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Jim just keeps on truckin’ - Mack truck enthusiast on life in the driver’s seat

by
May 16, 2018

Jim Ristovichis 1986 Magnum Mack II Super-Liner, which has been lovingly restored.

Jim Ristovichis 1986 Magnum Mack II Super-Liner.

THE OWNER

IT IS safe to say Jim Ristovichis knows his trucks.

He ran an orchard farm near Kyabram for years and owned seven trucks in the 1980s and 1990s, which he used to cart his own produce — and the produce of other farmers — to the Sydney markets.

Most of them were Mack R models but he also did own — albeit briefly — a Mack II Super-Liner limited edition.

Named the Kingsford Smith, it was one of 16 trucks released to mark Australia’s bicentenary in 1988.

Each was named after a famous Australian and featured cruise control, television and refrigerator.

Named after the famous Australian aviator, the Kingsford Smith was built for Jim but he only owned it for eight weeks.

He gave it back to the Mack company because they didn’t want him to paint it in his fleet colours.

Jim’s first car was an old Falcon ute before he bought an XR 289 GT gold Falcon.

‘‘It had a Windsor Canadian motor in it which was really good in the revs, that’s what they were known for,’’ he said.

‘‘There was a drag race at Werribee one day and that car beat seven GTHO’s.’’

THE TRUCK

JIM’S 1986 Magnum Mack II Super-Liner was always known as the ‘Fruit Express’.

It is the second time Jim has owned the truck and it was a wreck when he bought it back again.

He took it to Shepparton Motor Panels and it took two years to restore it.

‘‘It’s got all new driveshaft, motor, gearbox, diff — we brought it back to life after 31 years,’’ he said.

‘‘Mack Trucks in Toowoomba had all the connections in the USA to secure parts for it.

‘‘There’s nothing old on it.

‘‘The only old thing is me sitting in it.’’

Some improvements have been made in the rebuild, such as raw cables are now insulated and the step rails are now one piece instead of the original two piece.

The sleeper cabin has been fixed and the turntable reinstalled.

‘‘I enjoyed putting it together and hunting down parts for it,’’ Jim said.

‘‘I like the challenge of getting parts and making sure they fit right.’’

The truck is powered by a 500hp V8 engine with a nine-speed overdrive transmission and a 44,000lb diff.

‘‘At the time, V8 500hp was top of the range,’’ Jim said.

‘‘There was no other bigger power than this in its day. Now it’s 850hp.

‘‘There’s no exhaust system. You put it through the gears and it smokes like a chimney.

Jim praised Logan Few at Shepparton Motor Panels for the effort in restoring the truck to its former glory.

‘‘He’s 25 years old and he did 95 per cent of the work himself.

‘‘He started at 4am for two years to work on it, he did everything — the wiring, the motor, the gearbox, everything. He built this with his heart.

‘‘Bob Conway did the scroll work on the side of the truck 31 years ago.

‘‘Twelve months ago I rang him up and asked him to do it again and he came to Shepparton and did it for me.

Jim’s next door neighbour — 92-year-old Les Quincey, who Jim describes as ‘‘fit as a fiddle’’ — restored the steering wheel.

He picked up the finished vehicle on the Friday morning before the Mack Muster at Kyabram in March so he was able to put it on display for the admiring public.

WHERE DID YOUR TRUCK COME FROM?

THE Magnum Mack II Super-Liner came to Australia in 1986, one of only two brought out from the United States for the Melbourne Truck Show.

Jim bought one of them and owned it from 1986 to 1989.

Shortly after he bought it, the Mack company borrowed it back off him and took it around Australia showing it at truck shows.

Jim and his wife were guests of the company during the four-month tour.

It won at about 19 truck shows from Tasmania to Shepparton and Newcastle to Brisbane.

‘‘I’ve got trophies at home everywhere,’’ Jim said.

‘‘It’s an icon of Australia. It’s so well known. It’s the only one of its kind that has achieved what it has.’’

Jim sold the truck in the late 1980s but two years ago began to wonder what had become of it.

‘‘After all these years I needed something to do,’’ Jim said.

He tracked the truck through its subsequent owners and eventually found it in Grafton, NSW.

‘‘So I approached the new owner and was able to buy it back off him,’’ Jim said.

Both the Magnum Mack II Super-Liners that came out from the United States in 1986 were black in colour.

Jim painted his in his fleet colours but as for the fate of the other truck, that remains a mystery.

‘‘The other cab seems to have disappeared.’’

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE TRUCK?

‘‘NO OTHER truck was able to keep up with it,’’ Jim said.

‘‘It kills in the hills. The power up the hills was really good.

‘‘I just had to get one. I drove this myself — no one else was allowed to touch it.’’

The Mack company offered to buy the Mack II number plates off Jim — on two separate occasions — to complete its set but Jim won’t part with them.

SO WHAT’S YOUR PERFECT CAR?

‘‘I DON’T like any new cars,’’ Jim said. ‘‘They’re all plastic.’’

He has owned a lot of GT Falcons in his time but for Jim the XW GT is the best.

‘‘I like the shape and performance,’’ he said.

He does tell an interesting story of how he put his XW GT through 6,500 revs on the Hume Highway one day.

‘‘It had dual holley carburettors, 650 I think, and I put that high 120 octane straight racing fuel in it,’’ he said.

‘‘It went like a rocket.’’

‘‘The police blocked the road near Puckapunyal,’’ he said, because the police cars at the time couldn’t catch him.

‘‘I got a $120 fine and my licence was suspended for six months. You couldn’t do that now.’’

AND WHAT’S NEXT?

FOLLOWING the restoration of the 1986 Magnum Mack II Super-Liner, Jim admits he needs to find another hobby.

He is toying with the idea of buying back an R model he sold to someone in Bendigo and restoring it ‘‘just for something to do’’.

In the meantime, he is comfortable in the pilot’s seat.

He has been flying aeroplanes since he was 60 — he’s now 71 — and says he and his wife have flown halfway round Australia. ‘‘And there’s a lot more to come,’’ he said.

Jim also has plans for his 1986 Magnum Mack II Super-Liner, but prefers to keep them close to his chest.

‘‘Big plans. Where it’s going is the best place for it,’’ Jim said rather intriguingly.

‘‘It’s created history and I’m proud of it.’’

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