Sydney’s historic vehicles park up at Penrith – Words by Warren Caves, with images by Torque it Up
Our transport history is a hugely important part of our very existence. From the late 1800s to the 1960s, Australia was said to ride on a sheep’s back, a saying that referenced the role Australia’s wool industry had in the prosperity of our nation.
While Australia no longer rides on a sheep’s back, it could well be said that, since the decline of the prosperous wool years, Australia may well now ride on a truck’s back, as no other industry has contributed so much to the Australian way of life, to which we have all become accustomed.
The opening up our vast country to mining and pastoral pursuits requires equipment and people. Equipment needs to transported, and the people need supplies. Everything we have, or need, is at some point riding in or on a truck, from our groceries to the fuel in our cars, or the oxygen to keep patients alive in our hospitals. Without trucks, and the men and women who drive them, our lives would be unrecognisably different.
This is why we need to preserve this transport history, for future generations to appreciate how tough the job was before sleeper cabs, ice packs, air conditioning and airbag suspensions came along to tame the corrugations.
This is what is so great about shows such as the Sydney Classic and Antique Truck Show (SCAATS) and the clubs and individuals that support them.
Truck and industry museums do exist, but the bulk of the financial burden of caring for, and or restoring these classic workhorses, falls upon the individuals who have a passion for the trucks of years gone by. Trucks they may well have driven before they retired, when they had a little more time on their hands, or even members of the younger generation who appreciate a well-built piece of equipment, where barely an ounce of plastic can be found.
The Museum of Fire at Penrith hosted the 8th annual 2018 SCAAT Show to sunny skies for a family-orientated event featuring rides and miniature remotely controlled trucks for the kids. Also up for the visitors was an abundance of food outlets, and, for the first time, a strong-man display with three competitors putting their hamstrings on the line to see who could pull the 21700 kg GRS Towing side-puller the furthest.
As a former apprentice mechanic for what was then called International Harvester, old Inters always catch my eye. This year was no exception, with a showroom-condition 3070 Eagle owned by Charlie Grima being hard to miss. It looked every bit as though it had recently rolled off the Dandenong production line back in 1978. Charlie has a penchant for 3070s as was demonstrated by his Eagle, plus a second unrestored Eagle he had sitting next to it. While the ground-up restoration on the first truck is fantastic in its dedication to the original product, Charlie says that he is still undecided as to whether he will restore the second unit (which only has 260,000 km on the clock) or keep it original.
While on the International nostalgia express, I spotted an International Transtar 4200 that I had not before seen at any shows. Sitting proudly by its side was Tony Kuchel, who was more than happy to tell its story.
Tony owned this truck some time ago when it was configured as a 6×4 semi-tipper, and sold it in 1984. Having subsequently tracked it down, he repurchased the 4200 in 2016 and carried out a major restoration. Tony stripped it right back and found the chassis heavily corroded from spending the last 30 years carting rock and salt. New single chassis rails were installed and it was cut back to a 4X2. Today the 4200 is kitted out for comfortable travel around the truck show circuit. It’s fitted with an 8V71T Detroit diesel and painted red, not green, as was the norm for early Detroit’s fitted into Internationals.
The SCAATS is a very informal event, with prizes well received. A notable mention goes to Brad Skeers, who picked up the Bill Maddy Memorial Trophy in the category of most authentic, with his entry of a 1953 Morris Commercial.
Brad came upon the old Morris on a property near, Kendall, NSW. There, it had been sitting in a shed for the last 30 years or so after retiring from carting fuel in 44-gallon drums in the local area.
Spectators were also treated to vintage fire equipment displays, and the fire hoses blasting fountains of water great distances were a treat for all the kids.
PowerTorque hopes that shows such as these never fall out of interest, as these truck enthusiasts do a marvellous job maintaining the heritage of transport in Australia. These events provide enthusiasts with the chance to meet others with similar interests, creating an unique bond and keeping hubbies out in the shed for many a weekend, perhaps to the delight of their spouses.