Classic Deals: King of the Macks

By: Gary Richards


The legendary Mack Super-Liner has turned 40. With many variations over the decades, the Super-Liner name is firmly entrenched in Australian trucking history.

 

The Mack Super-Liner is the King of the Macks

 

Of the numerous Mack models seen in Australia over the last 100 years, there are two that always evoke the greatest level of discussion and create the strongest emotional attachment with their owners – the B61 B model and R722 Super-Liner II.

With the Super-Liner product name having just had its 40th Australian birthday, it is a good time to review this legendary name.

In its 40 years in Oz, the Super-Liner name has been on six different bonnets. These bonnets have been attached to two different cabs and under these various bonnets, seven different engine families have been used. At one time, over 840 different paint colours were available and one bright spark once figured in 2005 that over 2,000,000 Super-Liners could be built without repeating the specs – there were plenty of options!  

Let’s have a good look how this emotive label came to be such a well known product name

Both the B model and Super-Liner gained their legendary status for similar reasons – for delivering industry leading performance and durability, but their respective design capabilities and technology were very different, driven by a transport industry experiencing incredible productivity and regulation changes.

 

A typical B61RT, complete with water bag on the bullbar

 

BIRTH OF A LEGEND

Mack Trucks Inc. (MTI) had responded to these ever increasing demands with the introduction of the R series in 1965. The R series release in Australia in 1966 closely followed the expansion of Mack Trucks Australia’s Rocklea Queensland assembly operation into a full production and development facility.

With Mack Trucks Australia’s (MTA) increased local production and engineering capability, the stage was set for the R series, especially its versatile chassis, to become the primary product development platform for the Super-Liner over the next 30+ years.

The demand for more performance and capability continued relentlessly throughout the 1970s, with larger, more powerful engines becoming available.

In response, Mack offered its largest R series highway version – the R700. It was the first Mack on Australian roads that offered engines producing greater than 300hp (224kW) – which in 1966, was a prodigious output!

 

An impressive, well-equipped Super-Liner II – reflecting the owner's pride in his big fruit-hauling Mack

 

Ultimately, this longer bonnet R700 series, introduced in 1965 in the US, would evolve over the coming decades into the legendary series of Super-Liners

The chassis engineering challenge with high performance diesels was under bonnet space – to house the big engine block and for cooling capability, especially in Australia.

The demand for such high performance trucks was also being seen in the US. Mack (MTI) responded with the introduction of the RW in 1977 – a bold large bonnet version of the R700, better known as the Super-Liner.

At the same time, Mack was developing a more powerful 400hp (298kW) V8 diesel – first known as an EZ1000 – reflecting its cubic inch (16.4 litre) displacement. It was this engine, in its later E9 500hp (373kW) evolution, that gave the Super-Liner its lasting appeal – and the distinctive ‘bop, bop, bop’ exhaust note.

 

The introduction of the R series – seen here in its initial Australian "Flintstone" (steel bonnet) form, set the scene for the Super-Liner

 

The RW, or Super-Liner, addressed all of the challenges – it could accommodate and cool the most powerful engines available, and just as importantly, it looked the part!

It did pose a challenge, however, for use in Australia – the US design had a different chassis and the new Mack V8 needed to be validated in one of the harshest trucking environments in the world – such as road-training in the Outback summer.

So the decision was made to build 3 RW700 evaluation units using the now locally-proven R model chassis.

These units would also be fitted with the most powerful engine then available – the 18 litre 450hp (336kW) Cat 3408 PCTA and have the strongest heavy duty drivelines – so would be, in Mack parlance, RSX versions.

At the same time, local engineering development was underway to have this new 16.4 litre Mack V8 fitted and tested.

 

Mack in the US recognised the need for a premium high performance conventional and launched the Super-Liner in 1977

 

ON THE ROAD

The first RW700RSX was delivered to Cleary Bros at Pt Kembla in early 1979. It would be used in their low loader operations, which included gruelling hauls up the notorious Mount Ousley.

The fourth Super-Liner to be locally produced was the first to have the new V8 Mack engine fitted.

It was delivered to a long-term Mack operator, Bromage Tankers in Victoria in July 1979. Incidentally, this first Big Bopper still exists, albeit now fitted with a non-Mack engine!

The demand for this new impressive model rapidly grew and to satisfy the need for performance, a number of engine choices were offered. Cat 3406, Cummins NTC400 and a couple of GM 8V92 engines were fitted to the first series of Aussie Super-Liners.

 

The first Super-Liner – a Cat 3408-powered RW700RSX delivered to Cleary Bros in Feb 1979. It is now preserved in a Tasmanian Mack collection

 

The introduction of the 500hp version in 1986 also saw the Super-Liner undergo its first major evolution – the Super-Liner II was introduced. The Super-Liner had been in production for six years and approximately 370 of the first series had been built in this time.

Along with a host of refinements, the cab and bonnet were raised to provide even better engine cooling and heat dissipation.

With the Super-Liner II, only the Mack E9 V8 engine was offered, matched to various Mack transmissions and heavy duty axles.

The R chassis was available in a variety of capacities in both single and double rail configurations. With the fitment of the optional extra heavy duty Renault hub reduction axles, Gross Combination Masses up to 200 tonnes were possible.

 

The first Mack powered Super-Liner in Australia – equipped with the first series of the 16.4 litre V8 engines

 

The most famous and appealing Super-Liner II was the limited edition BiCentennial series. 16 of these special Bulldogs were built in 1988 to celebrate Australia’s 200 years of existence, with each having the name of an Australian influential in our country’s history, such as James Cook, John Flynn, Thunderbolt, Ludwig Leichhardt, Ned Kelly and Kingsford Smith.

This release also coincided with Mack Trucks Australia’s 25th anniversary. The Bicentennials, with their distinctive brown, green and gold paint scheme, featured the Mack E9-500 V8 engine coupled to a Mack 12-speed transmission and had a unique 48" high rise sleeper.

The Super-Liner II series continued in production until early 1991, with the last unit being built for Ammaroo Station in the Northern Territory. The Weir family, the owners of Ammaroo, still proudly own this "last of the legend".

 

The versatile R chassis used on the Super-Liner was first introduced in 1966 and continued to be used in Australia until 2008

 

NEXT GENERATION

This second generation of Super-Liners also had a six-year life and approximately 500 were built in Australia.

The replacement for the bold bonneted Super-Liner was the sleek CLR series. The CLR range offered the popular Mack E9 V8, which soon after its release had increased power at 525hp (392kW), a wider more comfortable cab and a new range of sleepers. The Super-Liner name was discontinued both here and in the US.

The contemporary aero look of the CLR lacked the rugged look that appealed to many traditional Mack owners, especially road-train users.

Its set back axle and under bonnet air cleaners further limited its off road capability.

 

Launch of the Super-Liner II

 

To counter this disappointment, the Super-Liner name was returned in 1993 and the CLR range was focused on the highway market with the 12-litre Mack E7 and 12.7-litre Detroit Series 60 engines being offered, as well as industry recognised drivetrain components.

Development of a big bonneted axle forward version was commenced.

Up to the release of the bold Superliner Titan in 1995, over 300 CLRs were built at MTA Richland’s plant. It is interesting to see that nearly 100 CLR Super-Liners were fitted with the Mack E7 454hp (339kW) engine and over 110 were fitted with the Detroit Series 60 – both engines being well accepted with single trailer highway operators.

 

The impressive stature of the Bicentennial Super-Liner has made it the firm favourite with all Mack lovers. Today, 30 years later, all 16 still exist, with most preserved in precious care

 

The release of the bold bonneted Super-Liner Titan with its raised cab saw Mack return to its outback/off road roots.

Now the Super-Liner range had both aero and bold bonnets and these variants were known as Elite (Mack engines & transmissions), Select (non-Mack drivetrain components) and Titan. The Mack EN9 V8 525 was then only offered in the Titan variant, and the Cat 3406B engine released in both the aero and bold bonneted versions of the Super-Liner.

In 1996, Mack offered 10 separate versions of the Super-Liner. This wide range of versions was driven by the engine model/type fitted: each engine type had its own Super-Liner designation.

 

The last Super-Liner II – bought in 1991 for work on a NT station – a task it still performs today

 

With the introduction of the Trident model in 1998, the Super-Liner range was rationalised with the aero models discontinued and Titan becoming its own distinct model range. This was the second time that the Super-Liner name was not to be seen on a new Australian-built Mack. The name was to return three years later when a new premium spec model was introduced.

The Mack E9, now at 610hp (455kW), was discontinued in 1999 and the then new 600hp (447kW) Cummins 15-litre Signature was introduced as its replacement. The only Mack model capable of handling these high performance engines was the Titan. The strong acceptance of the Titan as THE tough off road/road train truck, however, limited its appeal to highway operators wanting a more affordable lower tare high performance truck.

The demise of the Mack V8 engine was mourned by many Mack fans but with its later electronically controlled (VMAC) variants: the 575hp and 610hp (429 and 455kW) ratings, the engine lacked the punch that the early 500 and 525 mechanically controlled engines possessed.

 

In 1991, the CLR was released as the modern Mack – having a larger wider cab, new sleepers and a contemporary aero look

 

In 2002, Mack reintroduced the Super-Liner in response to the Titan’s limited appeal to highway operators. It shared the same R chassis and drivetrain options as its big brother, Titan, but had a bonnet with softer more contemporary styling, Cummins 500hp and 550hp (373 and 410kW) engines and non-Mack drivetrain components with up to 90 tonne GCM rating. It was intended to complement the Trident as a highway and light off road unit.

With the introduction of the Trident Axle Forward model, there was finally a chassis design that offered lower tare weight, improved turning circle and better ride. So the Super-Liner LT was born in 2005. It was the first Super-Liner not to use the R chassis. It also had a bold bonnet and a Cat 3406 engine option, in addition to the usual specifications offered by its R chassis equivalent.

The R chassis version of the Super-Liner was continued and shared the new look bonnet – so Superliner was offered in two application-focused versions: the LT for highway and HD for the tougher jobs.

 

The release of the Super-Liner Titan in 1995 addresses many of the shortcomings that the CLR had in heavy or tough work. Its raised and fully suspended cab, huge grille, raised air intakes and forward steer axle made it very appealing to road train operators

 

VOLVO

The next significant change to the Super-Liner offer was in 2008. The development of new Mack products, like all truck manufacturers, was largely driven at the time by mandatory emission regulations. There has been a continual evolution in exhaust emission and noise reduction requirements, resulting in regular engine changes.

Mack Trucks was now a part of the global Volvo Trucks organisation so it had a new range of proprietary engine, chassis and drivetrain components available to use.

So in a bold move, MTA redesigned its entire product range to take advantage of new chassis and engine technology offered with these in-house components. This new series was marketed as the New Breed range.

This meant the long-living R chassis was discontinued. At the same time, Cat elected to use a twin turbo (ACERT) solution to meet its lower emissions obligations. It resulted in Cat no longer being offered in the Super-Liner and Titan.

 

The fourth Mack model to carry the Super-Liner name. The model introduced in 2002 was intended to bridge the performance gap between Trident and Titan

 

One of the benefits of the new Volvo-based chassis design was its single rail design – the strength of the deeper (300mm) frame was varied by the thickness of the rail. With the R chassis, the stronger chassis were double rail – this could mean maintenance issues later in life with rust swelling the rails, especially on those trucks used in "wet", i.e. livestock, applications.

So from 2008, Super-Liner and Titan models shared the same Cummins 15-litre engines and the same chassis configuration – only the Titan bonnet was a little longer and its grille slightly different, which gave it a point of difference. Extra heavy duty drivetrain components, however, allow Titan to haul heavier loads.

Up to this point, the names Super-Liner and Titan were only used in Australia but this changed when MTI introduced its version of the Titan.

With the next emission regulations coming into effect in 2011, Mack elected to use Selective Catalytic Reduction technology (which injected a urea-based fluid into the exhaust). This enabled the higher performing in-house 16-litre engine family to be installed.

 

This impressive Cat-powered Super-Liner HD epitomises the tough look Mack operators appreciated. This shared the grille and fender styling with its big brother, Titan. The LT verson used the Trident AF chassis

 

For the Super-Liner, this saw the introduction of the Mack MP10 16-litre 600hp and 685hp (447 and 511kW) engines. The MP10 engine was the Mack version of the well-established Volvo D16 family, with the 10 suffix meaning 1,000 cubic inch displacement, reflecting its US/imperial connection.

With the 685hp rating, there was the mandatory use of the M-Drive (the Mack version of the impressive Volvo automated 12 speed transmission). Cummins ISX EGR engines were also offered but it was clear that the new higher performing ‘Mack’ big bore engines were going to be in demand.

The next change occurred in 2017 when MTI discontinued its version of the Titan. MTA then decided to rationalise its Super-Liner and Titan range by having the models share the same bonnet – only the grille and identity badges differentiate the appearance of the two models.

 

The New Breed Super-Liner was a significant change with its new styling, new interior and chassis layout. Cummins ISX was the only engine offered initially. Later, the larger and more powerful Mack MP10 would be standard

 

MOVING FORWARD       

 

With 685hp, the Super-Liner is now the most powerful bonneted truck on the Australian highways. For B-double operators, the short 36" highrise sleeper fitted to this unit allowed the Super-Liner to meet the 26m length law

In the near future, a new interior and updated sleeper range is planned, which will give the model a good refresh.

There is also a hint that a special edition will be released to commemorate 100 years of Mack in Australia. So more bling, and comfort and convenience for the driver – always a good thing to ensure the Super-Liner will remain Super.

In Australia, the name Super-Liner still continues in the Mack range some 40 years after its first launch. It took 10 years to sell the first 900 Super-Liners – and in the last 10 years, nearly 2,000 more big bonneted Macks have carried the Super-Liner name.

In the last four decades, every part has changed, including the Bulldog bonnet mascot (his ears got shorter), but the name still resonates loudly with those truck operators that want durability, performance and high productivity.

 

The appeal of the Super-Liner to long distance haulers was enhanced with the introduction of the sleek American designed 60" midrise sleeper. The large capacity D-shaped fuel tanks also adds to its long haul capabilities

 

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