Laurie Williams’ reborn 2006 Western Star 4800, better as ‘Phat Cat’, is more than just a show truck; it’s the culmination of a long and fruitful career in the industry. Warren Aitken reports
Laurie Williams’ reborn 2006 Western Star 4800 deservedly earns its place as the May Truck of the Month
COMING UP with a heading for this story on Laurie Williams’ Phat Cat was rather difficult. There are so many words to describe this truck. I personally was in favour of the expanded technical interpretation of Phat Cat … ‘Pretty Hot and Tempting Felis Catus’. But no matter which way you write it, Laurie Williams’ award-winning Western Star makes a powerful statement, in more than just appearance. Laurie’s been in the transport game since before man first started rubbing sticks to find a way to cook their sangers. His introduction into trucking wasn’t an ‘it’s in the blood’ family thing as much as it was a ‘kicked out of school, what do I do now?’ kind of thing. His response to that adversity is a credit to the Aussie spirit he still displays today.
“I got kicked out of school; everyone kept telling me my life would [amount] to nothing,” Laurie recalls when I questioned him about getting into trucking. “So I just f***ing had a go.”
It’s that approach that’s kept him succeeding for the 35 years he’s been at it. A small point to add – Laurie did actually retire when he sold Laurie Williams Car Carrying in 2000, however the idea of lawn bowls and driving a five-tonne caravan with a one-tonne Kia didn’t appeal. Laurie’s retirement lasted a full two weeks.
When he was 15, Laurie used to help his neighbour whenever he was washing, cleaning and mucking around with his truck.
So, when he found himself out of school at 17, he bought an old D series Ford and began Laurie Williams Car Carrying.
“I just kept going and seeing people, and after a while people would be ringing me, word-of-mouth stuff,” Laurie tells me.
Eventually Laurie had regular work servicing Brisbane to Caloundra daily. New cars, auctions, used cars and wrecks, anything and everything.
As his reputation grew so did his workload. More trucks were added to the fleet that was now covering not just Caloundra but all of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and stretching up to Maryborough and Bundaberg.
Laurie Williams Car Carrying grew to a fleet of 14 trucks when it was bought out by Rowdy’s Car Carriers in June 2000.
Back in the game
However, Laurie held onto his Heritage Western Star when he went into his fortnight of retirement.
The plan was never meant to be a John Farnhamstyle retirement, but two weeks in Laurie was sick of his knitting and Sudoku, and the opportunity was there to purchase a T950 with car carrying work. So back he went.
Laurie began running Brisbane to Townsville carting cars. While the cars were his bread and butter, Laurie was eventually offered the opportunity to start carting trucks as well.
I stupidly enquired into the main differences between carting the trucks and the cars, expecting to learn about higher centre of gravity and load restraint. But in typical Laurie ‘hang shit’ fashion, I got the reply: “Well, you can’t get as many on a trailer.”
Over the next 18 years, Laurie grew the company with every job and truck he took on. The postretirement company, North Qld Truck & Machinery Movements, runs two Western Stars, an FLB Freightliner and two International S-Lines, both of which are rarely found in a 4x2 setup.