BACK TO be­fore

Deals on Wheels - - Truck Technology -

When the first is­sue of Deals on Wheels’ sis­ter ti­tle Owner//Driver hit the truck stops and news­stands of Aus­tralia in 1992, trucks might have looked much the same as they do now but as any­one who’s been around a while will know, things aren’t what they were. Not by a long shot. Cel­e­brat­ing Owner//Driver’s 25th an­niver­sary, Steve Brooks backs up a bit

It’s a quar­ter of a cen­tury since Owner//Driver came into ex­is­tence and that, in it­self, is a huge achieve­ment. Pub­lish­ing truck mag­a­zines, much like the truck busi­ness it­self, is a tough en­ter­prise full of fierce com­pe­ti­tion driven by the end­less pur­suits of profit and mar­ket might.

As in most un­der­tak­ings, though, sur­vival and suc­cess are ul­ti­mately de­ter­mined by pas­sion, ex­pe­ri­ence and ser­vice. In ef­fect, giv­ing cus­tomers what they need and want. Any­way, af­ter al­most 40 years writ­ing about trucks and road trans­port, the worst thing for me about a stroll down mem­ory lane is that the lane nowa­days stretches a fear­fully long way.

Yet while some may rue the end­less pas­sage of progress, the pace of change was well and truly on the boil by the time Owner//

Driver first ap­peared in 1992. The old ways were dis­ap­pear­ing fast and across the board, Aus­tralian in­dus­try was haul­ing it­self out of the so-called ‘re­ces­sion we had to have’ and into a slow but cer­tain pe­riod of eco­nomic growth. Even the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis 15 years later would prove to be lit­tle more than a speed bump on the Aus­tralian truck­ing land­scape.

Whether by good plan­ning or sim­ply good for­tune, the tim­ing of Owner//Driver’s first is­sue was op­por­tune as eco­nomic growth drove in­creas­ingly strong de­mand for road trans­port and, of course, trucks. The rush was on! Af­ter the hia­tus and hard­ships of the pre­vi­ous few years, truck and com­po­nent sup­pli­ers were pumped and primed to make the most of bet­ter times, though some were quicker out of the blocks than oth­ers.

Heavy-duty spe­cial­ist Kenworth cer­tainly wasn’t caught nap­ping and in the same year as Owner//

Driver came into be­ing so, too, did the much ad­mired and proudly home-grown T950 make its de­but, ar­riv­ing al­most two years af­ter the launch of the orig­i­nal T900.

Clas­sics in the mak­ing, the T900 and T950 would not, how­ever, be Kenworth’s great­est ini­tia­tive of the era. That ti­tle would emerge from the ar­rival of Cat’s C12 en­gine and Kenworth’s sub­se­quent abil­ity to take its ‘baby’ T4 model and cre­ate an en­tirely new platform which would be­come the most di­verse and suc­cess­ful model range in the brand’s Aus­tralian his­tory. There’s no ques­tion the foun­da­tions of the heavy-duty mar­ket lead­er­ship Kenworth con­tin­ues to en­joy to­day were in large part cast through­out the ’90s, driven by clever en­gi­neer­ing and an un­com­pro­mis­ingly strong and sta­ble man­age­ment cul­ture.

It was also in the ’90s, 1998 to be ex­act, that Kenworth par­ent Pac­car added an­other string to the Aus­tralian bow with the in­tro­duc­tion of the DAF brand. With an un­en­vi­able pre-Pac­car

his­tory in this coun­try, DAF has been a hard sell in a mar­ket rid­dled with strong Euro­pean brands. None­the­less, more than 4000 of the Dutch trucks have now been sold into Aus­tralia since join­ing the Pac­car port­fo­lio and, de­spite as­ser­tions of be­ing Kenworth’s poor cousin, the brand has be­come an in­creas­ingly valu­able con­trib­u­tor to the Pac­car purse.


No­body’s poor cousin is Isuzu. Suc­cess came early and by 1992 the Ja­panese maker was al­ready look­ing at close to five con­sec­u­tive years as the num­ber-one truck sup­plier in the coun­try. To­day it’s eye­ing 30 straight years at the top, which is no mean feat in a mar­ket as fiercely com­pet­i­tive as ours.

The rea­sons for such ex­tra­or­di­nary suc­cess were bla­tantly ap­par­ent from the start; trucks of ex­cep­tional dura­bil­ity, a prod­uct range con­stantly evolv­ing and ex­pand­ing to cover ev­ery pos­si­ble crevice in the light- and medium-duty cat­e­gories, and by no means least in those early days, the dis­tri­bu­tion af­forded by the Holden dealer net­work.

The same plat­forms still drive the brand to­day but with one mas­sive dif­fer­ence. Back in ’92, Isuzu’s Aus­tralian op­er­a­tion was part of an en­tity called Isuzu-Gen­eral Mo­tors but, by 2005, with the Ja­panese par­ent grad­u­ally drag­ging it­self out of an eco­nomic abyss in which ex­tinc­tion had been a very real pos­si­bil­ity, Isuzu parted from its Amer­i­can ally.

On the lo­cal front, this led to the for­ma­tion of Isuzu Aus­tralia Ltd and from here on Isuzu has been the ab­so­lute mas­ter of its own destiny. And the destiny, it seems, is to re­main Aus­tralia’s top truck sup­plier for­ever and a day.

Still, Isuzu hasn’t had things all its own way and there have cer­tainly been com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als keen to knock the mar­ket leader off its perch. None more than Hino and never more than when the brand’s Aus­tralian op­er­a­tion was run by a wily, mer­cu­rial and of­ten er­ratic in­di­vid­ual named Roger Hall. Like him or loathe him – and there were plenty on both sides of the fence – ‘the Dodger’ had a pas­sion for the Hino brand which could some­times ap­pear fa­nat­i­cal.

By hook or by crook, what­ever it took, Roger Hall’s goal in life ap­peared to be noth­ing less than snatch­ing the top gong from Isuzu’s grip, and sev­eral times he came close. Very close. Closer than any­one be­fore or since.

Hino is, of course, part of the gar­gan­tuan

Toy­ota em­pire and it was per­haps in­evitable that Hall’s unique busi­ness an­tics and man­age­ment meth­ods would one day go un­der the mi­cro­scope and, ul­ti­mately, never be seen again

as Toy­ota prin­ci­pals in­stalled more com­pli­ant ex­ec­u­tives with a greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion for cor­po­rate sys­tems and sen­si­tiv­i­ties. These days, Hino hangs tena­ciously to its hard-won sec­ond spot in the over­all rank­ings of Aus­tralia’s truck sup­pli­ers, seem­ingly se­cure and sat­is­fied in its place as the peren­nial brides­maid.

The other big player from Ja­pan which un­der­went a mas­sive swing through­out the

’90s and be­yond was Fuso. For­merly known only as Mit­subishi, by the end of the ’90s it was be­ing touted as a Volvo ac­qui­si­tion un­til Daim­ler stepped in and took con­trol, form­ing in 2003 the Mit­subishi Fuso Truck and Bus Cor­po­ra­tion. Yet other than the supremely suc­cess­ful ‘not-sosqueezy’ cam­paign for its en­dur­ing Can­ter light­duty truck, Fuso has been some­thing of a silent part­ner in the Daim­ler con­glom­er­ate.

How­ever, the Ja­panese brand to­day shines bright on the radar, no­tably as the epi­cen­tre of Daim­ler’s push into a rev­o­lu­tion­ary era of elec­tri­cally driven trucks, com­plete with a new brand called E-Fuso spear­headed by the e-Can­ter light truck and, most ex­cit­ing of all, the ‘Vi­sion One’ medium-duty model. On the lo­cal front,

Fuso has cer­tainly been the rock for Daim­ler’s truck busi­ness in Aus­tralia. In fact, with­out

Fuso, Daim­ler’s over­all truck num­bers would be sig­nif­i­cantly less than they al­ready are.

Take Freight­liner, for in­stance, a brand which has promised so much yet in many ways, de­liv­ered so lit­tle. Freight­liner came to Aus­tralia on the back of the amaz­ingly durable FLC112 model. A con­sid­er­able pres­ence was forged through­out the ’90s, aided by a cou­ple of smaller heavy-duty mod­els and an aged FLB cab-over which at least added to the brand’s col­lec­tive vol­ume.

Then, late in the back half of the ’90s, a new era ex­ploded onto the Aus­tralian mar­ket with the launch of the slick Cen­tury Class con­ven­tional and its cab-over sta­ble­mate, Ar­gosy.

It would be a big fib to say this new Freight­liner fam­ily didn’t have the com­pe­ti­tion wor­ried, par­tic­u­larly Kenworth. The po­ten­tial was tremen­dous, es­pe­cially for the in­spir­ing Ar­gosy, a cab-over which for many years made Kenworth’s K-se­ries ap­pear ar­chaic in com­par­i­son.

Un­for­tu­nately, re­al­ity never quite matched the po­ten­tial due mainly to a suc­ces­sion of dura­bil­ity is­sues which pro­gres­sively bat­tered the brand’s rep­u­ta­tion to the point where Freight­liner to­day ac­counts for just 4 per cent or there­abouts of the heavy-duty sec­tor. Right now, Freight­liner’s best hopes rest with greater up­take of the well-cre­den­tialed Coron­ado 114 model and, in an­other few years, the lo­cal in­tro­duc­tion of the Cas­ca­dia con­ven­tional that cur­rently dom­i­nates the US heavy-duty mar­ket.

As for Ar­gosy, it is to­day a bet­ter truck than ever be­fore but with cab-overs about as pop­u­lar as square tyres in the US mar­ket, the model’s fu­ture de­vel­op­ment and ul­ti­mate sur­vival re­main highly un­cer­tain be­yond the next cou­ple of years.

Still, no story on Daim­ler’s last few decades would be com­plete with­out some ref­er­ence to

Even the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis … would prove to be lit­tle more than a speed bump.

the Ster­ling brand and on a broader scale, the so-called ‘merger of equals’ which led to the com­pany called Daim­lerChrysler.

When Freight­liner (Daim­ler) bought Ford’s heavy truck busi­ness in 1997, two things hap­pened: the clas­sic Louisville name dis­ap­peared and the Ster­ling brand was born. Ford had al­ready launched its HN80 suc­ces­sor to the ubiq­ui­tous Louisville and it was from this platform – mi­nus the Louisville name which Ford re­fused to part with – that Ster­ling emerged.

In dura­bil­ity terms, Ster­ling cer­tainly had its early is­sues but while en­gi­neer­ing evo­lu­tion many times ap­peared to move at snail’s pace, over the fol­low­ing decade the prod­uct im­proved markedly. Then, late in 2008, with the brand do­ing re­spectable busi­ness in the US and here, a strange thing hap­pened. Daim­ler Trucks North Amer­ica (DTNA) dumped Ster­ling al­to­gether

“to con­sol­i­date man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions with Freight­liner and Western Star”.

Many pun­dits sug­gested DTNA would’ve been bet­ter served by dump­ing the low-vol­ume Western Star brand but, as for­mer DTNA chief Martin Daum con­ceded in an in­ter­view, there was far more to be gained (and saved) by slic­ing Ster­ling from the fold rather than Western Star.

As for Daim­lerChrysler, prob­a­bly the only thing re­motely equal in this al­leged ‘merger of equals’ was the ex­penses of the ex­ec­u­tives run­ning each brand. For­tu­nately, san­ity even­tu­ally pre­vailed and Daim­lerChrysler was no more.

How­ever, the good news for Daim­ler Trucks these days is its star brand, Mercedes-Benz. There’s lit­tle value in re­call­ing the dis­mal his­tory of the orig­i­nal Ac­tros range be­yond say­ing it did more to dim the star than any­thing ever be­fore it.

Af­ter a decade of dilem­mas and with its rep­u­ta­tion in tat­ters, Benz needed some­thing spec­tac­u­lar to turn its Aus­tralian for­tunes around and so far, that ap­pears to be the case fol­low­ing the launch lit­tle more than a year ago of an en­tirely new fam­ily of trucks. There’s still a long way to go but, from all ap­pear­ances, Benz is back. Big time!


Like Daim­ler, Volvo Group Aus­tralia also boasts trucks with Euro­pean, Amer­i­can and Ja­panese her­itage – Volvo, Mack, UD – and while each had its own his­tory long be­fore be­com­ing part of the cor­po­rate tri­umvi­rate, each has also evolved dra­mat­i­cally un­der the group ban­ner.

In the eyes of many, UD has al­ways been the best Ja­panese heavy-duty truck on the Aus­tralian mar­ket and that opin­ion has only in­ten­si­fied since Volvo’s 2007 pur­chase of the brand from Nissan Diesel. Even so, UD’s early CK and CWA mod­els at least showed the Ja­panese maker knew what it took to build a heavy-duty truck ca­pa­ble of meet­ing Aus­tralian needs and ex­pec­ta­tions.

Fast for­ward to the present and the lat­est Quon is un­ques­tion­ably a far cry from its pre­de­ces­sors, yet in many es­ti­ma­tions is eas­ily the best Ja­panese truck for prime mover roles, es­pe­cially

The ail­ing dog would to­day be dead and buried if Volvo had not stepped in

with Volvo’s in­put into so many ar­eas of the truck’s de­sign.

As for Volvo’s pur­chase in 2000 of the iconic Mack brand, it’s hard to think of two more cul­tur­ally dis­parate en­ti­ties than the Swede and the Yank. Those in­her­ent dif­fer­ences were bla­tantly ev­i­dent dur­ing the dif­fi­cult and com­plex in­te­gra­tion of the bull­dog breed into the Swedish sys­tem. The thing is, though, de­spite Mack’s long her­itage and what some might see as a glo­ri­ous past, the ail­ing dog would to­day be dead and buried if Volvo had not stepped in and bought Re­nault’s trou­bled truck busi­ness which then in­cluded Mack.

In prod­uct terms, Volvo’s plans for Mack were rel­a­tively sim­ple: Mack’s Aus­tralian pro­duc­tion was moved into Volvo’s Wa­col (Bris­bane) truck plant, pro­duc­ing and sell­ing con­ven­tional mod­els only, leav­ing Volvo and, to a lesser ex­tent UD (pur­pose­fully lim­ited to an 11-litre en­gine to avoid clash­ing with Volvo’s pop­u­lar 13-litre FM model), to tackle the cab-over busi­ness. There are those who say Mack is to­day noth­ing like its fore­bears, and they’re right. How­ever, Mack to­day also pro­duces and sells more trucks than any time in its ‘glo­ri­ous past’.

As for Volvo, the jour­ney to the new mil­len­nium was not par­tic­u­larly smooth. Try as it might, a suc­ces­sion of prod­uct is­sues ham­strung the Swedish maker dur­ing the ’90s. Its ini­tial 16-litre en­gine, for ex­am­ple, was so un­re­li­able the Swedes stopped mak­ing it just as the B-dou­ble busi­ness in this coun­try started to build mo­men­tum. Then, keen to of­fer some­thing around 500hp for B-dou­ble du­ties, Volvo in­tro­duced a turbo-com­pound ver­sion of its 12-litre en­gine only to dis­cover it was ba­si­cally a boy on a man’s er­rand.

Any or­gan­i­sa­tion is only as good as the peo­ple driv­ing it.

Con­se­quently, strug­gling for some­thing to sat­isfy the big end of the busi­ness, Volvo in­tro­duced a 14-litre Cum­mins op­tion. Ex­ec­u­tives in Gothen­burg were prob­a­bly con­vuls­ing in hor­ror. What­ever, Cum­mins was never part of Volvo’s long-range plans and, with the ad­vent of a 13-litre en­gine and a new 16-litre de­sign along with smart FM and FH cabs – the lat­ter with a lo­cally de­signed en­larged sleeper – plus a string of in­no­va­tive tech­ni­cal ad­vances ul­ti­mately led by the I-shift au­to­mated trans­mis­sion, the new cen­tury brought a bold and boun­ti­ful fu­ture to Volvo’s Aus­tralian op­er­a­tion.

The crown­ing glory of Volvo’s as­cent was un­ques­tion­ably the ar­rival of the lat­est FH and FM mod­els a few years back. While the FH cur­rently lacks the big XXL sleeper cab of its pre­de­ces­sor, there can be no ques­tion that Volvo is on a roll like never be­fore. In fact, the col­lec­tive sales of Volvo, Mack and UD eas­ily make the group the biggest sup­plier of heavy-duty trucks to the Aus­tralian mar­ket.

Strangely per­haps, Volvo also fig­ures in the early his­tory of Western Star. In 1980, Volvo bought White Trucks but de­clined to buy its Cana­dian off­shoot, Western Star, which stag­gered along pre­car­i­ously un­til 1990 when it was bought on the cusp of col­lapse by busi­ness­man Terry Pe­abody. Over the next decade, Pe­abody turned the brand’s for­tunes around, with Star be­com­ing a se­ri­ous heavy-duty con­tender, par­tic­u­larly in Aus­tralia.

He did, how­ever, also do some odd things with the brand. In an ap­par­ent bid to cash in on B-dou­ble growth, Pe­abody pur­sued a cou­ple of Star-branded cab-overs based on ERF and DAF cabs and chas­sis, pow­ered by Cum­mins and Detroit Se­ries 60 en­gines re­spec­tively. They did not do well and, un­sur­pris­ingly, fell quickly into obliv­ion.

Later, in what was ob­vi­ously an of­fer too good to refuse con­sid­er­ing his warm re­gard for the brand he’d saved from ex­tinc­tion, in 2000 Pe­abody sold Western Star to Daim­ler. Yet in a move which still de­fies un­der­stand­ing, if not logic, Terry Pe­abody some­how con­vinced Daim­ler prin­ci­pals he should, for a rel­a­tively mod­est

$60 mil­lion or so, re­tain the brand’s Aus­tralian and New Zealand busi­ness.

Op­er­at­ing as a com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle off­shoot of Pe­abody’s ex­ten­sive Transpa­cific group, Western Star con­tin­ued to shine bright in our neck of the

woods, even af­ter he lost con­trol of Transpa­cific. By this time, Ger­many’s MAN and UK’s Dennis Ea­gle waste truck had also joined the busi­ness. Even so, the Transpa­cific board de­cided trucks weren’t its main game and in the back half of 2013 sold the com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle di­vi­sion to US mo­tor­ing mogul and bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man Roger Penske.

Penske’s record of com­mer­cial suc­cess is leg­endary yet un­der his own­er­ship Western Star sales in Aus­tralia have fallen dra­mat­i­cally, with pric­ing and prod­uct is­sues caus­ing the brand’s slide to less than half of what it was when

Penske took over.

On the other hand, MAN is to­day achiev­ing the great­est suc­cess of its che­quered Aus­tralian his­tory, due to some de­gree by a TGX D38 flag­ship which has sur­prised and im­pressed in equal mea­sure.

As for Dennis Ea­gle, it’s a waste spe­cial­ist which ranks only one rung from the bot­tom of the heavy-duty sales lad­der. In fact, only Cat cringes lower but that’s some­thing we’ll come to shortly.


The other Euro­pean brand with a che­quered his­tory in this coun­try over the past quar­ter cen­tury and more is ‘the other Swede’, Sca­nia. Rarely, if ever, com­ing close to the mar­ket strength of its Volvo coun­try­man, Sca­nia’s per­for­mance over the past 25 years or so is as much about peo­ple as it is about prod­uct. In fact, the prod­uct has largely been more pre­dictable than most of the peo­ple sent to Aus­tralia to guide the brand’s busi­ness.

For what­ever rea­son, Sca­nia’s Swedish mas­ters have his­tor­i­cally ap­pointed and re­placed more man­ag­ing di­rec­tors here than any other brand and, of course, each new MD came with a new agenda and a new for­mula for the fu­ture.

Sta­bil­ity, and in its wake greater mar­ket suc­cess than ever be­fore, fi­nally ar­rived when an ar­tic­u­late, com­mer­cially as­tute and pa­tient Pom named Roger Mc­Carthy ar­rived in 2009 to be­come the brand’s fourth man­ag­ing direc­tor in lit­tle more than two years.

Mc­Carthy, too, was re­cently re­placed but not be­fore build­ing the brand’s busi­ness over the past eight years to its best ever re­sults with a mix of mar­ket­ing guile and prod­uct ini­tia­tive.

Care­fully tar­get­ing niche mar­kets he also made Euro 6 some­thing of a Sca­nia ex­clu­sive long be­fore it will be re­quired on the Aus­tralian mar­ket.

Roger Mc­Carthy was, in ef­fect, ab­so­lute proof

that any or­gan­i­sa­tion is only as good as the peo­ple driv­ing it.

And that, per­haps, is an op­por­tune in­tro­duc­tion to ar­guably the most fas­ci­nat­ing and per­plex­ing story of the past 25 years: Iveco and its some­what tu­mul­tuous as­so­ci­a­tion with In­ter­na­tional.

It was 1992 when Iveco first took own­er­ship of the com­pany then known as In­ter­na­tional Trucks Aus­tralia.

From then on, only the en­dur­ing ACCO sur­vived the process of re­plac­ing stal­wart In­ter­na­tional mod­els with a mix of lo­cally as­sem­bled and fully im­ported Iveco trucks. Iveco’s heavy-duty prod­uct was not, how­ever, kick­ing enough goals and, with vi­a­bil­ity of the his­toric Dan­de­nong (Vic) fac­tory as mo­ti­va­tion, for­mer Iveco Aus­tralia boss Alain Ga­jnik en­gi­neered a new deal with the US for lo­cally as­sem­bled In­ter­na­tional mod­els.

With re­spectable sales of the 9200, 9900 and 7600 mod­els, ev­ery­thing ap­peared to be go­ing well un­til around 2010 when In­ter­na­tional par­ent Nav­is­tar did its du­bi­ous deal with Cat and, al­most overnight, the Iveco and In­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ship came to a shud­der­ing stop.

At the other end of the scale, though, Iveco is at least con­tin­u­ing to build a good busi­ness in the light end with its in­no­va­tive Daily range.

Mean­while, sales still re­main neg­li­gi­ble in

Iveco’s heavy league with the brand cur­rently strug­gling to cap­ture 5 per cent of the cat­e­gory.

Con­se­quently, with the Cat de­ba­cle dwin­dling to cer­tain death, the Iveco and In­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ship is again back on the books, this time fea­tur­ing the slip­pery ProS­tar model which formed the ba­sis for the Cat Trucks ex­er­cise.

Con­fused? Me too! It’s more than a year since the deal was an­nounced and only now come the first ten­ta­tive signs of In­ter­na­tional’s reemer­gence.

As for Cat, well, what’s left to say? Just as those loyal in­di­vid­u­als with yel­low blood were flum­moxed be­yond be­lief by Cat’s 2008 de­ci­sion to sud­denly quit the on-high­way en­gine busi­ness, so, too, have most peo­ple been dis­mayed by the de­ci­sion to walk away from the truck project af­ter so much ini­tial hype and hubris. In many es­ti­ma­tions, both the Cat truck and its lo­cal ad­vo­cates de­served bet­ter. Much bet­ter!

Still, maybe it’s best to look on the bright side. Af­ter all, when it comes to punch­ing out a high­qual­ity pub­li­ca­tion ev­ery month, the last 25 years cer­tainly haven’t been short of things to write about. Nor, I feel, will the next 25.

old-timers who grew misty eyed as they’d re­called the sound and feel of steer­ing a V8 Mack.

How­ever, I’m a bit young to have ever driven one in anger. I’d ad­mired clouds of diesel smoke erupt­ing from twin stacks and I’d de­lighted in the deep-throated slow-revving bop of the bull­dog 8 huff­ing and haul­ing. But I never had the chance to take one for a drive, un­til now.


Nick Rad­ford owns both trucks you see here, a 1981 Se­ries 1 Su­per­liner and a 1990 Value­liner. A child­hood spent hang­ing around the work­shop of the Rad­ford fam­ily’s Bro­ken Hill-based earth­mov­ing and trans­port busi­ness fed a de­sire for diesel dreams in an im­pres­sion­able young


“I was out in the yard when­ever I could as a kid,” Nick re­calls. “I used to like get­ting out there, wash­ing the trucks and talk­ing to the driv­ers.”

He smiles at the mem­ory. “I’d ride the pushy out there and an­noy the me­chan­ics. I liked Macks when I was younger, while they liked Ken­worths … it was like a Holden-Ford show­down.”

“I don’t think there were many trucks in Bro­ken Hill at the time with pol­ished tanks and bull­bars, but I’d go and pinch a packet of stee­los from un­der Mum’s sink and try and pol­ish a bull bar.”

It’s pretty clear that Nick was some­what truck ob­sessed as a kid. “If you asked my teachers, I was al­ways go­ing to drive a truck,” he says. “In art class, if they asked me to draw an ob­ject, it was a truck. If they asked me to draw some­thing made of steel, I’d draw a truck. If I had to draw some­thing or­ganic, I’d draw a truck in a for­est!”

Nat­u­rally, I had to ask what truck Nick drew back then. With a laugh he replies: “A Se­ries 2 Mack Su­per­liner!” Of course he did.


On leav­ing school, Nick went to work on the fam­ily sta­tion, how­ever drought saw him move back to town and work in the Rad­ford truck­ing and earth­mov­ing busi­ness.

Grow­ing up in big truck ter­ri­tory on the edge of the out­back was a hell of an ap­pren­tice­ship. But I did have to ask what drew him to truck­ing in the first place. Was it just the ma­chin­ery? Or was it life on the road?

“It was a bit of both, re­ally. I mean there was noth­ing bet­ter than be­ing at the wheel of a shiny red and white Su­per­liner,” Nick says. “But when I was younger I’d go out with the driv­ers if they were on a live­stock job, and on those back dirt roads you were the gate opener.

“I’d take my swag, tag along, talk shit. I’d help load sheep then come home again.”

While Nick’s fa­ther Gary had built the fam­ily’s earth­mov­ing and trans­port con­cerns into a size­able busi­ness, Nick still had to learn the ropes of out­back truck­ing along the way.

“The job en­tailed a bit of ev­ery­thing,” Nick says.

“Gas pipeline work, bulk ce­ment and live­stock, there was also the earth­mov­ing gear. There was a lot of va­ri­ety.”

These days, how­ever, Nick is based in the south east of South Aus­tralia and looks af­ter Rad­ford Pas­toral, a sprawl­ing 3720ha con­cern spread over three prop­er­ties in the Penola area. While Nick may spend the bulk of his time tend­ing to pas­ture and look­ing af­ter 4000 head of An­gus, he has never lost the truck­ing bug.

As a farmer now he re­flects that his truck­ing pas­sion re­ally is about the ma­chines them­selves: “Nowa­days it re­ally is just about the trucks. Ac­tu­ally, it’s more about the trucks that were king of the road back then.”

His pas­sion for old-school heavy metal has clearly been in­flu­enced by his fam­ily truck­ing her­itage. In fact, the trucks you see on these pages have been re­stored as a trib­ute to that his­tory.

His fa­ther Gary has a beau­ti­fully re­stored W model Kenworth at home in Bro­ken Hill, which has been painted in the orig­i­nal Rad­ford fleet colours. Nick has fol­lowed suit with these two Macks. “Dad’s W model is what gave me the bug, just see­ing it re­stored and in the old fleet colours.”


The Se­ries 1 Su­per­liner was the first of the two trucks pic­tured here to find its way into Nick’s pos­ses­sion. He’d seen the truck in Mil­dura a num­ber of times over the years, where it worked sea­son­ally dur­ing the grape har­vest.

“It’s got a mil­lion kays on the clock – though I’m not sure how ac­cu­rate that is. But we haven’t touched any of the driv­e­line.”

Back when Nick was a young fella work­ing out of Bro­ken Hill, his first big com­pany truck was an ’83 Se­ries 1 Su­per­liner.

“It did 85 kays an hour at 1900 revs but I thought I had it made,” he re­calls. “Dad said, ‘Have a go at this one, you shouldn’t tip it over,’” he laughs. “It got about one litre per kilo­me­tre, but I loved it!”

Be­fore hit­ting the road solo, how­ever, Nick had spent many an hour in the pas­sen­ger seat watch­ing and learn­ing from other com­pany driv­ers.

“I used to go for runs with Peter ‘Peter­bor­ough Pete’ Ma­ly­cha,” he says. “Pete died a while ago so we called this Su­per­liner Peter­bor­ough Pete as a kind of trib­ute.”

This truck is fit­ted with a 42-inch Bay­line bunk. As you’d ex­pect, an EA9 Mack V8 sits un­der the bull­dog bon­net and is rated at 400hp. Be­hind that sits a 12-speed Mack ‘box.

A cou­ple of years later Nick came across this 1990 model V8 Value­liner. This old girl had def­i­nitely done some hard yards; it started out haul­ing road trains for Peth­er­ick Trans­port be­fore they were bought out by RTA.

Af­ter a cou­ple of years in the wilder­ness, Ade­laide-based Horry Ni­cholls used it to haul triples out to Moomba. The old 500hp donk grenaded at some stage so a 400hp V8 now re­sides un­der the bon­net. Be­hind the 16-litre beast sits an 18-speed Roadie.

“Be­cause of the dou­ble-skinned chas­sis rails there was a bit of rust around the rear of the chas­sis,” Nick says. “It needed a bit of love and a bit of tidy­ing up.”

Two fuel tanks were re-en­gi­neered and the front bar was sand­blasted and painted. A new in­te­rior was also fit­ted. The re­stored Vaule­liner was chris­tened the ‘Petho-Liner’ as a nod to its orig­i­nal own­ers. And as you can see, both trucks have been faith­fully re-sprayed in the Rad­ford fleet liv­ery.


As a farmer, you may be won­der­ing if Nick keeps these trucks purely as toys. How­ever, ev­ery­thing in the shed here in SA has to earn its keep, along with two Kenworth T908s, a set of B-dou­ble side tip­pers, a set of road train step decks and dolly, a wa­ter tanker, B-dou­ble stock crates and two sin­gle side tip­pers.

There was noth­ing bet­ter than be­ing at the wheel of a shiny red and white Su­per-Liner.

The fer­tile yet silty clay soil of this area makes road build­ing a chal­lenge, how­ever a while back Nick stum­bled across a large lime­stone de­posit of their Water­field prop­erty. These days the farm is also home to lime­stone quarry and crush­ing plant that makes per­fect road base for both the lo­cal coun­cil and pri­vate prop­erty ac­cess roads. Hence the se­lec­tion of tip­pers in the farm fleet.

Of course, I wasn’t go­ing to miss the op­por­tu­nity to go haul­ing dirt in a cou­ple of old dogs, so with a side tip­per be­hind both trucks we set to work mov­ing haul­ing road base out of the Water­field quarry.

I climbed into the Su­per­liner first. The Se­ries 1 cab sits about five inches lower than the later Se­ries 2 model. But once in the driver’s seat, it’s hard not to ad­mire that big square bon­net out front.


The E9 grum­bled away as I pon­dered the 12-speed ‘box. This was the first time I’d had a crack at one. I’ve driven Spicers but mainly Ea­tons, and was keen to take my best shot.

Sur­pris­ingly, it didn’t take too long to get it. The main thing I picked up was us­ing a bit of clutch when us­ing the split­ter.

The slow-revving na­ture of the E9 en­gine makes it very for­giv­ing. But with these old dogs it re­ally is about the sound. Aside from old GMs or pos­si­bly a Com­mer Knocker, there’s prob­a­bly no more dis­tinc­tive en­gine sound than one of these old 16.4-litre V8s.

In this day and age of low torque curves, the Mack V8 feels a lit­tle strange. It’s a low-revving lug­ger, yet needs to be kept above 1300-1400 revs to stop it from labour­ing. Try­ing to idle along in too high a gear re­sults in the en­gine hunt­ing and surg­ing. At 1600rpm, with a load of dirt on the back, this thing sounded glo­ri­ous.

As a cold front slammed into the south-east, wind and rain started to ham­mer in earnest. This still didn’t make me wind the win­dow up! I was too en­am­oured with the lazy bop-bop ex­haust note of the big bent 8.


I soon found that a down­side to these old bangers is the pneu­matic wind­screen wipers. As wa­ter sluiced down the screen, I strug­gled to find a wiper speed that didn’t re­sult in the blades slash­ing vi­o­lently at the screen. That said, it seemed a small price to pay for the joys of pi­lot­ing such a clas­sic.

With one load un­der my belt, I climbed aboard the Value­liner. What a bit of gear this thing is! The howl of the air start pierced the cur­tain of wind and rain as the en­gine sprang to life. The 18-speed and E9 combo seemed per­fectly matched, and this truck is as tight as a drum.

The only nig­gle is that the stacks are mounted be­hind the bunk so you don’t have the same im­mer­sion in the V8 bur­ble that you got with the old Se­ries 1.

Af­ter the Su­per­liner, this later model dog felt a lit­tle twitchier – mainly due to the set-back steer axle. How­ever, I’d hon­estly have to rate this as one of the best trucks I’ve driven. It had plenty of grunt for the ap­pli­ca­tion and just sat beau­ti­fully on the road, whether dirt or as­phalt.


Both these trucks are a credit to their owner’s pas­sion to pre­serve his own small part of Aus­tralian road trans­port his­tory. And they are a fit­ting trib­ute to the Rad­ford fam­ily’s her­itage of truck­ing.

At the end of the day, with the trucks parked up, we have a yak over a Bundy or two. I nod to­wards the now mud-streaked Macks, the set­ting sun flar­ing on bull­dog mas­cots and chrome.

I ask if he has a favourite. Nick gri­maces, and looks down at his boots be­fore meet­ing my ques­tion. “Don’t make me choose, mate,” he says, look­ing back out the shed door. “Don’t make me choose.”

It’s more about the trucks that were king of the road back then.

dona­tions from com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als around Aus­tralia to, as Brian puts it, “Just lend a hand.”

And so it was that over a cou­ple of scream­ing hot De­cem­ber morn­ings, a new UD Quon hooked to a flat-top trailer could be found in Aussie Helpers’ Charleville de­pot be­ing loaded with do­nated Vic­to­rian hay, bound for parched prop­er­ties across a wide ex­panse of coun­try.

Sure, in the big scheme of things, it’s prob­a­bly not a big deal to take a new truck and de­liver a cou­ple of rel­a­tively mod­est loads of hay. Still, we cer­tainly couldn’t see any harm in at least con­tribut­ing some­thing to a wor­thy cause while, at the same time, de­ter­min­ing if the new UD was as good in the dust and heat of the back­blocks as it had cer­tainly shown it­self to be in ear­lier drives around the Bris­bane ’burbs. Be­sides, Brian Egan and his ‘clients’ are happy to take all the help they can get.

Any­way, it’s an ex­er­cise that sim­ply grew from the wisp of an idea at the 2017 Bris­bane Truck Show, where the rein­vig­o­rated Quon made its pub­lic de­but.

With its strik­ing new ‘face’, the new Quon’s ap­pear­ance was, in ef­fect, the next step in what UD se­nior ex­ec­u­tives were con­fi­dently pre­dict­ing would be a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in sales as the brand pur­sued a care­fully con­structed re­turn to its heavy-duty roots.

Un­like its Ja­panese ri­vals, whose ini­tial thrust into the Aus­tralian mar­ket was with light- and medi­um­duty trucks, UD (or Nissan Diesel as it was for­merly known) was a heavy-duty spe­cial­ist from the start. The prod­uct port­fo­lio has long in­cluded medium-duty mod­els, and that will cer­tainly con­tinue. But make no mis­take, the heavy-duty mar­ket is the ma­jor fo­cus for a re­vi­talised UD.

The first step came in late 2016 with the launch of the Con­dor PW tan­dem-drive rigid model. To­gether with its PD 6x2 sib­ling, the PW has pulled the brand at least some way out of the heavy-duty bog where, for more years than not, it has strug­gled to scratch barely 2 per cent of the mar­ket.

In fact, UD op­er­a­tives are elated with the brand’s 2017 sales per­for­mance. Along with 524 units sold into the medium-duty class, the brand notched its best year ever in heavy-duty sales with 3.3 per cent (393 units) of the sec­tor, in the process fin­ish­ing ahead of Fuso, DAF and Western Star.

For what it’s worth, it also beat Hino by a sin­gle unit, but, as for threat­en­ing the heavy-duty stake of Isuzu with its hugely suc­cess­ful six-wheeler and eight-wheeler mod­els, that might be a bridge too far at this early stage of a UD resur­gence. What­ever, UD in­sid­ers are adamant the best is yet to come and, given early im­pres­sions of the new Quon, it’s easy to be­lieve.

While the PW showed from the out­set it had the goods to win more busi­ness in the lighter end of the heavy-duty class, there was no es­cap­ing the fact that the flag­ship Quon was the model need­ing a sub­stan­tial boost in both per­for­mance and over­all ap­peal if the brand was to score the num­bers needed for a sharp step up the sales charts.

Given the ex­tent of com­pe­ti­tion, it won’t be easy but UD in­sid­ers aren’t short on op­ti­mism, ea­gerly declar­ing in the lead-up to the Bris­bane Truck Show that the ar­rival of a fully re­vamped Quon would set an en­tirely new stan­dard for a Ja­panese heavy-duty truck.

They weren’t ex­ag­ger­at­ing. Even a cur­sory glance in and around the show truck left no doubt that, fi­nally, a decade af­ter UD ac­tu­ally be­came part of the Volvo con­glom­er­ate, the group as­sets of its cor­po­rate mas­ter have taken Quon to a sub­stan­tially higher plane.

Sure, the ab­sence of Volvo’s 13-litre en­gine re­mains a no­table omis­sion but, even so, this is a truck with the po­ten­tial to turn UD’s heavy-duty as­pi­ra­tions into bold re­al­ity. More to the point, a truck that not only fur­ther broad­ens the gap on its Ja­panese com­peti­tors in prime mover and truck-and-dog con­fig­u­ra­tions, but, for the first time, pro­vides a Ja­panese heavy-duty truck with the op­er­a­tional ar­moury and tech­ni­cal smarts to make it truly com­pet­i­tive with Euro­pean mod­els of sim­i­lar out­put. And therein, ar­guably, is a prime rea­son why Volvo Group prin­ci­pals have stead­fastly re­fused to al­low Quon to be fit­ted with the 13-litre en­gine so im­mensely pop­u­lar in Volvo’s FM and FH mod­els, and as the MP8 in Mack’s range.

Viewed cyn­i­cally, it’s easy to see how the con­tin­ued ab­sence of a 13-litre op­tion gives rise to the opin­ion that UD is in­deed the poor cousin of cor­po­rate kins­men Mack and Volvo. How­ever, viewed from a more prag­matic an­gle, it’s not dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand Volvo’s think­ing. Given the new Quon’s many fea­tures, a 13-litre ver­sion with up to 540hp would in­deed be a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenger to any Euro brand, in­clud­ing Volvo’s highly suc­cess­ful FM and, ob­vi­ously enough, that’s the sort of in­ter­nal con­test cor­po­rate power­bro­kers want to avoid at all cost. As Volvo sees it, there are al­ready enough com­peti­tors in the mar­ket with­out cre­at­ing one of their own.

Con­se­quently, there will be no 13-litre en­gine in Quon. Not now, nor any time in the fore­see­able fu­ture. End of story. As UD se­nior ex­ec­u­tive Mark Strambi com­ments: “UD has a very clear fo­cus on where it’s go­ing in prod­uct terms.”

Even with­out a 13-litre en­gine, it’s a fo­cus that now, more than ever, draws on Volvo Group technology across the board, from en­gine to

There will be no 13-litre en­gine in Quon … end of story.

trans­mis­sion, axles, technology and safety. What’s more, UD claims be­tween 150 and 250kg have been trimmed out of the tare weight of var­i­ous Quon mod­els.

As for fu­ture devel­op­ments, we hear that in, maybe, a year from now we’ll see an eightwheeler de­riv­a­tive with a load-shar­ing twin-steer. What we won’t see, how­ever, is the ad­di­tion of UD’s low-bud­get Quester model. Ac­cord­ing to Volvo Group Aus­tralia (VGA), Quester was de­signed pri­mar­ily for Asia and that’s where it’ll largely stay, though VGA does sell the model into Pa­pua New Guinea.

So, as things stand at the mo­ment and prob­a­bly for some years to come, the UD fo­cus is squarely on Quon. Given the broad range of tar­geted ap­pli­ca­tions, there’s noth­ing to sug­gest the new model misses out on any­thing, in­clud­ing more mus­cle.


Un­der the heav­ily re­vamped cab, for in­stance, is the same Volvo-de­signed, Ja­pan-built GH11 10.8-litre en­gine that has served the pre­vi­ous Quon well at 390 and 420hp. The big dif­fer­ence in this case is that the new model adds the lively and ex­cep­tion­ally re­spon­sive 460hp (309kW) ver­sion with peak torque of 1623ft-lb (2200Nm) on tap at 1200rpm.

Sure, it’s not 500hp, but as the top power rat­ing in the range, the 460 cer­tainly gives more than be­fore. Mean­time, both the 420hp ver­sion with 1401ft-lb (1900Nm) of torque and the 390hp (287kW) set­ting with 1290ft-lb (1750Nm) are re­tained in the new line-up.

Pre­dictably, all three ver­sions of the GH11 use an SCR emis­sions sys­tem to com­ply with Euro 6 emis­sions stan­dards. As UD likes to point out, the first Quon was shown to the world at the 2004 Tokyo Mo­tor Show and was the first truck model in the world to base emis­sions com­pli­ance on a strange and poorly un­der­stood technology called se­lec­tive cat­alytic re­duc­tion, or SCR. There were plenty of pun­dits who poo-poo’d (and yes, I was one) the idea of adding liq­uid urea (AdBlue) to a truck’s in­ven­tory but, as time and technology have sub­se­quently shown, UD was bravely ahead of its time with its faith in SCR.

Yet de­spite the hype of last year’s Bris­bane Truck Show, UD cer­tainly wasn’t pre­pared to rush its new flag­ship to mar­ket, spend­ing most of 2017 fine-tun­ing spec­i­fi­ca­tions and en­sur­ing that all the dura­bil­ity boxes had been ticked sev­eral times over. Then, fi­nally, with the year quickly draw­ing to a close, and con­fi­dent it had the right prod­ucts and plans in place, UD bit the bul­let and as­sem­bled a wide range of con­fig­u­ra­tions for a day of test drives around Bris­bane.


UD had done its home­work well, sup­ply­ing demo units con­fig­ured as a six-wheeler body truck, truck-and-dog com­bi­na­tions, sin­gle- and tandem­drive prime movers pulling tri-axle trail­ers, and a B-dou­ble out­fit – all loaded at or near full weight.

It sur­prised no one that all mod­els have the

GH11 en­gine cou­pled to the Es­cot-VI 12-speed au­to­mated trans­mis­sion, which is, of course, UD’s ver­sion of Volvo’s su­per-suc­cess­ful I-Shift stir­rer. As ex­pected, the harmony be­tween en­gine and trans­mis­sion is ex­cep­tional, con­trolled by the same shift lever as­sem­bly used in Volvo mod­els and em­ploy­ing fuel-sav­ing fea­tures such as ‘Es­cot Roll’ (sounds more like a trendy snail sand­wich), which al­lows the truck to roll in neu­tral un­der the right con­di­tions. Smart and very ef­fec­tive!

Also de­rived from Volvo is a com­pre­hen­sive stan­dard safety pack­age across all mod­els, which in­cludes elec­tronic disc brakes, a four-stage re­tarder, sta­bil­ity con­trol sys­tem, lane de­par­ture

port and air­port precincts, the 460 rat­ing isn’t with­out the re­solve to cope ef­fec­tively with short-haul dis­tri­bu­tion work, even at 60 tonnes.

Nor is the sleeper com­pletely in­ad­e­quate for the oc­ca­sional overnight stay. That said, though, the truck’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties as a short-haul B-dou­ble were, in our es­ti­ma­tion, over­shad­owed by those com­bi­na­tions that more ac­cu­rately re­flect the likely work­loads of UD’s new flag­ship.

For in­stance, as a tip­per and three-axle dog com­bi­na­tion or prime mover pulling a tri-axle trailer, the 460hp GW ap­peared to be to­tally in its el­e­ment, de­liv­er­ing strong, re­spon­sive per­for­mance with lev­els of smooth, quiet ease that were noth­ing less than laud­able. In­deed, one of the ad­van­tages of a rel­a­tively small­d­is­place­ment en­gine is lively throt­tle re­sponse, and the GH11 cer­tainly demon­strated that qual­ity at weights up to 50 tonnes.

Again, the com­pat­i­bil­ity of the en­gine and trans­mis­sion com­bi­na­tion across the range is ex­cep­tional, while ride, steer­ing and road man­ners of all mod­els in the demo group were top shelf. Im­por­tantly, ac­cess in and out of the cab and things like seat com­fort, driv­ing po­si­tion, all-round vi­sion, switchgear iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and place­ment all rate well. One of few neg­a­tives, how­ever, is the in­con­ve­nient sit­ing of the mir­ror con­trol switch on the left side of the dash be­hind the steer­ing wheel. Most brands mount mir­ror switches on the door, mak­ing it easy to ad­just mir­rors when re­vers­ing into tight spots. UD would do well to fol­low suit.

Mean­while, switches for cruise con­trol and the in­te­gral ve­hi­cle in­for­ma­tion sys­tem are ide­ally sighted on the arms of the steer­ing wheel. Best of all for us of an ear­lier gen­er­a­tion, the func­tion and logic of the in­for­ma­tion sys­tem are eas­ily un­der­stood.

In short, it’s a cab lay­out that blends prac­ti­cal­ity with a com­mend­able em­pha­sis on com­fort, func­tion, and more than a hint of class thanks to some pre­mium mod­els sport­ing a smart two-tone leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel and wood­grain in­serts. In our es­ti­ma­tion, they’re a de­served touch for what is un­ques­tion­ably a new stan­dard among Ja­panese trucks in this class.

So, in a nut­shell, the new Quon coped ex­cep­tion­ally well with the city and sub­ur­ban vo­ca­tions where the bulk of its busi­ness is sure to be done. Then again, not all trucks spend their life in the ’burbs, do they?


Dwarfed by the big banger triples rolling through this part of the world, the UD seemed out of place head­ing out of Charleville tow­ing two-high stacks of hay. But a stock­pile of hay stretches only so far and, as with all goods do­nated to Aussie Helpers, Brian Egan is de­ter­mined to keep the dis­tri­bu­tion fair. For us, that meant a cou­ple of loads of square bales, which pushed gross weight to just 30 tonnes or there­abouts.

Still, ar­riv­ing at the first prop­erty around mid­day with the mercury bub­bling to­wards the mid-40s, the sight of a vet­eran UD rigid still earn­ing its keep with a stock crate on the back was a quick re­minder that life off the bi­tu­men isn’t nec­es­sar­ily an is­sue for any brand when the fun­da­men­tals are sound. In fact, the first few hours on the run out of Charleville were al­ready an­swer­ing many of the ques­tions about the new Quon’s ap­ti­tude for life be­yond the ’burbs.

In this case, the GW 26 460 model was a pre­pro­duc­tion unit with a tad more than 2000km on the clock and a few weeks ear­lier had been hooked to a cur­tain-sided tri-axle trailer as part of UD’s demo day. Out here, though, things were vastly dif­fer­ent and sev­eral fac­tors were quickly ap­par­ent as the truck headed south to­wards Cun­na­mulla be­fore turn­ing west into hours of

baked dirt, rut­ted creek beds and cooked rock.

For starters, the 4.5:1 diff ra­tio is es­sen­tially fine for stop-start sub­ur­ban work but, at 100km/h with the en­gine pump­ing at 1800rpm, it’s far from ideal for fuel ef­fi­ciency. The 4.13:1 fi­nal drive would ob­vi­ously be the bet­ter op­tion for coun­try and re­gional work.

Even so, early fig­ures sug­gest fuel econ­omy is an in­her­ent qual­ity of the GH11 en­gine. Af­ter two days and al­most 500km in the blis­ter­ing heat of Queens­land’s south-west, the truck’s trip com­puter re­ported an av­er­age con­sump­tion rate of 40 litres/100km (2.5km/litre, or 7.06mpg to us of an ear­lier era), while AdBlue was con­sumed at a miserly 1.9 litres/100km.

Like­wise, while steer­ing is ef­fort­lessly light for me­an­der­ing through metro ar­eas, it’s ar­guably a touch too sen­si­tive at high­way speeds. But then, at lower speeds on dirt roads, steer­ing qual­ity was fine. All things con­sid­ered, though, a slightly firmer steer­ing box ra­tio would prob­a­bly ben­e­fit Quon’s over­all ver­sa­til­ity.

Hard to be­lieve, but day two came with a de­gree or two ex­tra in the air and, west­bound to­wards Quilpie, the coun­try seemed even more with­ered. Again, two-high stacks of hay cer­tainly weren’t trou­bling the truck’s per­for­mance but the en­gine fan was be­ing reg­u­larly called into ser­vice. So reg­u­lar, in fact, that road speed on the black­top was pulled back to 90km/h to mod­er­ate both en­gine speed and fan use. It had the de­sired ef­fect, with fan en­gage­ment time drop­ping markedly.

A def­i­nite and per­haps sur­pris­ing con­trib­u­tor in keep­ing things cool was the Es­cot-Roll func­tion. At this point, I have to ad­mit to be­ing some­thing of a scep­tic when it comes to the prac­ti­cal value of these eco-roll sys­tems, par­tic­u­larly in the var­ied work­loads of trucks es­sen­tially de­signed for city and sub­ur­ban ap­pli­ca­tions.

Out here, though, on long, open stretches of road, I saw the light and joined the con­verted. With the en­gine brake off, the trans­mis­sion in ‘D’ at any gear above sev­enth, and foot off the throt­tle, the sys­tem quickly slips into neu­tral. Then, on down­hill stretches or run­ning up to a turn, all it takes is a lit­tle con­fi­dence to let the sys­tem do its thing and it’s amaz­ing how far the truck will roll un­der its own mo­men­tum. Over time and dis­tance, the pos­i­tive ef­fect on fuel econ­omy must surely be con­sid­er­able, while in this scorched en­vi­ron­ment, there was the added ben­e­fit of re­duced fan en­gage­ment when­ever Es­cot-Roll was in play.

Mean­while, the build qual­ity Ja­panese trucks are so highly re­garded for is cer­tainly ev­i­dent in UD’s new flag­ship. I must con­fess that, with this par­tic­u­lar truck be­ing a pre-pro­duc­tion unit, there were ini­tial thoughts that it would prob­a­bly come with a few squeaks and squeals, rat­tles and bangs. But no, the cab was as tight as a drum and, in­ci­den­tally, the only dust find­ing its way in­side was when a cer­tain dopey driver opened a door too soon af­ter pulling up on a dusty pad.

As for ride qual­ity, the com­bined buf­fers of par­a­bolic leaf springs at the front and an eight-bag rear sus­pen­sion did a great job of soft­en­ing the lumps and bumps, with or with­out a load. Al­most too good, per­haps, given the driver’s iso­la­tion from im­pacts at ground level. Still, I’ll take a soft, smooth ride over a bone-jar­ring back breaker any­time.

When it’s all boiled down, and in very sim­ple terms, the lat­est Quon con­firms UD has reached a point in its evo­lu­tion that prob­a­bly would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the cor­po­rate con­nec­tion to one of the truck­ing world’s biggest play­ers. No ques­tion, UD has al­ways built a strong truck for its in­tended mar­kets, but with the re­li­a­bil­ity of Ja­panese work­man­ship com­bin­ing with the tech­ni­cal re­sources of Volvo, it is to­day a bet­ter truck than ever be­fore.

As for the ‘poor cousin’ tag in the cor­po­rate three­some, for­get it! It won’t sur­prise if UD, over the next few years, achieves the great­est growth rate of all three brands in our neck of the Volvo king­dom. No sur­prise at all!

Above: Suc­cess came early for long-term mar­ket leader Isuzu

Above left: Pac­car pair. Kenworth rules but DAF came to play, and stay!

Above: Strange: Freight­liner bought Ford, cre­ated Ster­ling, then dumped it

Above: Early Ac­tros: For­tu­nately, the new ver­sion is bury­ing the bag­gage of the past

Above: Tough: UD has long been re­garded the best Ja­panese heavy-duty truck in the busi­ness

Above: Volvo’s first FH: It laid the platform for a dy­namic fu­ture

Above: Clever: Sca­nia’s Roger Mc­Carthy achieved more than any of his many pre­de­ces­sors

Above: To­gether again: Iveco and In­ter­na­tional are rekin­dling the past

2012 Mack Su­per-Liner CLXT. MP10 eng@600hp,

M drive auto, D170 axles • VIC 03 5831 7007

1989 Mack Value-Liner. E6-4V 350HP, Mack T2090, Mack Diffs ra­tio 4:17 • NSW 02 8279 7058

1989 Mack Value-Liner. Tan­dem Ser­vice Truck. • VIC 03 8547 8574

Above left: This Value­liner would have to be one of the nicest trucks I’ve ever driven Above right: This Su­per-Liner would’ve been pretty swish back in ’81

Above left: The EA9 V8 sure is a big lump of iron!

Above right: Load­ing up for the first trip of the day

2014 UD PK 16 280 Con­dor. 4x2 prime mover, UD turbo diesel 280hp, 9 spd. • NSW 02 6171 3435

2004 UD CW385. 50T rated prime mover, 385hp turbo diesel, 13spd Eaton man • WA 08 6500 0936

2017 UD PD 24 280 Con­dor. New/ex

showtruck, 450 kms • VIC 03 8373 7118

Above and right: The Quon han­dled black­top and dirt with equal ease, though sear­ing tem­per­a­tures kept the en­gine fan busy on the bi­tu­men

Above left: Lively! At 460hp and with more than 1600ft-lb of torque, GH11 is ex­tremely re­spon­sive. As for a 13-litre ver­sion, it won’t hap­pen Above right: Aussie Helpers’ Brian Egan. Ded­i­cated to sim­ply lend­ing a hand

Above: In the land of the big bangers, Quon might’ve seemed out of place but did ev­ery­thing asked of it, and then some

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