Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2009.
After a lifetime's work as a single truck owner-driver, Ken Archer is part of the road transport's colourful early days. His is a personal history of an industry that grew from a handful of pioneers to become the backbone of the nation.
Born in 1928, in Kyogle, NSW, Ken grew up near Wagga Wagga in the Riverina region. While working as a log feller in the Myrtleford district he hauled his first load. In 1954 he bought an R7 Commer table-top and put it into sub-contract work with Antill Ranger running between Sydney and Brisbane. After three years Ken traded it on another Commer, a legendary 'Knocker' with a bogie.
In 1961, when the B-model Mack was beginning to make a name for itself, Ken decided to get out of the 'Knocker' and upgrade his equipment as he wanted to improve his trip times. He didn't have enough money and a new Mack B61 cost thirteen thousand pounds, a huge sum to pay for a truck at that time. Antill Ranger was importing the B-model in kit form and Ken asked Max Winkless if he would supply him one. Max said YES, on the condition Ken took on the run from Melbourne to Adelaide.
Before long he was running to Adelaide twice a week in a B-model clocking up 128,000 miles (206,000 kms) in the first year. After that, he took on the Sydney to Perth run. With 1100 miles of corrugated dirt to cross, the freight was often damaged.
Opening the front of the tarp let the wind blow through the load and kept the dust out. The trip took seven days and was one of the roughest around. The B61, on the dirt, would shake and shake but get back on the bitumen and not a rattle.
With the corrugations and weight in mind, Ken sought the biggest Mack available, a cab-over F719RST. The unusual wheelbase was engineered to provide a better ride over the corrugations. Ken spent 14 years on the Nullarbor before taking a run hauling steel between Sydney and Newcastle in his trusty cab-over Mack and despite the years and miles his 'Old Darling' is a credit to Mack's engineering and to Ken's ability.