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Bicentennial Mack proves a hit for Drake Collectibles

Whenever a new Drake Collectibles’ detailed replica model is revealed it’s bound to create a great deal of interest. Owner Driver battles through the crowd to check out Drake’s latest replica release – the 1988 Bicentennial Mack

By the time you guys get to read this the cat will already be out of the bag, or should I say the dog is off the leash. The latter analogy seems more fitting, as the news is out that Drake Collectibles has branched out from its stunning Kenworth replicas and started producing diecast Mack trucks and its first release is the quintessential Aussie bulldog – the Bicentennial Mack Super-Liner.

The first Bicentennial off the production line dwarfs the first ever diecast Bicentennial

What started out as a PR project has turned into a worldwide phenomenon for Bruce Hay and the small team of dedicated workers at Drake Collectibles. Back in 2007, when Bruce was a special projects manager for Drake trailers, he got into a discussion with the man in the big chair, John Drake, about a different way to market their product and acknowledge their customers. Bruce was, and still is, an avid diecast collector and knew several of the larger companies overseas had commissioned diecast models to hand out to their customers. He put the idea of getting a scale replica of Drake’s popular 4×8 Swingwing trailer made to John. They decided to give it a go but insisted they get an Aussie truck built as well to go in front of their diecast trailer.

Bruce approached Paccar about building a replica T908. Several meetings and a lot of emails later, and Drake Collectibles had begun.

Right from the start, Bruce was determined that anything carrying the Drake name would have to adhere to the Drake standards. The company had been founded back in 1958 by Colin Drake and his goal was to build the best quality trailers available. Over the years, the controls have been handed to his son, John, but the insistence on top quality has never faltered. Bruce was determined to bring the same attention to detail with this PR exercise.

With the use of an NQ Haulage T908 every effort was made to replicate a real truck. Measurements and parts were taken and photographed; there was no skimping on detail. After the announcement at the 2009 Brisbane truck show, pre-orders were taken, and Bruce found that half the orders were snapped up before the models had even landed in Australia. The other half marched out the door pretty bloody quick once they did.

The success and popularity of that first couple of T908s ensured there would be more to come and over the last decade there’s been the release of T909s, 2.3 K200s, king cab K200s, C509 and most recently 900 Legends. 

The devil is in the detail of these replica Macks

Mack permission

In a mix of fleet signage and standard colours the Drake Collectibles have become very hot items. Every new release would see hordes of people bombarding the phone lines or squeezing into the first little shop at Drake’s Wacol factory. It necessitated the need for a bigger store, more phone lines and eventually a world first for model manufacturers, a mobile app. Even with every possible avenue of purchase, the growing popularity of the models saw the systems overloaded at the beginning. It has gone well past a PR exercise now.

While Drake Collectibles were trying to organise new heavy haulage trailers, new fleet releases, new Kenworth model releases, the addition of flattops, curtainsiders, skel trailers and all manner of other variants, Bruce has also been working on the passion project that we are seeing today.

The Bicentennial Macks are an iconic piece of Australian transport history. Released back in 1988, 16 went on the road and are all named after famous Australians. At the time they were the epitome of luxury, yet they all ended up hard at work. The carpeted floors didn’t stop them getting covered in bulldust and red sand as they covered the country.

Bruce is the first to admit the most asked question is: “When are Drake going to do a Mack?” Right from the formative years, Bruce has had a desire one day make a model of the legendary Bicentennial Macks. The hardest part has always been getting the right permission and licence to allow Drake to undertake such a massive investment. With conglomerates like Mack Volvo there are always a lot of hoops to jump through.

The long and the short of it is that, eventually, the licensing paperwork ended up on the desk of Cam Creech in North Carolina. Bruce acknowledges Cam and Dick Nyvall from Volvo for finally getting it across the line.

With that sorted the next job was to start the designs. 

“With the Kenworths we were able to get all the 3D images and drawings for the trucks,” Bruce says, before adding: “The Macks though, there was nothing; it was all done with my tape measure and a pencil.”

Thankfully, Bruce had a lot of help from the Mack maestro himself, Don Hoey. Don was actively part of the Bicentennial build and, in all honesty he’s probably forgotten more about Macks than anyone else even knows. His help was invaluable. Take the sleepers for example. There was never really any firm design for them; there was a lot of cutting up sleepers and building by scratch back in 1988. So, getting the accuracy Bruce required wouldn’t have been possible without the likes of Don. A little random fact: the windows in the sleepers were actually sunroofs from cars. 

Glen Beutel is another Mack aficionado and Bicentennial owner that played a huge supporting role. Glen has restored a couple of the life-size Bicentennials, so it would have been interesting for him working on a much smaller scale. 

After the first two Bicentennial Macks sold out online and in store in record time, rumours that a third was being released at the Brisbane Truck Show brought the crowd in

Attention to detail

Bruce acknowledges the assistance he got from so many past and present owners in his attempts to do justice to the magnificent Macks. 

“Mussy Deen’s probably sick of my face,” he laughs, explaining that he was forever turning up at the MacTrans Heavy Haulage yard and running the tape measure over Deen’s Bicentennials. Bruce even ended up in Rockhampton at a place I like to call ‘Heaven on Earth’, though Tony Champion just calls it his back shed. Here, he was given an engine, drive line and all other goodies to measure up and photograph.

It does seem like a lot of effort, but as Bruce says, it’s the Drake way. Attention to detail and top quality. Adding in that he wanted to do justice to such an important part of Australian transport history. Well, for those wondering, he’s nailed it. As an owner of several Drake models I must say that they’ve not only raised the bar on this one, but they’ve strapped the bar onto a 4×8 Swingwing and driven it that far out of town you can’t even see it anymore. Don’t take my word for it though, just check out the active front suspension – you need to remove the pin to tilt the bull bar so you can tilt the bonnet and inspect the detailed engine. Or maybe try the air ride seats that do go up and down. Maybe the Jost plate attached to the turntable or the compliance plate inside the driver’s door will convince you. These models are the next level.

Drake’s in-house photography maestro David Price sets up the stunningly detailed model for a range of shots

By the time this story hits the stands there will have been three of the 16 Bicentennials already sold out and in the hands of collectors. Never fear though, there is still 13 to come. The choice was made to release the trucks in the same order they came off the production line and in exactly the same setup as they came off the line. So there will be differences in many of them. In another next level upgrade rather than numbered certificates, each truck will have its number laser engraved in the underside of the chassis.

Drake Collectibles have built a reputation of quality and detail that mirrors its big brother Drake Trailers. It’s great to see an iconic Australian company paying homage to a great Australian truck. Now I’m off to line up for the next release. 

Photography: Warren Aitken

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