Little Louie’s new lease on life for Cobram operator

The Ford Louisville takes its place in the annals of Australian trucking history as one of the models fondly remembered by many as an iconic truck through the 1970s and 1980s. 

At the top of the product line was the LNT9000 with its little brother, the smaller-capacity LN7000 being put to work in a number of applications such as agitators, tippers and short-haul prime-mover work. 

In the case of Garrie Oliver, his LN7000 was firstly a restoration project, and is now a handy truck to have in his shed at Cobram in northern Victoria. 

Oliver had travelled down the Murray Valley to Echuca to the American Truck Historical Society show in early September and detailed the history and subsequent restoration of his truck to Big Rigs.

“It was originally sold out of Toowoomba to Gatton Freight lines in 1978 as a single-axle prime mover, before a guy bought it in Queensland and set it up to cart speedway cars around on the back.  He sold it to a fella in Sunbury near Melbourne, who only had it for around three months and he realised it wasn’t really what he wanted so he sold it to me, and we went from there,“ he explained.

Having acquired the truck in 2018, Oliver gave the Ford a thorough restoration over a number of months both inside and outside. 

Mechanically the truck was in sound order, so a lot of the work involved overhauling the bodywork and interior. 

“It still had the original factory paint on it and had the body on the back and the sleeper-cab wasn’t connected through to the cabin. We pulled it down and Barry ‘Dicko’ Dickson in Cobram painted it all.

“We fitted the sock for the sleeper, made a lot of panels and bits and pieces and then did the paint. It was originally white with a blue pinstripe, but I have a little hot-rod car that has red in it, so I put some red stripes and fuel tanks and so on to match it all up.”

Under the bonnet is a ‘little’ 3208 Cat motor, which was a standard fitment to the LN7000 in that era.

“You can tell it has the Cat motor by the bonnet vent out the top and it’s rated at 210 horsepower. Someone along the way has put in a 10-speed Road Ranger gearbox so it can cruise along ok until it sees a hill,” he said with a grin.

The Ford Louisville stands out with its distinctive grille.

Internally the cabin also underwent a full overhaul with a couple of new air-ride seats which were trimmed to match the original Louisville brown herringbone trim and the dash coming up better than new with its woodgrain finish also getting a makeover. 

Oliver was able to source authentic parts from around Australia in order to get the Ford back on the road.

“Riverina Diesels in Dunolly were great with bits and pieces, they helped me out a lot, there’s a mob in Perth called Just Louisville’s – little things like the bonnet reflectors and so on and grille shells. I spent a bit of money getting the grille on this one done up because they stand out as soon as people look at it they know it’s a Ford Louisville,” he said.

Loaded up at Echuca with a grey ‘Fergie’ tractor, the Ford usually carries Oliver’s hot rod car around the place to shows and events, but the tractor had stayed on the back after a trip to a heritage machinery show up in Dubbo earlier this year. 

With the fitment of a towbar on the back of the truck it is a versatile unit.

“I set it up with a tow hitch to tow a caravan so we can go to these types of events… it tows the caravan well and you wouldn’t know it was there. We can put the hot rod or the wife’s car on the back if we do go away somewhere and tow the van also, so it covers all the bases – this works well for us!”

Back in the day Oliver was known as ‘Oliver the Ghost’ on the highway, kicking off in 1976 on interstate working for the likes of Mick Travlos on TNT work before working for Safeway in Melbourne for 20 years and then doing music concert event/touring work for ATS.

After a ‘tree change’ north from Mornington to Cobram, in recent times he has been behind the wheel of Barry Dickson’s’ Kenworth T900.

The custom body on the back of the Louisville usually hauls Oliver’s hot rod car.

“We have been carting John Deere tractors for Hutcheon & Pearce out of Finley, with the season the way it has been lately and with the canola and wheat season coming on it has been flat out,” he said. 

Oliver is about to also do a couple longer-distance trips for ATS once again with a couple of show tours such as the Guns N’ Roses concert schedule coming up in the future.”

Back at home the little Louie serves also as a handy piece of transport but also as a link to the transport of times past according to Oliver.

“Not many do these LN7000’s up, plenty of people have done up LTL’s but there’s probably a few of these still on farms and so on. 

“The old Louisville’s played a big part in transport in that era and a lot of people made money out them. Companies like Lindsay Brothers had a huge fleet of Louisville’s 9000s and I drove them back in the 1970s – a lot of blokes had them…but they are getting a bit rare now. 

“These little Louisville’s were widely used, and they certainly had their place in transport in Australia.”

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