1978 R Model Mack restored in late owner’s honour
ACOOLPOWER announces the arrival of a 1978 R Model Mack. Gillian Buckley hears it from the garden of her home at Strathbogie, Victoria. Her daughter Karah hears it too, as does her granddaughter Lexi. It has been 18 months since Gillian’s husband Brian ‘Buck’ Buckley took the R Model to Emil Barbic and Mario Grosso at Oaklands Junction for restoration. “That was probably the last time he drove a truck,” Gillian says. Brian passed away in April, 2017, six weeks after the restoration began. He was only 60. Gillian didn’t meet Emil and Mario until Brian’s funeral, but she has spoken to them throughout the restoration and she greets them like old friends as they arrive in the Mack. “They’ve been wonderful,” Gillian says. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
After being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2014, Brian bought four R Models. He wanted to restore one of them as a replica of the log truck he owned in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Brian’s dream was to restore the R Model and a jinker, and then drive it to the National Road Transport Hall of Fame in Alice Springs.
The bucket-list project brought joy to Brian’s final months. Even from his hospital bed, he continued to exchange messages with Emil and Mario.
“They used to send him photos of what they’d done and he was sitting there in hospital with his iPad, looking at his photos,” Gillian says. “So he was sort of still hands on, telling them what to do, even though he was only a few days away from passing away.”
Losing Brian has forever changed the Buckley family. While they tried to come to terms with his death, the unfinished restoration was one of many matters demanding the grieving family’s attention.
“It was down there in a million pieces,” says Gillian who contemplated whether they should complete the restoration.
“We thought in his memory perhaps we should just finish it, and see the project through to an end, minus the jinkers.”
Life in trucks
Brian grew up in Euroa, Victoria, and left school when he was 16 to work at his father’s sawmill.
He already owned a truck when he married Gillian in 1978. His first truck was an International AB, followed by a Benz, his first R Model Mack, a cab-over Mack, an Atkinson, a couple of International TranStars and an S-Line International.
“Before the kids came, I used to go with him in the truck a lot,” Gillian says. There were several trips to Sydney and once they went
all the way to Perth. Their children, Hayden and Karah, enjoyed travelling with their dad and helping him wash his trucks.
During his years as an owner-driver Brian carted general freight, logs, timber, woodchips, paper, superphosphate, paint, machinery, grain, rice hulls, fodder and oranges. By 2003 Brian thought he was ready to leave the trucking industry. That’s when the Buckleys moved from Euroa to the Strathbogie farm.
“He sold all the trucks, and he was going to be a farmer,” Gillian says. “But that wasn’t quite exciting enough for Brian, so we did a trip halfway around Australia in 2006 and he sort of fell in love with the outback.”
Soon after, Brian began working for Nacap. He drove a fuel truck along pipeline construction sites in remote parts of Australia. “He’d be away 28 days at a time, and then he’d be home for a week.”
But when he learned he had bowel cancer in 2014, Brian left Nacap, bought an excavator, and established Strathbogie Tableland Earthworks. He ran the local business until January 2017 when he became too sick to continue.
Gillian retired from her job at Landmark in 2015 because of Brian’s health. Today she manages the farm office while Hayden looks after the sheep and cattle.
She regularly babysits her granddaughter Lexi and loves spending time with her grandson Angus. Karah lives on the farm with Gillian and enjoys helping with farm work.
Gillian says Brian had a “larger than life” personality and he made friends easily.
“A lot of his mates have had trouble dealing with his passing,” says Gillian, who hopes his friends are taking care of their own health. “A lot of them are the same age as Brian and if he’d listened to his doctor and gone and had his test when he was supposed to have it, he wouldn’t have ended up in the trouble that he was in.”
Brian often said he was too busy to visit a doctor. Gillian has a message for all the busy truck drivers out there: “Get yourselves to the doctor if there’s something not right.”
She says bowel tests, in particular, should not be avoided.
“That was probably the last time he drove a truck.”
“My mother and father both passed away from bowel cancer. And then for my husband to end up with it as well, I thought, ‘This is just terrible!’”
Brian’s name was added to the Victorian Truck Drivers’ Memorial at a moving ceremony at Alexandra in June this year.
Work on the R Model was almost complete, and the Mack took part in the memorial convoy from Yarck to Alexandra. Brian’s friend, Neil Lemen, drove it. The truck was displayed at the Alexandra Truck Show the next day, and then Mario drove it back to Oaklands Junction so Emil could complete the restoration.
Gillian says the R Model is likely to attend several truck shows in the future. Perhaps one day it will be offered for sale, but for now she is glad to have it back at the farm. She says Brian would have been pleased to see his project finished.
“I think he’d be pretty impressed with it.”
Opposite top: Brian Buckley’s restored 1978 R Model Mack has a 320hp Coolpower engine and 12speed gearbox. Sadly, Brian didn’t live to see the project completedOpposite bottom L to R: Brian Buckley at the 2016 Euroa Show and Shine with one of his R Model Macks; Neil Lemen (left) honoured Brian Buckley’s memory by driving the restored Mack in the Victorian Truck Drivers’ Memorial convoy from Yarck to Alexandra; Neil is pictured (from left) with Emil Barbic, Gillian Buckley and Mario Grosso
Above: Brian Buckley was larger than life and made friends easily
Bottom: Brian established Strathbogie Tableland Earthworks after his diagnosis
Right: The 1978 R Model Mack before the restoration
Below: Brian’s name has been added to the Victorian Truck Drivers’ Memorial wall
Above: Home at last. The restoration is finished and the Mack is back on the Buckleys’ Strathbogie farm with Gillian Buckley (right), her daughter Karah and granddaughter Lexi
Above: After being diagnosed with cancer, Brian Buckley bought four R Model Macks and planned the restoration of the yellow truck on the leftBelow: The Mack was stripped back to the chassis