The Boss is Back

By: Warren Aitken


The immaculate restoration of this 1982 White Road Boss may have been driven by sentimental attachment, but it’s still out on the Mackay roads, five to six days a week, earning money with style and class

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The motivation behind a good restoration is often traced back to sentimental attachment. Resurrecting a piece of personal history. Creating a showpiece truck that will honour the hard work of years gone by. The opportunity to own an influential slice of mechanical history. Or something moving and inspirational. 

Every now and then though, you get a restoration project that serves two purposes. In the case of WMT’s impressive White Road Boss, It may be a testament to the past, being that it’s one of the company’s founding vehicles and rebuilding one is a great way to honour the company’s history. But the other purpose of this rebuild is simply to make money. This amazing tribute to the company’s origins is still hooking up to trailers and putting money in the bank for the family-owned company in far north Queensland.

WMT, or Wayne Martin Transport, has been part of the Mackay transport landscape for nearly 40 years. Wayne Martin started the company back in 1980 with a couple of strong Aussie icons: the first truck being a 1978 White Road Commander followed closely by a White Road Boss. 

Those two original trucks helped launch the success of WMT, carting anything and everything around Queensland. Its early success was built on the back of relationships with local companies. These relationships saw WMT carting everything from containers to tallow, general freight to sugar cane and its by-products.

As the company heads into its fourth decade servicing the Mackay area it is still going strong, predominantly carting general freight but also still doing a lot of local work with all manner of sugar cane by-products – the major industry around Mackay. The fleet has consequently expanded past the original two White trucks to a fleet of 36. Though now the fleet is dominated by Kenworths, with a sprinkling of Western Stars.

The interesting thing about the Stars in the WMT colours is that there are very few new models in the stunning green colouring. Most of the sparkling Stars are rebuilds and restoration projects, just like the Road Boss. All those resto projects are in-house jobs as well, with the mechanical side done by the company’s workshop. The paint and panel work is also done in-house, overseen by Wayne’s son Josh. He’s the man I sat down with to learn a little more about WMT’s stunning Road Boss.

What I learnt is Wayne loved his old Road Boss; it worked tirelessly for him and the company for many years. As did the Road Commander. While Wayne has held onto the Road Commander (I’m hoping Josh will have this in his panel shop for a resto soon ) he chose to sell the Road Boss to one of his drivers who was moving back down south and was keen to buy it for his farm truck.  

The Road Boss was in a rather neglected state, hiding in a paddock under a tarp

THE BOSS RETURNS

Skip forward a couple of decades. Wayne is still driving, as it’s in his blood, but now three of his four sons have returned to the company after mastering their trades. Darryl and Travis returned as diesel fitters and Josh as a spray painter. For the record, the fourth son Timmy became a butcher and keeps the company’s fridge vans stocked. Not to mention I’m sure the family’s freezers full. So the mechanics went to work in the workshop and Josh set about building the paint and panel side of the company – his main job being maintenance and touch-ups on the ever-expanding fleet. 

I also learnt from Josh that his father Wayne is a fan of old-school trucks. He built WMT in an era where roadside repairs and in-house modifications required thinking outside the box rather than plugging into a computer. So he was more than happy to stack his fleet with trucks he knew how to maintain and knew he could rely on.

The purchase of an old 1982 White Road Boss, 30-plus years after it had first turned a wheel, wasn’t just because of his love for reliable, fixable rigs. There was a touch of emotion as well. It was a truck he loved and a proven beast of a working truck. His original White was not an option, though it would have been a good one to buy back. Wayne did know of another one in the area. It’s a truck he knew well as the owner was a friend and had done more than his fair share of work alongside WMT through the years. 

Sadly when Wayne went looking for it, it was in a rather neglected state, hiding in a paddock under a tarp. Wayne informed Josh when he told him he wanted it resurrected that it was "not too bad, a couple of rust holes here and there". Josh’s summation was more like "pretty rooted". 

Mechanically speaking, the Cummins N14 was still very sound. The WMT boys knew the truck’s history, having replaced the gearbox and a few other issues over the previous years. Getting the engine back up to scratch was the least of the problems. Technically, the truck was a day cab, though at some stage in its life a WMT Western Star sleeper had been mounted onto it. When it was fitted they didn’t bother integrating the bunk, leaving external access to the sleeper only, which meant it was a fairly easy job for Josh and the team to remove without any scars. 

That was the easy part. Once Josh and his panel beater Billy Cross got the truck stripped down the extent of the ‘couple of rust holes’ became more obvious. In fact, the boys blew holes straight through the floor and the roof. There were a lot of structural problems as well, not just superficial rust. It didn’t dissuade Billy the panel beater maestro though. 

"He’s an old woman when it comes to doing it right," Josh admiringly admits. 

They ended up almost completely replacing the entire roof as well as a fair bit of the rotted-out fibreglass bonnet. A true testament to the quality of work is when the windscreen gets refitted, and in the case of the Road Boss the screen slotted straight. Perfectly. Three months of hard work paid off. 

Once Josh and his panel beater Billy Cross got the truck stripped down the extent of the ‘couple of rust holes’ became more obvious

LICK OF PAINT

Once Billy had worked his magic the truck was rolled into Josh’s spray booth and the next stage began. The current company colours were always going to be the call as it was to be a working restoration, but Wayne wanted to run the lines that ran on his original Road Boss. Two weeks in the spray booth, getting multiple coats of colour followed by multiple clear coats and the Road Boss was done.

Next man to add his touch was the talented Tony Grey from Revival Pinstriping & Signs in Airlie Beach. He came down and spent a couple of days putting his skills to work with the old-school lines and stripes. 

It was decided to leave it on 10 studs rather than go back to spider rims, I’m guessing aside from the look it might have been swayed by the fact the truck would be working and getting someone who knows how to change a spider these days is harder than overtaking a grey nomad on a Sunday. Bill and Josh spent hours bringing life back to the original bullbar and the truck’s original tanks. 

The end result of nearly 300 hours of blood, sweat and cursing is a 40-year-old truck that looks brand new. It would be the perfect sort of restoration to set wrapped up in private shed and venture out for all the local truck shows. But not the WMT Road Boss. Yes, it’s a reflection of the company’s heritage, a damn fine looking one at that. It is however an indication of what made the company so successful, and what continues to keep the company going. With a ‘never say die’ attitude, the 1982 White Road Boss is still out on the Mackay roads, five to six days a week, earning money with style and class.

So enjoy the path this truck has taken and keep an eye out up North Queensland way because this beast will be making many more miles yet. 

The end result of nearly 300 hours of blood, sweat and cursing is a 40-year-old truck that looks brand new

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