HOBBY HORSES

A keen devo­tee of buy­ing and restor­ing decades-old trucks, Char­lie Borg has an ex­cess of pro­jects to keep him oc­cu­pied well into his re­tire­ment years. Greg Bush writes

Owner Driver - - Contents -

A keen devo­tee of buy­ing and restor­ing decades-old clas­sics, Char­lie Borg’s western Syd­ney prop­erty is like a pri­vate truck mu­seum

CHAR­LIE BORG doesn’t feel the need to ad­ver­tise his one-man busi­ness. Op­er­at­ing un­der the slo­gan of ‘if you can draw it, I can build it’, he re­lies on word of mouth to bring in clients in need of truck body and trailer cus­tomi­sa­tion and re­pairs. At any rate, his loyal base of reg­u­lar cus­tomers keeps him oc­cu­pied to the point where his other ma­jor in­ter­est – buy­ing and restor­ing clas­sic trucks – is forced to take a back seat, for the time be­ing any­way. Ev­i­dence of Char­lie’s truck col­lect­ing hobby is only a few paces in­side the gates of his prop­erty in Syd­ney’s western out­skirts. It’s like walk­ing into a pri­vate road trans­port mu­seum; some ve­hi­cles are scat­tered around the grounds while the cream of his clas­sics are parked in­side a huge shed.

All up he counts 12 trucks among his col­lec­tion– three White Road Bosses, two White Road Com­man­ders, a dis­man­tled White 4000, two Ken­worth S2s, a Ken­worth SAR, a W model, an Austin and a White 3000.

Not a ‘truckie’ in the reg­u­lar sense, Char­lie pre­vi­ously had lit­tle affin­ity with trucks. That in­ter­est even­tu­ally sur­faced via the fam­ily poul­try farm at St Johns Park in western Syd­ney al­though, as he says, his fa­ther Ed­die Borg “didn’t like them at first ei­ther”.

“My dad had his first truck in 1975, an ex-Clutha Com­mer

with a Perkins en­gine and a sin­gle-axle alu­minium tip­ping trailer,” Char­lie says. “He used it to bring feed from out west, but be­fore that he had an old Ford which my brother [Mick] still has on a farm at Dubbo, a ’69 model.”

From an early age, Char­lie had be­come a dab hand at pulling things apart and re­build­ing them, even be­fore he could walk. His grand­fa­ther had bought him a pedal-pow­ered trac­tor, which Char­lie promptly dis­man­tled.

“My grand­dad said, ‘You got a knife from some­where, I don’t know where you got it from, and you com­pletely pulled it to the bits’.” Con­se­quently, his grand­fa­ther couldn’t put the trac­tor back to­gether.

Char­lie be­gan re­pair­ing and weld­ing equip­ment around the farm at age 10. “If some­thing broke on the farm, it had to be fixed straight away, be­cause chooks lay eggs ev­ery day, and we had 20,000 chooks.”

Al­ready self-taught, he be­gan a ve­hi­cle body-build­ing ap­pren­tice­ship with Goss Tow­ing Equip­ment in Pen­rith at 28, com­plet­ing it in 1996.

A year later he found work with Don Stein Plant Hire un­til Coates Hire Equip­ment bought the com­pany out. From 1999 on­wards he worked solo from home.

“The first few years it was hard, but word trav­els and

I’ve been told I’ve got a good name in the tow­ing build­ing in­dus­try,” he says.

While Char­lie was build­ing his busi­ness, he and his dad Ed­die be­gan col­lect­ing old trucks and var­i­ous trac­tors, many of which are at the Dubbo farm which Mick now runs.

Through a se­ries of well-cho­sen nick­names, Char­lie’s trucks be­gan ac­quir­ing their own iden­ti­ties, start­ing off with his red 1956 Austin, pre­vi­ously owned by the neigh­bour of a fam­ily friend at War­ren, north-west of Dubbo.

The truck was to be given away un­der the pro­viso that it would be re­stored and not end up as scrap.

“I went up and had a look at the en­gine and it was diesel,” Char­lie says. “If it was petrol it would have stayed there. It was all com­plete with a vac­uum-op­er­ated Ea­ton two-speed diff in it.”

Ge­orge and Mildred

Ed­die bor­rowed the fam­ily friend’s drop deck trailer, load­ing it on with the help of a trac­tor.

“Dad rang me up on this par­tic­u­lar day and said, ‘I went and got Mildred to­day’,” Char­lie re­calls, think­ing that his fa­ther had found an­other girl­friend.

“My mum died in ’73 and he’d had lots of wives and girl­friends in-be­tween; he couldn’t be with­out them. So I said to him, ‘All right, who’s Mildred?’ And he said, ‘I went and got the truck, the Austin’.”

Char­lie asked, ‘Why Mildred?’, and Ed­die replied, “It looks like a Mildred”.

“So Mildred stuck,” Char­lie says.

He added a three-speed Joey box from an ACCO But­ter­box to give it a bit more pick-up go­ing down the high­way, and had the seized BMC six-cylin­der diesel re­paired.

“I ended up get­ting the en­gine kit from ABC Diesels in Hornsby,” he con­tin­ues.

“They had ev­ery­thing on the shelf and I was sur­prised be­cause ap­par­ently those en­gines are com­mon in boats.

“If it was petrol it would have stayed there.”

“I could write a book on that truck, the restora­tion, find­ing parts …” he muses.

Af­ter ‘Mildred’ the Austin, a Ken­worth S2 was given the moniker of ‘The Queen’, while ‘Lizzie’ the White Road Com­man­der was named af­ter Char­lie’s grand­mother.

A Ken­worth SAR, which he dis­played at this year’s Syd­ney Clas­sic and An­tique Truck Show in Pen­rith, will be named ‘Ed­die’ af­ter his fa­ther who passed away three years ago af­ter bat­tling prostate can­cer.

“He al­ways wanted to buy me a truck, so I bought it with some of my in­her­i­tance money,” Char­lie says.

Then there’s the red ’71 model White 3000 called ‘Ge­orge’, which he bought 10 years ago af­ter see­ing it ad­ver­tised in a mag­a­zine for $30,000. Al­though he was keen at the time, Char­lie baulked at the price tag.

“It dis­ap­peared and I thought ‘some­one’s bought it, good luck to them’,” he re­calls.

“A few months later it came back and it’s $25,000. I thought, ‘get­ting bet­ter’ but I still didn’t have the money. The same thing, it dis­ap­peared, and six months later it came back and it’s $20,000. And I thought, ‘that’s more my style’.”

He got on the phone to Ed­die, who en­thu­si­as­ti­cally replied, ‘Are you gonna buy it? Wait for me!’

“I reckon the wheels on his 4WD didn’t hit the tar from the farm to here, he was that ex­cited about go­ing to have a look at it,” Char­lie says.

He later dis­cov­ered a piece of the truck’s his­tory through an old copy of the now de­funct Truck & Bus mag­a­zine. “It had a Perkins six-cylin­der put in it when I bought it, be­cause af­ter the gov­ern­ment sold it, it went to Ade­laide to a farmer there.

“The ra­di­a­tor is very close to the ground and the story I was told is he hit a stump, broke the ra­di­a­tor and cooked the en­gine. And he fit­ted a Perkins in it,” he ex­plains.

“When I bought it you could drive it, but it had a cou­ple of gears miss­ing in the gear­box, which I didn’t know at the time. Ap­par­ently I’m the fifth owner of it.”

Event cir­cuit

Early on, Char­lie had planned to re­store the White 3000 and take it to Alice Springs for the Road Trans­port Re­union in 2010, but heavy work com­mit­ments took

prece­dence, al­though he found time to fit a V6 53 Detroit and a 13-speed Road­ranger.

How­ever, he’s still man­aged to take in a few events in re­cent years, no­tably en­ter­ing Lizzy the Road Com­man­der in Crawlin’ the Hume and Haulin’ The Hume, and driv­ing the White to Wau­chope for the Yes­ter­year Truck & Ma­chin­ery Show and even as far as Alice Springs.

Lizzy is also reg­u­larly given the task of cart­ing Char­lie’s old Mini racer on the back of a float. Mildred has also made the trip to Alice, al­beit on a trailer, but has at­tended shows at Dubbo and Goul­burn un­der its own steam.

As well as the trucks wait­ing for fur­ther re­fur­bish­ment, Char­lie has his grand­fa­ther’s 1959 Fair­lane in one of the sheds. The Ford hasn’t been driven since April 1970 and has only 21,000 miles on the clock.

“A lot of blokes want to buy it but as long as I’m around, I’m hav­ing it,” he re­marks.

Char­lie plans to slow down from mid-2019 on­wards, wind­ing his busi­ness back as he en­ters semi-re­tire­ment, en­abling more time for his own pro­jects and the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend as many events as he likes with his re­stored ve­hi­cles.

“I’ve in­her­ited some land and I’m build­ing some houses on there and I’ll live off the rent,” Char­lie ex­plains.

“I’m 54 this year and I know it’s not that old, but I don’t have a wife or kids, it’s just me, so I think I can live on a cou­ple of grand a week.”

“I could write a book on that truck, the restora­tion, find­ing parts …”

Top: ‘Mildred’ with Char­lie’s Mini racer on the back. Photo cour­tesy of Char­lie Borg

Above: Fam­ily ties: Char­lie (right) with his fa­ther Ed­die (cen­tre) and brother Mick (right) along­side the Ken­worth S2. Photo cour­tesy of Char­lie BorgOp­po­site page top: Char­lie Borg and one of his Ken­worth S2s, which was orig­i­nally a Golden Fleece fuel tankerOp­po­site page bot­tom: ‘Mildred’ the 1956 Austin, tucked away in Char­lie’s shed, pre­vi­ously hauled beer

Top: This Ken­worth S2, nick­named ‘The Queen’, is a work in progress

Above: The S2’s trim has been re­stored to its for­mer glory

Left: Char­lie’s dad Ed­die re­ferred to the S2’s rear light bar as the “snow­plough”

Above L to R: Char­lie’s White 3000, bet­ter known as ‘Ge­orge’; The White 3000 in an ear­lier life, on its way to work for Vic­to­ria’s Weights and Mea­sures Of­fice, fea­tured in an old Truck & Bus mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle

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