Celebrity Drive: Glen Plake of HISTORY’s ‘Truck Night in America’

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Quick Stats: Glen Plake, host, HISTORY’s “Truck Night in America”
Daily Driver: 2002 Ford F-350 (Glen’s rating: 9 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Mexico
Car he learned to drive in: 1940s Jeep CJ
First car bought: 1959 Chevy pickup

Skiing icon Glen Plake has long participated in races in Baja, at his local race track, and worked on his cars. Now he brings his car skills to the HISTORY channel’s “Truck Night in America,” where contestants build out their trucks for different challenges.

“I have so many daily drivers,” he says, with a laugh. “I probably have one of 10 different vehicles that I can drive at a given time.”

Photo: HISTORY

Plake owns various trucks and Jeeps as well as cars. His latest and most prized possession of all is also his first vehicle—a 1959 Chevy pickup—and it’s one he’ll be working on as soon as he can find some free time. After Plake let go of the truck, he immediately regretted it. But in a moment of serendipity, his beloved, worn-out Chevy with old bike racing stickers all over the interior popped up in an ad, just as he was once again lamenting he had sold it 15 years earlier.

“I just happened to be sitting on this airplane and I was reminiscing going, ‘Man I wish I had my old ’59, gosh dang it, I miss it. I can’t believe I let that thing go.’ And then boom, this ad pops up and I see these stickers and it was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was pretty funny when I told my wife, ‘You won’t believe what I just happened to find on Craigslist. She goes, ‘What?’ I showed her the picture, she’s like, ‘What time are we leaving?’ I’m like, ‘We’re going right now,’” he says, laughing.

It was only when he saw the stickers that Plake realized it was indeed his truck, because it was a completely different color and not in the same shape he left it.

“The guy took pictures of the interior and I had old bicycle racing stickers in it that are very, very particular and the ad said, ‘’59 Chevy pickup. Might need some help. Interior covered with unique stickers. Will make good rat rod,’” he says.

Plake also still had the pink slip because he says the guy he sold it to paid him $200 and was supposed to pay another $200 and never did. “He disappeared and I was like, ‘Dang, I shoulda never sold that truck.’ It was sitting behind the barn for years and he kept bothering me,” he says, with a laugh. “When I was younger I really loved those old square Chevys,” he says. “It was just an old farm truck and still is. A year or two after I let it go, I started seeing the whole rat rod restoration happening. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’”

When he met with the seller and had the truck loaded on a trailer, he had told the seller more about the truck’s history.

Photo courtesy of Glen Plake

Plake told him the story about how it was his truck that he had since he was 14. “This is the pink slip, so I should have no problem registering it,” he says. “He couldn’t believe his eyes. I said, ‘Here’s the deal, my grandfather bought that from Santa Rita [jail] at an auction, we drove it around as an irrigation truck for years and then I got it.’ He was like, ‘No way! Really?’”

The owners after Plake left the old Italian bicycle racing stickers he and his friends put in there.

“That’s what tied me to the ad. That’s what got me looking at the dang thing to begin with. I was in Seattle and I happened to be checking Northern California, I don’t know how it popped up but it did,” Plake says. “When I told him the story, it was funny, he wanted a lot more for it, and then he was like, ‘Alright screw it, get it out of here!’ He was a car guy and he’s like, ‘I knew there was something going on! I would never sell this truck for as low as I did! I knew I had to sell this thing to you!’”

Plake plans to put an S10 chassis underneath it so that it can once again be a daily driver.

He’s got many memories with this truck, including the time he lost a tire and the trailer jackknifed. “I used to be big a wind surfer, so I chased wind all around the western United States in that stupid old truck. Out to Palm Springs, down to Mexico, back up to Nevada.”

Plake already has a donor truck ready for the chassis swap. “I’m not going to do nothing to it, it’ll look exactly the same, except I’m going to have new running gear on it. It’ll be the third S10 swap with some friends, we’ve done a couple of ‘51’s, another friend did it with a 1942 bread van,” he says. “It’s really simple.”

Plake is pretty stoked when he’s around his old truck, and also remembers the time he had to replace the front windshield. “I got shot at in that truck,” he says, with a laugh. “Being a kid and all of a sudden, bam! We’re in a bad neighborhood. The shot went right through the front windshield.”

2002 Ford F-350

Rating: 9

Photo courtesy of Glen Plake

Plake considers this F-350 his old workhorse. “I got it because a family member passed away and I ended up with it,” he says. “I don’t have any new vehicles and never have.”

His favorite car is one that isn’t street legal—his 2013 IMCA dirt modified track car, which he sometimes takes to his local track.

1986 Chevy C30

Rating: 10

“It very rarely drives without a trailer or massive load behind it or in it,” Plake says. “If I’m just hauling around bicycles you don’t need a one ton truck, but if we’re hauling race cars to the track, then you need a big truck. I don’t believe you should be driving a big truck around just to go to the store, I never could figure that out but people do.”

Plake purchased this truck used and had a custom race trailer built to match it. “Now it’s just so strange to be driving something like that in today’s modern world, people look at you funny. It’s pretty classic now,” he says.

1960 Chevy Impala SS

Rating: 10

Photo courtesy of Glen Plake

Plake got the Impala as payment for a sponsorship years ago. “Nothing more styling than a ‘60 Impala,” Plake says. “I love that there’s not a lot of ‘60s Impalas. If you go to a car show, it’s not like another dang blue Camaro, or another stupid Mustang.”

He says when he drives it, it’s the only one of its kind on the road. “[Many were] crushed or considered something not to save and yet they’re just absolutely beautiful. You sit and stare at the thing forever,” he says.

Plake especially loves this model year. “They’re just beautiful, the lines are so good, with the big horizontal fins on them,” he says. “Just to look back to think that that body was changed every year, and that those stamps were changed every year. It freaks me out, the whole dash is a stamped piece of steel. I can’t believe that was changed on a yearly basis.”

1964 Cadillac limousine

Rating: 1

Photo courtesy of Glen Plake

Even though Plake was blessed to somehow be reunited with his first car, his friend who once owned this Cadillac isn’t as lucky.

“It’s part of the family, we’ve had it forever and ever and ever. It was a friend of mine’s first car, and over the course of many years and different engines and different things, I ended up with it. To this day, he’s still so mad I have his first car and I won’t sell it to him even though it’s not worth very much, I specifically keep it just to bother him,” he says, laughing. “Someday I’ll give it back to him.”

1994 Buick Roadmaster

Rating: 8

Photo courtesy of Glen Plake

The Roadmaster was Plake’s grandfather’s last car, and one he didn’t have to buy at an auction. “When he passed away, my grandmother had it, and I knew what it was. I said, ‘Don’t dare take that thing to a car dealership,’” he says.

Plake found out how nice it was when he and his wife were driving his pickup down to Los Angeles for a day and his grandfather suggested he try the Buick instead.

“As we were driving along on I-5 minding our own business, somebody came up to us in a tuner-type car with a big spoiler on the back making a bunch of noise and he jumped up on it … and I went, ‘Well, the Roadmaster’s got some pretty long legs, I’m going to jump on it.’ The car took off and went pretty good and then we continued to enjoy the ride and when I got back, I said, ‘That’s an interesting car, grandpa.’”

His grandfather used to get a Buick every two years. “It was the last of the Roadmasters, so it had the LT1 in it, which is the virtually the Vette motor, dual stainless exhausts from the factory,” he says.

When he’s in the Buick, for Plake it’s like floating on a cloud. “I wish the suspension was a little firmer. It’s pretty soft,” he says.

When Plake is in Europe, where he lives half the year, he drives a 2002 Mercedes Benz. “[In Europe], I’m dealing with speed limits that are above what we drive, and typically I’m driving on an auto route that requires quite a lot of attention. In the U.S. it’s funny, our speed limits are low, so I just drive along from that standpoint,” he says.

That’s why Plake loves the Buick for these American roads. “It corners terrible, but where is there a corner in the western United States? It’s all straight roads and you can’t go that fast on them,” he says. “So I don’t mind sitting in a 1994 Buick just cruising along. I don’t need some elaborate vehicle. I never could figure out supercars. What are you going to do with the dang thing? They’re expensive and then they get really expensive if you have to go out and drive them, if you do somehow get some track time, God forbid you wad the thing up. I’m not a real sophisticated vehicle driver by any means.”

Car he learned to drive in

Although he grew up in the Lake Tahoe area, Plake learned how to drive an old 1940s Jeep CJ at 7 years old at his grandfather’s Central Valley farm that grew sugar beets and alfalfa, where he spent his summers.

He used to help his grandfather drive the old Jeep around, and later drove tractors. He also had a go kart when he was young.

Photo courtesy of Glen Plake

“Every time I’d get on one of the farm roads, grandpa would let me drive. It was an old surplus Jeep—I think it was an old 2A,” he says. “It was what we used to tow the irrigation hoses with. You have all the siphon hoses to go from the ditch into the field, and they’d have this long trailer with all the irrigation hoses in it, pipes in it and he’d put it in first gear, the thing had twin sticks so you’d basically drive itself, and he’d sit me in the seat.”

All Plake had to do was steer straight. “We didn’t really drive around too much, we’re talking big agriculture, fields are four miles long and I’d be driving along. He’d always let me drive his Ford pickup truck, too, if I had to go to some field. My grandpa said if you want a truck for work, you buy a Ford, if you to drive a truck to work you buy a Chevy,” he says, laughing.

Favorite road trip

Plake has a perfect drive in Europe. “I took a dream drive—a friend’s got an old Alfa Romeo that I got to drive around in Europe one summer. I got to drive over Great St. Bernard Pass in a ’72 Alfa Romeo, the tires are squealing and you’re only doing 30,” he says, laughing.

Plake has done Baja races including the Baja 500 and 1000, but he also loves the many road trips he’s done down to Mexico for fun.

“I love driving down in Baja, I just love it,” Plake says. “Whether it’s for a race or driving to go visit my dad, we have a house down there for fishing. A lot of memories down there.”

“Anytime I’m on those old roads, and I’ve seen the roads go from dirt and what used to take two days, now we’re doing it in about six hours, I’ve just seen the transformation take place,” he says, adding that the scenery is great. “You’ve got ocean on one side, desert on another, up over the hills,” he says. “I’m from the Great Basin, so it’s nice to see the different cactuses, they’re quite beautiful.”

Photo courtesy of Glen Plake

Plake is usually in an older model car, so it’s not got the distractions of today’s models. “We’ve got air conditioning and that’s nice. The old pickup has 265 air—two windows down going 65,” he says, laughing. “I’ve got a half ton Chevy I drive there a lot or I drive the big F-350, if I’m hauling a boat. If I’m going to be in a vehicle, I like the vehicle itself, I don’t need all the amenities. Tomorrow I’m going to drive a Jeep up to the ranch. It’s a 2000 Jeep, yeah the radio sucks and it rattles.”

Going to Mexico very much represents just focusing on the drive. “You’re checking gauges, you’re making sure there’s air in your tires, you’re driving, you’re in command of a vehicle. Most people don’t realize how special that really is,” Plake says. “I’m definitely reflective in the ride, you might play the Mexican radio, or you might want to plug in the iPhone, but for the most part I’m definitely taking in the drive. If there’s a common theme about most of my vehicles—you can sleep in them.”

His usual road trip to Mexico gets him to the border by 1 a.m. and he sleeps in the car for a few hours and then takes off early the next morning.

HISTORY Channel’s “Truck Night in America”

Plake has an extensive racing resume, which include races in Baja, the Dakar Rally, and local weekly stock car racing. “I love it very much … I build my own cars and I work on all my motors,” he says. “I’m just as happy sitting and watching a bomber race at my local race track as I am sitting on the pit wall with Wood brothers at a NASCAR race.”

A friend referred him to try out for the hosting gig, which he shares with fellow expert coaches Pete Sohren, Abe Wine, and Rob Park. “We started kicking tires and having some shop talk. Most people don’t realize I was born with a wrench in my hand, helping my grandparents,” he says.

Photo: HISTORY

This new HISTORY Channel competition series tests five drivers and their personal customized trucks in three challenges—testing speed, strength, and handling.

“I love that it’s a real show. If we’re working on the vehicles, we really are working on the vehicles, I’m not pulling some donated unusable piece of equipment like other car shows,” he says. “When we’re working on trucks, if I’m yelling for a half inch bolt because we’ve got a broken shock mount and yes—we are grinding and welding it right now because I need to get you to the next competition. It’s all real.”

The show is very simple, he says. “All the competitors are just normal folk with their vehicles that they spend time working on, that they care about, that they recreate in. It’s really cool the show is definitely ‘rung what you brung,’ using the circle track analogy. They’re not complex vehicles. We’ve got guys with pickup trucks, Jeeps, they’re daily drivers.”

In addition to bragging rights, the winner gets $10,000. “I take my position as a mentor very seriously. Do I want to beat the other coaches? Of course I do, but whether it’s my guy or your guy, I want to get them to the finish line,” he says.

“Truck Night in America” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on History Channel through mid-May.

READ MORE CELEBRITY DRIVES HERE:

Photo courtesy of Glen Plake



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