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When White went west


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Greg Bush, Owner-Driver  /  July 6, 2017

Western Sydney-based Lawrie Lowe has always had an interest in classic American trucks, his pride and joy being a 1973 White Western Star.

Lawrie Lowe’s regular occupation is repairing earthmoving gear. However, his passion lies in classic trucks and restoring them to their former glory.

Lawrie’s 1973 White Western Star is a familiar site at classic truck shows, especially the Sydney Classic and Antique Truck Show, which is held annually each May at Penrith’s Museum of Fire.

Its logo, stunning paintwork and the fact that it’s a left-hand drive truck regularly attracts curious onlookers.

Lawrie has owned the truck since Christmas 2009, and as well as spending countless hours doing it up, he’s also well versed on the truck’s background.

"In 1967 White Motor Company set out to build a truck aimed at the west coast US market," Lawrie explains.

"The west coast trucks were traditionally long bonnet, long wheelbase, aluminium chassis – which this truck is, because they were hauling the greater distances.

"East coast US trucks were a different truck to this, a shorter bonnet, short wheelbase, cities being closer together so shorter distance hauling.," he says.

"Our main roads specs at the time were more closely based on what the east coast American trucks were, so that was where the western bit came into it."

Lawrie has researched Western Star’s history, including the turn of events that led Volvo Trucks buying the insolvent White Motor Company in 1981.

"But the plant in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada that built the Western Stars wasn’t part of the deal."

Lawrie says the truck he now owns spent its working life around California carting mainly prefab house frames and roof trusses. He believes the owner retired it around 1996.

"The guy I bought it off and his mate stumbled across it in the ’States in a wrecking yard.

"One of them bought it and brought it over and it sat for about five years in a truck repair yard at WetherillPark, half pulled apart.

"The other guy got it, put it together and moved it over to Llandilo, but after a time he got sick of moving it in and out of the shed to work on other stuff, so he parked it outside and that’s when I first saw it."

Lawrie thought the truck had only just arrived in Australia, so he thought there was no chance of it being up for sale.

"About five years later, after a few beers, and having decided they weren’t going to do anything with it, I called in to see if it was for sale. Five minutes later I bought it."

Lawrie thought it would be a simple case of taking it home, getting into it with a big Gerni and blowing off all the rust, hitting it with rust converter and try and bog up the holes and paint it flat black. The truck’s seller, however, begged to differ.

"You can’t do that to that truck, you’ve got to get rid of that rust, you’ve got fix it properly," he told Lawrie.

That was Christmas 2009, and Lawrie worked on it every weekend and each night after work.

"I was going through a marriage breakup at the time, and it was the only thing that kept me a little bit sane to take my mind off what I was going through," he says.

Lawrie was able to get the truck registered just in time for the National Road Transport Reunion at Alice Springs in 2010. It was the truck’s maiden voyage under his ownership.

"Because it had been sitting for so long, the cab was very badly rotted out and I spent an awful lot of money," he says.

"The guy that I bought it off builds hot rods, and he did all the rust repairs and the paint on the cab and bonnet for me."

Lawrie has since driven the White Western Star for over 20,000 mostly trouble-free kilometres.

"I did a water pump one day 10 minutes after leaving home," he continues. "I had a spare water pump with me because I’d been advised before I went to Alice Springs that I should get one because they’re getting a bit hard to get a hold of for these early small-cam engines."

Lawrie has resisted the temptation to convert the truck to right-hand drive. He wants it to remain an example of the typical American truck.

"I could do it quite easily," he says. "The good thing about these particular cabs is the dashboard’s held in with three bolts on one side, two over on the other side, and you’ve a couple where the steering column mounts to the firewall.

"I could just pull that dash straight out of there, and bolt in a dash out of the 4000 or 9000, or the later Diamond Reos or Autocars or anything."


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7 hours ago, BillyT said:

Sharp western star! Is that a 20 speed Spicer?

From what I can see of the shift patterns on the dash I'd guess a five and a four but that's just a guess. 

The problems we face today exist because the people who work for a living are outnumbered by the people who vote for a living.

The government can only "give" someone what they first take from another.

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