Chris Pen­fold’s award-win­ning 1998 In­ter­na­tional Transtar holds great sen­ti­men­tal value for the long-time owner driver, writes Steve Skin­ner

Deals on Wheels - - Used Truck Review -

Not many truck­ies get to op­er­ate the same truck their fa­ther drove. Chris Pen­fold is one of those, so need­less to say he is ex­tremely proud of his hard-work­ing steed, and it shows.

Chris and his 1998 In­ter­na­tional Transtar won in the Best Owner-Driver cat­e­gory at this year’s Pen­rith Work­ing Truck Show in NSW.

Help­ing out with the pol­ish­ing du­ties was Chris’s 16-year-old son Hay­den, who is shap­ing up as the third gen­er­a­tion of Pen­folds to drive this im­pres­sive rig.

Hay­den is an ap­pren­tice diesel me­chanic in the pair’s home re­gion of New­cas­tle, and Chris reck­ons be­com­ing an owner driver “is all he wants to do” one day.

Hay­den was driv­ing around Australia in trucks with Chris as a tod­dler, and his two older sis­ters also en­joyed plenty of road trips with their Dad when they were younger.


The Transtar 4700 has a 12.7-litre Detroit rated at 500hp (368kW), with an 18-speed Road­ranger of course. It’s clocked up around 2 mil­lion kilo­me­tres all around Australia, with a re­build at the 1.1 mil­lion km mark. The Transtar was orig­i­nally op­er­ated by Chris’s fa­ther and life­time truckie Den­nis, who bought it sec­ond-hand in 2004.

Chris’s mother Judy of­ten trav­elled with Den­nis, and ev­i­dence of that is a retro­fit­ted hand-grip rail on the pas­sen­ger side of the truck. Den­nis put that in af­ter Judy fell out of the truck in Cairns and broke her back.

Chris bought the truck from his par­ents in 2010, and re­tained the D&J Trans­port com­pany name.

He carts steel, gen­eral freight and pal­lets with his own 24-space, 47-foot 1980 Frue­hauf trailer.

He’s plan­ning to up­grade to a newer trailer with air bag sus­pen­sion, Al­coa rims and three-way pins for con­tainer cartage.


The Transtar is B-dou­ble rated, but Chris says he hardly ever uses that rating.

“I’ve al­ways had the opin­ion that B-dou­bles are the thing that killed us re­ally,” he laments.

“If you’ve got the job to do it, es­pe­cially run­ning west across to Ade­laide or Perth or if you’re

run­ning right up north and you’ve got the freight for it com­ing back, by all means.

“But 90 per cent of the work I do is sin­gle. A B-dou­ble is a pain in the arse for me, un­hook­ing, re-hook­ing, watch­ing where you go, all your lim­its, all the bull­shit.

“You’re run­ning 12 ex­tra tyres and six ex­tra brakes; you’re get­ting 4 to 500,000 kilo­me­tres out of a re­build as op­posed to 6,8, a mil­lion kilo­me­tres out of it; and then you’re down on fuel.

“You’re pulling the guts out of the truck, you’re wear­ing the truck out. There’s so much more you have to fac­tor in cost-wise with a B-dou­ble … I think that you’re pulling that front trailer around for free.”

Chris says he tries to achieve about $2.50 a kilo­me­tre for his truck and trailer, with him­self as the driver – and that’s both ways, or at least to where he’s pick­ing up the next load. He shakes his head at the ridicu­lous un­der­cut­ting and back­load rates which are go­ing on out there.

“What­ever gets thrown at me, I put a price on it, and if I win it I win it, if I don’t I don’t,” says

Chris philo­soph­i­cally. “If I don’t win that job and some­one takes it off me, best of Bri­tish luck to them.

“I own the gear so I’m not com­pelled to be out ev­ery night of the week to pay a truck off.”

Chris saves a lot of money by do­ing “90 per cent” of the truck’s main­te­nance with Hay­den, in­clud­ing bear­ings, brake lin­ings and tyre ro­ta­tions.

“He’s been my grease mon­key since he was about six years old, and my span­ner man.”


“It’s beau­ti­ful to drive,” says Chris of his truck. “It steers as good as an old W model (Ken­worth) or Her­itage Western Star. To this day the doors don’t rat­tle; noth­ing squeaks or bangs. The KAB seat is the orig­i­nal. It pulls re­ally well,” Chris adds. “I can keep up with trucks that are 550 horse­power no prob­lem at all.”

But with no vents and just a small fan in the bunk, Chris plans to fork out about $6,000 for an air con­di­tioner be­fore next sum­mer.

He plans to keep re­build­ing the old In­ter “whileever she doesn’t rust out” – and with a gal­vanised cab, that could be a while.

B-dou­bles are the thing that killed us re­ally.

1. Stylish worker: Chris

Pen­fold’s Transtar.

2. Fa­ther and son at the Pen­rith Truck Show: Chris and Hay­den Pen­fold.

3. A lot of pol­ish has gone into those guards for the Pen­rith Truck Show.

4. Lots of wood in­side the cab. 5. A trib­ute to Chris’s Mum

Judy. 5




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