Fu­elled up: Re­stored Mack Value­liner still go­ing strong

Deals on Wheels - - Contents -

There is a cer­tain sym­me­try to this story about a leg­endary tough Aus­tralian work­ing truck that was a first for its own­ers and a ground­breaker for the com­pany’s tasks. For 20 years Lowes Petroleum Ser­vice’s 1990 Mack Value­liner helped build the foun­da­tions of a thriv­ing busi­ness.

To­day, the Value­liner still wears the orig­i­nal Lowes colours, re­built as a gift for Don McRae – one of the com­pany own­ers who was also one of the Mack’s orig­i­nal driv­ers.

The char­ac­ter­is­tics of the truck in ques­tion – tough­ness, loy­alty, longevity and dura­bil­ity – re­flect the core at­tributes that have made Lowes Petroleum such a suc­cess. The sub­se­quent re­build of the Mack, specif­i­cally the at­ten­tion to de­tail, par­al­lels what has been one of Lowes’ defin­ing traits in an ex­tremely spe­cialised in­dus­try – fu­elling up the coun­try.

Lowes Petroleum’s 350hp Mack Value­liner has been part of the fam­ily for al­most 30 years, be­ing the first trac­tor unit the com­pany put on the road. It was also one of the first in­de­pen­dent prime movers al­lowed into Bris­bane’s fuel ter­mi­nals, a very big deal in the early 1990s.

Fuel com­pa­nies had for years been solely tasked with get­ting the fuel out to all their dis­trib­u­tors, orig­i­nally by rail then onto their own tankers. The move to­wards dis­trib­u­tors pick­ing up their own fuel was the best way to ac­com­mo­date the chang­ing fuel scene, specif­i­cally the greater con­sump­tion.


Lowes Petroleum Ser­vice it­self be­gan in the small New South Wales bor­der town of Boggabilla back in 1977. For those un­fa­mil­iar with the me­trop­o­lis of Boggabilla, it epit­o­mises the old three fam­i­lies,

That Mack got the wheels turn­ing rapidly for Lowes.

four pubs kind of town. How­ever, back in the ’70s it was a thriv­ing lit­tle hub, ser­vic­ing many smaller lo­cal cen­tres as well.

In 1977 a young Norm Lowe was work­ing full­time as a rail­way sta­tion master. In or­der to keep the coin flow­ing he was also work­ing a sec­ond job that in­volved clean­ing the work­shop at the lo­cal fuel dealer.

Norm was able to see the forth­com­ing change in fuel dis­tri­bu­tion needs and, along­side his brother and fa­ther-in-law, he put in an of­fer to pur­chase the deal­er­ship. Lowes Petroleum Ser­vice was born.

In those early years of fuel dis­tri­bu­tion, health and safety were things you joked about when retelling sto­ries in the pub on a Fri­day night.

Many would re­mem­ber un­load­ing 44-gal­lon drums with­out a tail lift … all you needed was a bit of ‘oomph’ and a few old tyres on the ground.

As the com­pany grew in that first decade, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing and ab­sorb­ing other lo­cal dis­tributers, Lowes also gained an­other im­por­tant part­ner. Don McRae came into the fold in the late ’80s and was one of the orig­i­nal driv­ers of Lowes’ first semi unit.

The en­tire re­build of the Mack was a sur­prise gift for Don at the com­pany’s 40th birth­day last year. I’m sure he still thought it was out in the yard as a pot plant holder.


Orig­i­nally, the bulk fuel was de­liv­ered to ru­ral out­lets like Boggabilla by train while deal­ers such as Lowes sold and de­liv­ered from their own bulk tanks. Soon enough the trains stopped steam­ing in and ma­jor sup­pli­ers started truck­ing it into small dis­trib­u­tors. This al­lowed for more reg­u­lar top-ups for Lowes. How­ever, like any busi­ness it was hard to man­age when Boggabilla was al­most at the end of the line and its top ups were dif­fi­cult to ac­cu­rately sched­ule.

The Lowe’s team watched the lo­cal cli­mate change as horse­power grad­u­ally out­grew horses, the lo­cal to­bacco farm­ing in­dus­try was go­ing up in smoke, and cot­ton and cot­ton gins wove their way into the land­scape. Broad-acre farm­ers were

3 1

1. Lowes first prime mover, the Mack Value­liner, sits proudly be­side the re­stored In­ter­na­tional which be­longed to the com­pany’s first-ever NSW cus­tomer, Jack Sloan2. An­other clas­sic Lowes work­horse, a Ken­worth K108, leaves the Goondi­windi yard3. Terry Hartin clocked up a fair per­cent­age of the Value­liner’s nearly four mil­lion kilo­me­tres at Lowes 4. While the out­side has had the makeup ap­plied, the 350hp en­gine main­tains its well-trav­elled ap­pear­ance 4


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