THE cab-over Kenworth has been a mainstay on Australia's highways for almost 50 years, from the earliest Australian K125s built at Bayswater in the early 1970s through to the K200 model of today, with many older K-series models still earning their keep or being retired and restored as show vehicles.
Kenworth enthusiast Don MacLean, of Wagga, recently had a chat with Big Rigs at the Oaklands Truck Show, where his restored 1979 K123 was on display to show goers.
Don's Kenworth was initially built for Finemores Transport of Wagga, and painted in the distinctive red and white fleet colours.
"They didn't take it so it was sent back to Melbourne and bought by an operator in Shepparton. It was run in the red and white colours before it was in an accident and then repainted in the brown and gold,” Don said.
The truck pulled a flat top trailer, doing a lot of running between Melbourne and Shepparton with an occasional trip to Sydney and Brisbane. Don purchased the truck eight years ago and with a little bit of work it has been returned to its original factory specification.
"I put in a nine-speed gearbox which it had in it originally, I put another Detroit '92 in it as the old one had detonated at 1.8million kilometres - this 1979 model was the last one built for Finemores with a GM-Detroit power plant,” he said.
Having worked for Finemores for almost two decades, and with this model one of the first trucks he drove, Don has always had a passion for the Kenworth and Detroit brand, and was on the lookout for a truck to restore.
He takes up the story: "My brother (Neil) found it on eBay and we got it home eight years ago, but it took me a couple of years to get into restoring it.
"I drove a mate's SAR home from the Rosewood Truck Show and it had a '92 in it so that gave me a buzz to get to work on mine and the next week I had the motor out of it and the other one ready to go in it and away we went.”
The truck was overhauled with the replacement of hoses and fittings along with the engine and gearbox transplants but beyond that is in original condition with Don keen to do a few more little jobs.
"There's still a little bit more I want to do to it - I'd like to tidy the paint up a bit but I want to keep it original without modifying it too much.”
Don and the Kenworth were making their first visit to Oaklands but are regulars on the truck show circuit, having been to the Kenworth Klassic at Clarendon, along with shows at Harden and Gundagai in New South Wales and the Castlemaine Truck Show in Victoria.
The Kenworth also gets a run each September at the Riverina Convoy for Kids in Wagga.
Along the way the truck has picked up a few awards including the People's Choice award at Gundagai earlier this year, and Don enjoys meeting people who want to check out the truck and its history.
"There were a lot of '92s on the road in that era, at truck shows people want to ask about the history of the truck and have a chat,” he said.
He usually pulls his brother's fridge van behind it to shows but ran it bobtail for the relatively short run to Oaklands from Wagga.
"She's a bit rough with the old Hendrickson walking beam but I poke along about 85km/h and it's not too bad.”
Don has another Kenworth project on the go at home, restoring a 1986 model SAR.
"It's also an original spec truck, with a 3406 Cat, 15-speed direct Road Ranger and 3:2 diffs so she's pretty quick,” he said with a grin.
"Still got a bit of work to do on it though.”
For now, Don enjoys getting the 39-year old Kenworth out for a blast.
"With the Finemore spec with the air starter and Jake brakes she makes a bit of a racket but she starts up and idles away nicely - there's hopefully a few good miles left in her yet,” he said.
"I love getting out and about with it - at the end of the day it's all worth it, especially if you take a trophy home.”