Trucks of all descriptions are brought together for a worthy cause

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Voluntown - posted Tue., May. 24, 2011
At the Drive to Survive, visitors admire a customized vehicle hybridized from a 1937 Ford dump truck by Jim Doak of Rhode Island. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
At the Drive to Survive, visitors admire a customized vehicle hybridized from a 1937 Ford dump truck by Jim Doak of Rhode Island. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Constitution Field in Voluntown turned into a dream come true on May 22, as trucks ranging from venerable antiques to slick custom jobs were brought together in support of ovarian cancer research.

A Jewett City Fire Department ladder truck stretched its ladder skyward at one end of the field, while a pristine century-old wood-paneled pickup truck sat at the end of a row of glistening 18-wheelers.

The second annual Drive to Survive attracted between 35 and 40 trucks this year, said organizer Belinda Wiese, though threatening skies kept some of last year’s exhibitors away. “These guys don’t like to get their trucks wet,” she said.

The unlikely combination of trucks and women’s cancer research was born out of a family tragedy, said Wiese. Her mother, Linda Shaw, died in 2005 of ovarian cancer. “This is in memory of her,” she said. “My daughter (Chelsey) loves big trucks.” It was Chelsey’s idea to hold a truck rally to honor her grandmother as well as to raise money to spread awareness of ovarian cancer through the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. She said this year's event netted a totalof $3,183.

Among the many exhibitors showing off their “babies” was Bob Smith of Wakefield, RI, who displayed his 100-year-old International Harvester pickup truck. Built primarily of lovingly-polished wood, it hearkened back to the day of the “horseless carriage,” resembling a horse-drawn wagon more than a motorized vehicle.

“I’ve owned it for about 20 years, but it took me 10 years to restore it – and a lot of elbow grease,” said Smith. “But it keeps you out of the barroom.”

“This was used primarily for farming,” said Kevin McCloskey, also of Wakefield. “If you had one of these, you were doing pretty good in life.” He showed the drive chain that connected the vehicle’s wheels to the small motor, explaining that it was similar to a bicycle chain.

McCloskey said that Smith has been his mentor in vehicle restoration. He’s currently working on a Hupmobile, one of only 500 manufactured in the first year of production.

“You have to have a passion,” McCloskey said of restoration work. “It’s a lot of work to keep these trucks around. But these trucks wouldn’t be here without these guys.”

Not far away, curious onlookers wondered what to make of a long, low, quirky “tow truck” set just inches off the ground. Jim Doak of West Kingston, RI, explained it used to be a 1937 Ford dump truck – until he got his hands on it.

Now, he’s hard pressed to describe what the vehicle is. “It’s a showpiece, basically,” Doak said. “It’s not a rat rod – those are mostly just thrown together. It’s a custom truck.” He said it took him two and a half years of three-hour days to transform the vehicle from its previous rundown state. “I had the keys to a junkyard,” he said.

Doak said he drove nine hours from a jalopy show in Pennsylvania to exhibit the truck in the Voluntown event.

Prizes were awarded at the event in a number of categories, including antique, unusual, pickup, dump and fire trucks.

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