Plenty of bark left in Risto’s beloved Bulldog

As is often the case wherever big rigs gather at a show, convoy run or other public display, the historic trucks are always a popular drawcard with visitors checking out a wide range of vehicles that have travelled the highways in times past. 

In many cases historic trucks are restored and overhauled to a high standard, but sometimes trucks are kept in ‘original’ condition and left as they were when their working days finished. 

Such is the case of the 1984 Mack R-Model which was owned and operated by Ristovichis Orchards of Kyabram with the unrestored truck today showing its history and the scars of a long and industrious life.

The R-Model, with its distinctive paint scheme, was part of the line-up of trucks at the first Rutherglen Rumble which was held in north-eastern Victoria on Easter Sunday, with the truck having being bought up from its current home in Bendigo under the care of Mitch Seeley, on behalf of the current owner, Dean Ashworth.

For many years, the Macks owned by Jim Ristovichis were a regular sight on the highway, hauling fruit out of Kyabram and the Goulburn Valley in Victoria to the capital city fruit markets. 

The iconic Ristovichis Magnum Super-Liner underwent a full restoration some years back and now resides in the MOVE transport museum in Shepparton while its ‘little brother’ R-Model is a regular on the show circuit, with Seeley giving a background to the truck since being acquired in the mid-2000s. 

“Dean bought the truck, a flat top trailer and Pantech trailer off Jim, with the intention to keep as it is rather than give it the full treatment overhauling it,” said Seeley.

“It has had a few bits and pieces done on it, like a few repairs to the fuel tanks from being bashed around, and the chassis rails got painted but the rest is still original.”

Indeed, it is with the truck still running the original 350 horsepower Econodyne motor, complete with air-starter and 9-speed gearbox, whilst the interior has also been retained in ‘as-is’ condition.  

The name on the door has faded, and the front of the truck is showing the scars from numerous stone chips and dings from back in the day when the Hume was just a two-lane stretch for the most part, but these all add to telling the truck’s story, which has a personal connection for Dean Ashworth.

“Over the years a lot of blokes have driven it, but this was the first semi that Dean drove, he took a load of fruit into Sydney so it kinda stuck to him, so he bought it in the mid-2000s. It usually tows the fridge van which was also painted up in the same colours,” Seeley said.

The truck has been a regular attendee on the show circuit, around Victoria and further afield with Seeley giving it a regular workout to ensure the bark on the old bulldog stays sharp.

“If it doesn’t get driven for a while it gets a bit of dust on it, so we think ‘Ah we better get her out!’ 

“Jim Ristovichis drove it up to Alice Springs for the Hall of Fame Reunion and it has also done Crawling the Hume. 

“It also gets back home to the Kyabram Mack Muster – It’s fairly well known about the place, probably not as well-known as the Super-Liner, but a lot of people take a second look when they pass it and think, ‘Is that the one in the museum?” he said.

The R-Model is one of a number of Macks owned by Dean Ashworth with an Ultra-Liner and a Value-Liner all working as part of his demolition business, and Seeley bought the Mack up to Rutherglen bobtail which made for a less than smooth trip: “It had a set of airlines on it but one of the other trucks had a mishap so they got pilfered off it for this.

“It usually doesn’t go anywhere without the trailer so we weren’t sure how it would go. It rides shithouse without the trailer, she needs 40-tonne on it.”

Despite the rough ride, Seeley still enjoys getting behind the controls of the 38-year-old truck and reckons the truck tells its story by being authentically original.

“For a truck to just get in and drive its pretty good, its only got a 9-speed in it so it’s not bad, after all it is an old truck. 

“I used to drive a Western Star down in Melbourne but I’m up in Bendigo now and I can drive this one – the roads are a bit rougher but there’s less traffic. 

“I also like the aesthetics of driving an old truck – the sound and the smell and the air-starter. 

“A lot of restorations they put airbags under them with big bunks and so forth, but it is just nice to see an old original truck.”

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