Fit­ting trib­ute

1978 R Model Mack re­stored in late owner’s honour

Owner Driver - - Front Page -

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.

Health check

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

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