Ghosts at Sylvia’s Gap
Express trucks and drivers retrace the old Hume
TWO GREY GHOST KENWORTHS were among about 80 trucks taking part in the 2018 Sylvia’s Gap Truck Run on Sunday, June 10. This year, the Australian Road Transport Heritage Centre (ARTHC) chose ‘Express Freight of Yesteryear’ as the theme of its annual fundraising weekend at Gundagai, New South Wales, and encouraged former express freight drivers to attend. Among those who answered the call were Viv Ireland, 80, Colin Southwell, 74, and Ted Scarfe, 78, from the Port Macquarie region on the NSW Central Coast. They were guest speakers at the ARTHC’s Saturday night dinner, which attracted almost 200 people. Viv, Colin and Ted all took part in the Sylvia’s Gap Road Run on Sunday morning.
The event traces a notorious section of the old Hume Highway near Tumblong. Sylvia’s Gap was bypassed in 1983. It is now on private land and is usually closed to the public.
Ted drove his own car along Sylvia’s Gap Road. Viv enjoyed the run from the passenger seat of Dave Homburg’s 1974 Kenworth K125. And Colin relived his highway days by driving Mark Fitzgerald’s 1980 W Model, which once carted express freight for TNT. Colin also drove Glen Nind’s ex-TNT 1976 Kenworth K125 on part of the run.
“It’s the first time I’ve done a changeover at Sylvia’s for 39 years,” Colin says with a grin.
All three veteran truckies recall driving the famous Kenworth
Grey Ghosts and were thrilled to see three of them at Gundagai. Colin drove Grey Ghosts on the Hume for Kwikasair from 1973 to 1979. Ted owned an ex-Kwikasair Grey Ghost from 1973 to 1975. And Viv drove Grey Ghosts from Brisbane to NSW for Comet in the early 1970s.
Several Australian companies ran slimline Kenworths in the 1970s, but the name ‘Grey Ghost’ only applied to the K125s which were produced in German Racing Silver at Seattle, USA, from 1968 to 1971, and Australian-made K125CRs produced in the same colour in Kenworth’s Bayswater factory from 1971 until mid-1976. They were used by TNT and its Comet, Kwikasair and Hawthorn divisions.
Steve Dunbar and his family drove two Grey Ghosts down from Penrith, NSW, to take part in the truck run. A diesel mechanic, Steve says he likes the look and sound of the Grey Ghosts. His 1974 Grey Ghost was originally a semi but now has a tray and has been painted blue. His 1973 Grey Ghost is still in its original silver colour.
“That’s how it finished work and that’s how it’s going to stay,” says Steve, who doesn’t plan to repaint it.
Dave Taylor’s 1972 Kwikasair Grey Ghost was on display at the Gundagai Showgrounds but it was still under restoration and didn’t take part in the run.
Another popular former express truck was Glen Nind’s 1976 Kenworth K125, which was owned by TNT until the late 1980s. It’s not a Grey Ghost, but was one of about 25 K125s delivered in TNT’s peaches-and-cream livery.
Glen, from Diggers Rest, Victoria, is a truck driver and former diesel mechanic. He says his K125 has been a work in progress since late 2013. “A couple of years ago we painted it up just roughly in the old colours,” Glen says. “The engine number matches the build sheet. It’s still got the original 15-speed overdrive and the original VS400 Eaton diffs with the 5.29 ratios. The running gear is as original as it can get.”
After Glen travelled Sylvia’s Gap Road in the K125, he invited some other drivers to take the wheel. Glen says he is grateful for the landowners who opened their gates and allowed the trucks to travel on the private road.
The ARTHC weekend was held at the Gundagai Showgrounds near the town’s famous timber Prince Alfred Bridge. It was foggy when the truck run began at the showgrounds on Sunday morning but blue skies greeted the trucks, cars,
“It’s the first time I’ve done a changeover at Sylvia’s for 39 years.”
motorbikes and military vehicles before they reached Sylvia’s Gap Road near Tumblong.
The newest truck on the run was Allalong Tasmanian Searoads’ Kenworth T610 SAR, which has been on the road since May.
Trucks dating back to the 1940s also travelled the old road, including Gordon Garner’s KB7 International. After the run the rigs lined up on display at the Gundagai Showgrounds, while a morning tea and trophy presentation took place at the nearby racecourse.
Rob Woolley of Mangrove Mountain, NSW, won Truck of the Show with his restored 1981 Kenworth K123 which was once owned by Ipec.
Steve Patten of Leeton won Best Historic Truck with his 1990 International TranStar 4670. The TranStar is a tribute to Steve’s grandfather, Bill, who founded the family business in 1938.
Event organisers estimate over $29,000 was grossed over the weekend. The funds will help build a permanent truck museum to replace the temporary museum which opened in 2016.
ARTHC Secretary Daryl Weston says the museum’s collection is growing, and a larger museum is needed because “we’re starting to become space poor”. He encourages truck lovers to inspect the collection of vehicles, photographs and memorabilia at 1 Jack Moses Ave, Gundagai.
Visit www.arthc.com.au for information about the museum, including opening hours.
Below: Mark Fitzgerald’s 1980 W Model once carted express freight for TNT. Former Kwikasair driver Colin Southwell drove the W Model on the Sylvia’s Gap Truck Run Below left: Colin Southwell drove for Kwikasair in the 1970s. He enjoyed travelling...
Above: Steve Dunbar has no plans to paint his silver 1973 Grey Ghost: “That’s how it finished work and that’s how it’s going to stay.”
Above right: Dick Dunbar of Sydney drove a White 4000 on the Sylvia’s Gap Truck Run Middle: Dave Chapman drove a 1980 Kenworth Aerodyne Left: Mark Menz’s Western Star running down the gap Opposite top to bottom: A 400 Cummins powers Colin Price’s...
Above left: Malcolm Brown’s 1976 Peterbilt 359 with a 350 Cummins