Hobby Horses

By: Greg Bush


A keen devotee of buying and restoring decades-old trucks, Charlie Borg has an excess of projects to keep him occupied well into his retirement years.

 

Charlie Borg and one of his Kenworth S2s, which was originally a Golden Fleece fuel tanker

 

Charlie Borg doesn’t feel the need in advertising his one-man business. Operating under the slogan of ‘if you can draw it, I can build it’, he relies on word of mouth to bring in clients in need of truck body and trailer customisation and repairs.

At any rate, his loyal base of regular customers keeps him occupied to the point where his other major interest – buying and restoring classic trucks – is forced to take a back seat, for the time being anyway.

Evidence of Charlie’s truck collecting hobby is only a few paces inside the gates of his property in Sydney’s western outskirts. It’s like walking into a private road transport museum; some vehicles are scattered around the grounds while the cream of his classics are parked inside a huge shed.

All up he counts 12 trucks among his collection– three White Road Bosses, two White Road Commanders, a dismantled White 4000, two Kenworth S2s, a Kenworth SAR, a W model, an Austin and a White 3000.

Not a ‘truckie’ in the regular sense, Charlie previously had little affinity with trucks. That interest eventually surfaced via the family poultry farm at St Johns Park in western Sydney although, as he says, his father Eddie Borg "didn’t like them at first either".

"My dad had his first truck in 1975, an ex-Clutha Commer with a Perkins engine and a single axle aluminium tipping trailer," Charlie says. "He used it to bring feed from out west, but before that he had an old Ford which my brother [Mick] still has on a farm at Dubbo, a ’69 model."

Family ties: Charlie (right) with his father Eddie (centre) and brother Mick (right) alongside the Kenworth S2

 

From an early age, Charlie had become a dab hand at pulling things apart and rebuilding them, even before he could walk.

His grandfather had bought him a pedal-powered tractor, which Charlie promptly dismantled. "My granddad said, ‘You got a knife from somewhere, I don’t know where you got it from, and you completely pulled it to the bits’." Consequently, his grandfather couldn’t put the tractor back together.

Charlie began repairing and welding equipment around the farm at age 10. "If something broke on the farm, it had to be fixed straight away, because chooks lay eggs every day, and we had 20,000 chooks."

Already self-taught, he began a vehicle body building apprenticeship with Goss Towing Equipment in Penrith at 28, completing it in 1996. A year later he found work with Don Stein Plant Hire until Coates Hire Equipment bought the company out. From 1999 onwards he worked solo from home.


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"The first few years it was hard, but word travels and I’ve been told I’ve got a good name in the towing building industry," he says.

While Charlie was building his business, he and his dad Eddie began collecting old trucks and various tractors, many of which are at the Dubbo farm which Mick now runs.

Through a series of well-chosen nicknames, Charlie’s trucks began acquiring their own identities, starting off with his red 1956 Austin, previously owned by the neighbour of a family friend at Warren, north-west of Dubbo. The truck was to be given away under the proviso that it would be restored and not end up as scrap.

"I went up and had a look at the engine and it was diesel," Charlie says. "If it was petrol it would have stayed there. It was all complete with a vacuum operated Eaton two-speed diff in it."

 

‘Lizzy’, the White Road Commander made a few appearances at classic truck events

George and Mildred

Eddie borrowed the family friend’s drop deck trailer, loading it on with the help of a tractor.

"He rang me up on this particular day and said, ‘I went and got Mildred today’," Charlie recalls, thinking that his father had found another girlfriend.

"My mum died in ’73 and he had lots of wives and girlfriends in-between; he couldn’t be without them.

"So I said to him, ‘All right, who’s Mildred?’ And he said, ‘I went and got the truck, the Austin’."

Charlie asked, ‘Why Mildred?’, and Eddie replied, "It looks like a Mildred".

"So Mildred stuck," Charlie says.

He added a three-speed Joey box from an ACCO Butterbox to give it a bit more pick-up going down the highway, and had the seized BMC six-cylinder diesel repaired.

"I ended up getting the engine kit from ABC Diesels in Hornsby," he continues. "They had everything on the shelf and I was surprised because apparently those engines are common in boats.

"I could write a book on that truck, the restoration, finding parts …" he muses.

After ‘Mildred’ the Austin, a Kenworth S2 was given the moniker of ‘The Queen’, while ‘Lizzie’ the White Road Commander was named after Charlie’s grandmother. A Kenworth SAR, which he displayed at this year’s Sydney Classic and Antique Truck Show in Penrith, will be named ‘Eddie’ after his father who passed away three years ago after battling prostate cancer.

"He always wanted to buy me a truck, so I bought it with some of my inheritance money," Charlie says.

Then there’s the red ’71 model White 3000 called ‘George’ which he bought 10 years ago after seeing it advertised in a magazine for $30,000. Although he was keen at the time, Charlie had baulked at the price tag.

‘Mildred’ with Charlie’s Mini racer on the back

 

"It disappeared and I thought ‘someone’s bought it, good luck to them’," he recalls.

"A few months later it came back and it’s $25,000. I thought, ‘getting better’ but I still didn’t have the money.

"The same thing, it disappeared, and six months later it came back and it’s $20,000. And I thought, ‘that’s more my style’."

He got on the phone to Eddie, who enthusiastically replied, ‘Are you gonna buy it? Wait for me!’

"I reckon the wheels on his 4WD didn’t hit the tar from the farm to here, he was that excited about going to have a look at it," Charlie says.

He later discovered a piece of the truck’s history through an old copy of the now defunct Truck & Bus magazine.

"It had a Perkins 6-cylinder put in it when I bought it, because after the government sold it, it went to Adelaide to a farmer there.

"The radiator is very close to the ground and the story I was told is he hit a stump, broke the radiator and cooked the engine. And he fitted a Perkins in it," he explains.

"When I bought it you could drive it, but it had a couple of gears missing in the gearbox, which I didn’t know at the time.

"Apparently I’m the fifth owner of it."

The White 3000 in an earlier life, on its way to work for Victoria’s Weights and Measures Office, featured in an old Truck & Bus magazine article

 

Event circuit

Early on, Charlie had planned to restore the White 3000 and take it to Alice Springs for the Road Transport Reunion in 2010, but heavy work commitments took precedence, although he found time to fit a V6 53 Detroit and a 13-speed Roadranger.

However, he’s still managed to take in a few events in recent years, notably entering Lizzy the Road Commander in Crawlin’ the Hume and Haulin’ The Hume, and driving the White to Wauchope for the Yesteryear Truck & Machinery Show and even as far as Alice Springs. Lizzy is also regularly given the task of carting Charlie’s old Mini racer on the back of a float.

Mildred has also made the trip to Alice, albeit on a trailer, but has attended shows at Dubbo and Goulburn under its own steam.

As well as the trucks waiting for further refurbishment, Charlie has his grandfather’s 1959 Fairlane in one of the sheds. The Ford hasn’t been driven since April 1970 and has only 21,000 miles on the clock.

"A lot of blokes want to buy it but as long as I’m around, I’m having it," he remarks.

Charlie plans to slow down from mid-2019 onwards, winding his business back as he enters semi-retirement, enabling more time for his own projects and the opportunity to attend as many events as he likes with his restored vehicles.

"I’ve inherited some land and I’m building some houses on there and I’ll live off the rent," Charlie explains.

"I’m 54 this year and I know it’s not that old, but I don’t have a wife or kids, it’s just me, so I think I can live on a couple of grand a week."

This Kenworth S2, nicknamed ‘The Queen’, is a work in progress

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