Max Winkless named icon of the industry

By: Steve Skinner


Max Winkless sold the first Volvo in Australia 50 years ago and recently received a major trucking industry gong

Max Winkless named icon of the industry
Max Winkless with his recent award from the National Road Transport Hall of Fame. (Image altered).

 

The story behind Max Winkless is a fascinating one for anyone interested in trucking.

Winkless was one of just three recipients of an Icon of the Industry Award at the recent National Road Transport Hall of Fame Reunion at Alice Springs.

The honour is "in recognition of a lifetime service and contribution to the Australian road transport industry".

The winners are described as "well known and loved personalities" in the trucking game. The other two are road safety advocate Owen Driscoll from National Transport Insurance, and the importer of the first Kenworth into Australia, Ed Cameron.

Winkless left school at age 13, dyslexic and able to read but not write very well. After being knocked back from the navy due to being colour-blind, and then labouring, the youngster found himself driving a truck around Sydney as a 15 year old during WWII.

He later became a major part of the interstate trucking story in Australia, as well as of Mack and Volvo.

At age 24, Winkless became the manager and part-owner of Sydney-based company Antill Ranger, while continuing to keep his hand in as an occasional driver.

He would usually navigate the maiden voyage for new runs, including triple road-train trips across the Nullarbor in B-model Macks, which the company also imported and sold during the long period of import restrictions which didn’t end until 1959.

He also drove pioneering overnight express hauls between Sydney and Melbourne.

With the service needed to support a long distance trucking operation not available, Antill Ranger also formed a new company – Truck Sales & Service – which held franchises for Commer and Mack.

After building the freight operation to about 100 trucks, Antill Ranger sold it to Mayne Nickless in 1960, with the original owners – including Winkless – retaining the truck dealership.

Volvos were added to the Mack and Commer lineup a few years later.

These days the Winkless family’s Truck Centre in Western Australia sells both Volvo and Mack trucks, as well as UDs, under the Volvo Group Australia umbrella.

But there’s no doubt that the old B-model Macks are his sentimental favourites.

These legendary old Bulldogs pulled up to 70 tonnes gross with just 205hp (150kW) and 600 foot-pounds of torque (813Nm).

 

FIRST VOLVOS IN AUSTRALIA

The first Volvo in Australia – the little 4x2 F86 with a 7 litre engine – had about the same horsepower and torque as B61 Macks, with an 8-speed synchromesh manual gearbox.

Prior to the F86, Antill’s had been selling 6x4 B61 Macks for about £13,000 and Commer Knockers for just over £3,000 pounds, but had nothing to compete with Benz in the middle of the market at £6,000 pounds.

So Winkless travelled to Asia and Europe looking for a new product, first with the German Krupp brand in mind.

But in 1960 he settled on Volvo and spent five years working with the Swedes to develop a model suitable for Australia, including experimenting with a Road Ranger gearbox and Mack camelback suspensions.

The first four F86 Volvos arrived in Australia in early 1966 and went into service on the Melbourne to Adelaide run with Mayne Nickless.

The early trucks were assembled in Wollongong.

Volvo ended up buying out the Australian operation from Winkless and his partners in a "fantastic deal" in 1972, keeping Winkless on as CEO.

He "retired" at age 50 in 1977 and took up Volvo’s offer of owning a dealership in the pioneering territory of Western Australia.

The rest is history in the West.

You can read the full story on Max Winkless in the November issue of ATN.

 

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