TRUCK OF THE MONTH
There is also one Kenworth SAR and an International Eagle still working solely on the cars. Laurie admits he’s more of a fan of buying the older trucks with character than the new ones, finding the components and motors easier to deal with.
In 2009, Laurie purchased the truck that would eventually become Phat Cat. However, like any good makeover story, it involves grabbing a liner after winding the Pittsburgh Power Box up to seven and, of course, blowing a steer tyre and going bush at 100km/h.
Laurie bought the 2006 Western Star 4800 from an auction. At the time it had around 300,000km on the clock. It did have its share of bling and a few extra lights, but the Star was bought to work.
Its regular run involved deliveries in Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns. It was also spotted further west where Laurie would have an AB-triple in tow.
It was on one of these road train trips that Laurie pushed the limits of the C15 just a bit too much one day and the truck ended up on the back of a trailer itself.
Laurie’s always keen to ‘have a go’, so the rebuild of the C15 was not going to be factory spec. In fact, it took the boys at Dave’s Diesel in Rocklea, Brisbane, about five weeks to get the motor finished. In fairness, two weeks were used up catering for Dave’s meticulous attention to detail.
Each piece of Cat’s Platinum kit was tested by Dave before it went on. Along with the kit, 600cc high-flow injectors were added – and let’s not forget the mouthful that is the Borg Warner Non Wastegated Turbo.
The last addition to the new-look C15 was the big cam added earlier this year.
So, what did all that result in? How about 727hp at the wheels and 2521ft-lb @ 1259rpm? Yep, the little Star has more pulling power than a busload of schoolboys.
It took a major incident to change the setup of the factory C15 (though Laurie admits that major incident was in fact self-inflicted; he boosted the Pittsburgh up to seven) and it was another major incident that led to the Hollywood makeover of the little 4800 workhorse.
In 2015, while running just north of Maryborough in Queensland, one of Laurie’s steer tyres blew. The truck ended up out through the bush, but thankfully remained upright and Laurie was unhurt. The same couldn’t be said for the Star; the 62 grand worth of damage could not be buffed out.
Although the insurance company wanted to write the whole thing off, Laurie had only just done the engine up so the choice was made to rebuild. If you’re going to rebuild then why not repaint, reshine and illuminate like crazy?
“Everyone kept telling me my life would [amount] to nothing.”
To quote Laurie: “After I fixed it, I thought f**k it, I’ll go ape shit with it!”
Phat Cat spent six months off the road getting remodelled. Phil and his team at Advance Tech Auto Body Repairs straightened out all the bush-designed panels and threw a couple of blue bottles of paint at it. The new colour was inspired by an FW Falcon wagon Laurie had in the garage.
The team at Rocklea Truck Electrical (RTE) was tasked with fulfilling all Laurie’s crazy ideas.
“You’re a driver,” Laurie tells me. “You know what it’s like when you’re on the road and come up with crazy-arse ideas.”
I am, and I do, but credit to the boys at RTE for putting those plans into action. In fairness, though, Laurie had all his ideas planned out.
He knew how he wanted it done, meaning the RTE boys didn’t have to bring some ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ ideas to life. They just had to follow Laurie’s plans. All standard stainless was replaced with mirror finish stainless.
For those thinking how much time is spent polishing the rims, they are super-chromed. Laurie was invited down to Melbourne for a truck show, and a chance encounter with Bernie from Samios Tyres led to the purchase of some “shinier-than-a-shined-up-shiny-thing” rims.
As for the lights, well, Laurie stopped counting once he got past ridiculous. The lights are set up on several relays, allowing for either a few, a bit, a lot or a hell of a lot of lighting – depending on the occasion.
Many of those occasions are truck shows. Laurie’s Phat Cat is a regular at truck shows and charity events. The shows allow Laurie to step away from the day-to-day tasks and join the crew of regular show ponies as they make a day of it.
While he has his fair share of trophies, as well as my share, your share and the neighbour’s share, Laurie admits he goes to shows for the joy of it.
“It’s a chance to get away from the everyday crap and hang shit on each other,” he exclaims with a beaming smile.
Phat Cat is edging closer to the 3-million-kilometre mark but still earns its keep.
It may be like its loving owner and slowing down ever so slightly but its shine just keeps getting better. It’s fair to say Phat Cat is a Pretty Hot and Tempting Felis Catus.
“It’s a chance to get away from the everyday crap.”
Above: The boys at Rocklea Truck Electrical wired up Laurie’s rearend vision to perfection – you can see him going from a mile away
Left: Testing out the new Dyno. The results speak for themselves Opposite: Starry, starry night. Laurie can alternate the lights’ setting for every occasion
Above: Phat Cat is closing in on the 3 million km mark
Left: Rod Tickle from East Coast Airbrushing is the man behind the amazing murals on Phat Cat
Below: Highway Truck Accessories had its supplies of nut covers decimated by Laurie