Mac's Trucks, The Driving Force Behind A New Hope
While we can’t boast making the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, Mac’s Transport Northern Ltd was entrusted with the safe transportation of something more valuable than the Death Star plans – the original set pieces and props for Star Wars IV: A New Hope . Owner, Alec McDade was elated to land the contract at that time, “we had quite a large contract with a company down in London, who knew of a film production company that required some transport vehicles. We had a lot of drawbar trailers and it seemed a fantastic opportunity. For a 7 week cycle the pay was very good, how could I say no? Even though we didn't know how big the movie would be at the time, it was all very exciting.”
Alec’s and his 14-year-old daughter, Tanya, along with a host of drivers drove a fleet of five Bedford trucks from Tingley, West Yorkshire all the way to Tunisia where principal photography and subsequent filming took place – a journey that would clock up almost 2,000 miles each way, crossing 4 countries and two different oceans.
On today’s roads it would take approximately 51 hours (non-stop). “We drove all the way from Tingley to Toza; first down to Dover and then catching the ferry across to France, through both France and Italy, down to Genoa. There we would cross the sea to Tunisia and then down to Toza, situated just above the Sahara Desert. We surprisingly didn’t have any issues, well, there were two pretty big sandstorms. You literally couldn’t see the road in front of you, it stopped us right in our tracks. We just had to pull it over and wait it out.” Thankfully, they weren’t attacked by Tuskan Raiders or Jawas while they were stranded.
The arid and rocky terrain of the Tunisian desert didn’t prove too much of any issue for the old Bedford trucks, despite their heavy payloads, “they were used to carrying heavy furniture, the props weren’t much different” said Alec. Fans of the film will recognise this location as the barren wastelands that formed the backdrop for Tatooine, home world to Luke Skywalker. For a land that is normally traversed by the likes of Sandcrawlers and Luke’s Landspeeder, the Bedford’s held up surprisingly well.
The land served as the perfect backdrop for space like world, Alec said, “I remember we were waiting to be offloaded, apart from the crew - all you could see was sand in every direction. Within a few hours, a mountain range appeared seemingly out of nowhere. We were told it was a mirage. It was easy to see why the location had been picked for another planet, the sprawling sand and imaginary rocky horizon.” After two and a half weeks of filming in Tunisia, the cast and crew moved to the more controlled environment of Elstree Studios, near London.
40 years on, it is fantastic to think that Mac's Trucks, though we didn't know it at the time - would make up a small segment of such a prolifc aspect of pop culture in modern soceity. JJ Abrams, if you need any help with Episode IX, we'll exchange our services for spoilers?