Think of a classic American trucking icon of the 1970s and the cabover International Transtar would have to be a contender with its imposing size, trapezoidal grill and trim styling carrying from the front of the cab around the sides.
While a number of these units were put to work in Australia, today they are somewhat of a rarity, and to find one painted up in the colours of another iconic American brand makes for a unique truck.
Such is the case with the ‘Bud Express’, Jason Huet’s bright red 1974 CO-4070, which is decked out with Budweiser Beer signage, and is a familiar sight at historic vehicle shows and events around the Brisbane area.
The big Transtar previously wore the colours of SCT Logistics before being painted up in the ‘Bud’ paint schemes it was used as a tow unit for a Budweiser drag-bike racing team based out of Brisbane, with the truck having stuck in Jason’s mind from a young age.
“I remember seeing this as a kid, and when I set out to buy something, I wanted something that I could drive around and have some fun with,” Jason explained.
“I was after a Ford LTL, but I said to my dad Des, ‘Something like the old Budweiser Transtar would be good’. Lo and behold about two weeks after that conversation he rang and said, ‘I know where it is!’ and he dragged me out to show me.
“He had already made an offer with my money, but it all worked out well. The biggest hurdle was trying to convince my wife Karly to take it on.
“In the end I said, ‘Well, it’s going to be a truck or a Harley’ and she said, ‘You’re not getting a bike!’ so a truck it was!”
However, it seemed Karly had the last laugh when it came time to getting the International registered, having a bit of input to the personalised number plates.
“She ordered the number plates for it; she thought it was rather amusing. It’s amazing the number of people who notice that,” Jason said with a grin.
With father Des, a truck driver for a number of years, there is a bit of diesel in Jason’s blood, and he currently operates a variety of tip trucks including a Hino truck and dog carting landscaping supplies.
With the Transtar in his possession he was able to put his trade skills as a mechanic and auto-electrician to good use giving the truck an overhaul.
“We have just done a lot of tidying up – especially with the wiring and so forth and have put a lot of elbow grease in polishing it – the paint was done in 2004, it was parked out in a yard for a few years, but the paint has stood up to it pretty well. I have had the Budweiser stickers re-made but other than that it is what it is, it’s pretty good inside as upholstery had been done previously,” he said.
Sitting between the chassis rails is a Detroit Diesel 8/71 which has been turbocharged and is married up to a 15-speed Roadranger. Despite the Detroit’s having a reputation for being somewhat rowdy it doesn’t appear the bother Jason’s neighbours.
“It goes very well and it’s a fun truck to drive, I love driving it up over the Gateway Bridge from time to time to give it a good run. The plan is to keep working away at it, and I have been toying putting on it on a rolling dyno just to give it a real good run under load. I have a classic Falcon at home as well as this and the neighbours reckon this isn’t as loud as that!” he explained with a smile.
With its bright colour and imposing presence, the Transtar is somewhat of a magnet whenever Jason has the truck either in the driveway at home, or out and about at some of the automotive gatherings around Brisbane.
“I can be out the front cleaning it up and it’s amazing the number of conversations I have with people just walking up and down the street.”
“I have taken it to a few car club shows. The promoters love it because it draws people to it. We have also run it in the Brisbane Convoy for Kids the last two years, and I really love doing that as it’s such a great event.”
Overall, the Transtar has been a worthwhile project for Jason to take on, and it is something that is worth preserving as a both a fulfilling hobby along with maintaining a link to one of the highway haulers of times past.
“I really enjoy it. This is our hobby, and this is something you can see.
“You could buy a jet ski, which would cost more to maintain and own than this thing. I love the classic American ‘Big Truck’ styling of that 70s-era and it attracts a lot of attention – whether it’s a young kid or and older person it always gets the thumbs up from them.”