Dave’s other antiques, are on display at the museum at the Iowa 80 Truck Stop in Walcott, IA.  If you happen to be passing through Walcott on I-80, stop and check it out.  The museum is filled with rare and unique old trucks, and it is very nice.  So, who restores all these trucks?  Almost half of the old trucks in the Schroyer fleet were refurbished completely by Dave’s uncle, Vern Homan.  Vern drove for Dave’s dad for 40 years, running the same haul, which put him on the road for three days a week.  On the other days, he started working on their old trucks, and eventually that just became his job.  Today, his son Rob (Dave’s cousin) helps out, along with another young man.  Vern is now 80 years old, so he is definitely slowing down a bit, but they still do everything in-house except for paint.

In addition to running the trucking company for Grammer Industries, playing with old trucks, and running a few local loads under the Schroyer Inc. name, Dave also has a small trailer leasing business.  Most of his trailers are fertilizer tank trailers and grain hoppers – about 40 of them in total – and he leases them to local outfits during the busy seasons.  Dave also has a museum trailer that he pulls to various shows all around the country.  This 1970 Great Dane is filled with all sorts of trucking pictures and memorabilia.  His dad pulled it with a two-tone blue 1975 A Model Kenworth for years, but now that he is gone, Dave just pulls it with whatever he decides to hook to it.  This cool combination was even featured in an installment of “Old Time Trucks” in 10-4 Magazine back in April 2007.

Married to his wife Toni for over 20 years, the couple has no children.  When I asked him what the plan was for the company and all his restored trucks when he decides to retire (or God forbid worse), he said, “It is difficult and complicated.”  Toni worked for a bank for over 20 years and then semi-retired.  She now spends her time working with the Secretary of State, helping with the Board of Elections in her county, and really enjoys it.

This neat old GMC General evokes a lot of emotion from the old timers who see it.  Many of them drove one of these rigs, or one very similar to it, throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and Dave says it actually drives very nice.  I am glad we were finally able to share these pictures and this story about Dave with our readers.  Honoring the past is important to us, and Dave Schroyer is a guy who is doing just that by preserving these old trucks, just like we are keeping the memory of our friend, Erik “Big E” Sieben, alive in our thoughts and hearts by sharing these pictures from our past.

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