Centre of attention
More than 1000 trucks take over The Alice, writes James Stanford
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.