Truck Restoration Projects
Phillip Mathie was a White Mustang truck fan ever since his father owned a WC22 single-drive model, back in the 1960s and made it his goal in later years to round up a couple of Mustangs to stable in his shed on the NSW South Coast. Jim Gibson reminisced with Phillip about how he bred new life into these two thoroughbreds.
Phillip started work in his father’s logging business at age 15 in the bush around Wandandian on the NSW South Coast, driving dozers and mobile equipment, felling timber and loading trucks. He recalled:
“The old man operated mainly International Harvester trucks, but at one time he bought a WC22 White and I remember it well because I had a soft spot for it.
“It really impressed me with its art-deco style narrow, pointed grille, conical headlight buckets with parking lights clinging on above and its clamshell front mudguards.”
In 1978 Phillip moved further south to the Narooma area where he continued the family logging operation after his father passed away.
His first prime mover was a White (of course) Road Boss with a burly 400 Cummins under the bonnet. When the White Road Boss product was no longer available, he bought Western Stars from that point on. His choice of muscle under the bonnet has always been Cummins power.
He was determined to find a WC22 to restore and the yellow one was his first acquisition,.
“I bought it in 1988 from an advertisement I saw in Deals on Wheels Magazine,” said Phillip Mathie.
‘The owner was in the Albury area and was only the second owner.
“It had a blown head gasket and he wasn’t prepared to repair it, so he decided to sell it.”
He told me that the original owner had bought it to use as a prime mover, pulling a low loader, hauling earthmoving and heavy equipment around Victoria from its base in Kyabram.
After the truck was delivered to Phillip’s yard in 1988, he said that although the engine had only done 5000 miles, he decided to pull it out and completely restore it, rather than just replace the head gasket.
This model had a petrol side-valve 460cu.in engine, with a five-speed main and three-speed auxiliary (Joey) gearbox mated behind.
The WC22 sat idle in a corner of the shed for some time, while Phillip got on with running his transport business. It wasn’t until 2005 that he spoke to his very good friend Denis Cleary about repairing the panels and repainting the truck. Denis said there was quite an amount of rust around the cab which we had to repair.
Phillip wanted to paint the truck in an original factory colour. The White Motor Company was unlike Henry Ford, who famously said to his original Model T customers: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”
White offered a plethora of colours and Phillip was keen to paint it yellow and the closest he could find to the factory shade on todays colour charts was Highway Yellow.
So Denis’ crew went to work refurbishing the dash in as close to the original silver hammer-tone and spraying the cab chosen yellow inside and out.
Finally, re-chromed components were fitted up and the ‘new’ truck saw the light of day in August 2006. The result is a credit to the workmanship of Denis’ team of tradesmen.
After its restoration Phillip took the old girl back to its original stamping ground at Kyabram, where the local Vintage Machinery Rally and White Truck Muster was being held.
A woman who knew the truck saw it and told Phillip that her husband had bought it new from White in Melbourne. The deal was that White Trucks would display the truck on its stand at the 1960 Sydney Truck Show and he would then take delivery from the dealer in Melbourne after the show was over.
Enter the green machine
With that restoration completed, Phillip was keen to find another old White to bring back to life. He’d always loved the look of the brawny 4200 Mustang, with its bigger 531cu.in displacement, side-valve, six-cylinder engine, fed by a two-barrel Holley carburettor.
In 2009 he tracked down a low-mileage one in Bakersfield, California. It was a single drive that had been on light duties, towing two trailers for a Californian cotton grower, and had travelled only 70,000 miles since new in 1964.
So, with a deal consummated, it was shipped across the Pacific and finally arrived in Phillip’s shed.
He wasn’t happy with it as a single drive, so he went shopping for a suitable bogie-drive to slip under its backside.
Finding a suitable donor out of a WC28T around Grafton on the NSW North Coast, he had it trucked down to the South Coast.
Denis Cleary was happy to help his friend spec’ the big White up and also give it the repaint treatment.
The bogie was completely reconditioned with new bushes, ‘S’cams, seals and wheel bearings.
“You wouldn’t believe it, but the wheel bearings in the 50-year-old bogie were exactly the same, part and number, as the latest Western Star uses,” Phillip said with a grin.
Denis’ team got the job of extending the chassis and fitting the bogie. A new wiring loom was made up and repainting got underway. For this truck the chosen colour was green, similar to the shade that many truck manufacturers used during the 1950s and 1960s.
“We were fortunate enough to find a piece of the seat material tucked underneath, out of the sun, so we were able to match the original colour, but this time in leather,” said Phillip.
He then pointed out the beautiful job the trimmer made of embossing the White logo into the back of both seats.
Once again, the restoration was first-class and the paint quality was mirror finish – as was obvious on the bright sunny day we chose to photograph the truck and reflections were abundant!
It is always great to meet people who are dedicated to preserving the trucks that have facilitated the growth of the road transport industry across the globe and Phillip Mathie had this commitment.
Sadly, he suddenly became totally blind and therefore was unable to see the two stunning old trucks he saved from extinction, but as he stoically said: “I still have the memories.”