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WA ingenuity: The big, beautiful, expensive engine that could

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Recently I caught up with a big, beautiful and expensive old lady.

She never did what she was supposed to do, but she is a true Pilbara legend and I love her.

We first met around 40 years ago. Even then she was big, but she had been badly treated, discarded and really was a sad case.

At the time, Rhodes Ridley was the biggest road truck in the southern hemisphere.

But after a very expensive and complete makeover, she is back.

Her name? Rhodes Ridley.

Her claim to fame? When built, she was the biggest road truck in the southern hemisphere.

Now I am not normally a truckie kinda guy, but this one’s unique and epitomises all that was once good and adventurous in our great state.

She was designed, built and financed in WA and because nowhere else was big enough. She could only operate in the mighty Pilbara up in the north west of our state.

Way back in her heyday, the towns of Karratha, Dampier, Wickham, South Hedland, Tom Price, Paraburdoo, Newman, Shay Gap and Goldsworthy did not exist, nor did the iron ore or gas industries.

What Pilbara mines there were, produced gold, tin, asbestos and manganese and it was all exported through Port Sampson and Port Hedland.

Post war reconstruction was driving up manganese prices making it an attractive business to be in, but because the mines were 400k from these ports and along roads best described as bush tracks, the small trucks of the day did not last long and costs were skyrocketing.

How to reduce these costs and improve reliability were critical issues for the late Don Rhodes and his workshop manager Harold Ridley so, in a brilliantly innovative way, they just decided to design
and build their own giant truck at DFD Rhodes’ yard in Welshpool.

The man who initiated the design and then built the biggest road truck the southern half of this
planet had ever........

© The Sydney Morning Herald