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Unity 1 Turns 7

by Jim Park

J.S. Crawford and Son's Unity 1 has been on the show circuit for seven years now, but you'd hardly guess that it hadn't just rolled out of the paint shop. There are a few little nicks and dings on it, but you really have to look for them. Bill Aylesworth, Unity 1's captain, keeps a pretty close eye on things, spending a great deal of his own time applying the necessary spit and polish - even when there isn't a show on the agenda.

Aylesworth says he's not sure how many coats of paint it took to get that jet-black background, but there are seven coats of lacquer over top, which he figures must be wearing a little thin by now thanks to his polishing arm. He says there's somewhere between 1600 and 1700 hours of work in the murals alone. Last year, during Truck World 2002, Unity 1 was parked a stone's throw away from a spectacular, brand new unit called Dragon Master. The J.S. Crawford truck turned just as many heads because, unlike the new kid on the block, Unity 1 has worked nearly every day of the past seven years - and it has over half a million miles on the clock to prove it.

The J.S. Crawford people (soon to be known as Creek Bank Consolidated Motor Freight, following their recent amalgamation with Apps Transport, both of Mississauga, Ont.) wanted to do something a little different to celebrate their 10th anniversary. To commemorate the event, they commissioned an artist to create a rolling tribute to the two countries the company operates in. The Toronto-to-New York/New Jersey corridor was J.S. Crawford and Son's specialty back in the late 1980s, so the two themes highlight that aspect of the operation. But following discussions with a few paint shops and artists, the idea was shelved because of the cost.

A few generous sponsors stepped forward, including, among others, Dupont, ArvinMeritor, and Trailmobile, and the project went ahead. The graphics and clear-coating were done by Body by Briggs and the painting was done by Image Makers, both of Orillia, Ont. The artwork depicts scenes round-trip from Toronto to New York City and back again, beginning with the driver's side of the tractor. The CN Tower, Nathan Philips Square (Toronto's city hall), and the Ontario Legislature building figure prominently. Further along the van, there are images of Niagara Falls, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the NYC skyline.

The interior of the truck remains a work in progress. They didn't start on the inside until it was three years old, but the first bit they did was to cut two holes in the rear wall of the sleeper and add two storage areas equal to the depth of the sleeper fairings. That's where Aylesworth now keeps the microwave and fridge, as well as a few cupboards. There's a sofa along the back wall, with oak cabinets throughout. A couple of years after that, they added a hardwood floor. The chrome trim in the cab and on the dash has been added-to over the years, and presently every gauge, switch, and button in there is dripping with chrome.

The Winner's Circle

Unity 1 has collected a pile of first place trophies over the years, beginning in 1996 with people's choice plus best paint and chrome at Truckfest in Kitchener, Ont., and best of show and best mural at the Waupun Truckers' Jamboree in Waupun, Wis. Then in 1997, it picked up best paint and mural combination at Mid-America in Louisville, Ky. The biggest win of all was the Shell Super Rigs contest in Walcott, Iowa in 2000; they made the calendar that year.

Aylesworth says he much prefers the low-pressure shows like the Fergus Truck Show (July 25-27 in Fergus, Ont.), and the Waupun Trucker's Jamboree (Aug. 8-9, this year in Waupun, Wis).

"I never worry about how we place, although I do like to win," he grins. "I don't have much time for those big shows any more, like Louisville. There's just too much emphasis on winning, and besides, we'd look pretty much like a sow's ear down there today. I can't imagine where those guys get the time or the money to keep those trucks going."

Aylesworth has been trucking for more than 30 years, and as a former owner-operator, he's under no illusion about what it takes to keep a show truck in contending condition. He's seen all the bills, and he just shakes his head.

"When they picked me to run the truck, I was thrilled, of course," he says. "I put a lot of my own time into it, and I'm really proud to say I've been part of it. I wouldn't want to count the hours, but it sure has been fun."

If you happen to catch Aylesworth at a show, you'll find him in his element. He's got a real gift for the gab, and just loves to pass the time with anyone who has questions about the truck. He's got seven years worth of photos in a scrapbook, and he's looking at collecting seven more.

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