After 40 years on the road as a truckie, Rick Sauerwald, now 61, retired last year – well sort of anyway. He and his wife Delice Sauerwald are making life their adventure as they chase an endless summer.
Based on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia, they spent five years doing up their 359 Peterbilt and converting their 1994 trailer into a home away from home, which embarked on its maiden run in May 2022.
“Last year’s trip was fabulous. Over four months, we went from South Australia to Perth to Darwin, along the coast and then back home. We clocked up 12,000km in the Peterbilt. And then another 10,000km in the Toyota, as we did that much sight-seeing,” explained Rick.
“We can’t get into every caravan park in Australia with it, but that’s not why we built it. The truck stays on bitumen roads – we use the car to visit national parks and beaches. We like to keep the truck immaculate.
“What we’re trying to do is travel somewhere tropical in Australia each winter. It’s a magical thing to have this sort of truck. The project was really special because me and my wife spent five years putting it together. It started with a blank piece of paper and we got it exactly how we wanted it. We’re very proud and happy with the end result.”
The transformation is incredible. When they received the trailer, it was in a bit of a sorry state. “I bought the trailer after seeing it online. It was well worn, cracked and faded. It was just a box with no air conditioning or anything and was only ever used to transport bread for Tip Top,” recalled Rick.
Now the trailer is unrecognisable. Rick says it has all the creature comforts. The impressive ‘motorhome’ even has space to carry their Toyota RAV4 thanks to its clever design.
“We have air conditioning, a shower, toilet, kitchen, solar panels, satellite TV – it’s basically a house. There’s a mezzanine section with couches on it. When it’s dropped down, it’s a lounge room, which gives us an extra 5 metres of living space.
“When it’s lifted up, we can park our car under it. We had to buy the right lounge to fit into that space, as it stays sitting on that mezzanine floor. We had parameters for the car size too. It converts from garage to lounge in minutes.”
As you’d imagine, a lot of blood, sweat and dollars went into making this dream a reality. “It took a while to complete because we were working full time – me as a dangerous goods driver and my wife as a midwife – and we used our wages to pay for it,” added Rick.
“Most of the fit-out that we could do, we did ourselves; and we did it all to a high standard. But we also had to spend a lot of money on appropriate trades like electrical, plumbing, gas and cabinet makers.
“I’m in my element with it. This all evolved from seeing someone else have one, then thinking we could do that. We thought of getting a caravan but elected to do own trailer from scratch instead.”
As for the truck, Rick and Delice were looking into importing a Peterbilt from the United States for their project, but as luck would have it, they came across one closer to home.
“It was actually an ex-NASCAR hauler for a small one-car team that did the circuit. A guy from Melbourne imported the truck together with the car transporter trailer. The truck was white with purple flames on the bonnet and featured the words ‘Studio 33 Motorsports’ on the door,” said Rick.
“I went to have a look at the Peterbilt and then drove it home. Because it had only just been imported, it had never been registered in Australia, so there were a few hoops to jump over with that. Delice and I had it sprayed, added the bling on the outside and the trims inside.”
That was the first time Rick had ever driven a Peterbilt and interestingly, the idea for the whole project started with something much smaller.
“This all began after a trip to a winery in the Clare Valley. They had a small Bedford truck in the driveway as a display and I said to Delice that I wouldn’t mind getting a truck one day and doing it up. I started looking at Kenworth trucks in America and was looking at day cabs at first, but then she said we might as well get one with a sleeper,” he said.
Rick added that he’s been mad on trucks since he was just a little boy. He completed his diesel apprenticeship by the age of 19 and was driving trucks full time from the age of 21 – with the first truck he ever drove being a Ford Louisville with a 903 Cummins engine.
Most of his career has involved carrying dangerous goods – which he still does casually now for Booth Transport, mainly during the summer, when he and Delice are back at home.
But for now, the husband and wife team are looking forward to their next adventure in their home on wheels.
As winter sets in for most of us in the southern states, Rick and Delice are preparing to set off, cruising along the coast to Cairns for yet another epic four-month adventure.