— Syd­ney’s Clas­sic and An­tique Truck Show

The Syd­ney Clas­sic and An­tique Truck Show brought to­gether a wide cross sec­tion of Aus­tralia’s truck­ing her­itage, but the sto­ries be­hind the trucks’ own­er­ship were equally fas­ci­nat­ing. Greg Bush writes

Owner Driver - - Owner/Driver -

“Even when we bought new trucks, I still drove this”

PEN­RITH’S MU­SEUM of Fire hosted its sev­enth an­nual Syd­ney Clas­sic and An­tique Truck Show on May 28, bring­ing to­gether rare makes and mod­els from decades past.

Mu­seum of Fire CEO and show or­gan­iser Mark White, who also runs the an­nual Pen­rith Work­ing Truck Show in March with a will­ing team of vol­un­teers, has been suc­cess­ful in at­tract­ing clas­sic truck en­thu­si­asts to the event each year. Re­tired truck owner-driver Ray Cooper paid tribute to Mark for help­ing him with the trans­porta­tion of his 1978 Atkin­son to Pen­rith for the show.

Ray had to re­lin­quish his truck li­cence in 2015 due to health rea­sons. He phoned the mu­seum two days be­fore the show and asked, “Are there any vin­tage truck driv­ers out there?”

“Not a prob­lem, you’ve been sup­port­ing us for years now with your trucks be­fore they were vin­tage. Any­thing you want like that, don’t hes­i­tate,” came Mark’s re­ply.

“He’s a fan­tas­tic bloke,” Ray says. “The truck was only in St Marys, but he said if it had been in New­cas­tle he would have supplied a driver.”

Due to his li­cence can­cel­la­tion, Ray re­tired the Atkin­son last year as well. It now runs on his­toric ve­hi­cle plates, trav­el­ing to truck shows and events such as Haulin’ The Hume. Be­fore that, Ray drove it on in­ter­state runs.

“I used to do Perth, Dar­win, Cairns … it never broke down on me on the road,” he says.

Ray has spent 64 years in the in­dus­try, mostly as an owner-op­er­a­tor.

“I’ve had AECs and Deutz trucks, but this is my favourite,” he says of the Atkin­son. “Even when we bought new trucks, I still drove this.”

Ray was in­ducted into the Shell Rim­ula Wall of Fame at Alice Springs in 2015, much to his sur­prise. “I didn’t know any­thing about it,” he says.

At age 83, Ray should be look­ing back at ful­fill­ing life in road trans­port, but he’s had more than his fair share of pain. He’s been through four mar­riage breakups, which he says is the re­sult of be­ing in­volved in a “heart­break­ing in­dus­try”. He has also lost two sons, Trevor and Ricky, along the way.

Trevor was killed in a three-truck ac­ci­dent at Muswell­brook in 1999 at age 30, while Ricky died by his own hand five years ago shortly af­ter buy­ing a new truck. Both have plaques on the Aus­tralian Truck Driv­ers’ Me­mo­rial Wall at Tar­cutta.

A wooden plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing Trevor and Ricky was po­si­tioned in front of the Atkin­son at the show, while art­work on the back of the cab paid tribute to the two broth­ers.

“I taught them ev­ery­thing I know. I taught them the right way,” he says.

Ray still man­ages a smile and, de­spite the tragedies and his cur­rent health is­sues, he says he’s had a good in­nings. Ray had many friends at the Syd­ney Clas­sic and An­tique Truck Show. They’re all hop­ing he and his Atkin­son will be back next year.

You can’t beat an old favourite

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