WHAT A BEAUTY: Darren's Mack at Rocklea with another heavy-hitter from the 1980s, a Kenworth K124.
WHAT A BEAUTY: Darren's Mack at Rocklea with another heavy-hitter from the 1980s, a Kenworth K124. David Vile

Rare cab-over Mack still cruising

RELEASED into the Australian marketplace in the early 1980s as a replacement to the long-standing F-Model, the Mack Cruise-Liner took its place as the flagship cab-over truck in the Bulldog breed's product line-up.

With only a couple of hundred of the model made, they are somewhat rare to see when compared to other Mack models such as the R-Model or Super-Liner.

However as in the case of Darren Nelson's 38-year-old Cruise-Liner, some have survived the passage of time remarkably intact and today has been restored to "as new” condition.

Darren, from Riverview, on the outskirts of Brisbane, has owned the 1981 model for the last eight years, having purchased the truck with a view to restoring it as a tribute to his father, Trevor Nelson, who had a long association with the Mack brand.

"Dad got a Flintstone Mack in 1972 which he ran until 1980, then a second-hand F-Model until 1984,” he said.

"He got a Cruise Liner in 1984 and then an Ultra-Liner in 1988 - 4 Mack's all up and the Cruise-Liner was the first new one he owned, and it was also the one I learnt to drive in.”

Originally from Coffs Harbour, Darren relocated to Queensland around 2001 and with the idea of doing a truck up as a tribute to his father regularly saw the Mack parked next to a shed where it had been parked for a number of years.

"I knew about it but it went missing and I didn't know who owned it,” he said.

"An ad came up in the paper and a mate rang me and said, 'I think I have found something you're after,' - it was the same truck,” Darren said.

The Cruise-Liner had indeed been parked in retirement but was still in very original condition and in the hands of its original owner, Geoff Wallace from Kingwall Manufacturing.

The Mack is pristine from end to end.
The Mack is pristine from end to end. David Vile

"It was used to cart furniture from Brisbane to Cairns for the first five years of its life and then it was relegated to a yard truck loading trailers - it has only done 776,000 kilometres.

"Nothing had been changed on it or any holes drilled in it or anything like that - it was weathered from being outside, but for a then-31 year old truck to be so original when I got it, it was rare to get one like it,” he said.

Being in original condition, the mechanical componentry under the cab is as it was when the truck left the Mack factory, with a 285hp Coolpower motor connected to a 12-speed overdrive Mack gearbox.

"The motor hasn't been touched, the gearbox and front diff had been rebuilt and the rear diff is original,” Darren said.

Over a six-month period, the truck was restored, and given that the truck was in sound order mechanically, most of the work involved the paint and finish, with the truck taken right back to bare metal and resprayed from the rails up by the team at Retruck Australia.

The finished striking blue and white paint scheme had special meaning as it was both the colours Trevor Nelson ran, with Mack also using the design when launching the Cruise-Liner model.

"It was one of the original paint schemes Mack used when they released this model in the US and Mack in Australia adapted it when they bought the model out here - Dad had his painted the same so the idea was to make this one look like it had just come off the assembly line,” he said.

With the outside taken care of, the interior was in pretty good order with only a new engine cover and floormats required.

Darren has the Mack on club registration, and with such vehicles in Queensland able to have personalised number plates, today has the ISV-603 combination which his father also had on his Mack and is also the same style of the NSW registration of that era.

"I didn't realise you could get personalised numbers so my son arranged that for me with the red and white design,” he said.

The restored Mack spent some time at the Queensland Transport Museum at Gatton but now resides at Darren's home and does the rounds of the local truck shows, such as the annual Heritage Truck Show in Rocklea.

Today Darren drives a Kenworth tipper but holds a soft spot for the old dog.

"It's a tribute truck so it will never work again - I have put too much money into it for that!

"I have had three Kenworth's myself over the years and swore I would never own a Mack but here I am... there's something about this one, it's just a really sweet old truck.”

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