It’s early. After driving through fog carpeted rural communities, I make my way through the gates, hoping to find someone selling coffee. I pause and take in the view of the showground. Dew laden trucks of all vintages, a few jacketed historic machine operators trying to kick over machines that were produced before they were, a single couple weaving between the trucks, pointing out features that have long been omitted from the manufacturers’ option list.
I pass a closed up coffee vending trailer on the way to 1951 Kenworth, freshly imported from the States. To my younger eyes, the Luberfiner oil filter looks like a small external air cleaner has somehow slid down the side of the cab. I make my way through the lineup, glad I got here so early, I have all these trucks to myself. Past K120 cabovers in their original paintjobs, a pair of Gold Nugget W models, a 1965 model with full Intermodal signwriting, a watch and logbook sitting on the dash, as if the owner drove here after work last night and parked it.
I hear a rumble in the distance, of engines long since discontinued, making their way closer. There is a stirring as those truck owners who braved the cold of the night before start emerging from their swag cocoons. I wasn’t even going to come today, after a busy week I had written the idea off altogether. However I had crossed paths with a few die hard Kenworth fans who made me feel like I would be missing if I was to not turn up. I am considering this when I hear a half awake Chappo remark ‘you’re here early Ian, would you like a coffee’? This day is getting better and better.
Caffeined up, I set out amongst the other makes, and out the corner of my eye I see an SAR in TNT colours making it’s way to it’s spot. I think little of it though, a White Mustang catching my attention with it’s narrow bonnet contrasting it’s massive pumped front guards. I strike up a conversation with two earlybirds, talking about a B-series Mack with a chrome front on it, and the conversation just flows. The way it does when likeminded people engage each other, just a few historic truck buffs talking of times gone by. And I am glad for the experience.
I cross back to the ‘Kenworth Corral’, to see if there is anything interesting amongst the newcomers. Bleary eyed owners climb carefully down from trucks designed well before the idea of OH&S was around. Working trucks, their front panels looking sand blasted, side by side with trucks that look like they have never turned a wheel since leaving Bayswater, St Peters, where ever they were built. I find the TNT SAR again, and it helps me to conclude why I, and a few of the others, are here.
It’s in exactly the same condition it’s been in for years. Mold adorns it’s windscreen and the paintjob on the bonnet. Wooden planks, masquerading as steps on the hydraulic tank, sag with moisture and age. Coolant dribbles down the front spring hanger, made visible by the lack of a bumper. I gingerly climb up the steps, worried as to the strength of the mountings, noting the straight interior, albeit covered in cobwebs and dust. I take in the whole idea of this truck. In 1976 it rolled off the factory floor, a TNT fleet truck, with 7 inch headlights and a 24 volt electrical system, making it unique amongst the trucks of it’s time. Since then it’s done a lot of miles, it’s has another company’s name written on the door. I bet it would have some stories to tell too. I take picture after picture of it, mesmerised by the truck and what it means.
At first glance there are a few things wrong with this truck. Once up close and thinking about it though, this truck feels right. This old barn find, covered in mold and cobwebs, was this morning moving under it’s own power into the place where it sits now. Its old, looking tired, but it works, a lot like a few of the owners of these trucks. This truck embodies the spirit of Kenworth, the reason so many people are here today. It’s rough and tough, fixable with a shifter and some fencing wire. No ABS, No EBS, no ergonomically designed drivers seat. It offers no pretence. This truck is real. And it makes me real glad I came.