Gifted Mack bonds grandfather and aspiring truckie

A childhood present turns into an adult dream come true

When you were eight years old, what did you want for Christmas? 

For some it was Barbie dolls, or new clothes, maybe a Nerf gun to chase around your siblings with.

When Rhys Sheppard was eight years old, he wanted a truck. And not a plastic toy one, but a real one. 

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On one unassuming Christmas morning, his grandfather passed him a little blue box with a set of keys tucked inside. 

“At first I really didn’t know what it was. I was just starting school, so I thought it might have been my own set of house keys,” Rhys says. 

“But that wasn’t quite what it was.”

Walking outside, it took Rhys a moment to register that his grandfather, John Sheppard had gifted him a 1978 Mack R600.

The rig from back in the day

John is a third-generation transport driver and owner operator from Warrnambool. He owned multiple transport businesses and drove interstate for decades. Rhys always loved seeing the trucks pull up in his grandfather’s depot.

“It was always my favourite truck in grandad’s fleet.

“Whenever it used to come in the yard, that’d be the first one I’d go to. It was the first one I’d want to try and wash or clean up or something. 

As you can expect from an eight-year-old with no experience or steady cash flow, the restoration process took a while. 

The R-series Mack was in very poor condition when Rhys first received it. Retired from John’s fleet, it had seen better days.

The interior seats were upgraded, and custom floor mats were created for the rig

“I would work every school holiday and break on fixing up that truck. Every cent I had was going to it.”

“You can imagine how hard it is for an eight-year-old to earn money. I had to work for six months at a time without a single dollar in my pocket just to buy a set of rims to put on the truck.

Rhys says every holiday break it would be his goal to earn enough just to buy one new thing for the Mack.

“The whole restoration has just been a labour of love between myself and my grandad,” Rhys says. 

The plate reads the Macks name, “Just my Grandad and me”

“But that’s not to say there wasn’t heaps to do.”

Over the years, the Mack’s chassis has been completely repainted and the cab and bonnet polished numerous times to get ultimate shine. 

“We put a new bumper bar on it, new rims and new mudguards,” Rhys says.

The interior seats were upgraded, and custom floor mats were created for the rig.

“We even put a twin exhaust in it, a light bar and two new horns.”

Rhys and his grandad

Rhys sneakily had a stainless string plate made up for his grandfather that goes in-between the mud flaps and on the front bumper bar.

The plate says simply – “Just my Grandad and me”.

Despite all the flashy additions, the Mack still has its original 285 Mack motor, purring as well as it did in 1978.

After a decade of hard work and dedication, Rhys and his Grandad decided to unveil their ‘labour of love’ at The Koroit Truck Show in Warrnambool in 2023.

“That’s our home show, that’s where Grandad is from. He knows everyone there,” he says.

The orange and white Mack stands out in the truck show crowd

“The reception we received when we unveiled the truck with all of his family and friends around, it was very, very special.”

Rhys and his grandfather now travel around and showcase the rig at numerous truck shows around Australia, most recently Castlemaine. 

“I’m only 20 years old at the moment, but I am hoping to start driving in March 2024.”


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