Ford L9000 is the best according to Keith
"THERE'S the rest and there's the best!”
So says Keith Harvie from Kyvalley, just north of Kyabram in Victoria's Goulburn Valley.
When I ask about his rig his face breaks into a broad smile which stays there throughout our conversation.
The best, as far as Keith is concerned is the mighty Ford Louisville LTS 9000.
Keith has had a variety of trucks in his fleet but maintains the Louisville's made him more money than anything else.
"I had a G88 Volvo which I drove and a C1800 with a driver in it before the Luis came out, I would go from home to Sydney on a Sunday night, unload and reload in Sydney on Monday morning, unload and reload in Brisbane on Tuesday morning, repeat it in Sydney on Thursday morning, the same again in Melbourne on Friday morning and then home,” he said.
"Then I'd start all over again on Sunday night, after washing the truck and checking it over.”
"I gave that away in the '70s, soon after I got the Louisville and started running direct to Brisbane. The first Louisville I got was white and I traded the C1800 in on it. We tried Kenworth and Mack - you name it - we had most of them, but cost per kilometre over their lifetime the Louisville's stood up to the task. They were the best we had which says a lot for the old girls.”
Keith commenced driving legally in 1961.
"I started driving semitrailers when I was 13. I went on the road by myself in an ARC160 Inter of which only 42 were built. Stan Gardiner, a mate and I bought it between us. It was number 15 of the run. From the outset we had our own business. Stan and I grew up together and have had a lifetime of friendship and mateship.
"We only owned four or five trucks at a time but I had a lot of subbies working for me. We were sending about 12 truckloads a week to Brisbane. We carted a lot for Plumrose and Tisdal Wines. I also got most of the Nestle and IXL business. They were all big concerns in the area back then. Plumrose and Tisdal wines were both at Echuca. Nestlé was at Tongala. And Tisdal Wines at Kyabram. Dr Tisdal is not with us anymore but the company is still going. Plumrose is still going but under a different name. IXL is going in a small way Nestlé is still going this way but it's now Frontera - not a popular name in these parts. Back in the heyday we had good work and plenty of it.”
At 74, Keith occasionally still goes out on the road.
"I find it hard to give it away totally because I still love it.”
Wanting to relive the glory years, Keith went looking for a good Louisville, hoping to find one that he had owned.
"I've had this one six years and spent a few bob on it, doing it up in my business colours.”
It's what I used to have with the six-shot suspension, and the road train gearbox - the 14615. With this one we turned the gearbox around because you're only allowed 90 Km/h when they were built for a road train work. I'm on record so I better not to say what I used to do with them. Suffice to say the driver's trucks never had this heavy duty suspension on their trucks.
Keith also owns a Chevrolet Maple Leaf which he restored back in the 90s.
"For something to do. I had no particular affinity with them, I just liked the look of the truck,” he said.
"This is a 1945 model and she goes well.
"I restored her from the nuts and bolts. It's the original six-cylinder motor.
"This was when life was simple.
"You could repair them on the side of the road.
"I'm currently restoring an RC160 - number 7/42, so a bit earlier than the one Stan and I had.
"I also have an ASC160, no. 31. We're restoring that one as well.
"I've got enough work for 40 years after I die.”
With an array of choice in his garage, the Ford LTS 9000 is still the vehicle closest to Keith's heart.
"The first one I had in 1978 was one of the first three in Australia with a high-rise super,” he said.
"I'm trying to find some of my own trucks but they are very hard to find - especially the ones I drove myself.”
Something tells us that will happen.