Bulldog to the bone

Having worked for 43 years heading the R&D department of Mack Trucks Australia, it’s fair to say what Don Hoey doesn’t know about this iconic brand isn’t worth knowing. Don retired three years ago but still keeps his hand in helping run the Mack museum in Queensland.

“I started with Mack in 1973 and I oversaw the development of every subsequent model right through to 2017,” Don proudly relates.

As the conversation continues, he proceeds to reel off each of the models he helped ready for the Australian truck market over more than four decades.

“When I started, the ‘Flintstone’ R-model had been selling well for a number of years and the new fibreglass hood R-600 was just being phased in,” he says. “The larger bonneted R-700 was introduced soon after and in between we also brought out the MBR-600 which was a low-entry cab-over model specifically designed for garbage collection and body tipper roles.”
One of Don’s fondly remembered Mack models, the first iteration of the  Super-Liner, was released in America in 1977.

“We then assembled a prototype for the Australian market complete with a hood that was designed and built in Australia,” Don recalls. “The Australian Super-Liner debuted in 1980 powered by the 400hp E9 V8 engine.”

In 1978 development commenced on the R-6×6 Military model that served in the Australian Defence Force for decades.
“We tested prototypes of this model for three years before starting production in 1981 and we built 950 units – one a day over the next five years,” he explains.

An interesting development of the late ‘70s was the low entry cab-over MIR-700. Mack America had acquired the Brockway Motor Company in 1977 and as cab-over trucks were by that stage waning in popularity in the US, the remaining Brockway cabs were exported to Australia and used in the MIR build.

In 1979 the quest for higher horsepower led Mack to introduce the Econodyne intercooled E-series engines.

“A year later we introduced the Cruise-Liner cab-over, with the choice of either six-cylinder or V8 power,” Don says. “This model replaced the long-serving  FR-700 cab-over.”

An unusual bespoke project undertaken by Mack in the early ‘80s was a Rapid Intervention Vehicle (RIV) used at the airports of each capital city in Australia.

“It was called a Cougar and it was four-wheel drive with a rear mounted V8 diesel,” Don says.
In 1981, Mack moved to new premises at Richlands in west Brisbane. A year later, the MCR model featuring a low forward-entry cab with deep windscreens for improved visibility was announced.

By 1983 Mack had established close ties with Renault, releasing the Mid-Liner and sharing global technology in an increasingly global market.

Two significant releases occurred in 1985 in the forms of the Super-Liner II boasting a 500hp EM9 V8 and the Australian designed R-model Value-Liner.

A highlight for Mack in the bi-centennial year of 1988 was the production of 16 custom-built Super-Liner II prime movers. Each was named after either a famous explorer or infamous bushranger who had become household names in the first century after European settlement.
“In 1989 Mack introduced the E7 12-litre engine boasting the best power-to-weight ratio on the market at the time,” Don continues. “Also in 1989, the V8 Value-Liner was released for the B-double market.

“The year 1990 saw the Metro-Liner – another Australian design – launched with the EM6 Maxidyne engine and in 1991 we introduced the wide-cab CH which retained the R-model chassis.”

This was followed in 1992 by the CLR Super-Liner featuring a 525hp E9 Econodyne V8.
In 1993 the Ultra-Liner II was released and during the following year the Richlands assembly plant achieved its highest annual production rate of 852 trucks.

“Then in 1995 we built the first Titan,” Don says. “This led to the development of the BigFoot in 1996, which was a Titan from the chassis up, with ultra heavy-duty running gear making it suitable for off-road mining applications at 240 tonnes gross combination mass.”
In 1998 the Trident with an EA7 engine rated at 470hp was released followed in 1999 by the Magnum cab-over with a 600 HP Cummins 15-litre engine.

Arguably the biggest change in Mack’s history came in 2001 when the company was purchased by Volvo. Mack assembly was subsequently transferred to Volvo’s production facility at Wacol.
In 2003 a Mack Titan achieved the world record pulling a road train of 87 trailers at Mungindi in north-west New South Wales.

Also in 2003, Don was recognised for his life-long service to the industry when he was inducted into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame in Alice Springs.

In 2005 the Super-Liner LT was released and the following year the world record was broken again by a Titan driven by John Atkinson hauling a 113-trailer road train at Clifton in Queensland.

In early 2007 the Metro-Liner 10×4 was released and the following year Mack introduced its New Breed range comprising Super-Liner, Titan, Metro-Liner, Trident and Granite models. The 13-litre MP8 engine was released at this time.

As for the biggest change or improvement he saw during his time with Mack, Don says the original Titan introduced the fully suspended cab which proved to be far more durable than the rigid chassis-mounted units.

“With the first Titan we used three-point suspension which completely isolated the cab from the chassis, alleviating the stresses that afflicted the rigid mounted cab,” he says. “We then moved to the fully integrated sleeper and exhaust mounted to the back of the cab which further improved durability.

“We also relocated the batteries to the back of the sleeper which removed them from the heat, dust and vibration, dramatically increasing service life.” 

In 2011 the mDRIVE 12-speed automated manual transmission (AMT) was released and the following year the MP10 16-litre engine boasting 685hp came to market.

In 2013 the limited edition “Southern Cross” Super-Liner and Titan models were launched to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Mack’s truck assembly in Australia.

In May 2019, coinciding with the Brisbane Truck Show, Mack held a dinner at Archerfield aerodrome to celebrate 100 years of Mack trucks in Australia. As part of the celebrations, Don and several other retired Mack employees assisted in setting up and manning a pop-up museum featuring various notable Mack models from the past century.

In the final wrap up, Don says the variety and challenges involved with his extraordinarily long tenure with Mack made it the ideal job for him.

“I lived the dream and loved everything I did,” he says. “A particular highlight was when I travelled to the US and toured Mack’s Allentown and Hagerstown plants in the late ‘70s.
“It was a real eye-opener for me to see the production line in the Allentown facility that at the time was turning out 100 trucks per day.”

Industry Icon
Made possible by Smedley’s Engineers. Industry Icon is a series dedicated to honouring the unsung heroes of the commercial road transport industry.

Leave a Reply