Mighty Machines TV Episode 2: A journey down the Old Hume part 1

By: Matt Wood, Photography by: Stephen Dwight , Video by: John Beirouty

Missed the second episode of our new Mighty Machines TV show? Check out Highway 31 where Steve Brooks and Matt Wood compare the merits of an old White and a current Western Star prime mover along 'Sesame Street'.


It’s funny how time can speed up and slow down depending on what you may be doing at any given time.

If you’re waiting for a train or stuck in traffic, time drags, if you’re having fun at a party, time flies. Watching your team lose an important game? It always happens in slow motion.

While our relationship with time may be a little stretchable, four decades is a long time in anyone’s book. Time, trucking, and technology have trundled down the road of progress over the last 40 years. Truck engines have become more powerful and more reliable all the while becoming more fuel efficient and cleaner.

Yet, it seems a part of human nature to mythologise the past, hence that old saying ‘the older I get the better I was.’

And you’d be hard pressed to find another road in Australia that would be shrouded in as much myth and legend as the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney.

So we thought it may be interesting to put two trucks on that famed stretched of now-bypassed highway to see just how much has changed. Were things really that much better in the old days?

The Old Hume Highway out of Camden NSW, seemed a fitting stretch of road to compare just how much trucks, engines and highways have changed. We wanted to pit a survivor from the halcyon Hume Highway days of the 1970s and ’80s against its present day incarnation to see just how much has changed.


Highway 31,-White ,-Western -Star ,-Trucks ,-Owner Driver ,-Matt -Wood1

Matt Wood standing proudly in front of the White (left) and Western Star contenders.


Comparing specs

In one corner we had a recent model Western Star 4900FXT and in the other we had a fully-restored 1975 White 4000.

Both are conventional prime movers with classic lines and both are powered by Detroit engines. But that’s where the similarities end.

The ‘Star has a Detroit DD15 under the bonnet that cranks out 560hp and 1850lb/ft. The White uses an 8V71N Detroit with 318hp and 800lb/ft.

The ‘Star uses an 18-speed Eaton UltraShift-Plus automated transmission, while the White has an old 15-speed overdrive ‘box with a shifter shaped like a broom handle.

C:\GREGS FILES\MIGHTY MACHINES\MightyMachines-2.jpgThe newer truck towers over its ancestor. That 15-litre Detroit EGR has a comparatively massive cooling package. The cab sits high off the chassis to allow engine heat to escape.

An electronic engine management system oversees engine operation and fuel delivery, much in the way of the DD’s ground breaking forefather, the Series 60 Detroit. High pressure fuel is delivered in a finely metered spray.   

The White Motor Company used to own the Western Star brand alongside the iconic Autocar brand. But by the late 1970s White was ailing and in 1980 Volvo bought the company and consequently, a foothold in the lucrative North American market.

These days Western Star nestles under the umbrella of Daimler’s North American interests, while Autocar lives on as an independent vocational brand.

Alas, White is no more.

But our beautifully restored White is typical of the trucks that used to ply the old Hume Highway of the 1970s and ’80s.

Finesse isn’t a big part of the White’s repertoire. The 9-litre supercharged V8 is fed diesel by a mechanical fuel system that relies on quantity rather than quality.

As with all old GM Detroits, it leaks oil and a little coolant, and a boot full of revs fills the sky with fuel smoke. And the sound? Pretty much like a horny tyrannosaurus rex gargling wet cement. It is however, very cool.

Highway 31,-White ,-Western -Star ,-Trucks ,-Owner Driver ,-Matt -Wood2

 C:\GREGS FILES\MIGHTY MACHINES\Mighty-Machines-Ep3-preview.jpg

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive the Owner Driver e-newsletter, digital magazine and other offers we choose to share with you straight to your inbox

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook


Trucks For Hire | Forklifts For Hire | Cranes For Hire | Generators For Hire | Transportable Buildings For Hire