Truck Nutz bills its product as "the ultimate truck accessory," and it's certainly one of the most ubiquitous. Oversized pairs of testicles can be seen adorning the bumpers of vehicles throughout the country, teabagging America's parking lots and free-balling our freeways. Who do we blame/thank?
Despite the notoriety surrounding the anatomically-correct accessory, there isn't a whole lot of information online about the genesis of Truck Nutz. I chatted with the company's owner, 81-year-old Wilson Kemp, to find out more about the trail-hitch testicles taking the nation by storm. Believe me when I say that this is a man who personally handles a lot of balls.
Jalopnik: What was your life like before Truck Nutz?
Wilson Kemp: I was retired. I was a school admin at a junior college in Columbia, Georgia. I was looking for something to keep me out of trouble and off the streets, and I came across a young guy selling his business on eBay. I got in touch with him, this was about 13 years ago, and I bought it from him.
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J: What did you find out on that first phone call?
WK: He told me about how he first made them. He went to a modeling shop and got some modeling clay, and he and his wife made a mold and took it to a model maker. These things are made of plastic and molded into shape. Anyway, he thought it was a quirky thing and people would get a kick out of it. We've expanded since then, into different colors and stuff.
J: What's the Truck Nutz business model like?
WK: We've been selling them for 14 years, out of my home, in my garage. We've sold these things practically all over the world, in Europe, South America, and of course in this country. We sell retail directly to consumers, and I sell wholesale.
J: I didn't realize they had international appeal.
WK: Oh, yes. We have one customer from England, a "snowbird," we call them in Florida. Someone who spends half the year in Florida, during the winter. He goes around to all these auto shows in England and Europe, and he comes here and buys a bunch of these and sells them back at auto shows there.
J: How did your life change after buying the business?
WK: It's been fun and it's been interesting, and I've had lots of weird phone calls. One guy told me, "Now my wife won't drive it. I should have thought of this years ago!" Every now and then, we get a call from someone who's outraged, but mostly people take it in a lighthearted way, like we intended.
J: Let's talk nuts and bolts (no pun intended). How are Truck Nutz made?
WK: They're made out of a molded plastic. The plastic comes in big palettes that they melt down and inject into molds. I have nine different colors, plus chrome-plated ones. There's a particular type of plastic that you can chrome-plate.
J: So they're actually chrome-plated? Not just chrome-colored?
WK: Exactly. Regular Truck Nutz are made out of polypropylene plastic, but you can't chrome-plate that. The chrome ones we have to make out of ADS plastic. And they're not hollow; they're a solid piece of plastic.
J: Was that an intentional engineering choice?
WK: Yes. They're very tough. They're indestructible in the sense that if they crack or break, we guarantee that we'll replace them. The color goes all the way through the plastic, so when it gets dinged up and chipped, which it's bound to, you won't lose any of the color.
J: Are some colors more difficult than others?
WK: My mold-maker in Colorado must be some kind of genius, because he figured out a way to make them in camouflage. Different plastics melt at different temperatures, so when you put them in the mold at different times and let them cool, then it produces a camouflage finish. Those are pretty big sellers.
I had also been toying around with the idea of doing brass ones for a while, but it was a lot of work to get them brass-plated. One day I realized they didn't need to actually be brass-plated, they just need to be brass colored, so we started making those.
J: Are you still using the original mold?
WK: I am. I'm using the original mold for the regular ones, but we've expanded into other sizes so I had new molds made for those. We've got a smaller version called Biker Balls, and those are more for small vehicles. I own the mold, but it resides at the molding facility in Colorado. I also had another one made in a smaller size that you can put on a key ring.
J: Oh, so they're made in Colorado?
WK: All except the chrome-plated Truck Nutz. I'm having those made here locally, because the plastic is more available here. Then they're shipped to Florida, where I package them in my garage.
J: You package them all yourself?
WK: Yep. I get them from the maker raw and then do the packaging process myself at home and ship them out myself. It's really just putting them in a Ziplock bag, so it's not a lot of work for me.
J: Do you have any plans for expansion?
WK: I don't think so. We've already added four more colors, and the Biker Balls, and the key-ring, plus tee shirts and coffee mugs, and stickers and stuff, that you can see on the website.
J: I happen to be a lady. Can I expect to see myself represented on the back of a truck any time soon?
WK: Haha, unfortunately, no. There's not enough demand. We have had a few requests for hot pink Truck Nutz, but not enough for us to be able to do them.