In a private audience, His Majesty, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj, talks to Asian Trucker about the truck that has made headlines all over the world: a one of a kind Mack.
What we knew about the truck was that it had been built in Australia, is the world’s most expensive truck and a vehicle that has been highly customised. Upon arrival in Malaysia, the truck was on public display as it would be forming part of a convoy that would tour Johor in an annual event organized by His Majesty. We have had the chance to not only see the truck for an exclusive photo shoot, but also conducted an exclusive interview with the royal owner-driver.
Driving out of the garage, the Mack truck doesn’t seem to end. Based on a Super- Liner, the chassis has been extended to fit the intended purpose. With a stunning custom paint job and lots of technical features, such as Playstation and TVs on board, this truck surely is a show stopper. For a smoother appearance, the fifth wheel is covered when the truck isn’t put to work by pulling the speedboats of His Majesty. There are fixtures that allow for umbrellas (parasols) to cover the area behind the cabin and there is plenty of space to put some deck chairs, making the vehicle also a viewing platform at regattas.
Inside we will find not only lush interior, but also practical items such as a kitchenette and even a tissue holder – something that cannot be missed in any vehicle on Malaysia’s roads. A ardrobe ensures that clothing is stored wrinkle free and the leather upholstered and airsuspended seats for driver and co-driver offer a lot of comfort.
During our interview with His Majesty, he revealed that he had been a fan of trucks since young. “My father owned a logging company. As we used to own a lot of timber trucks, every time I saw a truck in the workshop, I would pinch one and drive it.” His Majesty holds a valid licence for commercial vehicles and he was driving the “Tiger” Mack himself during the convoy across Johor. Going for a regatta, he will tow his own boat, saying that “Reversing is also no problem for me. I have always had a passion for trucks.” Besides trucks, His Majesty also enjoys piloting heavy machinery. The only vehicle that he hasn’t been moving was, according to him, a submarine.
When His Majesty was asked about the truck of choice being a Mack, the answer may come to some as a surprise. “I have a friend in Australia, whose name is Linfox. And he introduced me to Mack.” This is how it all started. Meanwhile, Mack has taken the opportunity to use this order to generate a lot of publicity as well, which is understandable. Also, His Majesty said that he liked the shape of the Mack truck.
The equipment found on board was recommended by the manufacturer, while the task given by the Sultan of Johor was seemingly simple: “Build me a royal truck”. In order to get all the finer details agreed upon, there have been many meetings. However, His Majesty is extremely well versed when it comes to engineering and is able to guide suppliers when it comes to the specification requirements. “The Mack people went to the extend to view some other vehicles that I own in order to match the colours. For example, some of my speed boats feature the same colour scheme as the truck and the same design patterns,” he explained. This way, the boats and the trucks look like twins. Generators make the truck suitable for overnight stays, power the entertainment system and amenities, such as fridges and DVD players on board. While other media has bestowed a few different names onto the truck, His Majesty simply wants to call his creation “The Royal Machine”. A fitting name for a unique example of a truck like this.
What was the intended purpose of the truck? His Majesty originally wanted to pull his cigarette boats when going for races. He may have rethought that as he told us that “I don’t think I want to pull boats with the truck. It has turned out too nice!” Cigarette boats, dating from the 1960s, owe much of their design to boats designed for offshore powerboat racing. The Volvo Group will be very happy to see three more of their trucks being ordered by His Majesty to be handling the towing of these boats in the future. In order to accommodate the driving style of this royal owner, the suspension was detuned a bit to soften it while the transmission was adjusted. The shifting program was amended in order to match the driving style of the driver. This was done by having a Mack engineer riding along with the Sultan while being plugged into the on board computer, making adjustments. Also, torque was tuned to the liking of His Majesty’s style. “Hopefully, I can take the truck up on long distance trips, maybe even up to Thailand?”
Seeing that Mack trucks are not sold as regular vehicles in Malaysia, we wanted to know what the service agreement is like in order to ensure the truck is always ready to roll. As the engine is a Volvo power plant, Volvo Trucks may be able to help in case needed, as the company has an existing service network. For anything else, Mack has a team of engineers on stand-by to fly into Malaysia should something go wrong. During the tour of Johor, three technicians went along to react to any issues arising.
Addressing issues around drivers and perceptions of the profession, His Majesty also commented on errant behaviour of operators. He urged the industry to adhere to the rules and regulations that are prevailing in the country and to ensure that everyone is safe. “However, we also need to do a lot more for our truckers.Look at the European way. Here, we still need to provide proper places for the drivers to rest. Not just stop. There need to be places where they can eat, take a bath, sleep and have social interactions. Proper truck stops.” In his view, such facilities also need to include water supply and access to electricity. His Majesty also commented on the use of trucks that are too old. In order to grow the industry and to make it attractive, his opinion is that there should be a trucking school, a place where not only driving is taught, but proper behaviour and the knowledge to handle cross border transport and documentation.
What is next? His Majesty has a clear vision. He revealed to us that “I am now looking for omeone to build me a luxury motorhome that I can tow. It needs to be a house that I can drive around with.”