Used Truck Review: Phillip White's Mack

Australians hang on to their old trucks longer than any other western nation. Of all the makes and models that stand the test of time, it’s hard to go past Mack. One only has to attend a Mack Muster to see the number of veteran trucks that are still on the road, paying their way.


Robert Calder of Narromine, New South Wales, is one such truck owner who is finding it hard to part with his 1984 Mack Superliner.

Robert, 62, bought the Mack brand new and, although he’s changed gearboxes a couple of times, not to mention the engine, the Superliner continues to be a trusty workhorse.

Originally, it came with a 9-speed gearbox, which was eventually replaced with a Mack 18-speed box.

"That’s the second 18-speed in it," Robert says. "It’s done four and a half million kays."

"That model came out with a 400hp motor, and when the 500 first came out in 1986 and ’87, we opened ours up to 500 too."

In 1993, Robert replaced the old engine with a rebuilt one. He replaced that four years later with a brand new 525hp engine.

"It’s about the same as the 500, but the 500 probably went better."

Although Robert is a fan of the new model Mack trucks, he maintains the old Superliner has more grunt, and shows better fuel economy as well.

"They’re a solid old truck and it handles better than the new ones," he says.

Up until around 12 months ago, Robert was the only driver who had ever sat behind the wheel of the Mack. During that time, the truck was used for road train work, hauling cattle to Darwin, often spending three or four months at a time on dirt roads.

Nowadays, the Superliner is mainly confined to hauling general around NSW. Phillip White, also from Narromine, is the Mack’s regular driver these days.

"A lot of people wouldn’t get in those sort of trucks now," Robert says. "That’s where you have trouble with drivers, they’ve got to have air-conditioned cabs.

"But Phil’s a bit more easy going, but the only thing that keeps him in there is the power it’s got.

"A lot of the newer trucks pull up alongside it going up a hill, then he gives it a kick."

Phillip says he enjoys driving the Mack, and working for Robert.

"Robert is a bit of a local legend with his old Mack," Phillip says. "He will ask what time I will be back and I reply ‘some time’, and that’s good enough for him."

When Phillip got behind the wheel of the old Superliner, he said 1,700rpm was the best speed to drive the old girl at. It does 93km/h at 1,700rpm and Phillip sees no point in pushing it any harder.

"It is a Cadillac Cruiser, not a speedster," Phillip says. "It’s a wonderful old truck with over 5 million kilometres on it.

"The good thing about these trucks as opposed to new ones is that they were built to last."

Over 15 years ago, the Superliner had a rollover and was rebuilt. While the old girl is showing her age, Phillip is quick to point out that mechanically, it is in very good condition.

Robert has a new Mack, a 2009 Superliner, and Phillip doesn’t think that it’s half the truck that the old girl is. He has driven the new Mack and would probably rather drive the older unit.

"The one thing about the new one is the noise. This truck is fairly loud and everything else is good," Phillip says.

"With the camelback suspension, the ride is good … as good as the new ones."

Robert’s new truck has 600hp and with both trucks pulling the same weight, Phillip believes there’s little in it.

"They talk about torque but these old V8s were a great engine. If you’re measuring it by a yardstick, this is the benchmark. The new Kenworths, Western Star and Volvos have massive horsepower but how will they be going in 20 years’ time?" Phillip ponders.

He says, compared to newer models, the old Superliner runs cool, getting him to wherever he needs to go.

"It’s very rare that you have to worry about anything and usually it’s just an air hose, and I can fix it myself."

While Phillip enjoys driving the Mack, he also likes the variety that he gets working with Robert. He carts stock, as well as steel out of Newcastle. Although the Mack’s long-haul runs may be a thing of the past, Phillip says he would have no qualms about taking it and three trailers back to Darwin.

"I reckon you could jump in it right now and head for Darwin and expect to come back," Phillip grins.

"It is a wonderful old thing and I have driven much newer and more comfortable rigs but I wouldn’t say I have driven better."

Although Robert is thorough on truck maintenance, he admits not having the Mack tuned for five years.

"It’s been a very good truck for me," Robert says "It’s been loaded heavy a lot of its life.

"But a truck that’s been loaded heavy, they’re usually looked after better than the ones that are flogged up and down the highway."

Click here to find a Mack Superliner truck for sale.

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