Special feature: International AACO 180

By: Vivienne Haldane, Photography by: Vivienne Haldane


Special feature: International AACO 180 Special feature: International AACO 180
Special feature: International AACO 180 Special feature: International AACO 180
Special feature: International AACO 180 Special feature: International AACO 180
Special feature: International AACO 180 Special feature: International AACO 180
Special feature: International AACO 180 Special feature: International AACO 180
Special feature: International AACO 180 Special feature: International AACO 180
Special feature: International AACO 180 Special feature: International AACO 180

DOW checks out Leicester Gray's 1966 International AACO 180

Leicester Gray is proud of his 1966 International AACO 180 that starts up at the first turn of the key. He carefully noses it out of the driveway and is off down the road to demonstrate how well it goes, and yes, the 120hp Gold Diamond petrol motor still purrs along nicely.

The Central Hawkes Bay farmer can still recall the day, as a 20-year-old, he proudly took ownership of the brand new truck. Its purpose was to transport stock between three farms as well as Tomoana Freezing Works, and it’s done all that and more.

His wife, Margy, says during their courting days, she had a bit of competition and if she wanted to earn some brownie points, a bit of polishing never went astray. "Yes, it was a case of love me, love my truck," Leicester admits.

The International was purchased from a Waipukurau machinery firm, Stevenson & Taylor, who are still going strong. "It did 99% of our farm work for many years, carting stock, hay, grain, and anything else we required," Leicester says.

Although one of the fastest trucks on the road in its day, Leicester says it wasn’t economical to run it. "It did 10 miles to the gallon, but when fully loaded, towing the trailer with 27 head of cattle or 320 lambs, its consumption rose to four-and-a-half miles per gallon.

The trailer, which was added in 1969, was an ex-logging trailer, owned by Shanks Brothers—a Waipukurau sawmilling company. Taken to Stevenson and Taylor, it had loads of gum scraped off, was lengthened, and a stock crate was added.

It has been a reliable truck over the years, though Leicester recalls the generator failed one night near the Te Aute hill. "We had to be towed home by local towing firm Amalgamated Salvage. It was a very fast trip back to Waipukurau, being towed by a strop, and only having the handbrake to slow us down on the corners. It became tricky at the overhead bridge just before the town, when we were forced to put it in gear to get some vacuum to slow us down."

As Gray Brothers expanded, Leicester became more involved in the day-to-day running of the business and cartage was given over to the Waipawa Farmers Transport. Stock carting had also advanced by this time, banning wooden crates, so the ACCO 180 was mothballed.

AACO

Away it went into the truck shed. Out of sight it might have been, but Leicester still had a hankering to get it out on the road and use it again. That hankering was satisfied a few years ago when Stevenson & Taylor’s Brett Stevenson approached Leicester saying they had a bit of downtime in the workshop and enquired if he needed anything serviced. He immediately thought of his old truck and jumped at the chance to have it restored.

 "The truck was very special and always has been. I was rather sad when we put it away. It was still operational when it went into storage and didn’t take too much to

get it going again. The hoist was reconditioned—it had been leaking oil—the motor had a good tune up, brakes were replaced, and it was given a completely new deck. CHB Motors, Waipawa cut a small amount of rust out and gave the cab a new coat of paint," Leicester says.

It took two years, but in September 2013, the classic truck with 204,000 miles on the clock was all set to go, complete with its original 1966 number plates—AS 2185, which the Grays had been fortunate to retain.

"I was absolutely rapt," Leicester says.

"The love affair began all over again," Margy says.

Now (besides Leicester, of course), a new generation of Grays is enjoying the truck. "You should have seen it the other day. Our son Phillip (who with brother Callum, farms alongside their father) had it loaded up to the gunnels with troughs, rolls of Alkathene, bags of fertiliser, and grass seed. That’s what it does now; only clean jobs, like hay, seed, and super," Margy says.

Their grandchildren think the big old truck is very special, too, and are always keen for a ride.

Quite frequently, the International is the centre of attention. Margy says people enjoy coming up and talking to Leicester about the truck and whenever he’s are out and about, it gets lots of toots and waves.

From time to time, it features in events such as the CHB Christmas parade, and it took part in the pro-dam (Ruataniwha Water storage Scheme) rally a few years ago. Margy has an amusing anecdote from when their children were little and accompanied her and Leicester in the truck carting hay. "Our youngest, Phillip, used to sit propped up in a 40lb apple box on the engine. One day we were carting hay on a slope, he was in the apple box when it began sliding off the motor. I jammed my foot on the brake and away went Leicester off the back of the truck. I was told to go home after that." 

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Dealsonwheels' free newsletter or liking us on Facebook