Welcome to the first instalment of a column that has been inspired by an appreciation of the many and varied vehicles that have competed in Australia over the last 50 years. I have been a keen motorsport enthusiast, spectator and competitor over most of this time and like many am saddened and concerned about the cessation of the automotive industry in our country. Australia has produced many skilful people in the
motoring world from designers and automotive engineers to bush mechanics and prac- tical geniuses.
Evidence to this are the Aussie built vehicles that have spawned to compete at home and abroad and I think it important (and hopefully interesting) to remember some of these, whilst hoping that a globalised world, world cars and free trade deals and the like do not conspire to limit our future in this area.
Importantly these vehicles are ones that have impacted in my memory and what I con- sider memorable. I will try to avoid the usual suspects and choose some a little quirky or not so common. I am no expert however all will be properly researched and I welcome suggestions and comment. Anyway I hope you enjoy.
I clearly remember seeing this truck numerous times in street parades, shows and on TV, although not seeing it perform may have engaged the imagination more than other- wise would have been the case.
Claimed to be the world’s first jet powered truck “matilda” was built in 1978 and based on a Ford Louisville LNT 7000 prime mover. Constructed by Terry O’Hare it used an ex – RAAF Rolls Royce mark 1 Avon jet engine taken from a Canberra bomber. I am unsure of just how many modifications were made to the truck by the constructor to enable it to handle the jet engine.
Build time was only six weeks as it was hurriedly readied to compete against the Kenworth American truck, Super Boss that was appearing in Australia at the time (as a kid I had a Matchbox truck of Super Boss and still have it). The Aussie truck was
defeated by Super Boss on debut at Calder raceway in front of 35,000 fans, not per- forming to its potential due to teething problems and a very hot day (nearly 40 degrees) apparently.
It was assessed that the truck was not well suited to a 1⁄4 mile dragstrip and that longer runs would better suit its’ capabilities. I imagine the jet engine used may have taken some time to propel the truck to a high speed.
So a truck world speed record was embarked and Waltzing Matilda was recorded at being the first truck to run at 200 mph with a maximum speed of over 220 mph. These runs were conducted on closed North–Western Victorian roads, assessed as suitable for a world land speed record attempt. Rumoured to be near Birchip–Wycheproof and with the assistance of the Victorian RTA (wouldn’t we all like to see this sort of co–operation from the NSW authorities with regard motorsport activities in the present day). I must have seen the truck after this contest as I remember seeing it billed as the world’s fastest truck.
Interestingly the truck was purchased by Ray Kernaghan (father of popular country sing- er Lee) in 1981 and the truck was used for promotional activities for Ray’s music and albums, appearing on at least one of his record covers.
I well remember a patriotic narrative and promotion of the truck as it played on being faster than its’ American equivalent and Australian flag adorning the vehicle.
I guess these days a vehicle like this may not have much of an impact but at the time it was well known and quite popular. I happily remember having a sticker of the truck on my Globite school bag with the words QUEEN OF THE TAR blazed across the bottom.
I understand there was an attempt to find and restore the truck back to its former glory only a few years ago, I am not sure how this is going but it would bring back some memories for many if it did run again.
Very old and poor quality footage is on U tube of the racing between Waltzing Matilda and Super Boss (and other trucks) at Calder Park.It is believed the truck was sold to a Tasmanian farmer who used it to transport honey (with truck back to fairly standard form I would imagine) around some parts of the state. There was a push around 2008 for the truck to be restored back to it’s jet powered configuration.
Well that’s it for the first one, hope some found it interesting or bought back memory or two. I have a shortlist of vehicles however please feel free to offer some suggestions for future articles.
See you next time.