Yabba Dabba Doo!

By: Warren Aitken, Photography by: Warren Aitken


In retirement Ken Carratt has knocked one off one of his bucket list items – to restore and customise a one-of-a-kind 1969 Mack Flintstone

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It’s often difficult to get across in writing the character of a person without an in-depth, highly-detailed profile being written up. There are always exceptions though; certain people that can be summed up with a little anecdote or by reflection of their deeds. And Ken Carratt is one of those people. It’s one little deed, one little invention that perfectly captures his character.

So if you want to know the type of guy Ken is, next time you are at a truck show, or historic event and see his stunning 1969 Mack, with the big 63-inch Peterbilt sleeper, pop over and have a look. Make sure you are lined up in front of it, to truly appreciate the classic Mack lines, and take the time to stare down the Bulldog that sits proudly on its bonnet. It’s only then that you will get an appreciation for the true Aussie character that is Ken Carratt because chances are if he’s sitting in the truck he’ll be pushing the little button he’s fitted to the dash and you’ll be getting a face full of water, courtesy of the custom Bulldog and the water hose running out of its mouth. That little addition to his truck sums him up to a tee.

The old Flintstone got the full tear-down experience when Ken got it back to his home in Kambah

Ken has been around the Australian trucking scene for longer that his current classic Mack has been in circulation. His driving days began back in the early sixties with an ex-Heggie’s Leyland hauling coal from Helensburgh coal mine to Wollongong. The second-hand girl was worked pretty hard in those days. It got traded in and upgraded when Ken started hauling woodchips from Eden up to Canberra.

Between all his adventures there wasn’t much of the local area he didn’t look after with something. He did his time on interstate as well, using his second truck, a K125, to tow Mayne Nickless trailers around the country.

"Around the corner, arse over-head, pick her up, get her fixed, off you go down the road again," is just one of Ken’s comments when I ask him about the days of trucking back then. It was a whole different set of conditions for drivers then.

"Eyes went shut, straight through a bridge at Benalla, out the other side and carry on, very interesting times," Ken smirkingly admits. Thank god for statute of limitations on some of the stories I heard.

Ken was a regular sight working flat out with his K125, doing whatever work would pay the bills. There wasn’t much of the country he didn’t get to see. There was a valid assumption by other drivers that Ken had several K125s in his career but he admitted: "Nah, just one truck and about 10 different paint jobs," he says.

Ken had quite an affection for the old girl even though he admits: "Motor f**ked up about 10 times, torsion bar suspension snapped every time you went out the gate. Eaton diffs … Christ every six months there was new diffs."

The colour choice was influenced by Holden’s Poison Ivy Green, but the design is all Ken

All this was said very tongue in cheek as the big girl got Ken happily through to his retirement job. The first step towards retirement involved coming off interstate and picking up a classic W-model off some local loggers. Ken turned the logger into a tipper and starting hauling anything that could slide out the tail gate.

While not exactly retirement it did manage to slow the old fella down a little. Only just though. Ken ran the W-model for another decade before buying himself ‘a real truck’ as he puts it. An ACCO. There were a few more years working for himself with the ACCO before Ken decided to get himself ready for full retirement by taking a job with the government. Those are his words, not mine folks; I told you the man has a sense of humour.

Like any good truckie, retiring from work does not mean retiring from trucks. Ken did try that but then one weekend when he was heading up to the Tamworth Country Music Festival he spotted a poor neglected old Mack gathering weeds out in a paddock on the outs skirts of Tamworth. It tugged at Ken’s heart strings straight away. The line-dancing, guitar-plucking and ‘lost me dog, wife and house’ songs were put on hold as Ken went in search of the owner of the old 1969 Mack Flintstone.

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Ken admits it had been let go a bit: "The back diff, all the bolts were broken off the crown wheel, so crown wheel was just sitting there going around."

With the diff locks in, it could be moved around though. The rest of the truck wasn’t actually too bad he confesses. Remember that’s on a sliding scale though, ‘not too bad’ was how he summed up a diff that housed two litres of oil as well as at least two litres of water.

The old Flintstone got the full tear-down experience when Ken got it back to his home in Kambah, ACT. It was parked up in a mate’s shed at Hume where the diff, gearbox, motor, everything got taken off and worked over.

Through Gleeman Truck Parts Ken was able to obtain a fair few original parts for the Mack’s 675 Maxidyne engine as well as some other missing pieces. The cab was sent to another friend down in Young for a repaint.

There was still a fair bit of the old girl that needed re-fabricated though. Ken had a local engineering shop make up a new bonnet and mudguards. Due to disrepair Ken also had to get a new bumper bar and trays as well.

"I pulled off that many bits and didn’t take any photos," was the only real complaint Ken had when it was time to put it all together and he found himself having to fabricate extra bits here and there as holes were found.

"A lot of the plumbing was all copper pipes. So, I had to get another mate down to redo all that."

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He did opt not to go original copper piping though. Ken was thankful he had friends in many transport fabrication arenas, so there was always someone to help, from the plumbing to the wiring, to the repainting. Which is another full Ken idea, admittedly he was influenced by Holden’s Poison Ivy Green, but the design is all Ken.

With the truck restored to its original cab and chassis Ken found out he wasn’t allowed to register it without either a tray or a turntable. Ken opted for the tray idea but also decided to throw a sleeper box on as well. Not content with the options Mack had for a 1969 sleeper, Ken went off and saw the Lynch Brothers down in Newcastle and got his hands on a 63-inch Peterbilt sleeper.

"When you go away to shows you can sleep in it," was the main driving factor for Ken. "It’s got a double bunk in there, toolboxes underneath, little hangers inside to hang your suits."

It seems Ken has done a fabulous job of putting together a practical show truck. He can happily amuse all the old Mack fans and at the end of the day climb into the bunk and relax in style.

So, with retirement in full swing, he’s knocked one of his bucket list items off (to restore and customise an old Mack). It seems that Ken and his all-Australian larrikin persona is ticking all the boxes and pushing all the right buttons. Just remember though, if you do stand in front of this one-of-a-kind 1969 Flintstone, there is a high probability Ken will push that one particular button, designed to dampen down your day. You’ve been warned.

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