At 5 years old, Lawrence Harper recalls sitting behind the steering wheel of a 1953 broken-down Ford, switching through different gears, pretending he was driving down the open road.

This is where his love of vehicles began.

Harper, 58, a plant foreman for ExxonMobil XTO Energy, is a member of Custom Truckers, a Tyler community-service oriented club whose members share their love of classic Chevy trucks.

Custom Truckers was created by a group of 10 friends in 1972 who wanted to give back to the community, William Hart, 65, a founder of the club, said.

"Everybody had trucks, and we just decided to get a little organization together," he said.

The club is based off the love of a particular vehicle: a 1955 to 1959 Chevy stepside truck. It's required for all members of the club to have one in order to be part of the organization.

Harper has been a member of the club since 1977. He became interested in the organization because of its purpose to help the community and those in need.

"Our slogan was Big Brothers helping others," he said. "It was just kind of up my alley. Plus, I've always liked trucks and the particular body style. I had several of those vehicles before I even got into the club and it's been fun times all the way through."

Harper is the owner of a red 1957 Chevy that runs on pump gas. He's remodeled this vehicle for about six years.

"I was trying to make it convenient, like the new vehicles, so it's easier to drive," he said. The old one has a straight access suspension and they rode like a wagon."

Unlike Harper, Hart's passion for trucks did not develop in his childhood.

"I didn't know a thing about vehicles and some of the guys in the club said you need to buy something you can work on," he said.

So, Hart purchased a 1959 Chevy truck and the club was formed a month later. For 42 years, Hart has held onto the same truck and built his knowledge of vehicles.

"I do a lot more mechanical work now — everything but interior and paint," he said.

Custom Truckers will have its annual Classic Wheels Show 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Chicken Ranch on County Road 46 to help raise money for community service events.

The truckers have hosted the car show for about 15 years and it features many more classic vehicles than just Chevys, Hart said. He anticipates about 200 vehicles present at this year's show.

Portions of the funds collected from the car show are used for scholarships and other community events, such as a back-to-school drive in August.

Although the car show is free for the public, funds are collected through vehicle registration fees, food plates and T-shirts.

Hart said the organization awards two to four scholarships a year for high school graduates who need assistance to continue with higher education. Scholarship applications usually have an April deadline and can be picked up at the truckers' clubhouse, 702 W. Bow St.

Mayor Barbara Bass declared Custom Truckers Club Day on June 23, 2012, to recognize the group's service.

A diverse crowd of people attends the Classic Wheels Show each year, Harper said. He said he's seen babies, young adults, who are thinking about their dream vehicle, and older adults who can relate to the showcased classic vehicles.

"There's so many people who love cars, so, they'll be there from all walks," he said.

Registration for cars in the show continues until 1 p.m. Saturday. Registration is $25 and includes meal tickets for a fish fry 6 p.m. Friday at the Chicken Ranch and a lunch plate Saturday.

For more information, call Hart at 903-520-5257 or Harper at 903-752-9476.




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