With COVID-19 thankfully disappearing in the rearview mirror, Mildura’s truck enthusiasts can get back on the road.
And they plan to do just that next month when they resurrect ‘The Calder Convoy’.
The event, organised by the Tractor Restoration & Appreciation Club of Sunraysia, or TRACS, the Convoy made its debut in 2018 and was slated for a re-run in 2020, but that plan had to be abandoned when COVID-19 travel restrictions made it an impossibility.
Now it is back, and scheduled for next weekend.
Once again the plan is to travel as much of the old Calder Highway as possible in a convoy of heritage commercial vehicles, starting from Calder Park on the outskirts of Melbourne. Many ‘Weekly readers will recall that the ‘Old Calder’ as it is now known did not bypass Harcourt, Elphinstone, Taradale, Malmsbury, Kyneton, Woodend, Macedon, Gisborne, Diggers Rest and the oddly named Carlsruhe.
The towns are still there, and so too are stretches of the former Calder Highway.
The highway has always held a special place in the minds of Sunraysia residents, being the main link between us, in the north of the state, and our capital in Melbourne.
The old Calder was, and the new version still is, a vital commercial route for Sunraysia’s horticultural products heading south to market, and for the many other goods that head north from the docks of Melbourne.
Starting from Calder Park about 8.30am on the Saturday, the convoy will travel back home to Red Cliffs over the weekend, stopping overnight at Charlton.
The trucks travelling from Calder Park will be met by others at Charlton for the Sunday leg, and still others are expected to join the convoy at Ouyen for the last leg of the journey to Red Cliffs that will end at the TRACS headquarters in Wilga Road.
TRACS members are looking forward to ‘turning a wheel’, and none more so than John Porker.
John has a choice of vehicles to take on the trip, but is hoping he can get his International TranStar ready in time.
It needs a bit of work, he says, and that will need to be done before it can be roadworthied and registered.
He is cutting it fine, with just a couple of weeks to go, but he is determined to get it done.
If not, he has a Plan B – his Ford 800, the truck he drove for the debut event in 2018.
Either way he will be there, with the much-quoted ‘bells on’.
“I am really looking forward to it,” he said, “Especially after it had to be cancelled last year.”
John is the son of Stan, a name many of our older readers will be familiar with when recalling Mildura’s transport industry history.
So trucking runs in the veins, John spending 50 years himself behind the wheel of various ‘rigs’ after completing a motor mechanic’s apprenticeship with Washington Motors, another name synonymous with Mildura motoring history.
Now retired from trucking full time, John has been more involved with this year’s event as a committee member, and says interest in The Calder Convoy is high.
To date the Convoy has attracted more than 60 starters, and it will be no surprise to organisers if the final tally tops 80.
Truck enthusiasts, like most motoring enthusiasts, have really felt the pinch of the COVID restrictions on movement and gatherings.
It is also fitting that both the debut event of 2018 and this year’s Convoy coincide with National Motoring Heritage Day, this year on Sunday, May 16.
The day is set aside each year to celebrate Australia’s motoring history and historic motoring clubs across the country plan events to mark the occasion.
“It’s a happy coincidence,” John tells me, but by no means an unwelcome one.
Fitting really, if you think about it.