1964 Pete a pioneer tribute

“This truck helps tell a story – it was the dawning of a new era for road train general freight to Darwin. Freight used to go on ship up and around, but Dad was one of the first to load general freight here in Brisbane and take it straight through to Darwin 5-6 days – it wasn’t done before he did it.” 

The person Rob McIntyre is referring to is his late father Doug, one of the pioneers of long-distance freight in Australia, and the truck in question is a 1964 Peterbilt 352, which is of the same specification as the trucks Doug McIntyre used running between Brisbane and Darwin.

Rob had the beautifully restored cab-over on display at the Rocklea Heritage Truck Show earlier this year, with the Peterbilt in its present specification the only one of its type left in Australia. 

Presented in the fleet colours of McIntyre Freight Lines, the Peterbilt is indeed a rare vehicle as Rob explained: “This is the last remaining of the three trucks of this specification that were bought into Australia, the defining difference with this one is most cab overs had the flat back panel on the cab.  Three had the recessed area for the twin exhaust stacks and the GM (Detroit Diesel) engine and this is the last survivor. 

The McIntyre Peterbilts were a regular sight on road train work throughout outback Queensland.

“My father operated two of them running from Brisbane to Darwin on road train general freight. This truck actually belonged to Outback Freight in Alice Springs and my father found it about 25 years ago and he restored it back to his company colours.”

Having started out with some early Internationals, Doug McIntyre built his business up using a variety of trucks ranging from Diamond Reos, White Road Commanders and was the first operator to install a Cat engine in a B-Model Mack. 

The two Peterbilts were worked hard pulling two trailers between Brisbane and Darwin, with the McIntyre trucks a regular sight making their way across the outback. 

“He had 67 registered vehicles all up with the trucks and trailers based out of Stafford here in Brisbane and a depot in Darwin,” Rob said. 

“He had a road train going every day to Darwin – they used to say in McKinlay they could set their watch to when there would be a McIntyre truck rolling through each day,” Rob said.

The 1964 Peterbilt on show at Rocklea earlier this year. Main photos: David Vile

The Peterbilt runs the same specification as the two original McIntyre trucks, with an 8/71 Detroit sitting under the large square cab rated at 280 horsepower. Originally a two-stick quad box sent the power through to the back end, but this has been swapped out in favour of a 10-speed Roadranger unit.

With the McIntyre business sold out to Intermodal in the 1970s, the Peterbilts were retired from the gruelling road train work and unfortunately appear to have succumbed in the years following.

“They still operated in the McIntyre colours with an Intermodal sticker on the door- there are a few photos about of them running around Brisbane, one with a tanker on it,” Rob said.

“They continued to operate up into the 1980s but from then we don’t know what happened to them.”

Around 25 years ago Doug tracked down the ‘third’ Peterbilt in western New South Wales and took it back to Brisbane where it was used as a yard tug before tacking the restoration of the truck upon retirement.

“It wasn’t touched for a number of years; we were the agent for Steelbro side lifters, and it was used as a yard truck to pull trailers in and out of the shed,” Rob explained.

“The restoration took about three years – the chassis and running gear are pretty much untouched but the cab was pretty shot.

The back of the cab is recessed for the dual exhausts.

“It was a major part of the rebuild as the back had to be re-skinned – the doors and front are original but restored also. Dad didn’t need to buy a lot of stuff; he got new glass from the US, but he bought it through an authorised Peterbilt channel in New Zealand and a few other bits and pieces but with the American trucks there’s quite a cross-commonality of mechanicals.”

The Peterbilt originally had 10 stud wheels and was built as a body truck with a long chassis. It would appear to have had a few adventures in the time from being owned by Outback Freight before Doug purchased it out of western New South Wales.

“It had certainly been around the traps,” Rob added. “We had about 14 coats of paint to strip off and every layer was a different colour. All I know it was sold new to Outback Freight, what happened after that I don’t know but it would be good to find out.”

Finished in the striking green and white McIntyre colours the Peterbilt has featured at shows and events as far afield as Lancefield in Victoria and the Road Transport Hall of Fame reunion in Alice Springs and has had a stint on display at the Queensland Transport Museum in Gatton.

Sadly, Doug passed away in 2014, but for Rob the Peterbilt is a link to both his father’s history in transport and his role in shaping the industry of today. 

“I try and keep the legacy going. I have a licence and can drive a truck, but I don’t consider myself a truck driver.

“It’s quite humbling to come to these shows. Today I came in and I had people lined up three deep wanting to talk to me. 

“It’s amazing the people who talk about my father and what he did for road train transport and outback hauling. These American trucks in the 1960s pioneered the outback road train work and I learn something new at every show.”

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