— 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
“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