Maxi-CUBE’s 50 Years of Australian Manufacturing
The year 2022 marks another significant milestone for Australian road transport with refrigerated and dry freight trailer brand, Maxi-CUBE, celebrating 50 years since the brand came into existence.
Officially, the business of Maxi-CUBE started in 1972, however its beginnings extend well before this time. According to one of the brand’s recently retired founders, Jim Curtis, there’s an interesting story behind the brand.
In 1960, Australia had a growing economy, with plenty of golden opportunities for those that sought them. After migrating from the UK with his wife, a young Jim landed a job with General Motors Holden where he put his creative energy to work as a junior layout draftsman, when FB Holdens were rolling off the assembly line.
In 1961, he joined road transport equipment manufacturer, Freighter.
Freighter joined with USA company, Trailmobile, to bring to Australia aluminium van manufacturing expertise in competition with Australia’s then leading trailer builder, Fruehauf.
Refrigerated freight was an emerging innovation and Jim saw the potential for plastic composite construction of insulated vans, in a market dominated by insulated aluminium bodies. Jim made contacts with automotive product suppliers in the growing plastic fabrication industry.
In the late 1960s Jim moved to Reinforced Plastics and worked on the development of fibreglass insulated vans. In the early 1970s, Reinforced Plastics partnered with the much larger Australian Consolidated Industries and received a make-or-break contract to supply 2000 containers.
When it seemed the venture was about to fly, then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam revalued the Aussie dollar and caused a collapse in the manufacturing sector that relied on trans-Pacific economic dependencies.
The Reinforced Plastics contract was more break than make, but the business kept on.
During the 1970s, truck and trailer manufacturers saw growth across the industry and plastic industrial giants were competing to find the right solution for the use of plastic composites in insulated and refrigerated vans.
Jim joined Deltacraft, a company manufacturing fibreglass boats, but it was a broader vision that drew him to the company. As Deltacraft grew, one area of focus was developing containers for Woolworths and that became a vital component in the formation of Maxi-CUBE.
Deltacraft hit hard times and a new company called General Plastics was established in 1972. It took over the road transport contracts of Deltacraft – the beginnings of Maxi-CUBE.
Things then took a turn for the better with Government regulations allowing wider trailers. General Plastics designed and engineered an insulated trailer that made use of the extra width. That advance, plus a low-tare, double-loader design helped transport operator Frank Selwood score a lucrative and far reaching contract. And the road transport industry was watching.
The development meant Maxi-CUBE was delivering semi-trailers with a one tonne tare advantage over the opposition, with lower cost manufacture.
General Plastics was re-branded Maxi-CUBE, under the guidance of forward-thinking Jim Curtis; accountant Peter Ralph; sales and marketing guru, Ron Redman and engineering manager, Luke Hogeboom.
With a purpose-built facility in the South West of Melbourne, accumulated manufacturing expertise was put into play. Through the buoyant 1980s, trailers were rolling off the assembly line and designs improved.
Maxi-CUBE was listed on the stock exchange in 1994 and evolved into the large corporation, MaxiTRANS, after acquiring Freighter.
MaxiTRANS purchased other trailer manufacturers, merged with others and in 2022, delivers the full spectrum of heavy duty trailers across all sectors of road transport. In September 2021, the MaxiTRANS trailer business was purchased by Australian Trailer Solutions Group (ATSG), which is a private group comprising local investors who are committed to Australian manufacturing.
“Maxi-CUBE’s proud and long history is testament to the support of our loyal customers,” said Kevin Manfield, MaxiTRANS general manager of sales and marketing.
“Some of our customers have been with the brand since its humble beginnings and it is this commitment that has helped shape Maxi-CUBE into the brand it is today.”
Maxi-CUBE is the third trailer brand under the MaxiTRANS banner to reach a milestone, with Hamelex White reaching 25 years in 2020 and Freighter celebrating 75 years in 2021.