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Local History

This truck is the ‘real McCoy’

If you are a truck lover like me, there’s a real showstopper on State Highway 25 on the way to Auckland, 5km from the Kopu Bridge on the left-hand side.
 |  Stan Stewart  | 

The Mad Max: Fury Road truck trnasported from New Zealand to star in the movie. This was a Pacific Truck and Trailer Company truck, brought out to NZ to carry pine forest logs.

It belongs to Barry Caulfield who is now retired in Thames. Outside a large shed there is an assembly of machinery parked in a paddock facing the highway. It is the truck that captures my attention.

When driving past, I imagined it was the largest Mack truck I had ever seen. When finally, I had time to venture closer I found it was twice as big as the Mack’s I knew, and it was not a Mack, it was a ‘Pacific’. First manufactured in Vancouver, Canada by the ‘Pacific Truck and Trailer Company’ and later by ‘International Harvester’.

This truly monster truck is the last of its kind in New Zealand. The Pacific’s are not permitted to drive on public roads, only off-road. The unit beside State Highway 25 is not a museum piece. It’s in working order ready to pull loads in forests or in a quarry.

I began wondering how these behemoths arrived in New Zealand?

One of the results of the Great Depression in the 30s was the huge number of unemployed men. The New Zealand Government had to create a lot of jobs and one of the major jobs was for hundreds of men to plant pine trees. The government set them to work on the Kāingaroa State Forest creating a huge pine plantation, for a while the largest on the planet.

When in the 70s and 80s the plantation was ready for harvesting, a team of Canadians was employed to show the locals the most efficient and effective way of harvesting this forest. The Canadians brought with them their equipment which included Pacific monster trucks.

The particular truck that caught my eye on so many trips was used in the logging industry pulling huge loads, 100 tons and more on logging tracks in pine forests. Powered by a 400 horsepower Cummings diesel, it drives like any modern truck with all the home comforts, steering hydraulics, great seat, air-conditioning etc. This unit really is ready for work in a quarry or back on the forestry tracks.

Part of the reason the truck filled me with awe was because I had seen it before. One of these Pacific trucks was the leading prop in the film ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. The truck they used in the film was purchased in New Zealand and transported to the Australian desert set of the film. For its role in this film, the producers decorated it to give it the required ‘monster’ appearance. A Pacific truck just like the one on StateHighway 25, was the star.


The Mad Max franchise has just released ‘Furiosa’. A Mad Max Saga. Same set – the Australian desert, same dystopian setting. I am not sure if it features the monster Pacific truck from Fury Road

Postscript: Trucks & me

When I was 12-13 (1949-50), my Dad was caretaking an estate with an impressive house. The house was always unoccupied. The house had a small library which had a large stock of glossy magazines, Life, Time, Newsweek, Country Life and National Geographic. On afternoons when I had nothing more to do, I would go into the library and thumb through the magazines. That’s when I became interested in trucks and tractors. Some of the magazines contained full colour advertisements of trucks and tractors. They looked so beautiful to me, and I began a searchfor similar magazines to cut out the advertisents and paste them in a large scrapbook. My favourites were big trucks.

My absolute favourite advertisements were the adverts for Mack trucks. I still remember their slogan which in today’s climate must be the most politically incorrect slogan ever. “Real Men Drive a Mack”.