CUSTOM & CLASSIC – Old 500

Warren Caves focuses on Jeffsann Plant Hire

Long before Mack trucks sounded like Volvo’s, and black exhaust stacks were more common than Euro 5 badges, the Mack Super-Liner, among others, epitomised the era of “Super Trucks”.

Australia was under the leadership of a beer-swilling prime minister in the form of Bob Hawke, and diesel prices were low enough to ignore the cost, and black smoke belching out of the exhaust, in preference for more spritely performance.

The year was 1985, and the unmistakeable sound of the air start, waking neighbours for miles, heralded the dawn of a new working day for the Mack Super-Liner.

Introduced in 1977 to replace the R-model, the Super-Liner was a development of the “Brockway Superliner”, Brockway being a subsidiary of Mack until its closure in 1977.

The Super-Liner production run lasted for fifteen years until it was discontinued in 1989. The Series-11 ran from 1985 to 1989.

The current custodians of this fine-looking Mack Super-Liner are Jeffsann Plant Hire operating out of their Agnes Banks yard west of Sydney.

Jeffsann Plant Hire was started by Charlie Refalo and his eldest son, Joe. Charlie emigrated from Malta as a young boy and tried his hand at a few different jobs before initiating the beginnings of Jeffsann Plant Hire. Joe’s younger brothers, Laurie and Luke, joined the enterprise in 1988, officially marking the beginnings of Jeffsann Plant Hire.

Currently operating a fleet of trucks dominated by the Mack brand, and a wide array of earthmoving equipment, Jeffsann specialises in excavation and demolition work as well as site remediation, asbestos removal, and plant and tipper hire.

This is very much a family business and it became very clear upon speaking with Luke and Joe during this photo shoot they are fiercely Mack truck devotees.

Sadly, Charlie passed away after a battle with Cancer in 2009 and was posthumously inducted into the Road Transport Hall of Fame in 2010.

A keen eye will notice the words “Jeff’s Dream” painted on the side of the bonnet. This is a tribute Jeffrey Refalo, another of Charlie’s sons, who, as a kid, dreamed of owning a fleet of Mack trucks. A tragic turn of events in 1978 meant that he never got to realise his dream, a fatal accident whilst riding his bike saw his life cut short at the age of 12. As a fitting tribute, young Jeff’s ambition is proudly reflected on the bonnet of all the Jeffsann Macks.

Purchased in 2011, this 1985 Series-1 Mack Super-Liner was originally configured as a body tipper and was operated that way by Jeffsann for approximately four years before being taken off the road for a six-month restoration in 2015.

The burble emanating from under the bonnet is unmistakably from a 500 hp E9 Mack V8, although Luke said, “I think it may have originally been a 440 hp, however the 500 hp version is how we purchased it”. Either way, 500 hp was a BIG deal back in 1985.

An 18-speed Maxitorque triple countershaft transmission sits behind the engine and the rear end is the bulletproof 44,000 lb camelback set- up.

The restoration project was carried out by Ben, Dave, Will and Brad, the mechanics employed in the Jeffsann workshop.

With the bin removed, a sleeper added and all the mechanicals refurbished, the paintwork was then completed under the spray gun of Josh Bonichi.

In August 2015, after a six-month labour of love, the big Mack lurched into her second life with a trip to Alice Springs for the Road Transport Hall of Fame re-union.

As you read this article, I can almost hear you saying, “Ahhh, the good old days,” and “They don’t make them like that anymore.” Maybe that’s just as well, as I think it’s easy to look back at things with rose-coloured glasses and reminisce. While these old rigs certainly have a great deal of character and a ruggedness born of simplicity, modern trucks, from a workspace point of view are more efficient and comfortable. And, regardless of how hard I looked, I couldn’t find an acronym anywhere on this truck – no, ABS, EBS, ECU, SCR ATC, ACC or any of the other fancy systems of today.

It’s great to see our historical machines being so well preserved by the loyal supporters out there, however camelback springs, solid-mounted cabs, and sliding into a sleeper through an opening the size of a large letterbox, don’t make for a comfortable day.

At the time, we didn’t know any better and this was the best of its kind for the day. We didn’t know we were missing out on anything, but one thing is for certain, the driver’s working environment has certainly moved forward in leaps and bounds since 1985.

Luke Refalo said, “Old 500 is still working within our operations. Sometimes she works every day, sometimes only a couple of days a week”.

The Super-Liner is also a frequent attendee to local truck shows.

While her semi-retirement lifestyle is suiting her well, I believe there will be a stall in the Jeffsann stable for this “Old 500” for many years to come.

(Editors Note: Old 500’s fuel delivery system may have been, well, slightly enhanced temporarily for dramatic effect on our photo shoot.)

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One comment

  1. Enjoyed reading the article above , really explains everything in detail,the article is very interesting and effective.Thank you and good luck for the upcoming articles.

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