Humble operator Simon McMahon never dreamed he’d have a truck good enough to display at the Brisbane Truck Show.
Add in the fact that the Kenworth T909 that he and wife Jamie own was the talk of the show at the Robuk Engineering stand, you can understand why the McMahons still can’t wipe the smiles from their faces at S&J McMahon Transport.
“I think I was like a bit of a kid to be honest on the Thursday night before we went down, I don’t think I slept, I was just a bit too excited,” Simon says.
“It actually blew me away how much it is circulating everywhere to be honest. James [Yerbury] from Robuk was even saying he had German manufacturers ringing him up because they were getting pictures of it over there.”
While the Germans marvelled at the specs of Robuk’s A-double trailers, for rugby league fans, it was all about the impressive array of Melbourne Storm insignia and team stars deftly illustrated by Jeff Barry from Cyclone Airbrush and Graphics on a canvas of the Storm’s signature purple.
On the back of the cab there is a recreation of the iconic 2017 premiership winning celebration picture of Queensland’s Storm heroes, Cooper Cronk (The Perfectionist), Cameron Smith (The GOAT), and Billy Slater (The Kid), aka ‘The Big 3’.
Nearby on the front deck plate, legendary Storm coach, Craig Bellamy, dubbed ‘The Master’ by the McMahons, keeps a watchful eye, and the names of the couple’s other favourite Storm players are also written on the sides.
There’s even a scrawl of the Storm’s theme song on the truck, and to crown it all off, a Melbourne Storm man ornament on the top of the bonnet, thanks to Blaze Industries.
No strangers to theming their trucks, Simon and Jamie have always toyed with the idea of a tribute to their favourite NRL team.
The whole family are mad keen supporters, Simon, 33, for more than 20 years, Jamie, 33, for the 16 years they’ve been together and more recently their daughters Paige, 9, and Quinn,6, also “live and breathe them”.
With Robuk keen to display the trailer on their show stand, the McMahons went into overdrive to make it a “one of a kind”, burying themselves in planning the final look for the last two years.
“We spent a lot of time researching what we wanted and going back forward with Jeff Barry,” says Simon, who capped off the unforgettable trip by watching the Storm beat the Dolphins 24-16 from Robuk’s corporate box at Suncorp.
“We wanted the Big 3 just because it’s a very iconic photo for the Melbourne Storm, and I wanted Craig Bellamy, he’s a good coach.”
“When it came to side walls and side of the cab, we just wanted that navy stripe with the lightning, that gold and silver stripe around it with the players’ names airbrushed.
“The Storm man on the sides of the bunk and trailers is one of the old Storm symbols but we used the new Storm colours because we wanted something a bit more 3D to pop out.
“The Jahrome Hughes headgear with the lightning on it we’d take screenshots of that because that’s how we wanted the lightning done.
“Over 18 months, to two years, anything Storm-orientated we saved into a file in the system and went slowly from there.”
The only hurdle was the later than expected arrival of the T909 to undergo its transformation, with the McMahons only receiving the cab chassis in the second week of March.
“So, we only had eight weeks to get it ready for the truck show. Blaze Industries who do all my stainless and lights and Cyclone were working seven days a week, sometimes until 1am in the morning to get it done.
“They put a very big effort in to get to where it was. The day before it went in the show, they were flat out ripping all the plastic off the stainless and detailing it.”
The McMahons are hopeful that in the off-season a few of the Storm players will drop by for a few pics and to sign the truck. The Robuk team had tried to arrange with Bellamy’s management to get his signature on the truck, but his travel and game schedule made it not possible.
By the time you read this it will be business as usual, however, for the show-stopping 909, running grain and fertiliser from NSW and Queensland into the Brisbane port with long-time McMahons driver Danny Ryan behind the wheel.
“He is a Cowboys supporter but I’m slowly converting him.”
The McMahons have 11 full-time drivers, five more staff in the office, including Simon and Jamie.
They are a tight-knit, loyal crew with open communication encouraged by the McMahons whose last themed truck was to raise awareness of men’s mental health.
“Obviously sitting in a truck five days a week away from home four or five nights a week does take its toll on them, so I’ve always been pretty approachable with that,” says Simon, who is open about his own struggles with mental health.
“It’s really opened it up, and a few people have sort of looked at the fact I run a business and thought, you suffer some stuff as well; it puts a bit of positivity on it.
“When I first had issues with it, I was pretty embarrassed to be honest, but I guess now I’m the opposite.
“My motto is, if I save one person then I’m happy.”
As for the next theme-based truck, Simon says he’s still working on a couple of ideas for some new Kenworths arriving in the next 12 months, some of which are fleet additions and others updates.
“We’ve got one nine oh coming with a 60-inch bunk on it that’s black.
“My wife wanted a black truck, so she’s got some ideas coming up for a paint job.
“Whatever we do, I’ll have to do something pretty bloody good to top the Storm one.”
Robuk scores again for McMahons
If you are going to create a truck masterpiece, you want to hook it up to what you consider are the best trailers that money can buy. For Simon McMahon that meant going to Robuk Trailers.
Based in Hemmant in the Port of Brisbane, Robuk design, develop, manufacture and sell premium custom-built aluminium and steel trailers for the Australian bulk haulage market.
Josh Petersen is the operations manager of Robuk and is effusive in his praise of Simon McMahon for backing the boys from virtually day one.
“Simon has supported us right from the beginning. His first trailer with us was built in our first little shed at Gympie here in Queensland,” Peterson says.
“His faith in us and the ‘advertisement’ that his trucks have given us has certainly helped us build a successful business since we started operations in 2020. From small beginnings we now number around 50 employees.
“James Yerbury, the founder of Robuk, myself and a few others had worked together for another trailer company. James left to launch Robuk, selling his house, boat – virtually everything he had to get it off the ground. When I found out about his new venture I gave him call and jumped on board as ops manager, running the workshop.
“We knew the Storm T909 was coming about a year back and that it was coming off the line around truck show time. Simon had said that if the stars aligned he’d love to show it at Brisbane and well, they did.
“The A double trailers are built to our standard spec and that means the best of everything. Hendrickson axles, BPW Agro Drive, genuine ring feeders, JOST legs and turntable and Alcoa wheels. This is the way we like to go with all our trailers.
“Then of course we build the actual trailers on top of all that. We reckon they look great as they come off the production line but hey, Simon’s imagination certainly doesn’t hurt. Geoff Barry from Cyclone Airbrush and Graphics did the artwork but he’s so busy he probably won’t thank me for mentioning that.”
It’s not just been Simon McMahon’s patronage that has led Robuk to continued success. The company prides itself on the quality of every trailer to leave its workshop.
“We are all about quality. We’re about tare weight, giving the customers what they want and what they need and providing the backup service. That last one is almost number one.
“A lot of businesses forget what it’s like when times have been tough. When sales are through the roof service can sometimes go on the back-burner. Without customers you have nothing. You have to treat the customer as though they are part of your family and that is the core tenet of our operation.”
- additional reporting by Graham Harsant