McMahon Truck Center in Marietta works on Ohio State University truck

Photo courtesy of Circle Express Neil Fritsche’s paint job makes the OSU football truck sparkle under the street lights in December.

MARIETTA — When The Ohio State University football team heads to away games, the truck and trailer hauling their gear has a custom paint job done right in Marietta.

When Steve Coe and Neil Fritsche of McMahon Truck Center in Marietta received a call from Ken Blair, president of Circle Express, a shipping company based in Columbus, in November, they knew their work would soon be admired across the country.

Blair said his company has been volunteering its time and trucks to the OSU football team to haul their gear to away games for more than 40 years.

“My father first started hauling their equipment in 1982,” he said. “Before that they would rent trucks and just put a banner down the side of it.”

Blair said his company has purchased its trucks from the McMahon Trucking Center in Columbus for years. When he bought a new truck and trailer from them last year, Blair said the management recommended Coe and Fritsche at their Marietta location to paint them. Blair told the pair he wanted the paint to exactly match the football helmets that the Buckeyes wear every Saturday in the fall. Blair said there was only one problem.

“It’s something that’s never been done on an object that large,” he said.

Blair said the helmet’s paint has large aluminum flakes in it that almost have to stand on end to produce the signature sheen of OSU’s headgear.

“The helmet rotates when they paint it,” he said.

The rotation ensured equal distribution of the flake across the entire helmet, he said. Even though McMahon’s Operation Manager, Coe, knew it would be hard, he said he had faith in Fritsche’s painting ability to complete the job to perfection.

“I’m the fool that got the job,” Coe joked. “It’s one thing to paint a helmet, it’s a completely different thing to paint a 53-foot trailer.”

“They had a little more confidence in me than I did,” Fritsche said.

Fritsche said he used different amounts of thinner, flake and application temperatures until he could finally reproduce the same paint effects of the helmets. He said it took him 30 attempts on small hand-held panels before he got the color right. He then turned to a larger canvas to practice applying the paint.

“We had five foot by five foot panels brought in for me to work on,” he said.

The application of the paint onto the panels is what gave Fritsche the idea of how to paint the trailer.

“I did it in sections,” he said. “That way I could compare and make sure each area had the same amount of flake in it.”

Fritsche said the actual process of painting the trailer also took more time than a standard paint job.

“Painting a trailer normally takes three coats,” he said. “But this one took eight.”

Fritsche said it was necessary to put on the additional coats in order to produce the depth that the football helmets have. He also said the six weeks it took to paint OSU’s trailer was double the time it takes to paint a normal trailer, making the schedule tight for its inaugural transporting of gear to the 2019 Rose Bowl.

Being a fan of the Buckeyes, Fritsche said he was proud the trailer was painted in Marietta.

“It was quite an honor to do the trailer,” he said. ” They could have chosen a place in Cincinnati, Columbus or Cleveland. It’s nice they chose us to do it for them.”

Blair said the extra time taken to paint the trailer made it one of the most memorable in his fleet.

“The new trailer doesn’t take a back seat to any other one,” he said.