It’s a ‘wheel’ game of skill
Trucks vital ingredient in arena show
DAVID Manchon may look every bit a cowboy and entertainer, but the director of arena spectacular Rooftop Express could also be likened to a modern day Noah, responsible for ferrying all creatures great and small across the nation as part of the wild west show, showcasing heroes of the outback.
By creatures great and small we mean more than 53 horses, cattle, dogs and even a donkey, all part of his performing team.
His “ark” is a pair of recently bought IVECOs, a Eurocargo ML180, and 160 which pull the specially designed goose neck, another vital ingredient in the performance.
The vehicles, from Black Truck Sales Toowoomba, also take pride of place during the show, acting as an elevated platform.
“We have two trucks on the arena during the show, and the custom goose neck put together by Errol Thomas from Thomas manufacturing in Dalby,” the Lockyer local said.
“It has been set up so we can jump cattle and horses on to the roof of the trailer.
“I run a horse up there without a bridle as we move.
“It is the only horse in the world to be doing that so the trailer needs to be sturdy.
“Obviously to do that it has had to be reinforced with steel, and is very heavy, the bullocks that jump on the roof all weigh about 930kg each. So we were fairly specific with the truck we needed to haul that around.”
The Long Ranger stunt, featured at the 140th Ekka in Brisbane, also showcases man, animal and machine.
“The Eurocargo pulls trailer around the arena with ladder on the side,” David said.
“It travels at about 45km an hour and it is a reasonably tight arena so it is a big unit to be in that arena at that pace.
“At the same time a horseman gallops along the side of the trailer, jumps off the horse, climbs up, moving along the roof of the goose neck, setting fireworks off.
“It is quite a dangerous stunt so we are relying on the skill of the driver to watch that horse and look after that rider as he comes along the side of that trailer, and obviously the skill of the horse and rider as they come along the truck.
“There are a lot of moving parts in the show and those trucks are front and centre in everything we do.”
The team began putting together the show at David’s Mount Mort property in 2010, launching it in 2012.
“We just keep growing and changing from there,” he said.
In that time the spectacular has wowed fans and gained notoriety Australia-wide.
Yet, despite the fame and experience of appearing everywhere from Outback Spectacular to Totally Wild, David said he never thought he would appear in something like Big Rigs.
“I am certainly not a person who knows a lot about trucks, or is particularly familiar with them, but through this show because we rely on them so much I have had to get a bit familiar,” he said.
“Everything we have is custom built because of the refined nature of the show we have.
“There are lots of little things like that.
“In the early days you don’t think about it, but as you go along you get to refine it and learn on the road.”
THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB: David Manchon of Rooftop Express needs the right gear to move his cross-country show out west, up north and beyond.
Performer Anthony Cootes.
The team showed off new rigs at the Ekka.
The specialised Rooftop Express trailer in action.