Cen­tre of at­ten­tion

More than 1000 trucks take over The Alice, writes James Stan­ford

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Big Wheels -

THEY came from far and wide, some at very low speeds, for the ul­ti­mate truckie con­ven­tion in the cen­tre of Aus­tralia.

Alice Springs was swamped by the Road Trans­port Hall of Fame re­union that ran for the week with more than 1000 trucks and more than 6000 truck en­thu­si­asts.

There is a mod­est re­union here ev­ery year, but a mega-re­union is held ev­ery five years, in­clud­ing the third of its kind in 2010.

Or­gan­is­ers were blown away by the sheer num­bers of clas­sic trucks, driv­ers, sup­port­ers and fans who were drawn to Alice Springs and the home of the Hall of Fame, a truck­ing theme park that draws 56,000 peo­ple ev­ery year.

The town strug­gled to cope with the sud­den in­flux, with al­most all ac­com­mo­da­tion booked out six months in ad­vance. There wasn’t even room to pitch a tent, so or­gan­is­ers ex­panded a camp­ing zone in the grounds of the Hall of Fame.

One of the key parts of the re­union is the in­duc­tion of men and women into the Shell Rim­ula Hall of Fame.

Nor­mally about 40 peo­ple are in­ducted each year, but that num­ber rose to 220 for this year’s event.

Na­tional Road Trans­port Hall of Fame chief ex­ec­u­tive Liz Martin says in­ductees don’t need to be fa­mous or wealthy.

‘‘They need to have done a min­i­mum re­quire­ment of a num­ber of years and they need to have done some­thing for road trans­port or the lo­cal in­dus­try through their truck­ing busi­ness,’’ she says.

‘‘We make the ef­fort to in­clude the lit­tle Aussie bat­tler in there as much as the big cor­po­rates.’’

The in­duc­tion gala din­ner is a cen­tral func­tion of the event, but there was a whole week of ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing so­cial din­ners, restor- ation work­shops, camp meals and even a horserac­ing car­ni­val. It all cul­mi­nated in a pa­rade of trucks. This re­mark­able con­voy stretched for 8km and was one of the most in­ter­est­ing col­lec­tions of trucks you could ever see.

The new range of 2011 Ken­worths led the pa­rade, but the rest of the trucks were of vary­ing ages from around the 1920s through to the present.

There were young and old Macks, sev­eral Ken­worths, Fodens, Mercs, Chevs, AECs, Fords, Dodges, In­ter­na­tion­als, Al­bions, Fed­er­als, Di­a­mond Ts, Whites, Bed­fords, a Den­nis fire en­gine and even a Fiat truck. There was also a 1935 Brock­way, owned by Merv Brunt (also born in 1935) who ac­com­pa­nied it all the way from Co­lac.

Af­ter the con­voy, the trucks were put on dis­play while the own­ers min­gled.

Mur­ray Pope brought up a sparkling Al­bion from Bal­larat and couldn’t be­lieve how many trucks and peo­ple had made the trip.

‘‘There is noth­ing else like this in Aus­tralia,’’ he says.

Mur­ray says get­ting to­gether with like-minded folk is the best part of the re­union. It’s also use­ful from a prac­ti­cal per­spec­tive, he says. ‘‘You can also find peo­ple who can work on the trucks. There aren’t that many me­chan­ics who know how to work on a 60-year-old truck; most mod­ern me­chan­ics wouldn’t know where to start,’’ he says.

His mate War­ren Har­ris, who brought up a rare AEC from Bal­larat, de­scribed the crowd for the pa­rade as ‘‘amaz­ing’’.

He says a bloke came up to him that morn­ing and told him he’d found a trans­fer case from an old AEC and was go­ing to scrap it.

‘‘He asked if I might want it for noth­ing. Did I what!’’ War­ren says.

Trevor Davies and wife Phyl­lis drove 3100km from Green­bank, Queens­land, in their 1974 Mercedes 1418.

‘‘I came here five years ago and got the itch to come back,’’ he says.

‘‘ It is nice to come and get to­gether with a lot of blokes who share the same in­ter­ests.’’

Liz Martin tells Big Wheels the Hall of Fame re­union has grown dra­mat­i­cally in the past few years, but she is still shocked by this year’s turn-out. ‘‘It’s stag­ger­ing,’’ she says. So why has it be­come so pop­u­lar? ‘‘I think it’s nostal­gia, but there is re­ally good mate­ship and ca­ma­raderie within the in­dus­try, but also the in­dus­try hasn’t re­ally had a place to call its own in terms of its his­tory un­til now.’’

Awe-in­spir­ing: trucks lined up for the 2010 Road Trans­port Hall of Fame at Alice Springs.

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