“WHEN I was about 15, I was driving one of my dad’s log trucks out in the bush, a Leyland Super Hippo, it broke down and I got a lift from a fellow driving a White and I thought then, “When I am old enough I am going to buy one of these.”
And so started the affinity with White trucks for Cesare Colli, with his 1981 Road Boss at the centre of his family’s sawmilling and logging operations for three decades before its retirement and subsequent restoration into the rolling showpiece it is today.
In March this year Cesare, along with wife Silvana, had virtually travelled the length of Australia in the Road Boss, heading east from Perth to the northern Victorian town of Kyabram for the 9th White Truck Muster.
The White drew a constant crowd of admirers throughout the day, with Cesare giving a run-down on his 41-year association with the truck.
“It is an August 1981 build, I bought it new in August 1982 from CJD Equipment in Perth. Until 2004 it was used on logging, firstly with a single trailer up until around 1991 when we started running B-doubles and later also pocket road trains out of the forest.”
With the Colli family operating two sawmills at Byford and Dwellingup, the White was later joined by another two Road Bosses, a Ford LTL and a Mack Ultra-Liner hauling logs and sawn timber up until 2004. With the government phasing out hardwood timber harvesting the family took an exit out of the sawmilling and logging side of the business, which by then was also involved with building supplies and the manufacture of wall frames and trusses.
“In 2004 we subbied it out for tipper work to keep it and the driver working, and in 2006 with the work we had making and hauling wall frames and trusses we took the sleeper off it, put a crane on the back and we ran it until 2013, when we bought an Iveco 8-wheeler prime mover and retired the Road Boss,” explained Cesare.
“It never entered into my mind to sell it, I parked it in the shed and in 2015 I thought it was time to do it up which we did over four years.”
The Road Boss was stripped back with the truck overhauled from bumper to bumper, with Perth company Ripa Engineering handling the mechanicals, including the rebuild of the Cummins Big Cam 400 powerplant. With the interior restored to showroom condition, the exterior panel work was completed by City Panel Beaters with the White resprayed in its striking orange hue, replacing the original red and white paintwork.
“Orange is our company colours, at the time we were in the process of rebranding the company, right through to our hardware and building supply stores. We wanted to make them stand out, so we picked a colour nobody else had, it’s a unique colour,” said Cesare. Across the back of the 36” hi-rise sleeper is a striking mural which was airbrushed by Wayne Harrison, illustrating the Colli family history in the timber industry.
“It traces our story, it depicts the original mill my dad Pietro started up in 1969 along with the loader and with the house at the mill I grew up in, and of course the White with a load of logs. Aside to the mural we kept the scrollwork and pinstriping subtle just to enhance what we have got,” he explained.
Along the way the Road Boss was kitted out with cruise control, integrated air conditioning and some extra bling including stainless guards, a new rear light bar and LED lights.
Like a lot of people in years past, Cesare got used to changing gears and hauling loads well before he was of legal driving age.
“We had the Leyland Super Hippo, 160HP and a 6-speed main box, it would hold 60km/h flat out, but you couldn’t break it! I was about 12 or 13, and I was in boarding school on a Friday night. The old man came and got me to help him on the weekend and said: “We’re hauling logs and you’re driving the truck’” he recalled with a smile.
From then Cesare worked his way up on loaders and trucks to the purchase of the White in 1982, which at the time was quite expensive but turned out to be a good investment.
“It cost $110,000 and back then it was a lot of money, you could buy two houses in Perth for that amount of money. I wanted one with a Detroit as it had more horsepower but I haven’t regretted getting one with a Cummins – our other Road Bosses had Cummins in them too and we had a good run out of all of them.”
Making their first visit to the White Muster, Cesare and Silvana hooked a trailer on behind the Road Boss to make the 3300km trip east, with the White taking the trip in its stride.
“We towed a float and car over, I put four packs of timber on the gooseneck to settle it down a bit, coming across from Murray Bridge to Pinnaroo the road was pretty rough but overall she handled pretty well and could stay on 100k’s with ease. It is the longest single trip we have done in it, but she did well and didn’t use a drop of oil,” said Cesare.
The White has done a couple of local shows around the Perth region since hitting the road once again and was one of the standout trucks and the 2023 White Muster, with Cesare happy to have made the trip across the Nullarbor to display his Road Boss.
“We have taken about three weeks off and made a trip out of it. These trucks on here are all the ones I grew up with, the old Whites, Diamond T’s and so forth, there are plenty of like-minded people so there’s lots to talk about. It has been a long journey coming over here, but this show is pretty special.”