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Rock to Rock trip for Parkinson’s research

Three truckie mates are set to embark on a 3000km trip from Geraldton to Uluru, each driving a restored WWII military truck, to raise money for a cause close to their hearts.

Michael ‘Kingy’ King, John Marriott and Jamie Morrison – from Geraldton, WA – plan to begin the voyage in their hometown on July 9 (Covid-permitting), making their way to Mt Augustus and then over to Uluru. They expect to arrive at their final stop on July 25.

They’ve aptly named the fundraising event Rock to Rock, with the Mt Augustus to Uluru itinerary re-enacting the wartime journey of convoys during WWII.

Marriott, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, came up with the idea for the convoy. Each vehicle travelling with the Rock to Rock crew will make a donation of $1000 and those travelling part of the trip are asked to contribute $500, with all money raised going directly to Parkinson’s WA.

Kingy restored this 1945 Chevrolet Blitz and will drive it for Rock to Rock.

The mates have each restored an abandoned vintage military truck – Kingy will be behind the wheel of his 1945 Chevrolet Blitz. John Marriott and Jamie Morrison will drive the 1944 6×6 Studebaker that they restored with the help of some close friends who have also been affected by Parkinson’s. While Mick Burnett will steer the 1963 International Acco that he and Kingy recovered on a recent episode of Outback Truckers.

Kingy, 64, runs a chemical carting business called Faststar Holdings, transporting liquid chemicals such as sulphuric acid, caustic and hydrochloric to mine sites and remote communities. A separate arm of the business also buys and bags salt for mining companies.

Kingy has been on Outback Truckers over the years and appeared on episodes screened in June, where he and Mick Burnett embarked on an extremely difficult trek to pick up two abandoned military trucks from the Great Sandy Desert in WA.   

The veteran long haul truckie took his 2000 model Kenworth T950 through the unforgiving dessert landscape.

“About 25 years ago, I was in Port Hedland. I had left the salt mine and was doing fuel cartage out of the mine. There was an Aboriginal community I had to travel to and that track along the Sandy Desert was the only way to get there. That’s when I discovered the old abandoned mine site and one of the trucks. For an unrelated reason, I went back there 8-10 years ago and that’s when I found the second truck. But I had no interest in getting them until I got into the army vehicles,” explained Kingy.

“When I became interested in these old military trucks, I decided to go out there and try to find them. I travelled out in the ute to have a look and realised they were collector’s items so I went back with the truck.”

In the sweltering heat, he and Burnett got both vehicles onto the truck. The 1963 International Acco has been fully restored and will be used in the Rock to Rock convoy, while the second truck, a 1945 soft-top GMC, will be Kingy’s next project. “The GMC is quite a collectible because there’s not a lot of them around,” he said.

Kingy’s interest in army trucks started about two years ago. “It was because of John, so I’m blaming him,” he joked.

As those who saw Kingy on his truck rescue mission on Outback Truckers could attest, the operation was not an easy one. “If you put a piece of steel on the ground and can’t pick it up, you can rest assured it’s over 50°C. At one stage on the last day while we were trying to load, I had to sit in the crew’s car with the air con on just so I could get back out there and keep on going,” he revealed.

At one point on the show, Kingy was visibly upset. “They asked me to sum up what it would be like to have Parkinson’s. And I said, if you think this was hard, think about these people with Parkinson’s. Hard is when you’re sitting in a chair and have to ask someone else to do your shoelaces up.

“One of the crew members asked what made me think of that. There was this one day where I had to pick up John but his wife Pearl was out so he wasn’t ready because he couldn’t do his shoelaces up.

Jamie Morrison and John Marriott with the 1944 6×6 Studebaker they restored, with the help of some close friends.

“John is also a truckie. He was an old station boy – did a lot of carting to stations, hay and that sort of thing. I’ve known John about 15 years or so. Here’s a guy that ran parks and stations, played state level polo and now he can’t even do his shoelaces up. Parkinson’s is such a horrible, horrible thing.”

John Marriott has suffered from Parkinson’s disease for about 20 years. “It was in the early stages back then. He has a probe in his head now and he has reasonable days and bad days. It’s been a bit of an eye opener watching these people I know suffering from Parkinson’s,” added Kingy.

Prior to his recently completed restoration, Kingy had only bought and sold vintage army trucks at auction. “I only wheeled and dealed. I held onto the trucks and then sold them but had never done them up. The Chevrolet Blitz was the first one. We started trying to rebuild it in January last year and planned to take it out in June/July, but then Covid hit, so we’ve had to postpone the trip to this year.”

Recently the mates held a big charity auction. Around 400 people attended and there were 380 items for sale, ranging from push bikes to trucks. “It was a big effort from everyone. We raised close to $15,000 for Parkinson’s WA,” said Kingy.

The trio plan to meet up with those taking part in Back To The Track at the conclusion of their charity convoy. Running from July 24 until August 15, Back To The Track brings together groups of military vehicle collectors, who depart from Alice Springs and make the wartime journey, travelling along the track back to Darwin to commemorate the end of WWII in the Pacific.

For more information about Rock to Rock or to donate, click here and scroll down to the donate button.

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