Cool Volvo and its classic Mack stablemates

By: Warren Aitken


AllStone Quarries boasts a sparkling 600hp Volvo FH16 in its ranks, but the company also has a couple of classic Macks tucked away in the shed

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The funny thing about doing my job is that I can put hours and hours of time into researching a story and countless days trying to track down particular trucks. However, truth be told, I just happen to stumble across many of my stories and this one is a prime example.

As it happened, I was working hard in the office one day (I was really surfing Facebook), scrolling through countless motivation memes, a bit of welcomely shared food porn and countless cool trucks when the name Ricky Jones scrolled by, accompanied by an extremely cool looking Volvo. I scrolled back up, had another look, did a bit of Facebook stalking and found plenty more shots of this cool looking Volvo and figured that I needed to know more. So I jumped on the big tin taxi, flew down to Melbourne, rented a very fuel-efficient excuse for a car and drove out to Bendigo to meet Rick and learn more about the business he works for – ASQ.

Like every good success story, let’s start at the beginning. While ASQ, which stands for AllStone Quarries, now has a fleet of over 20 trucks and employees numbering in the triple figures, the family owned and operated business actually began as a backhoe operation way back in 1969.

Graeme Bird had started his company with just a single backhoe in the same year he married Lynette. It was a huge year when you think about it, with the couple organising their wedding before going out on their own in a new business venture. It was a tough ask but Graeme and Lynette dived in and did it.

Graeme took on all sorts of jobs from housing foundations to water mains … whatever paid the bills. There wasn’t much Graeme didn’t dig up. As the ’70s progressed so did Graeme’s business and he started doing more road projects. It was here he found a market for decent sized gravel.

On the jobs he was doing, Graeme was finding it hard to access the finer-sized gravel he required, so he built his own crushing plant. Yes, you read that right – from a backhoe to a crushing plant.

That first crushing plant became very busy and so the structure of the business changed. The backhoe was gone and crushing became the new game. With a new game came a new name.

Graeme brought his brother into the mix and GR & LP Bird was formed. With the crushing plant came a quarry, with a quarry came trucks, with trucks and a quarry came the need for a wholesale yard as well. While you’ve got all the materials, you might as well get into concrete and precast concrete. It was all a natural progression for Graeme.

As the new millennium rolled around, the business was restructured again and ASQ was born. By now both of Graeme’s sons, Wes and Tim, were heavily involved in the running of the business and Graeme is very quick to credit them with the continued growth and success of the company.

In 2017 Graeme finally ‘retired’ and handed the company over to his sons to continue the work. You’ll note the quotations around the word retired. That’s because Graeme is not the greatest at retiring. In fact he was still hanging around the yard when I arrived at the company site. That’s why I was lucky enough to meet him.

The show ponies of the fleet, the R600 and ‘Macknificent’ Super-Liner

HOUSEHOLD NAME

Graeme is far from a tea-drinking, crossword-completing retiree. Moreover, they had to build him his own shed at the quarry to house all the tractors he’s restoring. It seems he’s simply become busier since his retirement. Understandable I guess because in nearly 50 years of operation he built a business from a single backhoe to one of the area’s largest suppliers of aggregates. With three yards and one massive quarry, not to mention countless pieces of equipment out on mobile crushing contracts, ASQ is a household name in and around Victoria.

However, I am sure most of you are here to learn a little more about trucks than 20mm gravel, right? Well let’s get to it. I mentioned at the start how I happened to fall into this story when I noticed a stunning looking Volvo on a Facebook thread. Well, after hounding Ricky Jones on Facebook and perving at all the stunning images, I finally managed to pin him down to do a shoot with the aforementioned Volvo. As if that wasn’t enough, Ricky also let me shoot ASQ’s two classic restored Macks. Seriously I owe that man a beer!

Ricky is like a lot of ASQ employees; he is a long-term assist. Ricky has been with the Birds for 13 years now and even though he’s still relatively young he is one of their most senior drivers. His current role leaves him in charge of delivering a lot of ASQ’s equipment to its many jobsites. There is also a set of bins that Ricky will hook up to when the low-loader isn’t required.

The Volvo can be seen all over the southern Riverina and north east New South Wales delivering or picking up product.

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CAB-OVER DECISION

While the majority of the ASQ fleet sports noses, and more precisely ‘Bulldog’ bonnets, this was the company’s first foray into the big cab-over Volvo option and Ricky loves it. Like just about every punter that sits in one for a day, he commends the comfort and the ride as two massive bonuses.

Although not a fulltime overnighter, he has spent more than enough time on the road camped in the big girl and has no complaints. Well, no complaints about that, but I did push him to find something he could whinge about, and the best he could come up with was how low the Volvo’s bullbar is. "I’ve got to angle it out on some of the driveways," he jokingly admits.

The 600hp (447kW) Volvo engine is also more than up to the tasks required of it and Rick had no qualms jumping from his old Mack Trident (which for the record he loved) into his new ‘Swedish Rolls Royce’ as it’s been tagged.

Talking of old Macks, let’s just focus on me ‘falling into stories’ again. After I had taken some stunning shots of the flagship Volvo, Rick was kind enough to take me out to another one of Graeme’s sheds where I found his two absolutely stunning restored Macks.

"Did you want to grab a shot of these as well?" Rick asked. Well, I believed he asked because I was running off to my rental car to grab my other camera at the time.

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Although the big girl, the 1982 Series 1 Super-Liner, was a purchase of passion, the 1977 R600 has a lot more history to it. Let’s look at the Super-Liner first though.

I’m sure there are a few keen-eyed Mack fans scoffing at me when I listed it as a Series 1. It is, trust me. "The previous owner couldn’t find a Series 1 bonnet when he was were restoring it," Ricky advises, "so he just ended up fitting a Series 2 instead."

The truck was just a day cab when Graeme’s son Wes found it, yet somehow they managed to track down the truck’s original sleeper box and get that restored and refitted as well. Some extra lights and a bit of bling was added, the original 440hp (328kW) engine was given a tidy up and now the Super-Liner is a regular at truck shows in the area.

The 1977 R600 is a different story altogether. This truck has been with the company since the early ’80s and was originally purchased second hand to replace an old Louisville. GR & LP Bird was growing and as such needed a ‘bigger truck’ to move its crushers around.

The purchase of the R600 was the beginning of the Birds’s long running relationship with the ‘Bulldog’ brand that continues today. The loyalty to one of Australia’s most-loved brands is based on reliability and performance. The R600 was only officially retired a few years before Graeme took a back seat himself. The past three years have been spent restoring it to its former glory, with the slight alteration of receiving the new ASQ colours rather than its original scheme.

For those who have partners deriding the amount of time they spend scrolling Facebook, I think the photos of the ASQ trucks are a very solid defensive argument.

I’m glad that I happened to fall into this story; I managed to photograph one of Australia’s coolest Volvos and meet the highly successful ASQ team. Thanks guys.

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