IN THIS issue Kermie interviews a Commer Knocker and his owner, John Gramlick of the Trafalgar Truck Club.
Kermie: Is it okay if I call you Knocker?
I s'pose so. Had to put up with it all my life. Not my fault you know. I didn't design me.
It's because when you start him up there's a sort of knocking noise. They use different nicknames in other parts of the world.
Yeah, but I bet they're not as derogatory. I've been proven to be a pretty reliable truck. Did you know, Kermie, that we were the first trucks to do refrigerated runs from Adelaide to Darwin? The Yanks didn't have it all to themselves.
Kermie: That's cool - no pun intended.
The nickname came about because of the engine design. Knocker's got a TS3 engine. It's a horizontal three-cylinder, six-piston design. The pistons in each cylinder are opposed with the combustion chamber formed between the crown of the piston pair and the cylinder walls. The pistons are connected by rocker shaped con rods to the single crankshaft, located centrally underneath.
Pretty efficient we were too - especially for a two-stroke diesel. Did you know that Volkswagen is working on a similar design? They're pulling 300-plus horses out of a single cylinder version which can be added to. Imagine a four-cylinder version of that motor. You can check it out on engineeringtv.com/
opposed-cylinder. Just remember we did it first.
Kermie: Seems everything old is new again. So, tell me a bit about yourself.
I was born in 1961 in England and built by Rootes. I'm a small-cab version and was called the QX model here in Australia. Some of us had split windscreens but mine's a single. I've got what they call the Suitcase gearbox. The TS - as in my engine - stands for Tilling Stevens who made Vulcan trucks.
I was originally bought by a bloke from Walla Walla, near Wagga Wagga, and did general haulage from Melbourne to the border and beyond. Then someone else got me and used me to cart fertiliser. I prefer not to remember that period of my life. I finished up with a builder who put a tipper on me. He was the prat who put me off the road.
Well, you ought to be grateful to me, Knocker. I was the one who brought you back to life in 2003.
Do I have to call you Dr John now?
Sounds fair. After all, I saved you from extinction. I've done a lot of work on you. I know it's taken a while but parts have been hard to procure. It was even more difficult when Mitsubishi bought Chrysler who had in turn bought Rootes. Mitsu chucked any spares into a bloody big bin.
Luckily for my mate, Knocker, I'd done my trade as a motor mechanic. I worked for Cameron Transport - Ed, Les and Don, that is. I also worked for Whitehorse Truck Sales and then a chappie offered me a job driving his Austin Loadstar. That was back in the late '50s.
Kermie: Did you have a particular interest in the Commer?
I'd owned one for a while in a past life and was reintroduced to them when I worked for a bloke at Heyfield carting timber in the scrub. That one surprisingly had power steering. Knocker here hasn't, but he's air-braked. I've even got a trailer for him that I use for living quarters when we go to shows.
Kermie: Does he run and tow well?
I'll answer that. John took me to Lucindale in SA to pick up a '48 Chevy and I ran like a charm. I'd just had some new pistons and rings fitted. I used a bit of oil at the start of the run - just to put the wind up him, mind. To give him credit, he has kept me as original as possible.
Kermie: Thanks Knocker. You look pretty good for an old banger.
: Old banger! I'm only 50 you know. John's 75. If there's an old banger here it's him, not me.