Behn’s Big Loads
In the mid-20th century there were three legendary Euclid-green-hued Bedford/Mack prime movers created by Roy Behn. They roamed our highways and byways hauling over-dimensional heavy loads.
Jim Gibson takes us along for the Behn ride, through the memories of his younger, but octogenarian, brother Vic. Roy sadly passed away in 2003.
Unlike his trucks, Roy Behn was small in stature, but sinewy and strong. Trucks were in his and his two younger brothers’ DNA: inherited from their father.
During 1950 Roy’s dad lent him £300 ($600) to buy an R7 petrol-engine-powered Commer truck that enabled Roy to get a job subbing for Hopewell Transport in Sydney, carting interstate freight to and from Melbourne and Adelaide.
After a couple of years he’d accumulated enough capital to start up his own business, but not on interstate. Roy had his eye on what he thought to be a more lucrative and challenging form of road transport: carting specialist big loads the and Behn Heavy Haulage was formed.
The Commer was traded on an AEC Mammoth Major prime mover, along with trailing equipment in the form of a low-loader.
Roy then started carrying all manner of over-dimensional, mobile and stationary construction equipment for Blackwood Hodge. As demand grew and he acquired more clients with a need for specialist materials handling, so did the size of the fleet.
The additional vehicles required specialists, skilled drivers. Two of these were Ray Drain and Jack Houston – both exceptional operators, according to Vic – and this duo became the company’s star drivers. No task was too great for these two big blokes.
Roy also employed master tradesman, boilermaker/fitter, Ken Johnson, to manufacture and maintain a mountain of specialised rolling stock and equipment, including dollies, turntables and rear-end steering assemblies.
Over subsequent years Roy purchased and evaluated several different truck brands: AEC, Diamond T, Autocar, White, Peterbilt and a Kenworth. Roy added a pusher axle in front of the Kenworth’s bogie-drive, but the resulting short wheelbase made it almost impossible to turn without lifting the pusher hydraulically. It wasn’t called a pusher axle for no reason!
However, Roy felt the need for a unique, bespoke prime mover to fulfil his specialist requirements.
His creation was the Behn Bedford/Mack. This truckie’s ‘mixed grill’ prime mover combined an ex-Army NR Mack’s chassis, springs and axles – the 22-inch wheels and hubs replaced by 20-inch boots – a new Bedford cab; a 250hp Cummins engine and a 4+4 two-stick Spicer transmission.
Three of these bespoke trucks were built, but the other two had Leyland power. All four were built in Sydney with Peter Wieland’s and Harley Neuman’s engineering expertise.
The finishing touch was a coat of Euclid off-road-equipment green paint for the cabs. This unusual colour gave the prime movers an even more conspicuous appearance. It was a Blackwood Hodge colour and BH was one of Roy’s customers.
These custom-built units expressed the same Australian ingenuity as two other Australian creations: Bob Whitehead’s famous RFWs and Cyril Anderson’s Leaders.
As the business snowballed, brother Vic who had operated his own trucks for many years, sold his business and held-the-fort at Roy’s Davies Road, Padstow, yard, managing the operation from the mid-60s through to the late-70s.
The following is an article contained in the Mt Isa Mines magazine, dated January 1961.