Fire and Flintstones

Warren Caves reports on the appeal of vintage and classic icons of trucking history

While new truck shows are full to bursting point with technology and innovation, there’s nothing like the appeal of the older generation to whet the appetite of both young and old alike.

Trucks from bygone eras in transport all have a story to tell, and their owners are usually only too keen to pass on their details to those with the time to listen.

With regional trucks shows always attracting a collection of historic and vintage vehicles, it’s a constant surprise that new additions to the fleet are still surfacing, some found in barns and others just rusting away quietly in the corner of a paddock before finding a new home and the ever-continuing need for some tender love, care and attention.

The Museum of Fire Penrith hosted the 7th annual Sydney Classic and Antique Truck Show (SCAATS) recently, with outstanding weather contributing to a 5000-strong crowd.

The day’s events and activities included rides, stalls, and food vans, as well as vintage firefighting equipment displays and vintage double-decker bus rides. For the kids and the kids who never really grew up there were RC trucks to take for a spin.

I’m sure many of the trucks owners will agree, that SCAATS is not just a truck show, it’s an opportunity to get the “Old Girl” out of the shed (simmer down ladies, I’m not referring to spouses) for the day and meet up with like-minded people in a relaxed atmosphere to discuss the good old days of life in the trucking game. These were the days long before town freeway bypasses and Safe-T-Cams, a time when holding your log book out by the side of the road virtually guaranteed you a lift to get you out of trouble or home to the family.

The show is also a perfect opportunity to share restoration tips and techniques or chat with someone who just might have that vital puzzle piece you’ve been looking for to finish your project, or, if not, answer you with, “I know a guy that has one of those”.

One thing is for certain, these people have immense pride in their trucks, reflected in the attention given to the smallest of details to keep things authentic.

SCAATS’ appeal has many levels and transgresses generations, from the youngest awe-inspired, open-mouthed youngsters, to the veterans of the industry. It has something for everyone.

With our transport equipment heritage being lovingly cared for by these worthy custodians, future generations will able to see a timeline of progression to how we ended up where we are today.

I personally take my hat off to the men and women who carried the nations’ goods in some of these older trucks, I seem to take for granted my air conditioning, air-suspension seat and power steering. The three days it took to drive from Sydney to Melbourne would have been an arduous task indeed.

The day showcased almost all the conceivable breeds of trucks used to shape this country, from models back to the 1920’s and 30’s up to the American-based iconic models of the 70’s and 80’s. Featured were Fodens, Bedfords, Internationals, Kenworth, Mack, Oshkosh, Chevrolet, Volvo and many more to while away the day, inspecting and wondering what their life of toil consisted of.

Each truck seems to have its own colourful biography, with the final chapters written by the owners who rescued them from an undignified existence of decay in a paddock or shed somewhere.

An International 1971 C1840 caught my eye, and her owner Gary Schroder recalled her story:

“I have had this truck for about six years now, and during that time I have completed a full restoration. The truck was found on a farm in Ararat, Victoria, and it was used to pull a tipping trailer. I did all the restoration work myself – the engine, a Cummins 160 hp in-line six-cylinder didn’t require much at all, the repair of a few small oil leaks was all that was necessary. The truck was pretty much rust free apart from the front apron, which I replaced with a new one I tracked down in Cowra, NSW. I painted it myself inside and out, replaced the hood lining, and the seat had been repaired when I got it”.

Gary is a regular on the show circuit with the Inter, and takes part in the Hauling the Hume annual run. “With a five-speed overdrive transmission and a two-speed diff, it drives really well, and comfortably sits on 100 km/h, with good fuel economy,” said Gary.

Gary Toms took the spirit of the show one step further to include army-themed attire whilst showing his 1945 6X6 ex-army Studebaker truck.

The striking blue Ford LTL with matching trailer “Mean Intentions” was a real eye catcher, with amazing airbrush art work adorning her length.

Liz White, the museum’s administration manager, said, “We had attendance numbers of 5000 through the gate on the day, which we were very happy with. SCAATS is our second biggest fundraiser for the year, following closely behind the Penrith Working Truck Show”.

“Our response to the Fire Brigades re-enactments, put on by the Historic Fire Engine Association and the Museum of Fire, were wonderful,” said Liz.

Special thanks go to this year’s sponsors – Shannon’s Insurance and Metropolitan Towing.

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