LAWRIE LOWE’S 1973 White Western Star has an attentionseeking regular at the Sydney Classic and Antique Truck Show, not only for its logo and stunning paintwork, but also for its lefthand drive configuration.
Lawrie tells the story about the truck’s history, and the long wait to buy it.
“In 1967, White Motor Company set out to build a truck aimed at the west coast US market,” he explains. “The west coast trucks were traditionally long bonnet, long wheelbase, aluminium chassis – which this truck is, because they were hauling the greater distances.
“East coast US trucks were a different truck to this, a shorter bonnet, short wheelbase, cities being closer together so shorterdistance hauling.
“Our main roads specs at the time were more closely based on what the east coast American trucks were, so that was where the ‘ Western’ bit came into it.”
Lawrie is knowledgeable when it comes to Western Star’s history, including the turn of events that led Volvo Trucks buying the insolvent White Motor Company in 1981.
“But the plant in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada that built the Western Stars wasn’t part of the deal,” he says.
Lawrie says the truck he now owns spent its working life around California carting mainly prefab house frames and roof trusses. He believes the owner retired it around 1996.
“The guy I bought it off and his mate stumbled across it in the ’States in a wrecking yard. One of them bought it and brought it over and it sat for about five years in a truck repair yard at Wetherill Park, half pulled apart.
“The other guy got it, put it together and moved it over to Llandilo, but after a time he got sick of moving it in and out of the shed to work on other stuff, so he parked it outside and that’s when I first saw it.”
Thinking the truck had only just arrived in Australia, Lawrie thought there was no chance of it being up for sale at the time.
“About five years later, after a few beers, and having decided they weren’t going to do anything with it, I called in to see if it was for sale. Five minutes later I bought it.”
Lawrie thought it would be a simple case of taking it home, getting into it with a big Gerni and blowing off all the rust, hitting it with rust converter, bogging up the holes and painting it flat black. The truck’s seller, however, begged to differ.
“You can’t do that to that truck, you’ve got to get rid of that rust, you’ve got fix it properly,” he told Lawrie. That was Christmas 2009, and Lawrie worked on it every weekend and each night after work.
“I was going through a marriage breakup at the time, and it was the only thing that kept me a little bit sane to take my mind off what I was going through,” he says.
Lawrie was able to get the truck registered just in time for the National Road Transport Reunion at Alice Springs in 2010. It was the truck’s maiden voyage under his ownership.
“Because it had been sitting for so long, the cab was very badly rotted out and I spent an awful lot of money,” he says.
“The guy that I bought it off builds hot rods, and he did all the rust repairs and the paint on the cab and bonnet for me.”
He has since driven the White Western Star for over 20,000 mostly trouble-free kilometres.
“I did a water pump one day 10 minutes after leaving home,” he continues. “I had a spare water pump with me because I’d been advised before I went to Alice Springs that I should get one because they’re getting a bit hard to get a hold of for these early small- cam engines.”
Lawrie has resisted the temptation to convert the truck to right-hand drive. He wants it to remain an example of the typical American truck.
“I could do it quite easily,” he says. “The good thing about these particular cabs is the dashboard’s held in with three bolts on one side, two over on the other side, and you’ve a couple where the steering column mounts to the firewall.
“I could just pull that dash straight out of there, and bolt in a dash out of the 4000 or 9000, or the later Diamond Reos or Autocars or anything.”
Lawrie rolled up at the Museum of Fire with two trucks. Apart from the White Western Star, he also brought along a 1969 Kenworth.
“My brother and I have a bit of a collection of early earthmoving equipment, so it was mainly to cart a bit of gear around to a few machinery shows,” he explains.
“But I decided early on that I was having more fun driving the truck to and from the show.”
“It’s called an LW924, which were all steel.
“We have changed it a bit, put fibreglass Peterbilt mudguards on it, and Peterbilt headlights.”
“It’s had an awful lot of money spent on it, even though we maybe should have spent a little bit more on paint.”
In another one of those twist- offate moments, Lawrie went home from the Sydney Classic and Antique Truck Show with an extra item – a Diamond T.
The truck was set up the night before in the Museum’s grounds, and Lawrie overheard that its owner had just bought himself a Kenworth to replace the Diamond T.
“I said, ‘ What are you doing with that one?’ He said, ‘It’s for sale,’ so I said, ‘ I’ll have that’.
“I’ve hardly looked at it yet,” Lawrie smiles.
Lawrie Lowe’s left hand-drive 1973 White Western Star
Lawrie added a Diamond T to his historic collection while at the show
Lawrie Lowe knows a thing or two about the history of White and Western Star trucks