TRUCKING LIFE

CHRIS THOROGOOD AND FRIENDS CAST THE WINTER BLUES ASIDE WITH A FUN-FILLED ROAD TRIP TO COOLY ROCKS ON

STORY & PHOTOS CHRIS THOROGOOD

ROAD trips with mates in old cars – is there anything better? I’ve been on my fair share during my Street Machine career, but they’ve been a bit thin on the ground of late. So when Leon Davies of Big L’s Chop Shop fame proposed a trip from Geelong to Coolangatta for Cooly Rocks On, I was keen as. Leon had earmarked his ’48 F1 pick-up as his conveyance of choice. Nicknamed Trucky, the F1 has been just about everywhere, including Alice Springs for Red CentreNATS.

Telfo suggested I take my ’59 Chev wagon, but I wasn’t totally confident about its ability to get me to Queensland and back. Not yet, anyway. Leon stepped in and kindly offered his ’65 F100 to drive. Unlike the ’48 – which has such niceties as a small-block Chev, overdrive auto and airbags – the ’65 is pretty close to how Henry intended. It’s a 300ci six-pot with threespeed included. Name? Bruce.

I looked around for a co-pilot and Sean Hammond stuck his hand up. Now, Sean has his own radical Ford pick-up in the shed – a stunning ’57 Ranchero – but he decided riding shotgun with me would make for a much more relaxing holiday.

The final piece of our convoy puzzle was Aaron Gregory and his famous ’51 Chevy pick-up, dubbed Memphis Hell. Slammed over a highly modified Rodeo chassis and powered by an injected Holden 5.0-litre, Aaron’s truck is as flash as Leon’s trucks are crusty. He’d recently swapped out the four-speed auto for a fun T56 cog-swapper, so the trip was the perfect opportunity for a shakedown run.

Three trucks – what could go wrong? I’ll take you through the answer to that over the next 10 pages, but I’ll leave the last word to my co-pilot Sean: “What a week. It wasn’t really about the destination – the laughs and adventures you have on the road with old cars and good friends are just something everyone should experience. It’s life fuel!

IT WASN’ REALLY ABOUT THE DESTINATION – THE ADVENTURES YOU HAVE ON THE ROAD WITH OLD CARS AND GOOD FRIENDS ARE LIFE FUEL

DAY ONE

• Left Geelong at 6.30am, tiptoeing out of the house trying not to wake the sleeping baby

• Battled thick fog, unable to see more than 3m in front of the car

• Picked up Sean Hammond in Melbourne

• Outside of Euroa, met up with Leon and his partner Leah in Trucky

• Fuel stop in Glenrowan. Very sad Ned’s Burgers appeared to be closed

• Lunch stop with the Dog on the Tuckerbox in Gundagai at 2pm. Before leaving for this trip I had smoked some pulled pork for six hours. Here, I heated it up in the servo microwave

• Drove straight through to Goulburn by 5pm to see the Big Merino. Bruce was running on fumes and took 75 litres of pump 91. That’s 443km between fuel stops!

• As we got closer to Sydney, the weather turned nasty and rain started leaking through Bruce’s windscreen. Sean and I munched on Big Boss candy cigars to keep our sugar levels up

• Met up with Aaron and Memphis Hell in Thornleigh at 7.30pm. We had dinner at Macca’s and then headed north

• More fog. The Chev’s charging system was on the fritz and Aaron was running out of headlights at a great rate. It was getting too dangerous to continue in the pissing rain, so we rigged up a quick fix at the nearest servo, found a bottle shop that was still open at 10.30pm and grabbed a motel in Raymond Terrace.

DAY TWO

• Up at 7am, quick breakfast before hitting Bursons. Leon grabbed a new headlight and Aaron fixed his charging woes. We hit the highway by 8.30am, with smooth roads and clear skies. We detoured to Macksville and Bowraville to break up the highway driving – such cool little towns

• Lunch at the Coast Hotel in Coffs Harbour – chicken parmigiana, chips and a drink for $16!

• Quick photo opportunity at the Big Banana and back on the road for the last three hours towards Coolangatta

• Arrived at Cooly safe and sound. It was a bit wet, but there were plenty of cool cars cruising the streets.

AT BURLEIGH HEADS WE HAD ACAI SMOOTHIES FOR THE SECOND TIME IN A DAY. WHAT’ S HAPPENING TO US?

DAY THREE

• Up and at ’em! Took the cars for a cruise around Coolangatta, power-parked Bruce out front of the Coolangatta Hotel. Grabbed our show passes and some breakfast

• Left Bruce behind and cruised the other two trucks to Surfers. Power-parked in the middle of Cavill Avenue and went cowboy hat shopping.

• Late lunch in Burleigh Heads, where we had acai smoothies for the second time in a day. What’s happening to us?

• Returned to Cooly, found Bruce waiting patiently. Hung out and watched the cars cruise until bedtime

WE SET OUT ON FOOT TO TAKE IN THE FULL GLORY OF COOLY ROCKS ON. WHAT AN EYE-OPENER!

DAY FOUR

• Up at the crack of dawn to get the trucks into their allocated position, then set out on foot to take in the full glory of Cooly Rocks On. What an eye-opener! Lots of people, heaps of cars and plenty of dogs: dogs in pedal cars, dogs on skateboards, dogs in handbags and dogs wearing tutus

• A tour of the town found it to be very picturesque, with a stunning surf beach, palm trees and high-rises

• Lunch at Big Chief Burger – an iconic burger and kebab spot

• Saw Mick Fanning. Didn’t say hi

• Cut laps in the cruise, dragged some tail. Massive crowds watching on, an awesome sight.

DAY FIVE

• Up early and out to Willowbank for the Winternationals. Try as we might, we couldn’t jag a power-park, so the trucks had to sit in the paddock with everyone else’s rides

• We soon discovered the full scale of the event, with 30,000 spectators over the weekend and more than 500 teams

• It was awesome to see the Pro Slammer guys duking it out, and mind-blowing to watch Kelly Bettes become the first woman to win the Top Fuel title in Oz

• After the racing, we headed back to Surfers for some more fat laps and tea at Hooters. We left the trucks with some mates, flew home and will be back in July to pick them up and check out the Mud Run on the way home. Living the dream or what?

IT WAS MIND-BLOWING TO WATCH KELLY BETTES BECOME THE FIRST WOMAN TO WIN THE TOP FUEL TITLE IN OZ