When our Larry met ...Ta­tra’s

The in­ter­na­tional tale of de­ter­mi­na­tion and fam­ily values be­hind

Big Rigs - - NEWS - REPORTER KIRSTIN PAYNE kirstin.payne@bi­grigs.com.au

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

PHOTO: KIRSTIN PAYNE

WHAT A TEAM: Larry Gill and daugh­ter Am­ber Gaden cul­ti­vate the busi­ness as a dy­namic duo.

PHOTO: KIRSTIN PAYNE

I GOT THE POWER: The Ta­tra T817 is a prime ex­am­ple of the grunt of­fered by the brand.

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