From the time she was a little girl, Amy Wright has loved big rigs. Whether through popular media or seeing them in person, the 47-year-old says she became obsessed with them early in life — and that enthusiasm has never waned.
“Ever since I was 3 years old, I was fascinated by big rigs,” she said. “My dad drove a truck before I was born, and I have uncles and other family members who have driven them.”
There’s no doubt that, given her love for 18-wheelers, Wright dreamed of getting behind the wheel of a big rig herself and hitting the open road. Unfortunately, such was not in the cards. Wright was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the neural tube within the spine fails to form properly while in the womb.
According to the Spina Bifida Association, the condition is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the U.S.; yet it’s hard to pigeonhole because every case affects the patient differently. In Wright’s case, it meant being paralyzed from the waist down. It also meant her dream of driving big rigs was over before it even began.
“I graduated high school and went to college for two years,” she said. “I always wanted to do something in the trucking industry, maybe like a dispatcher — something where I could be around something I love. It never panned out, unfortunately.”
Still, like star-crossed lovers, Wright and big rigs would continue to find ways to intertwine paths.
“In the ’70s, trucks were all over TV — ‘Movin’ On,’ ‘Convoy’ and ‘Smokey and the Bandit,’” she said. “My brother and I watched ‘Movin’ On’ even before I can remember it, and from what my parents tell me, I was just fascinated with driving a truck.”
Trucks have also bolstered Wright in difficult times, including one particularly memorable instance that she loves sharing.
“When I was 6 years old, I was in the hospital with pneumonia — and one of the other patients was Mr. Smoke of the Smoke and Sons trucking company out of Clayton, Michigan,” she said brightly. “We had the same nurse, and she saw me playing with my trucks, so she said something to Mr. Smoke.
“He talked to my parents and arranged for me to ride home in one of his trucks. It was a GMC Astro 95 with the 45-foot livestock trailer. That was awesome. He even gave me a little stuffed teddy bear which I still have to this day,” she recalled.
Wright may not have been given the opportunity to ever drive such a rig for herself, but while growing up, she discovered the next-best thing.
“When I was a kid, I started with the 1:32 scale snap-type (big rig) model kits,” she said. “When I was about 14, I started with the glue kits, so I’ve been doing the glue kits for over 30 years.”
From the moment the first two plastic pieces snapped together, Wright knew she had found an outlet for her love of trucks. Over the past three-plus decades, she’s completed models of 175 tractors and 75 trailers.
“I love all trucks, but — probably because one of my uncles had one — I’ve always loved International most,” she said. “My all-time favorite truck would be the old-school 4300s.”
Wright makes frequent use of social media to showcase her collection, unveil newly completed models and even give people a glimpse of her entire collection, which lines shelves on the walls of her home and stands in proud order in one display cabinet after another.
“I do a lot of old-school 1960s, ’70s and ’80s trucks, mainly owner-operator, old school stuff,” she said. “I’m gonna build as long as I can, until I run out of space. This is the closest I can get to the real thing.”
Any gaps in her vast collection are rare. Wright, who’s as knowledgeable about truck models as any encyclopedia, knows just what’s missing.
“I basically have everything, except maybe a Volvo VN670 that I’ve never gotten my hands on,” she said. She also notes, with a smile, that she doesn’t have a replica of the Smoke rig that gave a little girl the ride of her life.
“I don’t have that one yet,” she said. “But I’m going to.”
In addition to model-building, Wright has found other ways to indulge her lifelong love of trucks. She regularly attends truck shows, and she also spends time at the local truck stops around Litchfield, Michigan, where she lives, chatting up the drivers, in whom she finds a kindred spirit.
“I’m like a sponge; I gather all the information I can,” she said of these encounters. “I like their stories about being out on the road and talking about the trucks they drive. A lot of them love trucks as much as I do, the ones that are the true truck guys, so we have that kinship.”
Dwain Hebda is a freelance journalist, author, editor and storyteller in Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to The Trucker, his work appears in more than 35 publications across multiple states each year. Hebda’s writing has been awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists and a Finalist in Best Of Arkansas rankings by AY Magazine. He is president of Ya!Mule Wordsmiths, which provides editorial services to publications and companies.