Held on the weekend of the Brisbane Truck Show, 2023 marked a fantastic return to the Heritage Truck Show’s spiritual home at the Rocklea Showgrounds
I’m not entirely sure if I find it more comforting that a historic truck show has all the cool trucks I grew up with, or just kind of deflating that I grew up with all the cool trucks that are now featured at a historic truck show.
However, I can tell you that walking through the gates at Brisbane’s Rocklea Showgrounds, inhaling the sounds and aromas of a collection of classic vehicles for the first time since 2019, was a fantastic feeling.
Whilst it is dominated by those in the state’s south-east corner, its members are growing farther and farther from the association’s headquarters.
The Heritage Truck Association (HTA) is a south-east Queensland-based not-for-profit organisation. It began way back in 2002 and has grown to more than five hundred card-carrying members.
Throughout the year the association has numerous events and drive days, allowing those with movable gear to take their pride and joy out on excursions and road trips.
I say movable gear as the association doesn’t just limit itself to classic trucks. It includes cars, bikes, and even old engines and machinery – although navigating the windy roads to Dayboro in a vintage steam engine isn’t all that practical.
Along with numerous local outings, the HTA has cultivated a considerable crowd of supporters hanging out each year for its gold ribbon event, the annual Heritage Truck Show, fittingly held at its headquarters at the Rocklea Showgrounds in Brisbane.
I say yearly, but the 2023 event was the first time the association has been able to hold its showcase event at its spiritual home for several years. In 2020 and 2021 we all suffered when that dreaded C word deprived us of the show.
Then just when we got excited about its return in 2022, along came mother nature and laughed manically as she dumped record rainfall on the area and ensured the Rocklea Showgrounds were suitable only for a rubber duck convention or the world synchronised swimming championships.
Not this year though. 2023 kept that C word in the background and there was no stopping this year’s event. Add in the fact that this year would see an extremely strong collaboration with Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) and the internationally renowned Brisbane Truck Show and it had all the hallmarks of a bumper return to the Brisbane truck show scene.
I’m not trying to overhype this event. Because I’m writing this story as someone who went along to it, so I know for a fact that the Heritage Truck Association’s return show was every bit as good as I am waffling on about.
If you are purely a numbers kind of person and measure success by the ones and zeros, then we can look at the number of entrants that came from far and wide to be a part of the show’s return.
On Friday night, well before the weekend show even kicked off there were more than one hundred trucks already parked up. Those camping there had nestled in and were making full use of the showground’s licence to ensure the bar was never without a waiting line.
Come the peak of the day on Saturday there were 222 trucks, cars and machinery filling the rapidly depleting free space provided by the huge showgrounds.
Sticking with numbers, ‘Joe Public’ rolled through the gates in the thousands on a stunning sun-drenched Saturday and even the quieter Sunday saw record numbers of patrons roll in and revel in the amazing trucks.
There were more than just the walk-ins though. This year saw a great alliance between the HTA and the HVIA, which was in charge of the hugely successful Brisbane Truck Show.
Allow me to set the scene a little here first. The Brisbane Truck Show’s bi-annual event has been a staple of the trucking industry in Australia for quite a while now. As previously mentioned, the Heritage Truck Association has been glorifying the classics since 2002.
It was always more of a coincidence that the association’s gala event would end up around the same time as the Brisbane show, but the two epic events walked on opposite sides of the road for years.
Then in 2021 things changed. A major truck manufacturer had made the tough call to withdraw from the Brisbane Truck Show. Something to do with a worldwide epidemic. That manufacturer requested that their allocated area be donated to a local organisation. The HVIA team contacted the HTA and gifted the not-for-profit group a rather large area to display some of its finest gear.
Seeing as that same worldwide epidemic had crushed the opportunity to hold its yearly show, the association had plenty of A-grade automobiles to display.
Not only was it a success for the HTA, it was a real crowd-pleaser at the Brisbane Truck Show as well. Hence, when plans were being drawn up by the HVIA for this year’s show it kept in close contact with the committee members, and rather than just display some outstanding vehicles, the HVIA partnered up with the Historic Truck Association and included it as part of the attraction of the Brisbane Truck Show and Australian Heavy Vehicle Industry Week.
Along with numerous advertisements throughout the city marketing the appeal of the Heritage Truck Show, this year saw the addition of weekend shuttle buses. These allowed those who were in town for the Brisbane Truck Show to catch a ride out and spend a few hours wandering memory lane with trucks at the opposite end of the scale to those at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Whilst electric and hydrogen technology was on display within the city limits, there were buses running every 30 minutes that could take you to a world of black smoke and grinding gearboxes.
It was a tie-in that worked perfectly. The 53-seat bus that ran the loop rarely arrived without a full load and never departed half full either. Those that were avoiding the hefty parking prices in the city would start their day at Rocklea and bus on in to enjoy all the sights and sounds of the Brisbane show, and those staying in the city would do the opposite.
As for the return of the show itself. Well, I think it’s best summed up by Darren and his stunning green Flintstone. “It’s an awesome atmosphere, there’s no swinging d@#ks, it’s just about having a few drinks and catching up,” he said.
That is probably the best summary of the culture that has been fostered by the annual event, though this show was also special for another particular reason. The 2023 show was based around celebrations of Mack’s 60-year history in Australia.
Driven by the likes of committee member Rodney Sims and Mack guru Gary Richards, it was decided this year to try and organise a bit of a birthday party for the ‘Bulldog’.
Along with nearly half the trucks on show sporting the iconic Bulldog hood ornament, there was a display featuring an iconic Mack from each decade here in Australia, topped off with the stunning state-of-the-art new Mack Anthem.
Once you’d had time to appreciate some of the amazing, rare Macks on display there was plenty more to keep you amused, from Whites and Accos, to Fodens and Fords.
You were inundated with some amazing trucks. And if you needed to empty the coins from the car’s ashtray the Holbrook Football and Netball club were on hand with its ‘Win a Kenworth SAR’ raffle. Sadly, my coin collection fell a few short.
Local clubs and stalls were on hand to supply food and drink, though many happily reported needing to restock by Saturday afternoon as the crowd numbers exceeded any of the previous shows.
Even the Rocklea State School’s P&C committee, who were coordinating the parking, trounced their previous fundraising totals before they’d even completed the Saturday parking.
It really was a fantastic return to the show’s home ground and all the committee wished to thank not just the local community, but the entire trucking community as well as the HVIA team and all those that assisted with the running of the show, from volunteers to bus drivers.
They all contributed to a successful show.
As for me, well there was just too many Macks for me to be anything but thoroughly impressed. Bring on 2024!