“Set on a high bank overlooking the fertile flats of the Murray River, Old Blythewood stands as a testament to the industry, ingenuity and flexibility of the pioneering McLarty family,” reads the National Trust website.
Nick McLarty is the sixth generation (150 years) since the original tenant farmers John and Mary Anne McLarty – and he isn’t all that fussed about the build-up. He has a 4500 acre farm to run, complete with sheep, cattle, crops, hobbies, camp drafting (sheep dog trials, but for horses) and kids.
The family operates a group of farms in the area and I caught up with Nick and his new UD Quon 26-390 in the shearing yard alongside the original heritage homestead.
I’d managed to pick the lunch break in a busy shearing schedule, and Nick spoke to me about the new truck while sheep milled around us, nervously herding under the beady eye of the ever-watchful Jack, Nick’s four-legged musterer.
The new UD ($140,000 for the cab chassis) replaced an Iveco that had reached its use-by date and works a heavy schedule of mixed operations.
To match the history of the locality, the Quon carries 60-year old custom built stock crates, heritage items in themselves. A body stand allows the Quon to swap crates for bins and various other bodies easily, and when the truck isn’t earning its living, the family uses it to take the horses to camp drafting events across the state. In WA of course, that means big distances, so the UD’s driver features are much appreciated.
UD is now owned by Isuzu of course, and so the latest Quon, already a potpourri of engineering nationalities and technologies, is a long way from the original UDs that established a solid reputation for absolute reliability. Added to that heritage is the wizardry from engineers across the globe. The beneficiaries are the operators.
Outside of farm work Nick also drives other brand prime movers, so he is already familiar with Volvo technology. So when the Quon arrived bristling with a suite of electronics from Sweden, it wasn’t a big learning experience for him. The UD cab and badge cover a Volvo driveline underneath, and the 390hp 1750Nm 11-litre engine is more than capable of handling the range of tasks as a rigid or rigid and dog.
Most new trucks are sold with AMT or auto transmissions now, and Blythewood’s UD is no exception. The ESCOT-VI 12-speed AMT includes global technology that has a clear focus on fuel efficiency, which Nick tracks closely with Dynafleet Telematics.
Few operators would argue that the UD Quon cab layout leads the pack in cab-over heavy-duty trucks from Asia and is better than most from Europe. The seating is well suspended and supportive, and the wrap-around dash brings every control within easy reach. The system is programmed to highlight exceptions to the norm, rather than a constant stream of running data, so there are relatively few gauges to keep a weary eye on.
The 700 breeders and 1500 steers keep Nick, his father and uncle busy enough to need equipment that works flat out and on demand. In addition the farm runs around 300 ewes and at present the family grows all its own fodder.
Part of the decision to buy the UD was the weight margin the long wheelbase 6×4 offered. The previous truck, only a 4×2, was frequently at its limits, particularly with stock crates that weren’t initially built with tare weight in mind. So far so good – 18-tonnes on the dog and 23 on the truck comfortably handles a load of 32 steers.
Next time you decide to visit WA’s South-West, Blythewood may well be a spot to visit to take a stroll into the past. After touring the homestead and tasting history, sneak a glance over the fence.
You’ll see a decidedly modern truck, UD’s Quon, getting on with the present.