A nomad's highway thunder

THUNDER DOWN UNDER: Straight-through pipes, with the Jake on the windows rattle coming down Mt Vic.
THUNDER DOWN UNDER: Straight-through pipes, with the Jake on the windows rattle coming down Mt Vic.

WHEN most people hit the highways of Australia during the "grey nomad" phase of their lives, they usually invest in a Toyota LandCruiser or Nissan Patrol to tow their caravan.

But Bob Irwin is a little different, using an International ACCO 3070 to tow his Coromal caravan around the country.

Big Rigs caught up with Bob at the Lockhart National Historic Truck and Commercial Vehicle Show earlier this year, one stop on a month-long trip attending historic truck shows around southern New South Wales, with the customised ACCO drawing a steady crowd of onlookers at Lockhart.

Hailing from Tahmoor in the New South Wales highlands, 71-year-old Bob has spent his working life in transport, operating Internationals as an owner-driver, firstly with an old "Butterbox" model before moving on to a 555-Cummins powered ACCO and finally a Cummins 903 powered unit.

"I have always been an International man, and never owned anything else," Bob said.


Bob Irwin and his 1977 ACCO 3070 with a Cummins 903 rated at 525hp and tall diffs,  won't be holding up traffic.
Bob Irwin and his 1977 ACCO 3070 with a Cummins 903 rated at 525hp and tall diffs, won't be holding up traffic.

He hauled coal and fertiliser between Newcastle, Wollongong and all throughout New South Wales before making a change and taking on coach and bus driving for a number of years. Heading towards retirement and looking about for a project truck, Bob purchased the ACCO and took to progressively restoring and overhauling it, with the refurbished truck first hitting the highway again just prior to the 2015 Haulin' the Hume event.

Bob's 1977 ACCO 3070-A was initially built as a single drive unit, with a Cummins 903 under the cab paired up with a 15-speed overdrive gearbox. Over its working life the ACCO was turbocharged and fitted with a lazy axle, clocking up over 2.5 million kilometres transporting Dulux Paint five times a fortnight between Adelaide and Sydney.

Upon purchasing the ACCO, which had already been customised with its Aerodyne-style roof and larger sleeper cab, Bob undertook further work to make it stand out from the crowd. "I stripped it down and put new chassis rails through it and tidied it up a lot; I repainted it light blue - it was originally maroon in colour.

"I just picked that colour out of a magazine and everyone loves it! I chucked on a lot of chrome and lights on it...and threw on the towbar," he said with a grin.

On the side of the truck cleverly designed to make it look like a standard fuel tank is a slide out frame for his truck fridge, "That was a spur-of-the-moment thing to design and put that on, it gets a lot of people in," he commented.


Thunder Down Under - The Cummins 903 makes plenty of noise.
Thunder Down Under - The Cummins 903 makes plenty of noise.

With the Cummins 903 originally rated at 350 horsepower, the addition of a turbocharger certainly made a difference to the power getting sent through to the back end. Bob continued, "It's got 525 horses under the cab, the previous owner loved his power!

"He also put tall diff in it to get a bit of speed out of it, so she gets up and goes pretty well, she heads up Mt Ousley in top gear."

With its custom straight-through exhaust pipes adorning the back to the cab, the engine notes of the Cummins are quite noticeable, especially when the Jacobs engine brake is activated. Breaking out into a smile again, Bob continued, "The pipes come straight out of the turbo and exhaust is straight through, there's no mufflers - when I go down Mt Victoria they can hear me half way down when I am at the top."

"They are deadly, when I put them on it just about stands her on her nose!"

His tour around southern New South Wales with the 3070 was also seeing him take in shows and events at Griffith, Junee and Harden, and as a member of the Western Sydney Historical Truck Club, he enjoys getting out and about with like-minded enthusiasts.

"I follow the shows around a bit and have been helping out this weekend as there's a few of us here - I'm off to Junee next and then Harden and then home. I go to a lot of the local ones and the mateship in the club is good," he said.

With the imminent re-launch of the International nameplate onto Australian highways, there will be plenty of people who have a link to the marque going back many decades who will be watching with interest.

Bob Irwin is one who has had a connection to the International brand for a number of years and reckons his 40-year old ACCO is hard to beat, concluding our chat by saying, "I'm really happy this is what I do now I'm retired and I just love this thing, and I'm doing something that I have always wanted to do."

Topics:  grey nomads historical truck international retirement

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