Bronzed Bulldog takes prides of place in collection

Released into the Australian marketplace in the early 1980s as a replacement to the long-standing F-Model, the Mack Cruise-Liner took its place as the flagship cabover truck in the Bulldog breed’s product line-up. 

With only a couple of hundred of the model made, they are somewhat rare to see today when compared to other Mack models such as the R-Model or Super-Liner. 

In the case of Phillip Lamb of Bendigo, his 1981 Cruise-Liner is one which was making its first visit to the recent American Truck Historical Society display in Echuca, with the truck’s distinctive bronze paint scheme making it stand out from the rest.

The Mack, fitted with an Econodyne 350hp motor and 12-speed gearbox was originally green in colour, and had already had a considerable amount of work done to it by its previous owners in Queensland.  

With the truck heading south to Victoria, Lamb finished off the project and painted it as he explained.

“It’s Mack all through, with the motor, the air starter and Mack rear end,” said Lamb.

Standing Tall: Phillip Lamb’s Cruise-Liner on show in Echuca. Photos: David Vile

“When I got it, the previous owners had already done a lot of the work on it such as the exhaust/intake gantry and a few of their other ideas.

“I stripped it down and finished it myself and painted it, I was after something a little different with the colour.

“We tried a few options, and they didn’t really suit; what we ended up with is actually a General Motors bronze colour which they used on the 1981 Holden Commodore.” 

It would be fair to say that Lamb has a bit of an affinity with the cabover variety of the Bulldog breed which has developed over the last four decades. 

He currently has four cabover Macks in his collection, including another Cruise-Liner powered with the V8/400 horsepower motor, along with two F-Models from the mid-1970s. 

“I’ve always loved them! I’m 56 now so back in 1981-82 when I was about 16, Jack McKenna and John Kerr in Bendigo both had one doing livestock and I loved them.

“It took me 40 years to get one and now I have four! I always loved the Cruise-Liners, they have the airbags under the cab, and they were always finished off nicely inside.”

The Mack has been well overhauled and painted in its distinctive Bronze colours.

As stated earlier, these days a running Cruise-Liner is something of a rarity to see on the road, with only a relatively low number of units produced before the Ultra-Liner succeeded the Cruise-Liner in the mid 1980s. 

Along the way, Lamb did a bit of research regarding numbers.

“Not many of them were made. I believe they only made 272 in all versions – slimlines, twin-steers and so on. 

“They made 50 E9-400s and only 8 E9 440s in a four-year period… (for restorations) a lot go for the Superliners and R-Models.

“They are great trucks but of course there was a lot more of them made! It would be interesting to know how many Cruise-Liners are left, I would guess there would probably be less than 100 of them around.”

With a family background in trucks, Lamb got his licence at the age of 18, running a number of trucks over the year and today he runs a Freightliner Coranado with a B-double tipper set on grain haulage. 

“Over the last three years the ‘silly’ season has been good right through but am looking at winding back a bit as I need to get to all the resto projects I have on the go at home done!” he said with a grin.

It is not strictly an all-Mack affair at his shed in Bendigo however as at the Echuca event he had also brought along another one of his recent projects, with another iconic 1980-s era truck – a Ford LTL 9000. 

The Mack’s stable-mate, another 1980s icon in the Ford LTL9000.

“We bought that off a chap up at Narromine, where it had been used as a farm truck and painted it last Christmas.

It’s a 1985 model with a Cummins Big Cam 400 in it.

“I had an ’87 model with a 444 Cummins in it which I ran from 1991 to 1996, and  when this popped up we grabbed it!” he explained. 

With an overhaul and some stainless trims applied, the Ford also got a fresh coat of paint in a black-and white scheme before its first trip away to the Lancefield ATHS event earlier in the year. 

With a few events crossed off for 2022, Lamb is looking forward to doing a few more shows and rallies in the future with some of his projects and reckoned the Echuca gathering was a worthy event to get to.

“I have enjoyed this one, there’s a lot of friendly people here and everyone is happy to talk about their old trucks….and anything old is good fun!” 

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