Historic Truck Brands
Leader Trucks were the brainchild of J C ‘Cyril’ Anderson, a most influential road transport figure.
As the founder of Great Western Group of companies, Cyril commenced business in Toowoomba in 1934, when he bought a two-ton truck to carry goods from Brisbane to his general store and garage in Toowoomba. By 1936, he was operating four vehicles.
This business eventually became Western Transport, operating Australia-wide, using 200 trucks, 350 semi-trailers, bulk fuel tankers and many other pieces of specialised equipment.
Development of the Great Western Group of companies stemmed from the growth of Western Transport and in 1953 Group’s first venture was in distributing motor vehicles, under aegis of Westco Motors.
Westco Motors picked up the Mazda franchise for Queensland in 1963, subsequently acquiring those in other states. Cyril Anderson wanted a truck distributorship and began
Importing Macks into Queensland: an operation that subsequently became Mack Trucks Australia Pty Ltd. Westco also distributed UD trucks.
In the early 1970s Cyril saw the need for a mid-range Mack, primarily for rigid truck applications, but Mack USA had no suitable product. He decided to make his own and approached Reinforced Plastics in Melbourne for a suitable FRP cab. That company was already producing plastic cabs for Australian Atkinsons.
The Leader Overlander COE was born in 1972 and continued in production until 1984. It was later joined by a bonnetted Challenger model.
The cab for the Overlander was a slightly-modified Mack FR cab shape, but slightly deeper. A sleeper-cab Sundowner version was later added, along with a low-forward-entry cab. Some Overlanders had curved two-piece windscreens, but most had two flat, cheaper panes.
The Challenger cab was moulded off UD’s TW truck and a new FRP bonnet was made.
Overlanders were available with forward-set or rearward-set front axles, single- or twin-steer and in 4×2, 4×4 (A4 models), 6×4, 6×6 (A6 models) and 8×4 (A8 model) configurations.
Typical specifications were: nine- or 9.5-inch frame; Rockwell SP40 on Hendrickson RTEA380 walking beam suspension; Caterpillar 3306 in-line six-cylinder 270hp diesel and Eaton-Fuller 10-, 13-, 15- or 18-speed transmission. Options included heavier diffs and suspension and Allison or Spicer ‘Spoiler’ 14-speed transmissions.
The Challenger was much more a custom-built truck, with ‘B’ model prefixes. Some were heavier specification, fitted with wider bonnets and used for heavy haulage work.
Leaders proved popular in vocational roles and some 2000 were manufactured.