THE Museum of Vehicle Evolution’s Kenworth Dealer Pavillion tells the story of evolution of road transport across Victoria and the nation. In July 2022, the people and families who shaped road transport were inducted into the Avenue of Legends.
Kreskas Bros… The family made its name delivering produce between Shepparton and Melbourne. The family orchard was the primary income, but environmental and economic drivers meant trucking became the most likely path to business success. The business has evolved to be what is now the largest road carrier of shipping containers between the Port of Melbourne and regional Victoria.
Ian Cootes AO… Ian started IR Cootes as a self-funded, single tanker owner-operator delivering fuel to BP service stations across Melbourne. The company quickly grew to become Australia’s largest tanker operator. At one point their top 60 longest serving employees had over 1,000 years of service. Ian was a director of the Australian Road Research Board and played a crucial role in raising safety and efficiency standards for dangerous goods transport. Ian sold the business in 2000 and was inducted into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame in 2003. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2016 for significant service to road transport and to the development of improved safety and efficiency standards.
Joe Leocata… Leocata’s Transport began in 1982 when Joe purchased his first prime mover that he drove to and from Adelaide for the next four years. “Big enough to do the job, small enough to care,” became the motto of this family-owned business. With blue chip companies as their major accounts, the business continued to grow. Community has been a solid foundation, proudly employing locals and giving back. Sons Marcus and Adrian have continued recruiting and investing in younger staff. At one stage they had three team members under the age of 25 years of age in management roles. Today, with all family members still involved, and the third-generation emerging, this family transport operation run an immaculate fleet of over 40 trucks and employ more than 100 staff.
Ted Phillips… Started his business in November 1935. After purchasing and becoming the buying agent for Melbourne tomato processors, Ted purchased two trucks carting firewood to feed boilers at SPC. In 1945 he bought eight new KS5 Internationals, the first diesel powered truck fleet in Northern Victoria. He was the first to send trucks from Shepparton to Sydney fruit markets and one of the first to send a load of goods to Perth.
Vasil & Chris Rendevski…Vasil (better known as Bill) and Chris purchased their first orchard in 1961 and needing a truck to cart their produce, purchased a 1950 Chevrolet Tray Truck. Interstate transport saw the brothers doing two trips a week to Sydney, carting 1,050 cartons of pears to market and then loading general freight back. A major contract was won in 1986 to cart soft drink along the eastern seaboard, a contract that remains in part today. The Rendevski family were strong supporters of the MOVE concept and helped bring awareness of MOVE to all in the industry.
Angelo Kalafatis… Angelo migrated to Australia in 1956, purchasing his first property, a 16-hectare dairy farm in Shepparton East. Having spent many years working on orchards in Greece, Angelo planted fruit trees and vegetables between the rows and harvested and sold produce at the Queen Victoria Market. Kalafatis Fresh Produce remain one of the largest suppliers of pears in Australia and with the equally successful division of the company JDK Management supplying warehousing and inventory management services, sons Jimmy and Donny are continuing the legacy built by their father.
Bill Hunter OAM… William (Bill) Hunter commenced trading as WB Hunter in 1947 picking up and grading eggs before moving into grain buying and feed supply. Bill is known as the pioneer of road transport in the region, following a lengthy railway strike in the early 50s. Seeing the efficiencies of road transport, Bill expanded his fleet to capture this business, leading to a series of legal battles over a 25-year period that went all the way to the High Court for the right to transport goods in competition with the railways. Bill won that fight, at a huge personal financial cost, but paved the way for expansion. He was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 1979 and was inducted into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame in 2010. He passed away at age 92 in May 2012.
Santo Varapodio OAM… Santo is widely recognised as a founding father and enormous contributor to the success of Ardmona, where their operations began on a small piece of land supplying produce to market and to the Ardmona Fruit Cannery. Santo had success delivering fruit from the region and his family’s business to wholesale markets. Son Rocky came onboard in 1978, when the family had 25 hectares under production. This grew rapidly to reach a peak of over 200 hectares, a packing operation and cold storage facilities for up to 5,000 tonnes of fruit. Their land produced over 10,000 tonnes of fruit which was sold though local and export markets. Santo was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2000 for his service to the community of Shepparton and District, and to the fruit industry.
Sam and Alan Sali… Migrating to Australia with their parents in 1937, Alan purchased his first truck at age 18 and worked tirelessly building knowledge and contacts in the trucking industry. When his father found it difficult to manage the farm, Alan sold his truck and returned to the orchard. Sam, who was nine years younger, then completed his motor mechanic apprenticeship and they joined forces to form S Sali & Sons. Alan drove to Melbourne daily and Sam loaded and maintained the truck. In 2003 Sam was awarded one of the trucking industry’s major awards, the National Award for Outstanding Contribution. He was the foundation member and director of the National Transport Federation and a founding director of the Goulburn Valley Road Transport Group. His death in 2002 was a great loss for the family, the business and the industry.
Paul Bertoli… After his automotive apprenticeship, in 1976, Paul started working for himself, tirelessly working every hour he could with a focus on quality service and customer care. Soon after Paul established his own Dealership. Paul’s commitment to the industry is unwavering and he is a current executive board member of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce. Paul was instrumental in having the VACC recognised at MOVE as a major sponsor.
Ken Keating… Ken started in road transport in 1955 working for brother Ray who was a furniture removalist. After he purchased a 1960 WC White double deck livestock truck. In 1964, Ken moved to Shepparton where he played a key role in the formation of Zurcas Trucking Co. In 1969 Ken bought the Geoffery Thompson Fruit Packing Company’s only truck – a 14-13 Mercedes. The business expanded and within a year Ken purchased four 1418 Mercedes Benz trucks and established depots in Melbourne and Sydney with agents in Brisbane and Adelaide. 1982 Ken established Ken Keating Freight Lines Pty Ltd, which currently has three generations working together as well as around 30 staff.
EB Mawson… The Mawson story started in 1927 when EB (Barney) Mawson and his brother Bill auctioned equipment resulting in Bill purchasing a dairy farm and Barney, a new Chev truck. In 1937 Barney took the groundbreaking step of powering a Rio truck with a Gardner diesel engine and by 1938 he was already using hydraulics to lift loads. The war years were tough as the Army took some of Barney’s modern equipment, but he kept business going by switching trucks to gas power and using semi-trailers out of timber. 10 years after WW2, his sons came onboard. They found the best way to supply rock was to own the full supply chain, the trucks, the loaders and the quarries. The first Mawson quarry was purchased in 1949. By the 60s, concrete had become a significant construction material. Their workshop was used to fit their trucks with clip-on turntables and tipper bodies, all made in the business. Mawsons were amongst the first to use laser levels for irrigation, layouts and general construction work.
Gerard Hicks… Gerard’s driving career began at age 15 moving trucks and equipment between family farms in Murchison and Nathalia. His first company position was as a driver at JD Morey & Sons, at the time the largest local fruit exporter. In 1979, Gerard and his late wife Linda established Hicks Contracting and purchased their first truck, a secondhand 1418 Mercedes Benz. Gerard’s first new truck was a cabover Kenworth purchased in 1982. In 1995 the company moved to Somerton, Melbourne and over the following 24 years Hicks Contracting continued to grow with the addition of a Sydney depot and a combination of trucks and trailers. Gerard sold the business in 2018 and now with his daughter Katie providing administrative support, he and partner Hayley continue to enjoy working in the industry delivering loads up and down the east coast.
Borg Family… Fred Borg started his transport career at Morey’s Fruit Packing Shed alongside his wife running the transport operations. In 1978, he established Fred’s Interstate Transport. Using the relationships forged at Morey’s, Fred used owner drivers to transport client’s products. Quickly realising the benefits of owning your own vehicles, Fred purchased his first truck. Fred was joined in the business by his first son Danny in 1987 and second son Grant in 1989, who took control and advanced the business. In 2014 Danny and Grant’s children joined, seeing the company enter its third generation of family members as employees.
John Spadaro…John’s passion for trucks began in the ’80s as an owner operator with TNT Roadfast. Like many others during this time, the economic downturn hit hard, and John turned attention to establishing a load agency business, JNH Loading Agency. In the late 2000s the operation was wound down and John and son Sebastian established Complete Trucks. It was during this period when John suddenly tragically passed away, delivering a truck from Perth. One of the things that gave his family some peace was that John passed away doing what he loved, delivering a product to one of his customers and seeing the beautiful sights of Australia at the same time.
Goodfellow Family…The Goodfellow story began with Aubrey operating the first double deck sheep trailer in the Mallee district. Aubrey and Beryl Goodfellow established Precision Driving School in Melbourne in 1953, operating for 10 years in a time where driver instruction and mentoring were just beginning. Moving to Shepparton, they established Goodfellows Driving School in 1964. Beryl was believed to be the first female in Victoria to hold an articulated semi licence and became an instructor at Driver Education Centre of Australia (DECA). She was a passionate supporter of the careful cobber program, a preschool and school aged road safety program. All three sons worked in the Driver Education sector. Graham is still involved in the industry, owning Goodfellows Car and Truck Rentals. Brother Peter was a motorcycle instructor at DECA and operated his own driving school business in Queensland.
Graham Thomson… Graham started in transport in the 1960s as a driver for Ted Phillips. Graham purchased two trucks to distribute Marchants soft drinks. With his brother Bryan establishing a franchised Dealership, Graham joined sales. In 1984, he and his wife Joy purchased the business, renaming it Graham Thomson Motors. The Dealership grew, with Kenworth recognising them as 1985 Kenworth Dealer of the Year, an honour bestowed again in 1987 and 1997. With the introduction of B Doubles and the restrictions placed on them travelling through the town, Graham had envisioned building on the eastern side of Shepparton closer to his customer base and to take advantage of traffic flow through that area. Graham loved his job and his customers, and his sudden passing was a shock not just for his family but for everyone in the industry. Joy stepped into the Dealer Principal role of the business until ownership was passed onto the Leake brothers in 2011.
Bryan Thomson… Bryan Thomson worked at various Dealers before establishing Shepparton Truck Sales and Service. He saw an opportunity to recondition and sell used trucks and equipment to address the needs of the region’s growing agricultural and produce industries. The business was renamed Bryan Thomson Motors. In 1972 the Dealership was the first regional appointment for Volvo Trucks followed by Nissan UD. Bryan then invested in a purpose-built facility to provide sales, service and spare parts to the fleets and owner operators in the industry. 1977 saw the addition of the Kenworth franchise. Bryan was awarded the inaugural Kenworth Dealer of the Year in 1982, an award that would be won by the Thomson Group many times in the following years. Bryan sold the business to brother Graham in 1984. Bryan and Loel Thomson were instrumental in the foundational success of MOVE and generously gifted the Loel Thomson Costume Collection.
Paul Freestone OAM… In 1966, Paul aged 12, worked at an Ampol petrol station in Essendon where he met his mentor, Lindsay Ellis carting Nasco Holden accessories to Townsville. With the transport dream in his sights, he purchased his first truck, a furniture van, and operated a few different trucks working for Express Freight. He also hauled interstate for Pub Squash and then later fuel for Mayne Nickless. At 19, Paul met and married Christine and together the Freestone business purchased their first new truck in 1976. Late in 1983 Paul was approached by Multigroup, now Star Track Express, to purchase three Scanias, which became their first written contract. Paul was inducted into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame in 2010 and awarded an Order of Australia medal in 2020 for his services to the transport industry and is also a life member of the Victorian Transport Association.
Taig Bros… Back in 1947, Alf Taig and brothers Ron and Norm were appointed International Harvester Dealers for Shepparton. Taig Bros were more agricultural than motor trucks then, selling several popular international tractors in a period where the region’s farms were increasing. In 1984 Taig Bros solely became a truck Dealership following International Harvester folding their operations in Australia. Alf’s son John purchased Taig Bros from his family in 1988 and expanded into NSW. Following the recession, the mid-to-late 90s were good years, with John driving the business forward. His son Nick joined during this period, seeing the third generation enter the business.
John McCarroll… John McCarroll started his apprenticeship at Mid Star Motors, the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Shepparton at the time before moving on to run the workshop for Roccisano Transport. John returned to Mid Star Motors when they became the Mack dealership. Then came an opportunity at Jones Truck Repairs, the Shepparton Freightliner dealer – where he became foreman, service manager and sales manager. When the business was sold to Hartwig’s Trucks in 2002. John became branch manager for Shepparton and a shareholder in the Hartwig group. Turning 60 in 2015 saw John “retire” but he continued working on farms and with a local demolition company. Then came a call from Freightliner who asked if he’d test-bed Cascadia, driving it on the highways and freeways and providing feedback. John jumped at the opportunity, which became his semi-retirement passion. John was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 and in October 2020 with family and good friends with him outside his home in Shepparton, a convoy of more than 80 trucks drove by in what was a fitting and emotional tribute to an industry legend. He sadly passed away November 2020.
Jim Crawford – Crawford Historical Collection… CMV Group’s founder Sidney Crawford set out to specialise in the sale and service of commercial vehicles to support the transport industry. With British Leyland trucks and the Diamond T brand, CMV quickly grew to dominate truck sales. In 1968, and under his son Jim Crawford’s leadership, CMV experienced considerable change. Jim’s vision was that CMV would sell a vehicle for everyone. Jim oversaw the creation the CMV Automotive, CMV Trucks and CMV Farms divisions, grown further by his sons. Jim’s immaculately restored collection numbered 16 by the time of his death in October 1999. His dedicated family have continued the restoration tradition. Jim was an enthusiastic supporter of the preservation of road transport heritage, playing a major role in developing the Adelaide’s National Motor Museum and as a member of the then fledgling Road Transport Historical Society in Alice Springs. Jim was inducted into this National Road Transport Hall of Fame in the year 2000.
Classic Buses…Victoria has a rich history in bus preservation and restoration. They are owned and cared for by collectors from a cross section of individuals and bus companies. The major supporters of Classis Buses are the Bus and Coach Society of Victoria, Moonee Valley Coaches, Dysons and Driver Classics.
Bill Zurcas… Bill was born in Greece in 1918 and migrated to Australia in 1938. After working as a farm labourer and cane cutter he moved to Shepparton and purchased his first orchard of many over the ensuing years. Realising he needed a transport business to deliver produce to market, Bill started A Zurcas Trucking Company.
In the 1960s, Bill purchased a fruit packing shed and incorporated the transport business with the Zurcas Coolstore and Packing Company. Whilst the Coolstore and Packing operation cease to exist, Zurcas family members have continued in the orchard, coolstore and transport industries thanks to the early leadership of Bill.