Decades-old hobby nets Southold native big award at truck show

Chet Ciaglo’s love of trucks began at a young age. The 44-year-old, who grew up in Southold, was born to a family of hot rod enthusiasts and his father owned a tractor-trailer business. Mr. Ciaglo said he has always been savvy and hands-on when it comes to mechanical work, so it only makes sense that he has gone on to make a living from it.

“It’s a passion,” said Mr. Ciaglo, who began driving tractor-trailers about 20 years ago and has owned Pine Oaks Landscaping for the past 15 years.

But Mr. Ciaglo’s big rigs aren’t your ordinary trucks. When you see him cruising down the road, it’s always in style. He tricks out the vehicles with bright colors, stripes and fancy lights. He also enters them in shows.

Mr. Ciaglo’s most recent project, a 1999 Peterbilt 379, won first place earlier this month at Carlisle Truck Nationals Big Rig Show and Shine in Carlisle, Pa.

The vehicle, painted a retro blue with white stripes, won the Movin’ Out Choice award, meaning it will be featured in Movin’ Out magazine, a publication and website devoted to all things truck-related.

“The most rewarding thing about what I do is the outcome and how people react when I take it to shows,” said Mr. Ciaglo, who added that he takes a lot of pride in his craftsmanship and has won around 10 awards so far.

Mr. Ciaglo, who purchased his first truck when he was 23, has owned and sold nearly two dozen trucks. He has worked on everything from rat rods to classics and even sold one truck for $100,000. Since he doesn’t have to pay for labor, he said he has made up to a $30,000 profit on a vehicle.

Chet Ciaglo, at his home in Peconic, stands in front of his big rig truck with the trophy he won earlier this month at the Carlisle Truck Nationals Big Rig Truck Show and Shine. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

Although he tries to make money on each project, Mr. Ciaglo genuinely enjoys what he does.

To get the Peterbilt 379 ready for the Pennsylvania show, he worked around the clock, putting in hours at his landscaping company until 5 p.m. and then laboring on the truck until almost 3 a.m.

Mr. Ciaglo doesn’t do everything alone, though: He gets help from his 16-year-old nephew, Ethan Anderson.

Ethan, who lives in Riverhead, helps out with the car’s electronic components, like its lights and radio.

“I think it’s great what he does,” Ethan said. “It’s a different world when you come over here, because he’s always doing something new with the trucks.”

Ethan said he enjoys working for his uncle because he learns a lot while receiving hands-on experience.

Mr. Ciaglo had a similar upbringing. When he was 7 years old, he traveled with his father in a big rig to New York City’s Hunt’s Point to drop off produce. He has loved trucks ever since.

As a trucker, Mr. Ciaglo drives as far away as California a couple times a year — and some places he has visited in the Midwest host lots of truck shows.

Here on the East End, however, Mr. Ciaglo’s hobby seems to be one of a kind.

“There’s nobody really out here this far that does the stuff that I do,” he said, adding that he has made friends with truckers from all over the country by attending different shows.

(Credit: Krysten Massa)

As much as Mr. Ciaglo said he would love to keep all the trucks he has worked on, it’s hard to say no if someone offers him a good price for one.

“If I was a millionaire, I would have each one of them lined up on display,” he said.

As cooler weather slowly approaches, Mr. Ciaglo is preparing to refurbish a new truck. He does most of the work during the winter months, when business as Pine Oaks Landscaping is slow.

“It’s a passion, it’s fun and I’m just going to keep doing it,” he said.

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