ACCO Makes 50 Years Without a Major Breakdown

Dennis Angelino with his well-loved ACCO truck.

Lucian & Deanna Giles-Duffy

Despite the many challenges of farming, one reliable constant in orchardist Dennis Angelino’s life has been his well-loved ACCO truck.

This July marks 50 years since Dennis acquired his red butterbox truck, and with over one and a half million miles on the clock, the intrepid Thulimbah farmer’s dedication to its service and operation prove that there are many more to go.

Bought from Bellingham’s of Warwick in late 1970 for a substantial sum of $8000, the International C1800 Series ACCO truck was a welcome addition to the orchard operations at the time.

Warwick local Bev Matheson created its van compartment which was more suited to transporting fruit long distances, and it’s served its purpose well.

When Dennis set out on 19th July 1971, it was just the beginning of 21 years distributing apples and pears to the far reaches of north Queensland.

Twice each month, he would travel the Queensland coast north to Townsville, stopping at major centres along the way.

From 1991 to 2006, Dennis broadened his delivery area to include the western Queensland towns of Roma, Dysart, Moranbah, and Emerald.

Meanwhile continuing his ‘milk run’ along the coast as far as Bowen, with regular customers to supply at Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Mackay, and numerous smaller towns in between.

Dennis recalls travelling north on the horror Rockhampton to Marlborough stretch one Saturday evening when half the oil leaked out of the gearbox back to the diff.

He realised something was amiss when he couldn’t easily change gears, but unaware of the extent of the issue at the time, he persevered true to usual form, and took 7 hours to travel 170 miles.

Taking extra care to change gears, and keep the revs consistent, he navigated the Sarina Range and made it to Mackay the following morning.

Here his friend Ross Torrisi directed him to the local garage where he’s sons Mario and Ross could help. Much to their surprise, the gearbox fell out completely!

With the end of the main gearbox broken off, Dennis describes their mechanical skills as ‘number one’ as they set to work installing a new gear box shaft which allowed him to get back on the road again.

It’s really a wonder that in these early days traversing the busy coastal run, that this butterbox truck never met with calamity.

There was however one time Dennis encountered a drug-driver while crossing an old bridge over Gravely Creek.

As it swerved into his path, he took the left wheels of the trusty ACCO onto the edge of the structure and avoided a catastrophic outcome for all involved.

When the local police officer attended the incident scene, he commended Dennis’ driving ability and flawless knowledge of his truck.

To keep pace with the harvest and fruit delivery, maintaining his truck in good working order has required the assistance of several skilled mechanics over the years.

One of these being the Toowoomba mechanic workshop ‘Guilfoyle Inglis’, where foreman Norm Harrold (who passed away in late 2005) became an admirer of the ACCO.

On one return trip from Mt Osso, the truck travelled 800 miles with the engine running on five cylinders and arrived at the workshop to Norm’s exclamation, “You always want to do the impossible Dennis!”

It was in 1980, almost ten years after its maiden voyage north that, Guilfoyle Inglis mechanic Charlie Searchfield was tasked with replacing the original Perkins engine.

Completing the work to a commendable standard, the only difference with the new engine was the injector pump Norm had expertly modified at the throttle linkage.

This was the last of the main repairs by Norm and his team before he retired to care for his family.

When Charlie started his own Toowoomba business, Road Transport Specialists in 1989, he continued to service the ACCO.

It was under his direction in 1996 that the kingpins were replaced, wheel bearings repacked; followed in 1997 with the servicing of the injectors and an in-chassis rebuild.

The next year the truck’s right hand rear wheel cylinders were replaced, but it wasn’t until 2004 that a leak in the fuel tank needed attention.

Charlie’s final service in 2006 saw him servicing the injectors, along with the replacement of a sliding sleeve and two speed plate on the differential.

Remarkably the bearings were like new and were not replaced. Charlie is still impressed that in 38 years no work has ever been done on the transmission.

Inevitably each visit to Charlie and his team included a box of apples to share around and some entertaining stories from Dennis’s travels in the ACCO.

Charlie believes that to have so little repairs over such a long period is a testament to Dennis’ careful driving ability as ‘a true gentleman owner driver’.

In recent years, Dennis has adapted his fruit run to reduce his time on the road, and he focusses his time supplying locals in the Darling Downs, and as far as Nanango and Tansy.

The familiar rumble of the ACCO truck as it delivers his produce is a welcome sound for all his happy customers and it is clear to see the satisfaction he has at the wheel of this steady and reliable machine.

Cattarin’s Mechanical Repairs in nearby Stanthorpe, have been servicing the truck since 2009, beginning with new hone cylinders and the fitting of replacement pistons and rings.

At the next service, new con-rod bearings, injector nozzles and lift pump were fitted.

By 2016, a full engine rebuild was in order, along with several major works. These included the repair of the injector pump, dipper switch wiring, and replacement of the two-speed differential motor.

Surprisingly, the (No.3) Eaton differential was like brand new.

In addition, the fuel pipes were manufactured and fitted, and the team undertook routine repairs on the alternator, starter and glow plug wiring, brake vacuum hose, and most importantly, a new horn was fitted!

While the International ACCO remains essential to his livelihood, Dennis is keen to pay tribute to the good work of each of the mechanics who have had a role in its longevity and thank them for their efforts.

It’s outstanding that despite clocking up 3.8 million kilometres over the last 50 years, this Butterbox International ACCO has never had a major breakdown.

Mechanics who have worked on the vehicle are consistently impressed by its excellent condition.

Notably, the brake linings at the rear are 44 years old; and the 32-year-old clutch plate only had to be replaced due to cracks around the springs in the centre.

Similarly, the gear box, (with original end bearings) has been described as ‘unbelievably tidy, with mechanics claiming that they can’t feel any friction in the tail shaft.

The attention and care Dennis has shown to his truck is second to none, and this is confirmed in the comments of admiration that come from the mechanics who have worked on the truck over the years.

Current mechanic John Cattarin is confident when he says, “the truck will do another 30 years of work without any trouble”.