A truck ride to the golden days

Merv Brunt has made his­tory live again, writes James Stan­ford

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Big Wheels -

‘‘ 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.

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