Dave Willis and his F Model Macks
In a paddock of stubble on a Riverina farm near Mangoplah, New South Wales, Dave Willis introduces Deals On Wheels to his favourite truck.
It is a 1970 Mack F700 he has affectionately dubbed ‘The Pizza Oven’. Today it is attached to a tipper loaded with wheat.
Dave is a mechanic, grain carrier and one of the organisers of the biennial Kyabram Mack Muster.
It is no surprise that his favourite truck is a Mack – it is the only brand he owns. But why does he prefer the Pizza Oven to his other workhorse, a V8 1983 Mack Superliner which once carted fuel for Joe Bromage?
And what about his restored show ponies – the 1967 V8 R600 Flintstone, and the blue-and-white 1970 F700 he calls ‘Forever Young’?
“That was my first work truck,” Dave says, explaining why the Pizza Oven is his favourite. “You jump in it and it’s just always familiar.”
The Pizza Oven was once used as a tow truck. Dave bought it in 2011, and planned to use it for a single grain harvest. But it went so well he has used it for every harvest since.
“It’s a good old truck. It’s heading up to 50 years old. I don’t know what that is in dog years.”
No prizes for guessing why he calls it the Pizza Oven: “It’s all steel inside. It’s like sitting on a barbecue and then pulling the hood over yourself.”
But it is mechanically sound and reliable.
Working it each harvest helps fund Dave’s Bulldog addiction. He is upfront about his bias toward Mack trucks, but he happily services all brands at Willis Mechanical.
“The main part of the work is leading up to harvest with truck and trailer roadworthies.”
Dave enjoys working on old farm trucks: “They’re pretty easy to work on. They’ve got a lot more character than all the new stuff.
“A lot of them have been in the original owners’ hands from new, passed down a generation or two.”
The oldest trucks he regularly services date back to the late 1960s – a Dodge 675 and Ford F600, which are still registered and working on local farms.
“There are a few guys that really take pride in them. It’s good to see the old ones still around. That’s one of the best things about harvest – you do see a lot of old trucks come out.”
This harvest, Dave drove the Pizza Oven and employed a driver for the Superliner. They travelled as far west as Lockhart and as far east as the Hume Highway.
Back in 2013, Dave drove the Pizza Oven from Sydney to Yass on the Haulin’ the Hume classic truck run.
A highlight was overtaking an old White as he climbed over Razorback. “Our Mack was a bit better suited to the hill, I think. It just went straight around this old White with a GM.”
He plans to t ake part in Haulin’ the Hume again on April 8. But this time he will leave the Pizza Oven behind and take another F700 he calls Forever Young, which was first owned by Lindsay Brothers.
Dave’s father, Matt Willis, bought Forever Young
in 1999. They enlisted Gordon McCracken for the painting and scrolling; the restoration was finished in time for the 2005 National Road Transport Hall of Fame Reunion at Alice Springs.
Matt worked the truck for a while before selling it to Dave’s brother, Andy Willis. Andy, who operates four tippers, sold Forever Young to Dave last year.
“There are few little things I want to do to it before Haulin’ just to make it a bit better to drive,” Dave says.
“I’ve got to lower the seat a little bit to make it a bit more comfortable, and speed it up a bit.
“At the moment it’s flat out at 80km/h and probably comfortable at about 70.”
He wants to manage 90km/h with ease. “I’ll just put some quicker diffs in it.”
Restoring the Pizza Oven is also on Dave’s to-do list. But his next project is an FR795 which was once owned by Ken Archer.
Dave bought it from Janice McCracken of Albury after her husband Rick McCracken passed away.
“We’ve fixed the chassis on it and I’ve got the original engine back for it,” Dave says.
He expects the restoration of the Archer Mack to take him a couple of years, but he hopes to have it completed in time for the Kyabram Mack Muster on March 17 and 18, 2018.
Dave will be spoilt for choice when he considers which Macks to take to the muster.
He also has a restored red 1967 V8 R600 Flintstone; an unrestored blue 1966 F700 once owned by Sporns; and an unrestored blue-andwhite 1980 FR700, which was the first truck he drove after obtaining his truck licence.
He plans to travel to next month’s White Truck Muster at Kyabram on March 18 and 19.
It is one of the many truck shows he wants to attend this year. But the most important event in Dave’s 2017 calendar is his wedding to fiancée Liz in late April.
Dave’s 1983 Mack Superliner took part in the 2016 Sylvia’s Gap Road Run
Dave’s collection includes this unrestored FR700 and F700
The Mack F700 dubbed ‘The Pizza Oven’ loaded with grain near Mangoplah
Above: Dave Willis with his 1967 Mack Flintstone R600 at the biennial Kyabram Mack Muster, which is on again in March, 2018 Left: The 1983 Superliner once carted fuel for Joe Bromage but now carts grain in the Riverina for Dave Willis