It was well before owner-operator Rick McClerkin of San Jose, CA was named Peterbilt Motors Co.'s ultimate SuperFan that he was at another big Peterbilt event: a 75th anniversary party he thought up and decided to throw for the truck maker in late October 2014.
That event ended up drawing together more than 350 Peterbilt trucks in Stockton, CA and featured a reunion of 120 past and present Peterbilt employees. More than 5,000 people came from around the world to see the trucks at the truck show and anniversary bash.
It was the kind of event you'd expect a real Peterbilt fanatic would have been behind. At the time, Rick had only been dating his now-fiancée, Kathy Cantaloube, about a month. She didn't know much about trucks and Peterbilt then, but she recognized the devotion he had to the brand — and it led her to fall for him.
"Just his loyalty to this brand, I love the passion that he has for Peterbilt," Kathy said. "And that's what made me fall in love with this guy, because he's so passionate about it. I love it."
"Since I've been with him, I've fallen in love with Peterbilt and the whole Peterbilt world," she went on to say. "And I told him if they ever had a contest for Peterbilt's biggest fan, he would totally win."
Well, she called it. At the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Peterbilt named Rick the company's ultimate SuperFan out of more than 1,500 people who entered the big contest. McClerkin took home the grand prize: a brand-new Peterbilt Model 567 Heritage, the envy of the show.
That truck, the one-millionth that Peterbilt has built since 1939, will find a home in the museum Rick founded called Roadway Trucks. It's dedicated to all things Peterbilt and traces back to Pete's predecessor company Fageol Motors, with a collection of more than 50,000 drawings, diagrams, brochures and more that are shared with enthusiasts and restorers like McClerkin working on their own dream trucks.
"A lot of my whole life has been Peterbilt, everything I can do," Rick said. "I go back as far as I can with the history; I go as deep as I can with collecting the brochures and the drawings, the trucks that I have, the plans that I have.
"I go as far as I can with it."
He's gone pretty far indeed. This isn't new for him — it started when he was a kid around five years old and got a chance to ride in a new Peterbilt, and it would stick with him. The truck at the time was a Peterbilt 351, and that's still his favorite model.
"Those were the trucks that were brand-new when I was a child," Rick recalled. The 351, whose design is reflected still in Peterbilt's current 389, "is the father of the Peterbilt mystique," he added.
From there, Rick was driving Peterbilt trucks even before he got his driver's license. His first job as a trucker was when he was 17.
His father had found a job in northern California where logging roads were being built way back when, and since it was off-road, he didn't need a license. He drove a Peterbilt hauling gravel used for the roads. "I didn't realize when I was young that pride was a factor, but I was amazed with big trucks and Peterbilt being the 'class of the industry,'" he said.
These days, in addition to his collection and museum — which offers members of the public tours by appointment on Saturdays — Rick, now 61, hauls sand, gravel, cement barriers and other construction materials mostly locally with his 2001 Model 379 that he bought new. It earns him a good living and allows him to get home every night.
And now that he's won the SuperFan contest, he's looking to the future and thinking of what's next.
"I've done truck shows before, and I want to do that again, maybe start a Peterbilt club someday. I've always had that ambition, and I kind of always wanted to wait till I was retired," Rick said. "Maybe this will give me a reason to retire."
Best of luck with your dreams, Rick, keep on truckin' — and keep it classy.