One of Australia’s unique and most popular truck events celebrates a milestone
One of Australia’s most unique truck events and arguably the most popular in Victoria, the Alexandra Truck, Ute and Rod Show hit a milestone year in 2017. Greg Bush writes
Despite the morning chill in the air on June 11, Alexandra Truck, Ute and Rod Show co-founder Andrew Embling was all smiles as he warmed up for what was going to be another successful event.
This day, however, was extra special. It was the show’s 21st birthday, and major sponsor Larsen’s Truck Sales had a bonus in store for the event’s organisers.
As the clock struck 10am, Andrew was clearly delighted with the number of trucks that had already parked along Grant Street, the town’s main thoroughfare.
“It’s only early, the show has just kicked off and we’ve got trucks everywhere,” Andrew smiles. “We’ve got trucks still coming in, we’ve still got trucks coming out of Melbourne.”
As it is now, the first show was held on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June. The year was 1996.
“We started off 21 years ago on a foggy, wet winter’s day in Alexandra,” Andrew continues.
“You’d be lucky to have 200 people in the town on a Queen’s Birthday Sunday, and we’ve come along where we’ve built it up to where we’ve got 12,000 to 14,000 people come to our event annually.”
Along with Gordon Simpson, Andrew, who was born and bred in Alexandra, is one of two remaining of the original truck show committee. He puts the show’s continued success down to a variety of factors.
“It’s the interest in trucks, it’s the interest in utes, it’s the interest in the championship woodchop,” Andrew continues. “We have 52 entries in the woodchip this year, that’s the best we’ve ever had.”
It wasn’t long, however, before he was proclaiming this year’s event was “one of the biggest shows that we’ve had”.
“It seems to grow every year.”
While VicForests sponsors the woodchop event, it’s the truck dealerships’ generosity which has lifted the show to become arguably the best of its kind in Victoria.
This year, Larsen’s Truck Sales managing director Dave Larsen upped his company’s sponsorship from $10,000 to $15,000.
“Dave has been with us over many years, but only over the last three years as Larsen’s,” Andrew says. “Before that he was with another company, but he came back and stuck with us.
“He was with us for the third year of our truck show and has done a lot for us. You wouldn’t get a better bloke in the industry, and I’m not saying that because I’ve got a cheque in my hand.”
As well as the sponsorship, Larsen’s Truck Sales had nine trucks on show in Alexandra’s main street. This included a stunning bright red 1984 Kenworth SAR nicknamed ‘The Boss’, a restored ‘Superfast’ Kenworth also built in the ’80s, a Western Star, an impressive blue Mack SuperLiner and a Peterbilt which Dave imported from California. He bought ‘The Boss’ a year ago.
It seems to grow every year
“It was an original two-owner vehicle, and then Transmatt Truck Detailing did a full restoration for us. Andrew [Steffensen] is a whiz. It’s a beautiful truck,” Dave says.
He explains that the truck, originally painted green, came from Cloncurry, Queensland which is where it earned its moniker.
“It was called ‘The Boss’ because it was one of those tough trucks, so we’ve continued with the name.”
Dave also bought the Peterbilt around a year ago, one of its distinguishable features being a Gomez Brothers logo on the rear of the cab.
“The Gomez Brothers were the guys I bought it off out of California, and they’re good guys,” Dave says.
“So I said ‘I’ll put your name on it’, and they were pretty excited about that.”
He says the show is more about exposure for his business, rather than the hard sell.
“You don’t do it to sell trucks, you do it for branding, to get your name out,” Dave explains.
“This is about people, this show, and Andrew Embling is one of those good, hard-working people you don’t get in some other places.”
As well as Larsen’s major contribution, Andrew was chuffed that another one of the show’s sponsors, Hallam Truck Centre, had managed to borrow the Kenworth 900 Legend No. 1 from Paccar headquarters in Melbourne for the weekend.
“There’s only one other truck show that it’s been to and that was the Brisbane Truck Show. Now we’ve got it here, so they’ve done a fantastic job.”
According to Hallam Truck Centre general manager Daniel Crawford, the 900 Legend is destined for the Kenworth Dealer Hall of Fame in Alice Springs, a pavilion which is jointly funded by Paccar and the dealer network.
“We’re trying to save a few of these gems for posterity, to join the other iconic models and old trucks that are up there. I can’t recall the exact count, but we’re definitely into double digits of brand new trucks sitting in the hall,” he says.
As per the Brisbane Truck Show, the Kenworth Legend displayed a plaque to Alan ‘Steady’ Stead, who passed away earlier this year.
“It’s really a testament to Steady who worked at Kenworth for a lot of years, particularly around the service department, making sure the longevity of the product was there,” Daniel says. “The factory and the dealer group really owe a lot to Steady for his contribution.”
As well as its show sponsorship, the CMVowned Hallam Truck Centre also contributes to the maintenance of the Victorian Truck Drivers Memorial, situated in Rotary Park off Grant Street. It also helps with funding for plaques.
“It’s a good thing to be able to acknowledge those that have contributed so heavily to the industry,” Daniel says.
As well as the Legend 900, Hallam Truck Centre showed off the latest T610, already in the ranks of PacLease Truck Rental and Leasing. The truck had previously been part of the Victoria Camp Quality Convoy this year.
“We’ve put all the safety features in it so it can match all the European trucks,” Daniel explains.
“People have a perception that Kenworth is just the heritage and the badge, but we can meet everything with regards to safety.”
All up, it was a big day for Kenworth at Alexandra, with Paul Patsuris’ 2016 Kenworth T909 taking out the Telstra People’s Choice award plus being voted the Best Truck of the Show.
Show co-founder Andrew Embling and show committee president Caolan O’Connor
Above left: ‘Woody’, the former Clash of the Titans combatant. Wayne Hawkes bought it, painted it and added it to the Tailored Freight fleet, although the ‘Woody’ stainless steel strip remains Above right: A plaque commemorating the late Kenworth employee Alan ‘Steady’ Stead hitched a ride on the back of the Legend 900