If you like trucks, the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum has them, with more than 120 trucks of all sizes, types, makes and models. The museum grew out of Iowa 80 Truckstop founder Bill Moon’s personal collection of over 65 trucks. His dream of a trucking museum was brought to life by his wife Caroline and his son and daughter after he died in 1992.
“In 2004 we built a 14,400-sq. ft building that was essentially a storage shed,” says Dave Meier, Iowa 80 Trucking Museum curator and Moon’s son-in-law. “In 2007 we added a visitor center, and we keep adding display space. Today we are over 100,000 sq. ft.”
The original 120 by 120-ft. building is now 500 ft. long with a 160 by 200-ft. addition to one side. The clear-span buildings showcase the trucks with ample space for visitors viewing them. Trucks on display are often rare and one-of-a-kind. Others are simply examples of the role trucks have played in industry, agriculture and transportation.
Exhibits also include toy trucks, petroleum-related equipment and signs, trucking company hat pins, chauffeur badges and license plate tags. Visitors can view short films about trucking history in the REO theatre.
Trucks on exhibit range from a 1903 Eldridge, believed to be the first truck manufactured in the United States, to a 1981 Kenworth K100. They are a mix of fully restored, lightly restored and used conditions. The museum’s 1910 Avery still has the original owner's name painted on the wood body.
“We have a 1925 Douglas with a Dempster well drilling rig on it that is unrestored, but it has so much character as is,” says Meier. “At some point, it was painted barn red, and homemade repairs were made. The cab is all wood, and the slatted wood roof had been covered with black tar roofing material. When that failed, the owner fastened tin over the top.”
Moon started his collection in the 1970’s. “Bill realized that old trucks were getting cut up for scrap and thought that was terrible,” says Meier. “He started buying them, which you could do then for their salvage value.”
The first truck Moon restored was a 1949 Brockway. He turned it over to a mechanic, who told his assistant to break it down.
“His assistant completely disassembled it,” relates Meier. “Since then, that is how we restore all our trucks. We go through everything.”
As the museum has become more well-known, some trucks have been loaned to the museum while others have been given outright. A family in Ohio donated a 1973 Diamond Reo that their father purchased new. When he died, his wife put the truck in a shed, and the family got it out once a year for about 25 years. They would wash it, drive it around and park it back in the shed.
“When their mother died, they called to ask if we wanted it,” says Meier. “They sent a picture, and it looked like new. It’s like a shrine to their dad.”
Meier notes that many of the trucks have stories attached. They can be seen on placards at the museum or the museum’s website and list of trucks on display. One such truck is the last Kenworth Bullnose ever built. When Ray O’Hanesian, a longtime friend of the Moons, ordered it in 1959, the Bullnose model had just been discontinued. However, the company still had the dies for the cab and honored the order.
O’Hanesian replaced the engine 12 times and swapped out several transmissions. He also shortened the wheelbase from 264 in. to 224 in. and raised the cab to make room for a larger radiator.
After he retired in the 1980’s, he continued driving it to shows until donating it to the museum in 2010 with more than 5.2 million miles on it.
“It now sits on a banner stand at the museum with his name on it,” says Meier.
Some trucks are harder to restore than others. The museum’s 1912 Mack Jr. pickup is one of only 1,361 made from 1905 to 1916. It was missing a magneto, carburetor, brackets on the firewall to hold the leather top in place and a few other items.
“Mack Trucks loaned us the parts we were missing so we could get replacements cast,” recalls Meier. “It took quite a while to get it restored, but there are only about four left that we know of.”
“We are still actively collecting trucks and memorabilia,” says Meier. “We have three or four under restoration at any one time. We collect things we like that are fairly priced for the condition they are in.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Iowa 80 Trucking Museum, 505 Sterling Dr., Walcott, Iowa 52773 (ph 563-468-5500; https://iowa80truckingmuseum.com).