Feature, Profiles

Big Pete’s transformation

Big Pete's transformation

It has been a while since I have started one of my stories with some form of profound quote, but this truck and this story warrants an inspiring kind of introduction.

For which there was only one quote that fitted this particular feature perfectly, those famous words from American senator, publisher, and capitalist Malcolm S Forbes: ‘The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys’.

It is fitting because when it comes down to it, this awe-inspiring icon of trucking that you see here is the result of years of hard work and decades of saving. But in reality, it’s still just a big boy’s toy.

Yes, it is true. The objective and purpose of this larger-than-life toy truck is to get involved in charity work and support worthwhile causes, but the driving motivation in the first place was a young man with just a passion for really cool toys. And having seen his toy cupboard, ‘really cool’ is an absolute understatement.

Daniel Booby and son Cooper, both happily dwarfed by the big Pete. (Image: Warren Aitken)

Before we get to meet Daniel Booby and learn more about this picture-perfect Pete, I would like to put a little shout-out to the true hero of this story. If she’s not the most tolerant wife in the world she would make the top five, and more than likely place in the medals. That hero is Daniel’s high school sweetheart and now wife of 26 years, Kate Booby.

Kate and Daniel have been together since high school, they have raised three beautiful kids, Kate has garnered an HR degree from the Queensland University of Technology and, alongside Daniel, established Spinefex, a hugely successful company that specialises in portable power distribution and electrical safety.

That resume alone would make Kate a pretty legendary lady, wife, mother, and businesswoman. Her superpower though has been living with her husband’s malnourished memory. Daniel has an innate ability, and terrible tendency, to forget all the things he has always wanted. Hear me out.

Image: Warren Aitken

On numerous occasions Daniel has a tendency to spot something and suddenly remember, ‘I’ve always wanted one of those’. Next thing the lovely Kate is witnessing a new project being wheeled up their driveway, or a new bill arriving in the mail.

This absentmindedness is why Daniel’s sheds are either full of toys he has ‘always wanted’ or cluttered with projects he has ‘always wanted’. It is also why Kate’s car gets parked outside while there’s a 1950s school bus, a 1980s tipper truck, and a huge Peterbilt parked inside the aforementioned sheds. It is why the matriarch has finally resorted to requesting Daniel submit a list of all the ‘always wanted’ things.

“Yeah, Kate has said I need to write her a list of all the things I have always wanted as I seem to spot a lot of things and then remember I always wanted them.” So Daniel may be the one I am interviewing to learn about this beautiful big Pete, but we cannot go past the years of tolerance, support and eye-rolling that Kate has offered. The woman is a saint. Now onto the boy and his toys.

It’s a long way down the big 379 bonnet. (Image: Warren Aitken)

The first thing to note, Daniel isn’t a truck driver. He can drive trucks, but he isn’t a truck driver. Daniel is the man behind Spinefex, one of Australia’s leading specialists in portable power distribution and electrical safety.

You will see the Spinefex name on equipment being used by mining companies, the Defence Force, and even during natural disasters. They are a pretty big deal and a true Aussie family-built company. But it still doesn’t explain the Peterbilt though, does it? Let’s try and get to that, starting with Dan the man himself.

Holden rebuild

Daniel is a man who epitomises the ‘work hard play hard’ mantra, right from back in his high school days while working three part-time jobs, as well as doing a night course at TAFE and trying to woo Kate.

Daniel has proven his work ethic since school, starting an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner. It was during this time he also set about building the company that would become Spinefex. As busy as all that sounds, Daniel did have passions and hobbies, one of which was restoring cars.

“I’ve always been into cars and doing them up,” Daniel explains. “The first car I did up was an HZ Holden, that was when I was 15.

“I was going to school and at night I went to TAFE and did a panel beating course, to learn how to cut rust and stuff like that. I also had a part-time job at an engine reconditioner. The HZ engine needed work so I learnt that,” he says. “I learnt a lot like that along the way. I’m by no means an expert but I dabble.”

The 63-inch standing sleeper sounds like a lot but when you see it side on, it is. (Image: Warren Aitken)

As you read earlier, Daniel went from school to apprenticeship, to work, to being his own boss. In that time, he maintained his love of cars and project work and they just kept coming.

“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a project on the go, much to my lovely wife’s disgust sometimes,” Daniel laughs. “I went from the HZ Holden to an EH Holden, then I think it was a Chevelle, then I did a 1954 GMC Truck. It took about six years; it’s got a four-metre fully polished wooden tray on it.”

Daniel likes to get as much of the work done himself. With a fully kitted out workshop he has the skills and facilities to undertake these kinds of projects but also knows when to get the experts in to do their parts.

Still wondering how we got to from an HZ to a 379? Well, the leap starts in Daniel’s garden. When the family was looking to do some landscaping and needed some supplies, Daniel suddenly remembered another plaything that he had always wanted, his own tipper.

“I tried to look around for a hire truck, tried to borrow a mate’s, and then wondered what it would be worth to buy one,” he recalls.

“Then I thought, ‘I wonder if I could get a Peterbilt, that’s my ultimate truck’. There is just something a bit special about a Peterbilt, just something a bit different and I’d always wanted one.”

The flat dash of a Peterbilt – a very traditional look. (Image: Warren Aitken)

See what I mean, even in our interview the ‘I always wanted one’ kept slipping out. Long story short, Daniel actually did find a Peterbilt tipper, a cab-over 362 in the New South Wales town of Glen Innes.

“Paperwork says it’s a ’99 but that’s when it was compliant. I reckon it’s a mid-’80s truck,” he says. “When I went down there I didn’t have a Roadranger licence, so on the test run I couldn’t even drive it.”

That first Peterbilt really did spark several changes for Daniel. Firstly, it made him realise he needed a different licence. Through a driving school, he found his enthusiasm flourishing and pushed himself to move not just to his Roadranger licence but eventually take it all the way to his open MC licence.

Admittedly the time spent learning in his 362 Peterbilt also lit the fire for the other truck he had ‘always wanted’.

“My dream truck was always the Transformer truck, the 379 Peterbilt. I always loved Transformers as a kid, I had all robots you put together. I wish I had them now – they’d be worth a fortune,” Daniel says.

There’s nothing quite like the effect of amber watermelon lights blended with a top class paint scheme. (Image: Warren Aitken)

Knowing that a 379 or as he puts it, ‘a whole lot of truck’, was another factor that drove Daniel to get his licence and once he did, he set about trying to find his dream truck.

“I got hold of a mate Dave Pancino (Driver Dave for those Megatrucker fans) and asked him if the 379s were available in Australia. He told me they were about but not many available. He told me to give his boss Jon Kelly a call. If anyone will know, he’ll know,” Daniel says.

“I’d never met Jon, but he was great. He told me at that time there weren’t many about but he would keep his ears open and let me know.”

Several months after Jon started making some inquiries, several options started to crop up and it wasn’t long before Jon had tracked down a 2002 379 Peterbilt with a 63-inch standup bunk and a Cat motor in it.

It has the design of a 22-year-old truck, but the fresh interior makes it look brand new. (Image: Warren Aitken)

It had all the requirements Daniel had been after and within the price range. Daniel told Jon to snap it up and get it up to Queensland, where Daniel was then struck with another dilemma.

“When it got up here Jon had just started doing a TV show, Aussie Truck Rehab and they wanted it on that,” recalls Daniel, who humbly claims his ‘face for radio’ wasn’t at all willing.

“I was really reluctant to do that ’cause I’m just keen on doing my own thing, not the big promotional stuff. But he convinced me it would be fun, and in the end it actually was.

“It was great to get an inside into how all that stuff works.”

In terms of rebuilding the truck, even with cameras watching every stage, Daniel had his plans and had his ideas. His love of the Transformers Peterbilt may have been a leading line into this project but it was far from the end goal.

“I didn’t want to copy the Transformers truck, I wanted my own colours and lines, something original,” Daniel says.

“I went in with my ideas and was pretty adamant about how I wanted it.

“In the end we did compromise a bit with the paint scheme and I’m glad because those panels are just so large and the colours I originally had in my head wouldn’t have been a true tip of the hat to a true Peterbilt look.”

Not a bad-looking truck to see coming down your driveway. (Image: Warren Aitken)

Daniel’s years of restoring old vehicles gave him a real appreciation for precision and perfection and led his motivation in the Peterbilt rebuilt. The goal was very much to acknowledge and respect the aura that goes along with such a classic American truck.

“There’s just something about a Peterbilt. It is a worldwide thing, if you’re a Kenworth guy, or Mack, or even a European fan, everyone loves a Peterbilt,“ he points out.

Credit due

I think it is now time to start handing out some awards for the work done on this amazing truck. “A lot of the credit goes to Gary Rose,” Daniel says.

“He’s in charge of the workshop (at Heavy Haulage Assets) and he was the one that planned out the whole project. He’d ask me what I’d like, how I’d like it and I just kept bringing him more stuff. Somehow, he would manage to plan it all out.”

When it comes to first-up appeal with the paint and the lines, credit has to go to Damien and the team at Master Art Designs.

“We worked closely with Damo, I spent months combing the internet looking at ideas and I sat down with him and we drew out all sorts of ideas until we got the one that looked perfect,” Daniel continues.

“On the back wall I didn’t want any kind of mural, just something simple with the ‘Money For Nothing’ name as well.”

There is plenty of space in the back for Daniel to work on his ‘always wanted’ list. (Image: Warren Aitken)

Before you ask, the motivation for the name came purely from Daniel’s love of the Dire Straits song and the accompanying animated video clip from 1985.

He laughingly adds, “It also kind of fits, because I have spent a lot of money for nothing on it.”

The next big job was the interior. “Going in, I felt I knew a fair bit about projects like this, but with a truck it’s not just that interior headboard and dash panels, all of a sudden you’ve got like a big loungeroom behind you.”

Lounge room indeed, the Pete is sporting the big boy bunk with a full 63-inch stand-up sleeper. Credit for all that goes to Mike Fellows Upholstery. The entire interior was ripped out and using the old panels for templates, it was all rebuilt.

Mood lighting and massive sounds, a perfect sleeper for getting no sleep. (Image: Warren Aitken)

Pengelly Trucks in Toowoomba also go on the awards’ list. The truck was sent there where, along with a microwave, TV and twin fridges, they also fitted the Icepak and full outdoor shower. If you have a look closely at the photos you could be forgiven for wondering where, but you will find all those goodies tidily hidden in the huge stainless toolboxes.

Tom and Jamie at Ontrack Electrical get their mention next for all the stunning electrical additions, the wicked watermelon lights being the most obvious.

But the big selling point and award winner for me is the outstanding sound system. Roswell Marine, who deck out all the fancy American boats, came on board when they heard Daniel was doing up the Pete. These guys specialise in stereo equipment that can cop all kinds of weather and all kinds of power washing.

The Peterbilt subsequently has, in a way, two separate stereos that can when needed work independently or cooperatively. Along with four superb speakers, there are two 12-inch subs all mounted to the exterior of the truck. Then the same again on the interior.

The rear end of the 379 is very much old-school classic Peterbilt. (Image: Warren Aitken)

The end result is a mobile nightclub that could come with its own history of cranky neighbour noise complaints. If you were wondering, yes there are more than a couple of extra batteries, eight to be exact.

It has been a pretty long wait to get the Peterbilt built, but well worth it as far as Daniel is concerned. His history of perfection in his projects means there was no rush on this one – good things take time.

Now that it’s all complete Daniel can finally sit back and revel in the truck he ‘always wanted’.

“I absolutely love it,” he enthuses. “Doing this shoot is the first time I’ve really got to enjoy it.

“I don’t use it at the moment, my intention is to do a few truck shows but really I want to get to a point where I can go do like a hay run, that sort of stuff. If there’s flood work, charity work, stuff where I can take a week off, throw my own diesel in it and go and do stuff to help.”

The American-made Rosewell speakers will stand up to any truck wash or Gerni around. Waterproof and fully insulated, everyone gets to enjoy a bit of Daniel’s country music, whether they want to or not! (Image: Warren Aitken)

Honestly, I could go on for days about the details in this truck and the amazing people behind it and involved in it, but I won’t because a picture paints a thousand words. So for the sake of Kate, I will sign off and go and enjoy this perfect Pete myself.

Previous ArticleNext Article
Send this to a friend