Truck Restoration Projects
Makin’ an old Austin new again
The 1952 Austin K4 Loadstar was the last Austin truck designed and built by the company, before the economic downturn in the early 1950s forced Austin and Morris to form a joint venture in order to survive, establishing the British Motor Corporation (BMC).
In 1949 the production of a celebrated Austin truck, with smoother lines and a more modern shape was launched. This new model Loadstar or ‘Series II’ was offered in two model derivatives – K2 and K4 – with a load capacity from two to five tons, wheelbase lengths of 2.9m and 4.0m, powered by an inline six-cylinder 3995cc engine, developing 125hp and fitted with a vacuum brake booster.
The Series II continued as a BMC-built product until 1956, after which the Series III was launched, with a new unified cab and a more aerodynamic sloping bonnet.
The Austin Motor Company was a major manufacturer of cars and trucks and an integral part of the British automotive scene. In 1906, Sir Herbert Austin (1866-1941), who had previously been the CEO of Wolseley cars, established a company bearing his own name in an old printing house at Longbridge village, south of Birmingham.
In April that year, he introduced his first car that was well received and it wasn’t long before Austin offered a range of passenger cars.
The full-scale production of trucks began prior to WWI, when in December 1912 the company released models with a carrying capacity of two and three tons. From February of the following year a five-ton version was produced.
However, by October 1917, around 1000 unsold trucks had accumulated in Austin’s storage facilities. Austin cleared much of his unsold stock by 1922, but decided to quit them and concentrate on the production of passenger cars. Paradoxically, he also manufactured a commercial version of almost every passenger car, with payloads ranging from six-hundredweight (300kg) to 1.5-tons.
In January 1939, just before the outbreak of WWII, Austin received a Government order to supply a quantity of truck, so with much enthusiasm he produced a new range. Later named the ‘Series 1’ K2 and K3 models had payloads of two and three tons, respectively. Later 1.5-ton utilities, named K30s, were added to the line-up. The Series 1 was continued after the war until the end of 1948, when the more modern looking post-war Series II entered the marketplace.
No, this name doesn’t refer to the 1950s/60s American TV series that starred a youthful Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates, to a background of Frankie Laine singing: “Keep them doggies movin’ – Round ’em up and head ’em out”. Instead, it’s the true story of a little British lorry that also worked with bovines, albeit with their by-products!
Our featured Austin Loadstar (Serial No. 2L2364) became fondly christened ‘Rawhide’ by the Perich family. The family patriarch, L K Perich, had purchased it from Sydney Austin truck dealer Lark Hoskins of Camperdown, Sydney, sometime in 1952. The purchase price is unknown.
Leppington Pastoral Co (LPC) is a family owned and operated dairy farm nestled in the township of Bringelly. Kolombo and Julia Perich founded the dairy in 1951 at Leppington, New South Wales, milking 25 cows. They had two sons Tony and Ron who helped develop the business to what it is today and the current generation are third generation dairy farmers.
In 1963 the family purchased 242Ha of land (‘Linton’) at Bringelly. The property was previously a sheep farm, but in 1964 a 12-cow ‘step-up’ dairy was commissioned, where 200 cows could be milked each day.
In 1975 a 40-stand rotary dairy was built and the milking herd grew to 1000. By this time the total property size was 600Ha, after the acquisition of ‘Karoola Park’. Both properties combined to form what is known today as the ‘Base Farm’.
In 1980 ‘Greenway’ dairy was acquired and moved to Bringelly, six kilometres from the Base Farm and this farm was still operational at the time or writing this yarn, milking 800 cows twice daily, on a 40-stand rotary. The total land area at this site is 1280Ha.
In 1991 the company purchased a third dairy at Wilberforce, ‘Stoneleigh’. This was a 50-stand rotary dairy, milking 800 cows.
In November 2000 the company ceased milking on the 40-stand rotary at Base Farm and moved 1000 cows to a brand new Westfalia-Surge double, 36-aside herringbone system. Then in March 2001 over the period of one week they moved all the milking cows from Stoneleigh and added them into the new facility at the Base Farm.
Leppington Pastoral Company also has property at West Wyalong, ‘Billabong Station’ (10,000Ha). This property is used for rearing stock and growing various grains and hay. But back to the 1950s.
The brand-new Austin truck was used for transporting cow manure from local dairy farms to be used as fertiliser for the tomato crop. This was scraped up manually, then loaded and taken back to the Leppington property and unloaded with shovels, because the truck wasn’t a tipper.
‘Rawhide’ also transported wattle saplings cut by hand in the Wilton area, to be used as tomato stakes and it carried the tomato crop to the Sydney central markets at Haymarket in the city.
In later years it transported stock feed and general supplies that were needed for the company’s dairy operation, travelling as far afield as Goulburn on the Southern Tablelands and Bathurst in the Central West.
The Austin’s gear-bound road speed nudges 50mph (80km/h), making these trips slow, but that’s relative, considering the country’s road conditions more than half a century ago.
In 1987 ‘Rawhide’ was retired to the company’s property, ‘Billabong Station’ at West Wyalong, to be used on general farm work. Then at the turn of the century it was put out to ‘pasture’ in a shed on that property where it sat idle for 10 years.
By chance, during a visit to the property one day in 2010, Ron Perich decided to take stock of the contents of an old shed, accompanied by son-in-law Joe Buda. While clearing its contents – timber, packing cases, corrugated iron and old unused farm equipment – he moved a sheet of plywood and saw an old truck, covered it dust.
As his eyes focused on the bonnet and he used his handkerchief to wipe away the dust, he uncovered the word ‘Rawhide’and then the memories came flooding back. Joe recalled:
“Emotion took over, Ron’s eyes brimmed with tears and a couple rolled down his cheeks, because he’d driven many a mile partnered with ‘Rawhide’, back when he was a young man.”
“This was a Groundhog Day, as right there on-the-spot Ron said, ‘Let’s bring this faithful old girl back to life : send it back to our workshop at Bringelly’.”
The little Austin was one of the first three trucks owned by the Perich family business and the other two had TV-show nicknames as well – ‘Bonanza’ and ‘Cannonball’ . The restoration of ‘Rawhide’ would be a fitting reward for all its hard work during half a century of helping to build the family business; carrying loads greater and heavier than were ever intended by the manufacturer.
So ‘Rawhide’ was brought back to the company’s roots at Leppington Pastoral in Bringelly for a makeover that had first-class results.
Joe was in charge of the resto project that saw the company’s team of tradesmen use their various skills to recreate exactly what the Austin Motor Company had built in its Longbridge plant some 66 years earlier.
Close inspection revealed that the cab had deteriorated beyond economical redemption, so a replacement was found that, while still needing a great deal of fettling to reclaim, was a more time- and cost-effective proposition.
‘Rawhide’s replacement cab rebuild started in earnest in mid-2010. At the same time the chassis was stripped bare and all components sand blasted.
The front axle, steering linkages, leaf spring pins and bushes were all replaced, as well as the brake linings. The master cylinder was re-sleeved and overhauled by Burt Bros Brakes of Fairfield, who also supplied additional brake components. The rear spring pins and bushes, and the centre bolts were renewed.
The differential and gearbox were inspected, and a new clutch plate and overhauled pressure plate were supplied by Western Clutch, St Marys.
The chassis and attachments were painted in two-pack black; the wheels coated in a contrasting red and the cab finished in the original factory green, by Anthony Caronna at Custom Body Works.
The engine was sent to Dominator Engine Reconditioning for machining and returned for the team at the LPC workshop to reassemble.
The carburettor and the distributor were overhauled and the ‘dizzy’ scored a new cap and leads. The radiator was re-cored and pressure-tested by Liverpool Radiators.
All instruments were tested and repaired as necessary, and the entire wiring system was replaced in-house by the then workshop manager Peter Vella.
The seats and head lining were renewed by X-Trim motor trimmers at Smeaton Grange.
A local young sign writer, Shane Hobson, used the time-honoured dagger brush and paint (no modern stickers here) to sign-write the driver’s door and brand ‘Rawhide’ on the bonnet, and to add some scroll work on the new timber body.
The entire refurbishment job was completed in six months, by December 2010. That’s a remarkable result, considering the amount of work involved.
Many parts that could not be reclaimed were remanufactured in-house: one example being the front bumper bar that had been butchered when a bulbar was fitted. Like other unavailable parts a new bumper was created by the LPC team – not by a professional restoration business, but a workshop of enthusiastic, skilful company employees.
LPC workshop manager Craig Smith said: “I need to emphasise that not all members of our workshop actually worked on the truck, but they worked extra hard to give those who worked on the truck the time.
“We could not have completed the ‘Rawhide’ rebuild without the hard work of every one of our staff.”