“The Volvo runs during the week as that finances the dreams I have for all the old stuff,” said Alby Twyford, referring to his collection of heritage trucks which are tucked away in a shed near Bega, just inland from the NSW south coast.
Having come from a family with a long association with both transport and the Bega area, Twyford’s skills in restoring and refurbishing old trucks are on display in his collection, which includes a couple of Bedfords, an International R-190 and a Transtar, a Fiat and a Ford 8000.
For the best part of the last two decades there has been a steady flow of vehicles through the Twyford workshop, with the International R-190 the first of many.
“When I was at school I always wanted to drive and own a ‘190’ but I was too late, by the time I started driving they were an old truck,” said Twyford.
“We bought one and mucked around for about five years doing it up – we had Dad’s (Paul) Ford here in the yard so we did that as well…we had a bit of a bite for it by then so we did a Diamond T for Cromack and Tranter at Grafton and also did a little Fiat tray-top as well.”
A Cummins powered single-drive International Transtar has also been overhauled along with a pair of Bedfords, with Twyford currently taking on a customer restoration on another Bedford along with a matching milk tanker.
“We are building up another Bedford with an Allison automatic transmission and trailer for Brancourt Cheese in Sydney, it is keeping us on the hop pretty much.”
A number of trailers to go with the prime movers have also had the Twyford touch, including a Dairy Farmers refrigerated trailer which goes behind one of the Bedfords, a matching Freighter to go with the red Ford and a spread-axle trailer hooked on behind the R-190.
Twyford today operates a 2019 Volvo FH which runs up and down the east coast towing a tanker hauling food-grade liquids for McColl’s, whom he has worked as a subbie for the last 16 years.
“I started out in 1976 in a Scania LB80 doing a bit of pulp and general freight before moving up to a Ford Louisville and a couple of Kenworths – I subbied for Ablett’s for 20 years and when a lot of the mills closed down around here I went to McColl’s,” he said.
Needless to say, the creature comforts of the current generation Volvo are a lot more user-friendly than the trucks back home in the shed.
“The old Ford can get up and going but the Transtar is a rough little bastard to drive, even with the trailer on she’s still not that good – there’s a little concrete bridge here at the bottom of the hill you have to line her up pretty straight or she will belt you out through the roof!” he said with a grin.
Twyford undertakes about 75% of the work on his restorations himself and over the years has steadily added to his collection and aims to keep the trucks and trailers that go with them period correct.
“I don’t chase stuff, but it can fall into your hands at the right price and we keep chipping away at it, a lot of these trucks were too good to be consigned to the scrapheap.”
Over the years the various Twyford trucks have been on show at heritage events and displays with Twyford a member of the South Coast Car Club, but the bushfires last summer in the area and COVID-19 has seen a lot of local events cancelled.
He has been a participant at a couple of the Crawlin’ The Hume events and also rattled the hills around Sylvia’s Gap on the old Hume Highway near Gundagai a few years ago with the GM-Powered Bedford, saying “That’s a nostalgic bit of road.”
He is looking at rolling the International R-190 out of the shed for next year’s Haulin’ the Hume event.
“The 190 is more a Hume Highway truck, back in the day the Hume was loaded with 190’s just about everyone on the Hume had them.”
When the customer restoration on the Bedford is completed, Twyford has his next project sitting in the yard which he reckons might be his last one. A locally sourced Dodge 660 is sitting up on blocks, kept company by an International T6 crawler tractor with both the truck and little tractor requiring a bit of intensive TLC to get them both up to scratch.
“The Dodge came from Bemboka and we have got the little Inter T6 on the mend – the Dodge will take a bit of work but it is do-able, but that might be the end of the road, I have been doing this for twenty years so the production line will be finishing up!” he said with a smile.
“Old days and old mates” is scrolled on the Detroit powered Bedford and this is Twyford’s mantra in restoring his trucks to an era which has largely disappeared from transport in Australia, with the slogan capturing what he has tried to achieve over the years.
“I like driving all of them and restoring them, putting the time into them, and not just be sitting down at the pub of a weekend. I just tinker around with them to show others what they were like back in the day.”