IT WAS a rushed trip back from Brisbane for Michael Kennedy to attend the Sydney Classic and Antique Truck Show, its date coinciding with the last day of the Brisbane Truck Show.
Michael owns and operates Kennedy Express out of Austral in Sydney’s south-west. He has a passion for old trucks and keenly showed off his 1976 Dodge 500.
He’s owned the truck for about eight years, and admits to making minimal changes since.
“The cab was already painted but I painted the tray, the chassis, the wheels, made the gates and tarps and just fitted it up,” Michael says. “And I put the twin exhaust on. Probably 10 grand [is] what I’ve spent, so it’s not too much.”
It’s noticeable that the name R.J. Willett is written on the lower side of the Dodge’s tray.
“This truck is a tribute to a mentor of mine, Billy Willett,” he explains. “He’s still alive, but the truck’s got the tanks and the actual towbar that he used to tow the caravans for Viscounts in the ’70s to Brisbane.
“I used to ride with him regularly and that was my entry into the truck industry and that was when I decided I wanted to be an overnighter – and here we are.”
The old Dodge was hooked up to a caravan at Penrith, raising the question of whether he could keep pace with long-distance trucks or be a hindrance on the highways.
“I don’t muck around,” he laughs. “Not much gets past me.”
Michael has a “fair few old trucks” tucked away, but only four with towbars. “So I generally take one of those to these truck shows, towing the van.
“One of the other tow trucks that I use is a V8 Ultra-Liner out of the ’80s that’s geared to about 140.
“I’ve got a Kenworth with a 92 in it that’s got a tray top. I can put a car on the back of it if we’re going somewhere like Alice Springs.” The Dodge recognises mentor Billy Willett, who introduced Michael to the trucking industry in the early ’70s
Michael says although the Dodge is a reliable truck, there’s an issue if he leaves it parked up for around six months.
“It’s got the old Dodge clacky lifters on it,” he says. “They might take an hour or two, but they end up filling themselves up. All of these Dodges used to do that.
“I’ve got a few more Dodges at home that I’m going to work on, turning them into overnighters.
“I’ve got a 7 Series with a 361 in it with step tanks, a rigid … I’m looking for a little pan that I’m going to put on that.
“I’ve got an eight-wheeler Grey Ghost, one of the Grey Ghosts that came out with a triple 5 in it, and I’ve got another TNT rigid that’s got a 903 in it. I’m trying to limit myself to the express trucks of the day, from the ’70s onward.”
He says the Sydney Classic and Antique Truck Show highlights the value of the old truck movement.
“Some of the restorations now are as good as anything you’ll find in a car show,” Michael says.
But they’ve bumped the price up,” he laughs. “You can’t buy a Dodge for two grand anymore.”
Michael Kennedy showing off his 1976 Dodge at Penrith