One of the nice drives out of Melbourne is to head south-west by Geelong along the Great Ocean Road – or the Princes Highway if time is of the essence – past the historic bluestone fences, through the seaside city of Warrnambool and arriving at the relatively sleepy Irish village of Koroit.
Worth a visit any time of the year for its pubs, bakery and fish and chip shop alone, as well as the Irish Festival held at the end of April, Koroit becomes a mecca on the Australia Day weekend for any truck aficionado.
The Koroit Truck Show may not be the biggest, but to these eyes it is certainly up there with the best. Every year the quality of trucks attending seems to rise to new levels. Given the prize pool is valued at over $45,000 – unmatched by any other show – this should come as no surprise.
The Geelong-based Cornwill brothers, Wayne, Troy and Rick discovered the show a few years back and have been staunch advocates ever since, winning multiple awards along the way. This year they brought along four of their magic rigs, including their amazing new SAR Legend (the subject of an upcoming Big Rigs story), and won an award for each of the trucks plus the Best Fleet. They didn’t win the big one though!
Robert Rawlings won an award for travelling the furthest to attend the show in his 1979 Atkinson. Robert spends his days travelling the country hauling a converted 1988 Bicentennial drop-deck trailer which contains a Jeep, living quarters and a full length fold-out verandah. The 6V92 with 350Hp is plenty to get from A to B, said Robert.
The road is Robert’s home these days but his setup is much neater than in the past. This is due to a lady named Elaine, whom Robert met on his travels. Elaine’s presence calls for more luxurious surroundings, so the Jeep will soon travel under a mezzanine floor, which will be lowered to present said lady with a full-on lounge area. The price of love, eh Robert? His prize of a Husqvarna chain saw should come in handy for those open log fires on their travels.
Daniel Goodrope – like so many others – arrived at Koroit in a Kenworth, in his case a 2020 K200 belonging to Condoluci Transport of Korumburra. In an age of B-doubles, Daniel is happy he only pulls a single.
“There’s always work for that set up,” he quipped. “I can get in and out of places where doubles would fear to tread. Many of my loads are relatively light as well so I make mincemeat of the doubles up the hills on the Hume where I spend much of my time.”
At 40, Daniel has been around the game his whole life, with both grandfathers, his dad, uncles and aunts all involved in trucking. There’s a fair bet as to where his son Taj, who attended with him, will end up.
Condoluci are putting Daniel into another 200 shortly – one of the last to come off the Kenworth line. “I got a bit teary to be honest. This is my truck. Well it’s not, but that’s how I feel about it!”
“She goes alright,” said Will McDonald in typical truckie understatement, when referring to the 2023 T909 he drives for Morris Transport of Colac. The truck does livestock and hay with some general thrown in if the call is there. With the company for two years, Will is full of praise for them.
When asked if he likes playing with the moo cows or the sheep, Will is quick to point out that he is a sheep man. “I’m 100% sheep mate. They are easy to get hold of, they are easier to wrestle and I reckon they don’t smell as bad as cattle. And when you get kicked you’re not gonna get hurt as much. You can throw a sheep, you can’t throw a cow.”
Behind the wheel from 18, Will has done tippers and dangerous goods work over the past 15 years, but prefers the livestock.
“Livestock is not like with someone just pulls up and someone comes along with a forklift and unload is whatever you’re carrying. You have to get heavily involved in the whole s**t fight – pun intended.
“The only time you have time pressure is in the late afternoon when there are curfews on. The rest of the time you can load and unload whenever you want.”
As far as Will is concerned he will keep doing this job for the foreseeable future, or until one of the sheep kicks him in the goolies. “I have two kids, so probably don’t need them anymore to be honest,” he joked.
The 909 runs an Eaton 18 speed auto which – somewhat unusually in the world of (particularly) Kenworth drivers – Will is a fan of. “Love it, mate! I wouldn’t go back to manual. The people that have never tried it hate it, the people who have, love it.”
The Morris Transport trucks, with work done by the Klos boys, are primarily grey, with highlights such as the tanks in purple – an unusual mix, which works really well.
Lenny and his sons, Keith and Mav are regular attendees with Lenny’s T909, “The Best of Both World’s”. Based at Bannockburn, the truck carts B-double bitumen tankers, “to anywhere, really.”
Why the name? Lenny said it’s the old world looks with new world technology. With a 6-metre wheelbase, the truck can fit three tanks down each side and a 50-inch bunk. The paintwork was inspired by one Paul Biagini, who built the original in 1995.
“I bought that truck and decided to reproduce the colour scheme down to the last detail,” said Lenny. “The trucks look identical and this is often mistaken for Paul’s original.”
One of the standouts at Koroit was 42-year-old Damian Toms’ T909. Not a Legend by name, it is legendary in its looks, depicting The Grim Reaper on the cowling and the back of the cab, with the sides portraying the Nullarbor Plain and the Southern Cross. Created by All State Truck Repairs of Craigieburn, it is not only amazing – and foreboding – but also tells a story.
Damian, who’s never smoked, is a cancer survivor, having undergone treatment for throat cancer.
“This is my way of saying, ‘Up you, Reaper, you’re not taking me yet. I’m ready for round two so bring it on.”
“The lymph nodes are playing up and I’ll have to go in for treatment for that.”
I expressed my very inadequate sorrow at hearing this news but Damian remains upbeat about the future. We at Big Rigs wish him all the very best.
Damien hauls general parcel express. “It’s a company truck but the boss asked me to design it and built it for me. The boss is Amrit and the company is ATS based at Truganina, with some 120 trucks. That someone who owns a company of this size cares about a member of his staff to the extent that he will let him design and build a truck such as this over 15 months, says an awful lot about the man.
Now we step back to 2015 but, yes folks, it’s yet another 909, belonging to Merit Logging out of Penola SA and driven by one Graeme Moore.
Given where log trucks go, this particular example with 1.3million km is looking pretty schmick. Of course, being log trucks, these things go places where others fear to tread and as a consequence of that it can make the job pretty dangerous.
“Can be,” said Graeme, who hauls B-doubles up the often muddy and rutted tracks. “Often in first gear and sometimes you need the skidder to drag you up. Have to be careful backing down a hill – they can jack-knife pretty easily in those conditions.
“When I was little kid I sat on the side of the road watching the log trucks go by and I thought ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’ And I love it.
“I was pretty nervous the first time. I’d had my license for about three years, carting wood chips for a while, and then they got me my B double. I had that for about two weeks and they said ‘We’ll put you in logs.’ A couple of trips with another bloke and then I was on my own. This was back in 2012.”
Hats off to you, Graeme.
Along with the trucks of course, there were plenty of stalls at Koroit – one of which belonged to Julie Pearson and her business, Just Crackin’.
Stylised artwork, beer mats, stubby holders, caps, tees and hoodies – Julie has just about anything that reflects trucking from the 80s and 90s.
“As a kid I loved trucks and it never left me. I’d have gotten behind the wheel but, hey – kids. The passion never left though, so this is why I do what I do. When I see a nice truck, it just does it for me. I like the drivers and talking to them and the industry as a whole.”
Keep an eye out for Julie at your next truck show, or you can find Just Crackin’ online here.
There can be only one winner of Truck of The Show, but that winner can do it more than once. And so it was the case this year with Andrew Derham’s V8 Mack ValueLiner backing up from 2023, and taking it out again against some incredibly stiff competition.
We congratulate Andrew on his superb presentation of the truck. Wonder if he can perform a hat trick? If you’ve not been to Koroit, put it on you must-do list. Richard Allen, Graeme Morris and the committee do a sterling job of presenting a show that goes ahead leaps and bounds each year in the quality of trucks presented. With a share of $45K in prizes up for grabs, why wouldn’t you be there?