FRED BLACK, 1946 – 2016

FRED BLACK WAS THERE IN THE ’70S WHEN A FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE WAS ROUGH AND THE 4WDING WAS EVEN ROUGHER. HE WAS A PIONEER IN THE 4WD INDUSTRY AND HAD A PASSION TO HELP PEOPLE SEE THE COUNTRY.

WORDS RIC BLACK

As word spread of Fred Black’s passing after a battle with cancer there was many a memory brought back to life.

No matter how people knew Fred, whether buying one of his Long Ranger fuel tanks or watching him co-ordinate a film crew on Stockton Beach, all witnessed the passion and enthusiasm he had for the country, a 4WD and his company, Out Of Town 4WD.

Fred’s roots for adventure and passion to succeed in life can be traced back to his early years when being a young Sea Scout leader, winning 16-foot skiff state championships, building beach buggies, and working out west as a formwork carpenter were all part of his everyday life.

It wasn’t long before this lust for adventure necessitated many long nights in the backyard of at home, building roof racks, bullbars and long-range fuel tanks for mates and fellow members of the Newcastle Land Rover Club so that they could all get away on weekends.

As the 4WD industry was starting to blossom with the introduction of popular models such as the FJ40, LJ80 and the Series 2 Landy, it sparked an idea for a bigger shed and a full-time commitment to start a new business.

With many adventures to the Barrington Tops, Cape York and everywhere in between, a wealth of knowledge was gained and Fred found out the hard way what worked and what didn’t – better suspension, more storage, diff locks, winches and a snatch strap were what it took to travel this big country and get back in one piece, ready for work on Monday morning.

The business quickly outgrew the 40x40 shed as more people started to enjoy the great outdoors, and came to him for advice. By 1980, with a move to the Argenton Golden Fleece service station, he couldn’t keep up with demand for bullbars and roof racks, and started one of the longest partnerships in Australia, selling the ARB range of products.

The business today employs about 60 people across four sites in the Hunter, including the Long Ranger Tank factory and a warehouse for the two retail stores of Out Of Town 4WD and ARB Newcastle.

Among Fred’s many adventures, some standouts are winning the Borneo Safari with Norm Needham and the Bushdriver team, leading a trip of Toyota executives to the Kimberleys, and taking a lead role in rescuing stranded people from the other side of a swollen river at the 1989 Mount Seaview Jamboree, which is still talked about by anyone that was there.

Fred passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his loving family on January 23, 2016.

He was 69 years old.