As good lookin' as you can get in a truck.
As good lookin' as you can get in a truck.

Jeff’s Loadstar ‘pretty damn nice’

IF EVER there was a good looking truck, the International Loadstar 1800 has to rank right up there with the best.

Jeff Poulton has a 1966 model, and it is pretty-damn-nice.

“The truck originally belonged to Bruce McPhee of McPhee Transport out at Sunshine (Victoria),” Jeff said.

“It’s only been rolled twice that we know of and I’ve had it for about six years now.

“It has a 653 GM in it with a 10 speed overdrive gearbox, 488 difs on full air - and it goes well. Now.

“We had to put a new roof on it, we had to put a new back in the cabin, we had to put a new firewall in and new vents. So the doors are about the only original part.

“The floors have been replaced. We’ve replaced a lot. New glass, a different bonnet. The back panel is the same as a Dodge or C-line Inter - and there are still new ones floating around that people have in sheds.

“That back panel is brand-new out of a C-line.

“The roof is made up out of three or four others and cut, shut, welded and everything else. It is the same with the floor. The mudguards are out of an 1850 that was Talbot’s of Pearcedale. That’s about it.”

A great paint job in Nissan (“Well, it’s Datsun actually”) Burgundy Wine and Ivory, highlights the style of the truck and wraps up a terrific restoration.

These trucks look great. It’s only small but it makes it affordable to run. Jeff also has a ‘29 Dodge Hot Rod - enough toys so that he has to keep working.

The Loadstar took Jeff five years to do up.

“This was a quick job, the Dodge took eight.”

He also has a 36 foot, early 70’s McGrath trailer to go behind it.

Jeff works for Hussey’s over at Pearcedale and drives from there to Maffra six nights a week in a fridge van, bringing back, in his words, “yuppie lettuce”.

Starting at three or four o’clock in the PM, he’s usually tucked up by 1AM.

He drives an FH Volvo which is brand-new with 540 horses. “It’s a good truck. It suits an old person. And at 65, that’s me.”

Jeff's son has an original Grey Ghost - body and all.
Jeff's son has an original Grey Ghost - body and all.

He began driving when he was 11 around spud paddocks at Beaconsfield.

“I was born and bred at Berwick which was well out in the country back then. I went to school at Doveton then to a grocer shop when I got kicked out of Doveton Tech. At 16 I started driving trucks. I was knocked off for seven tons over and had insurance claims on windscreens before I ever had a car license. So yes, I do go back a little bit.”

He went on to work for Kwikasair for a couple of years, doing three a week to Adelaide.

“Talk about driving to Adelaide, I’ve done it in seven hours from Grand Junction Road at Nar Nar Goon. Back then you just got booked, you didn’t get arrested.

“These days they’d throw the key away. I’ve been arrested in a few other states and banned from Queensland for life. No names, no pack drill.

“I worked for dad until 1978 when I bought my first truck - I still work with him by the way. Back then to run Melbourne to Brisbane you got $200 a week. Between the house the car and the truck I had $157,000 of debt. When you’re on $200 a week that’s a lot. But everything is paid off.

“I live at Nar Nar Goon now. We were married 10 years before we had any kids. I came off interstate and went on local and then we had a family. I drove into the Melbourne markets for about seven years and then I went back on interstate when the kids were three and four.

“I went to Lamatina, doing Rosebud to Mildura which was about 20 hours a day, so you worked your butt off. Then they bought a 650 and replaced me. After that I went to Safeway for 18+ years.

“Since the Safeway days I’ve had about five jobs with the last three at Hussey’s. I’m hoping this job is the evolution into retirement. It’s learning when you can walk and when you can’t – that’s the problem.”

As mentioned, Jeff’s other vehicle is a 1929 Dodge Hot Rod roadster. It has a blower sitting on top of the 440 big block and burns a litre per mile, which makes the Loadstar a cheap drive.

It must run in the family as he has a son who is building a 1938 Oldsmobile with a V12 GMC going in it.

More interestingly, another son as a genuine Grey Ghost Kenworth. Here, Jeff informs me that the famous one at the Alice Springs Trucking Hall of Fame is not, in fact fully genuine.

“It sat at Dandenong for years. They made a box to make it look as original as the Cook’s body. The Cook’s bodies are patented and you cannot buy the aluminium anyway. This one of my son’s is the genuine box,” he said.

“Would you believe that it had been a shelter for a wood heap in Pearcedale for the last 50 years? It’s off one of the Seattle trucks before they made Kenworth’s in Australia.

“There was a mob called Cold storage. (It turns out Jeff and I have a common mate in the late and great Ruffy Doyle). There was one rigid in the Cold Storage family and that was this Grey Ghost. They threw that body off and put a fridge box on it naturally, so that just sat in the backyard.

Jeff Poulton and his beloved Loadstar.
Jeff Poulton and his beloved Loadstar.

“The bloke that used to live in Pearcedale called Graham Peck had it down the back and put wood in it. We swapped a 20 foot container for the box so everybody is happy. As you can see there’s a lot of work to be done on it but one day it will be very special.

“In 1971, and the court is still out on this – the one at Alice, everyone says is the number one truck that ever came off the assembly line. Its chassis number is number four. The first two went to Tasmania and no one knows where the other one went. The thing is that number four was in fact the first to be driven out of the factory doors.

“Johnny Doyle - Ruffy’s younger brother - and I were good mates. Back when I was a 15-year-old driving around the yard, Johnny was a real character. He was about 18 inches taller than Ruffy and his hands were the size of plates. It was his hands that did most of the talking for him. He ended up going to the Territory because he couldn’t keep a license down South.

Loadstar interior
Loadstar interior

He was driving trucks as a 17-year-old when I was a 16-year-old so we always got on really well. We were the kids that wanted to be big smart arses. Great days. Great days indeed.”

Big Rigs

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