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Big Dreams & Accomplishments

By on July 1, 2019

Bill Rethwisch’s Awesome 10th Anniversary Show Stopper

Many dreamers remain just that, dreamers. Others are doers known for getting things done. Much rarer are big dreamers known for doing big things. Count Bill Rethwisch—the owner of Rethwisch Transport in Tomah, Wisconsin—among those who dream big things and accomplish big things. You’ll see that theme woven through this RoadKing feature story as told by the key participants in building one awesome petrol puller and a stellar company.

At age 5, bouncing around in his dad’s cabover, Bill Rethwisch Jr. knew that one day his dream of driving one of those shiny, specially painted, tricked-out big rigs would come true. It did. With some driving experience under his belt, he dreamed about starting his own company, obtaining his own authority and running a successful business. With his wife’s help, they did in 2009. As the company grew and prospered, he dreamed about building some working show trucks that would turn people’s heads. He did. In fact, he’s three for three in building trucks that won the Shell Rotella® SuperRigs® competition, earning monthly feature spots in Shell’s coveted calendars.

“I couldn’t be happier with the finished product,” said Bill Rethwisch. “We set out to build a very unique tank trailer, and Fitzgerald, MAC Trailers and Davis Bros. Designs helped us achieve our goal. I’m a truck enthusiast at heart, and I like driving my trucks, not just showing them. All of my trucks are designed to deliver a payback. I love the way this truck drives, handles and looks. I’ve received lots of compliments already, and we’ve barely begun using and showing the truck. Pride and class describe the image I wish to portray to my customers and throughout the entire industry. This trailer is the best I’ve ever pulled in my life.”

– Bill Rethwisch

Rethwisch Transport now has 18 tractors and 25 tankers dedicated to his petroleum hauling business. The company is big enough that he could justify being a full time manager. But his love affair with driving big rigs remains strong. He would rather be driving, leading his firm by example and delegating many of the day-to-day management responsibilities to others. In 2018, his dreams turned to building and driving a fourth work truck that would contend for trophies and attract admirers wherever it went. Blended with the dream, that idea became a plan to build a Rethwisch Transport 10th anniversary truck for the 2019 show season.

Show Floor to Shop

The 2018 dream was set in motion when Brian Bourke, the Fitzgerald director of marketing, informed Bill that a mildly customized black 389 Peterbilt glider with a lime green frame would be displayed at the 2018 Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. It has a 300-inch wheelbase and is powered by a Cummins ISX–Signature 600 coupled to an 18-speed transmission. Bill liked the truck so well that he drove it off the show floor and headed straight for his Tomah shop.

“My wife and I started with one truck, one trailer, hope and a dream. Although our kids are fairly young, they’ve certainly become part of the dream. They love going to shows with us, and they help out in the shop, even assist with some paperwork. Our entire organization is family oriented. I hope what we’re doing and what we’ve accomplished can serve as an example for others. You can invest in cool trucks, employ professional drivers and be successful.

– Bill Rethwisch

More Than a Trailer

Bill, Jeff Schultz, his shop manager, and Jeff’s dad, Chuck, as well as other members of the Rethwisch team had proven they could build quality show trucks and trailers. They had become quite skilled at modifying, customizing and painting tankers themselves. For this truck, Bill wanted to utilize polished aluminum and elevate the craftsmanship to an even higher level, hopefully in cooperation with a trailer manufacturer. That approach didn’t fit the mass-production model of most trailer manufacturers. Since Fitzgerald Trailer sales in Crossville, Tennessee represents MAC Trailers as part of Fitzgerald USA, Brian Bourke decided to reach out and request assistance.

Assistance quickly became in-depth involvement as Jim Maiorana and members of the MAC engineering and manufacturing team took up the challenge. They visited the Rethwisch shop, saw the prior trophy-winning trucks and went to work on a collaborative design process. Several iterations, tweaks and fine-tuning adjustments later, a solid master plan was established for building a one-off trailer that had outstanding aesthetics and functionality.

Enter Davis Bros. Designs

Brian and Tom Davis own Davis Bros. Designs, a fabrication and paint shop in Owensville, Indiana, specializing in show trucks and trailers. Their work focused on the trailer, which Bill delivered to them after picking it up at the MAC plant in Kent, Ohio. Based on a concern about paint overspray, the trailer was completely stripped of all parts, top and bottom. Bill Rethwisch and his team helped remove everything, and later came back for the reassembly. The polished aluminum barrel was sent to Nick Woods at Master Detailer, an aluminum buffing and polishing specialist, in Chillicothe, Missouri.

“Although I don’t have to, I choose to drive a truck and serve our customers. I also enjoy talking with other drivers, especially those who appreciate the shiny stuff. With every new build, we’re pretty much hands-on throughout the entire process. We want to know how they come apart and go back together. The passion Jeff and Chuck Schultz have for creating working-class show trucks shines through. MAC is building a second trailer for us right now. Jeff plans to return to driving next spring. He’ll be pulling it with a Kenworth W900 that’s on order.

– Bill Rethwisch

The complete undercarriage and hundreds of parts and pieces were hand sanded and painted using basecoat, clearcoat DuPont Imron® Elite paint. The hose tubes were perfected in an exhaustive sanding, filling, priming and painting process, not once, not twice, but three times. Vinyl graphics were chosen for the Brian Bourke designed Rethwisch logo and the fore and aft stripes on each side. Acid etching on the aluminum tank would have been required for painted graphics. The risk of damaging the surrounding unpainted aluminum was too high, so vinyl was chosen instead. 

The entire process, from start to finish, required three intense weeks. The paint was barely dry when the finished rig departed for Wildwood, Florida and the 75 Chrome Shop April 25-27 Truck Show. Winning the prestigious 2019 Prime Shine Award made the team’s extra efforts very rewarding. Other shows on the radar screen during the coming months include the American Truck Show Circuit #1 moved to Racine County Fairgrounds (Wisconsin), the Waupun Truck-n-Show (Wisconsin), the Eau Claire Big Rig Truck Show (Wisconsin), the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Big Iron Classic in Kasson, Minnesota, and the Richard Crane Memorial Truck Show in St. Ignace, Michigan.

“While our trucks are a plus in recruiting and retaining drivers, how you treat drivers every day is far more important. They deserve a great paycheck, great benefits, honesty and respect. A shared commitment to customer service is mutually beneficial. During the second five years of our existence, we’ve turned the tide on building our professional driving team. We even have the luxury of a waiting list of prequalified drivers who would like to work here. I think Rethwisch Transport plays a significant role in helping those who work for us—and more importantly with us—in making their own dreams come true.”

– Bill Rethwisch 

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