WOODLAND, Calif. — A. Wayne (Pop) Hays, 86, has had a lifelong obsession with trucks. He rattles off the names and descriptions of nearly every make ever manufactured in this country.
He can describe in detail the beauty of the 1918 Menominee Express or the 1930 Kenworth.
But his obsession is most obvious in the 170 antique trucks--most dating from before the 1930s--he owns and exhibits in his private truck museum in this farm center 20 miles northwest of Sacramento.
It is one of the largest collection of vintage trucks in America.
Hays is busy every day restoring old trucks at the museum, housed in two huge buildings--32,000 square feet of floor space--he erected in 1980 to display his collection.
He has 81 different makes, the oldest manufactured the year he was born, a 1901 Knox half-ton flatbed.
He has a 1902 Studebaker Electric, a 1924 Armleder, 1923 Chicago, 1919 Gramm-Bernstein, 1919 Maxwell, 1927 Yellow-Knight, 1922 Gotfredson, a 1920 King Zeller and a raft of others.
On each truck Hays has posted its history, when and where it was made, the specifications and what it cost when new.
Trucks exhibited in Hays' museum include a 1916 C. T. Electric powered by two tons of batteries. The truck was used to deliver magazines in New York. A 1916 Garfield Red Crown gasoline truck is outfitted with 5-gallon pails.
There is a World War I Army truck, old dump trucks, lumber trucks, milk trucks, fire trucks, tow trucks, everything from half-ton flatbeds to the first of the 18-wheelers.
"There are a bunch of makes I'm still trying to get my hands on, like a Whippert, a Seldon, an Old Hickory, a Hawkeye, a Marmon Harrington, a Clydesdale and a Fleet Arrow," he said.
When visitors stop by the A. W. Hays Truck Museum--most of them are truckers passing by on Interstate 5--the old man sets aside his crescent wrench or whatever tool he is using at the time and conducts a tour--admission $3.
Born at Burney, Calif., on Aug. 24, 1901, Hays went to a one-room, log-cabin school in Big Bend in Shasta County. "I went through all eight grades with the same teacher. That was all they had. Then I went to work," he recalled.
Began Trucking in 1917
He began working as a trucker in 1917. By the time he hung up his hat 60 years later, he had owned and operated the largest agricultural trucking company in Northern California--A. P. Hays Trucking Inc.
He also invented, designed and manufactured 550 twin truck trailer hoppers for hauling grain, rice and fertilizers.
"I sold out in 1977 because I thought I was getting old," he laughed. "But I couldn't sit around twiddling my thumbs so I started buying and restoring old trucks, and I created this monster. I love it. I never tire of it. I'm here every day."
He wore grease-smeared mechanic's coveralls. Both of his arms were marked by cuts, scratches and bruises.
"I get all skinned up, but I don't mind. I'm all over the old engines working on them. I can't see good enough to keep from getting skinned up," he said with a grin.
The old man's favorite truck in the collection is a 1929 six-cylinder Chevrolet. "It was the first six-cylinder truck Chevy made," Hays recalled. "It was a truck that launched my trucking company. It cost me $750 new. I made a down-payment of $250, all the money I had to my name at the time."
The walls of his office are covered with photographs of old trucks of hundreds of different makes, one Sam Sturgis made in 1899 in Los Angeles, a truck he has been trying to track down for years.
'Lowest Truck Ever Made'
He buys and swaps antique trucks, and sometimes he will get one as a gift. The California Trucking Assn. recently presented him with a 1922 MacDonald, which Hays described as the "lowest truck ever made; its bed is 14 inches off the ground."
Since most replacement parts are unavailable, Hays, his son, A. P. Jr., and assistant Nord Johnson fabricate their own parts, beds, cabs and chassis.
"These old trucks have come from all over the country. Many were rusting away in farmyards or old barns with cows rubbing against them," he said. "Some had weeds and bushes growing up in the middle of them.
"Each one is a gem."