Features, Shows, Truck events

Blown away by the biggest truck show in the southern hemisphere

Big Rigs has been to countless truck shows over the years so it could be easy to become blasé about them – not that we do. But to say we were blown out of the water by the Casino event on August 5 is a masterclass of understatement.

This year, Casino attracted 581 registrations and, it was estimated another 40 or so turned after registration had closed. From my 5am arrival in the thick fog, the trucks rolled in and as they did the excitement amongst the organisers grew along with the ever increasing number of registrations.

At 8am I met Richmond Valley Council’s Sharon Davidson and she informed me that last year there were 375 trucks with an estimated 8000 people attending.

“This year we’ve gone over 500 trucks. We are officially the biggest truck show in the southern hemisphere because we have pipped Christchurch, NZ.”

She was even more excited to tell me the final number.

Known to all for his tireless work in organising Haulin’ the Hume and The Clarendon Kenworth Klassic, Bruce Gunter arrived at Casino for the first time with his newly restored 1978 Kenworth K125 CR.

Bruce Gunter, left, and Glenn Dawson with Bruce’s restored Max Keogh K125CR.

Originally owned by Max Keogh and admired by Bruce when he was a lad, he bought the truck in 2011. The restoration, done himself with some help from good mates took nine years – a little longer than the 12 months Bruce had originally envisaged.

Running an 892 Detroit through a 13 speed non-preselect and on torsion bars, Bruce has retained as much of the originality is possible.

“Max is now 87, living in America and still driving trucks. One of the finest people you will ever meet, he came over and had a look at this, the first Kenworth he’d ever owned. It certainly bought a tear to his eye.”

With Bruce bringing his Denning bus to Casino, driving duties for the K125 were left to mate, Glenn Dawson.

“Since his accident, Bruce’s back isn’t really up to this so I drove it up from Sydney,” laughed Glenn. “I think my back might be worse than his now, and we still have to get it back home.”

Jon Kelly has been an ambassador for Casino since its inception 10 years ago. Last year he turned up with 12 trucks, upping the ante to 16 this year, “because my team insisted.”

“You know, we’ve put $10 million worth of gear on the ground here to maybe win a ‘$30 trophy’. Seriously though, that’s not what it’s about. The outside world needs to see this. We all know what the average bloke driving up the highway thinks of trucks and its shows like this that are good for the industry as a whole.”

Jon and his Heavy Haulage Assets business won three awards.

Show ambassador Jon Kelly with sons James and Josh.

Scott McSweeney turned up with his truck, ‘Top Cat’ one of the most unique Peterbilts in Australia, if not the world. With a 3408 CAT V8 motor, it is one of only three trucks with this motor working in Australia – the others being Midway Concretes Peterbilt and a cab over Kenworth that runs Melbourne to Perth. But Top Cat is much more than just the motor in it.

“It’s a 1967 Peterbilt that a friend of mine imported from America and it was a basket case. Everything was stuffed on it. So we converted it, stripping it down to a bare chassis, lengthening the cab by 10 inches so that I would have more leg room. We lengthened the bonnet by 18 inches to fit the CAT and because the door pillars were bent, we converted them to suicide doors, getting rid of the door handles in the process.”

Scott asks me how to open them and I fail miserably. He then points to a spanner protruding from the front of the window sill. “My dad gave me some old Whitworth spanners which were useless to me until I came up with this idea. It’s a nice tie-in to the old man.”

Keeping it full-American, Top Cat has 24 inch rims (very rare in Australia) and a 6 and a half metre wheelbase. The truck has been built out of at least four others – the motor out of a 1984 cab over American Freightliner, the running gear from a 2000 Peterbilt 379 extended hood, and the bunk from a 1986 Pete. Of the cabin, the mudguards are from a 1967 Peterbilt with the rest being hand made.

“It has a Morris Minor wiper motor replacing the original air wipers which were noisy and don’t work. Also there wasn’t the room for the original.”

The priceless ‘Thunderbolt’ and ‘Captain Starlight’ Macks graced the crowd.

It’s worth noting that this is a working truck.

Mark Causley is no stranger to winning awards having won Truck of the Year in the past, although he states that he hasn’t picked up much since then. ‘Causo’ turned up at Casino with four stunning Kenworth’s in his trademark red and white colours. The standout to these eyes was his 1987 W model (the last of the W models) with its 444 Cummins Power which looked brand-spanking new.

“I’ve had it for seven years and it was pretty good when I got it. Originally belonging to Joe Muscat who had it for 17 years, it then went to Brian Turpey and then to me.”

Causo puts his trucks to work doing general, local and some tipper work. With over 600 trucks attending, to stand out is no mean feat but Causo’s do, attracting not only great admiration from the crowds, but also from the judges who presented him with two awards.

Not all trucks at the show were new. There were plenty of old bangers proudly displaying their patina and work history for all to see. One such truck was Peter Harrington’s recently purchased 300Hp 1985 Mack Econodyne.

“The truck belonged to Geoff Hollis Transport at Clontarf who closed up shop 20 years ago,” said Peter. They never sold any of their fleet or tankers – just parked them up and walked away.

“This truck was originally built by Mack for Shell Australia which is why it sits so high. It’s a heavy spec prime mover with all the good gear on it. There is a medallion on the steering wheel signifying that it is a specially built truck.”

Peter also bought a cab over Kenworth K 100 E from the Hollis estate which had been one of a build for Kenworth’s On The Move Expo in 1994. He moved that truck on to Justin Klos.

“I have crook legs and getting in and out of the KW was a chore. The Klos boys will no doubt do it justice.”

What is currently probably the most recognised truck in Australia at the moment, S & J McMahon Transport’s Kenworth ‘Melbourne Storm’ truck took centre stage at Casino, replete with one of its trailers.

First shown at Brisbane, many believed it was purely a show truck. Driver Dan Ryan was at Casino to put that fallacy to bed.

“The truck has now been working for six weeks,” he said. “This week alone I’ve been to Narrabri, Moree, Wee Waa, and Collarenebri. The truck hauls wheat, barley and a bit of cottonseed as well as fertiliser out of Brisbane.

“You have to be careful when you pull up to relieve yourself in the bushes because someone always pulls up to take photos. It draws plenty of attention, but now I’d better get back to cleaning it.”

And the winner is Luke Wilson flanked by young mate Angus and daughter Olivia.

Of course, there can only be one Truck of the Show and this year that honour went to Luke Wilson who drives the winning Kenworth T908 for Greg and Nadia Bulmer, of Stony Chute near Kyogle, NSW.

“I’ve never won anything and it’s a privilege to drive this truck,” Luke said. “It’s a testament to Greg and Nadia and the way they have done it up. I just wash it and keep it clean.”

We’d like to add, Luke, that it takes an awful lot of cleaning to win a truck show such as this.

“It was my daughter, Olivia who talked me into entering the show. I started getting it up to scratch six weeks ago. I’d spend 12 hours on washday, with help from Olivia and my mate’s son Angus, only for it to rain on Monday. They’ve also been doing a lot of bitumen work in the area so it was constantly getting tarred up and we’d have to start again.”

Olivia was reduced to tears at the win, and again during this interview. Luke’s win proves that the judges walked to the four corners of the truck show because he was parked right at the back. Congratulations to Luke, Olivia, and Angus, and of course the Bulmer’s, and to everyone who won an award at Casino.

That said, everyone who took the time to clean their truck and the effort to attend Casino are winners. Congratulations to you all and to Darren Goodwin and the rest of the committee.

Today the biggest show in the southern hemisphere, next year maybe the world.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend