Truck Restoration Projects
A tale of two trucks
We located two prime movers from the halcyon days gone by, on a property on the NSW South Coast: an International R190 – the indisputable king of the highway in its heyday – and a Ford F8000 which, unfortunately, wasn’t. Timing was and is, everything.
The R190s toiled along our highways, helping to keep many a transport company afloat, but also helping build a few road-transport empires.
Well-respected and knowledgeable transport equipment manager at K&S in Mount Gambier, Des Ind, once told Jim Gibson that ‘Khan and Sheldon’, as it was originally known, would not have grown so quickly in those early days had it not been for the legendary dependability of its fleet of R190 Internationals.
Transport companies, including Bruce Panucci Transport, F C (Barney) Kerr, Wally Davidson Transport, Bill Cousins Transport, W J George (Let George Do It), Taylor Dalton and F W Johnston Transport are but a few companies that successfully operated these faithful road warriors to ferry freight reliably around our country.
This beautiful green R190 brought Jim Gibson’s memories flooding back, right down to its GM4.71 power transplant.
Jim drove one in that spec’ when he ‘wore a younger man’s clothes’ and fondly recalled the glorious, high-pitched, two-stroke symphony the 4.71 played at fever pitch under load at 2100rpm. Another positive was that he didn’t spend sufficient time in the R190 to contract industrial deafness in the right ear!
Opening the driver’s door and mounting the step-tank access to the cab, then sliding in behind the large diameter, pearl coated steering wheel took him back 50 years.
These handsome trucks ‘owned’ the road in the 1950s and 1960s, and were the anointed kings of our highways.
Looking along the tan vinyl covered bench seat towards the passenger’s door, Jim wondered how the hell was it possible to stretch out enough in order to have a comfortable and restful sleep?
This model Inter originally came from the factory powered by a six-cylinder 372cu.in (six-litre) petrol engine rated 165bhp at 3200rpm and was later upgraded to a 406cu.in (6.6-litre) pumping 193bhp at 3200rpm. Both of them obviously drank fuel like a sailor on shore leave (5 to 6mpg), but petrol was cheap back then.
The plus side was that the exhaust had a memorable deep roar under load, as the burnt fuel exited a four-inch (100mm) diameter pipe in front of the right hand drive wheels.
However, as time progressed, operators looked at diesel engines to replace the petrol guzzlers and it was GM’s (later Detroit Diesel) two-stroke 4.71 that got the gig, along with a crown wheel and pinion change. This R190 is one such recipient.
Well-known truck operator and transport heritage restoration enthusiast Alby Twyford owns this beautifully recreated, period-correct 1958 International.
Alby wanted to recreate a clone of his father Paul’s 190 that was sitting on their property in a rusted state, with the cab much too far-gone to revive.
So he purchased a GM-powered 190 from Graham Miles in nearby Delegate, tore it down and completely rebuilt it, including the engine, as well as using some donor parts from the original.
It took five years to achieve his goal, with help from artisans, principally his mate, the ever patient Joe Haley, who teased corroded parts from their resting place through hours of gentle persuasion; sculpturing them to the precise shape of the original pressings.
Impatient Alby said: “I would have resorted to the oxy-cutter after 10 minutes.”
There were also Merv ‘Horizon’ Rose, the painter from Bega, and Eye Spy Signs from Pambula.
“I insisted that all of the sign work be hand painted and not one sticker was to be used,” said Alby.
Peter ‘Pop’ Kaye from Merimbula refurbished and stitched the seats and interior, and Bruce from South Coast Electrics fettled the wiring harness that was supplied by Alan Taylor at Vintage Wiring Harnesses in Bellingen.
The sight of the finished article takes the viewer a step back in time.
Resplendent in close to original ‘Harvester green with period scroll and pin-lining and a single-tyred lazy axle (colloquially known as a ‘silly-wheel’ back then) in front of the drive that added payload originally, was added by Alby for period authenticity.
There is a Fruehauf trailer that couples onto the R190, but unfortunately wasn’t on site at the time. The trailer came from further south, in Eden and also required a deal of TLC from the restoration team.
It had a 9-foot 1-inch (2.8 metres) spread axle tandem, which also endorsed an era when spread axle trailers were used to carry additional payload. Spreads ranged from 8-ft 1-in (2.48m) to 10ft 1-in (3.1m) and they didn’t half tear up the roads and torture the tyres. They were the precursors of today’s tri-axle trailers.
Alby’s father, Paul Twyford, purchased the original R190 in Melbourne, where it was one of many that interstate transport company F C (Barney) Kerr operated. Paul used it to cart stock and also bought a brand new jinker from Freighter Trailers in Sydney, to cart logs out of the bush as well.
Alby, now middle-aged, was just a toddler back then, but the die was cast: Alby grew up with trucks, driving them at a young age and later becoming a professional truck driver, following in his father’s footsteps, to a degree.
“I fuelled my passion for GM-powered Inters when I drove a V6-GM bogie-drive R195 Inter with a five-speed main and three-speed Joey box in the NSW southern districts bush,” Alby said.
He was always a careful, professional operator and always kept his charges in exemplary condition, but confessed: “In the 40-odd years I have driven trucks I have only every had one misdemeanour and that was because my ambitions got in the road of my capabilities, when I rolled a 1978 Louisville at Nimmitabel.”
During the mid-1960s Ford Australia was aware of the sales success that International Harvester Australia and Chrysler Australia were having with their Cummins-Diesel-powered ABD184 and Dodge 7-Series in the heavy-duty prime mover market.
Ford took a management decision to build a Cummins-powered F-series and this new model was added to its range. It was called the F8000 and was fitted with a Cummins 464 cu in (7.6-litre), in-line, six-cylinder, supercharged C180 engine, developing 180bhp at 2500rpm, with peak torque of 410lb ft at 1700rpm, coupled to an overdrive Spicer transmission.
However, by the time Ford got its act together the competition had the market well and truly captured. Another impediment was the fact that Ford Australia’s dealers were somewhat inexperienced in the cut and thrust of the heavy-duty truck market.
Not helping lacklustre sales performances a recommended retail price (RRP) some $2500 above that of a Cummins-powered Dodge 760 AT4’s RRP of $93,000. In 1968 that amount of money was a large chunk of change. At a time when the average wage in Australia was $68.30 and the median house price was $10,500.
The sub-contractor tonnage rate was around $15 a ton for a Sydney to Melbourne leg and, in those days, a single-drive bogie-trailer combination had a 16-ton payload, equating to $240 gross per trip.
The Australian F8000s were not the same as the US spec, which had a V6 Cummins 200, the six-cylinder forerunner to the V8 903, but nowhere as reliable.
The Australian spec’ trucks, together with the C-series Cummins, came in from North America in CKD packs and were assembled in Sydney. Because the Ford assembly plant on Parramatta Road at Homebush hadn’t sufficient space, a building on the corner of Rawson Road, further along Parramatta Road at Auburn was leased and became the assembly plant.
It was a Cummins’ requirement in the case of any CKD installation that a New Engine Inspection (NEI) be carried out by one of its technicians. The job entailed checking the air cleaner and induction plumbing installation, setting the tappets and checking the fuel injection system prior to starting it; followed by a final check under running conditions.
The featured 8000
This Ford was bought new in 1968 by Shearers Transport and driven by Peter Behl, carting stock. Peter then bought the truck and its McGrath trailer, and continued to use it carting livestock. He was critically injured in a serious work accident and subsequently died in the 1990s.
Paul Twyford bought the combination, likewise, to cart livestock. It was also used to carry petroleum products, as Paul was the Shell agent at the time.
He replaced the Spicer box with a 10-speed Roadranger transmission and worked it until such time as the authorities grounded it, for lack of a suitable handbrake. (The original transmission handbrake system was an integral part of the Spicer box and a replacement had never been fitted.)
It was parked up in 1979 and, some 28-years on, Alby rescued it from nature’s resting place on the Twyford farm.
Then it was all hands-on-deck, to breathe new life back into the old Ford. As luck would have it, Alby located an overdrive Spicer box from an F8000:
“I couldn’t believe my luck, so I got over there with the cash as quickly as possible before the owner realised what a rare beast it was and up’d the price,” smiled Alby.
“I knew the cylinder head was cracked, so we had to completely overhaul the engine and clutch, and then install the Spicer.
“I bought a repairable cab from a guy in Balranald and we started to get the old girl looking and sounding right – you can hear the 180 Cummins’ supercharger spinning as it compresses the air through the induction system and into the combustion chambers.”
The restoration was completed in 2009 and Alby dedicated it to its first driver, the late Peter Behl.
The highways were not densely populated with F8000 Ford prime movers and, according to our sources, only owner-operators and a few fleets operated them: Beckley’s Transport; Electric Power Transmission had three, Mayne Nickless operated a couple and the Emoleum fleet was another user.
We can only admire people like Alby Twyford, who have the time and determination to bring trucks from an earlier road transport era back to life: not only for those of us who lived through that era, but to offer the younger generation a window into our industry as it was last century.
It is our intention to be back at Alby’s in the future, to chronicle some of the other time capsules he has brought and is bringing, back to life – to look resplendent, in their former glad rags.