A truck ride to the golden days
Merv Brunt has made history live again, writes James Stanford
‘‘ The truck was there for about 40 years before a bloke retrieved it
MERV Brunt is about to set out on an amazing journey. This month the 75-year-old will drive from his home town of Colac in Western Victoria to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory to attend the Road Transport Hall of Fame reunion.
Merv could use a car like everyone else for the 2200km trip, but will instead be driving a restored Brockway that was built in the same year as Merv himself.
He won’t have to worry about speeding tickets because the sixcylinder classic will not go much faster than 50km/h.
The 1935 model is not Merv’s only classic truck; he has more than 30 in what can only be described as an incredible collection.
It’s a fantastic showcase of truck technology, from a 1915 Republic to a 1976 Bedford.
Merv says he loves all his trucks, but confesses to a particular soft spot for Brockways.
‘‘My dad always said that Brockways were a good truck,’’ he says. ‘‘Later I realised he was talking about the hard-tyred Brockways, the ones produced back before pneumatic tyres.’’
He says there were a lot of Brockways in Australia in the 1940s. ‘‘They were a good truck then.’’ He has five of them, including a 1927 Junior which spent about half of its life at the bottom of a gully near Mount Hotham.
It belonged to one of the Brockhoffs of the Brockhoff Biscuit Com- pany, which was later absorbed by Arnott’s.
‘‘They were coming back from the snow in the early 1930s and it broke down, so they put it on the side of the road,’’ Merv says.
‘‘A grader came along, clipped the front wheel and sent in tumbling down the mountain about 80 feet. In those days there was no recovery gear around to take it out.’’
Merv explains that the Brockway was left to rust. ‘‘Old Brockhoff left it there and he got another one. He could afford that,’’ he says.
‘‘The truck was down there for about 40 years before a bloke from Wangaratta retrieved it.’’
Merv says the man who rescued the Brockway pulled it into ‘‘about a thousand pieces’’ before deciding that he was in over his head.
He rang Merv, who snapped up the truck and had it fully restored.
The little four-cylinder sidevalve truck is in mint condition and is really more of a ute than a truck. Its cabin is incredibly narrow and it’s difficult to imagine sitting in there for a trip from Melbourne to the snowfields.
The 1935 Brockway that Merv will drive to Alice Springs was bought from farmer Derek Rae in Macedon, Victoria, and restored two years ago. Built in the US, it has an in-line Continental six-cylinder petrol engine and a four-speed gearbox with a wooden tray.
It looks like it just rolled off the production line. And kudos to the Brockway designer, because this truck looks far more modern than its 1935 production suggests.
Merv won’t be driving it all the way to Alice Springs, his son John and grandson Josh will also get behind the wheel.
Merv is happy to take it a bit easier these days, having survived a stroke 15 years ago that prompted him to sell his Colac-based transport operation that included 25 trucks running all over the east coast of Australia.
There are a few trucks in Merv’s shed that are clearly awaiting restoration and several more beautiful but dilapidated rigs waiting outside.
‘‘They will never ever be made again,’’ he says. ‘‘If you can get around and save them, they are here for good.’’
Man with a mission: Merv Brunt and some of the beautifully restored vehicles in his collection.