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

Deals on Wheels - - Contents -

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

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