When our Larry met ...Tatra’s
The international tale of determination and family values behind
LARRY Gill is not the type of man you could easily forget. Equipped with a welcoming presence and a broad smile, the vintage larrikin would undoubtedly find himself at the heart of most social gatherings.
It is this warmth, his rare ability to value those he works with, and his financial modesty that has allowed Larry to establish Offroad Trucks Australia as one of the nation’s most reliable heavy duty truck suppliers, the sole distributor of Czech brand Tatra.
“I first found out about these trucks when I got a brochure from my friend in Sydney – I saw the swinging half axle,” Larry said.
It was that brochure illustrating Tatra’s unique axle design that marked the first step towards the thriving business he has today.
“Because I had been around trucks all of my life, but when I saw that axle, I couldn’t understand it.”
For curiosity’s sake, Larry, who was working as an auctioneer valuer at the time, decided to explore the brand a little more.
“I gave them a call, but of course they couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Czech. It was quite funny.
“We didn’t even have emails in those days, fax machine was about it.
“The lady on the phone found someone in the factory that could come and speak English, because Tatra had business in China so the Chinese bloke was the one speaking English to me. It was amazing.
“So somehow along there we started talking and he agreed to send me a VHS of the trucks.”
When the tape finally arrived, Larry’s head began swirling with ideas about the truck’s potential on Australia’s “rotten roads”.
“When I got the VHS and saw what they could do on this test track, it was just mind boggling.
“Trucks could not do this stuff without breaking a chassis, I thought why didn’t we have these here.”
Larry soon made another call to his international counterparts, in the hope of becoming Australia’s Tatra dealer.
“He said ‘Why not’, he didn’t know where Australia was and I didn’t know where the Czech Republic was,” Larry explained.
“So we headed across there in shorts with no idea of the extreme cold, landed at Prague airport in minus 15 degree weather.
“I had no idea, I nearly died,” Larry said.
But that was decades ago, while it wasn’t an easy logistically, Larry being the bloke he is, he clicked with the Czech way of life developing a strong business relationship across hemispheres that has lasted to this day.
Offroad Trucks now sells to specialised industries in mining, drilling, forestry and other service industries.
The specialist market is soon to expand as increases to the legal steer axle ratings allow the company to dip their toe in the civil sector.
But a steady as she goes attitude will still be key during the next phase for the Western Australian local.
“No rush, we will get there,” he said.
While the rigs are big and the clients are bigger, when it comes to his team and expansion, Larry does not overreach.
“I am fortunate I own the
WHAT A TEAM: Larry Gill and daughter Amber Gaden cultivate the business as a dynamic duo.
I GOT THE POWER: The Tatra T817 is a prime example of the grunt offered by the brand.