Pa­tient pur­chase

Owner Driver - - Owner/Driver -

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

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