LEG­ENDS IN THE MAK­ING

Spawned in the shad­ows of the iconic W-model, it was per­haps in­evitable Ken­worth’s clas­sic T900 would one day notch ‘Leg­end’ sta­tus. Yet em­bed­ded in this story of a re­mark­ably re­silient truck are the steely pride and fierce pas­sions of peo­ple de­vout in th

Owner Driver - - Owner / Driver -

THE YEAR was 1990. Busi­nesses across the board were tak­ing a se­vere belt­ing and among many, Ken­worth was do­ing all it could to sim­ply en­dure Trea­surer Paul Keat­ing’s in­ter­minable “re­ces­sion we had to have”.

Al­most a decade into his long and laud­able ca­reer as Ken­worth’s first Aus­tralian manag­ing di­rec­tor, An­drew Wright had been quick to re­act to the down­turn. As he saw it, the eco­nomic signs were fore­bod­ing and with his bean counter brain kick­ing into sur­vival mode, re­trench­ments at the Bayswa­ter (Vic) head of­fice and fac­tory came hard and fast.

Ev­ery­thing de­pended on the fac­tory’s on­go­ing vi­a­bil­ity and Wright was un­com­pro­mis­ing in his de­ter­mi­na­tion to pro­tect the fu­ture and avoid Ken­worth be­com­ing just another im­porter.

Yet seem­ingly overnight, Ken­worth gen­er­ally and An­drew Wright specif­i­cally be­came pari­ahs, with com­men­ta­tors and com­peti­tors pub­licly lam­bast­ing the cuts as cor­po­rate overkill. Cries of “too much, too soon” and “putting profit be­fore peo­ple” were loud and long.

As time would soon show though, an as­tute An­drew Wright had sim­ply seen the writ­ing on the wall clearer than his con­tem­po­raries. In fact, as the ex­trav­a­gance and ex­cesses of the ’80s col­lapsed into the eco­nomic dol­drums of a new decade, and truck sales con­tin­ued to slip lower than a frog’s freckle, there were more than a few ex­ec­u­tives openly wish­ing they’d fol­lowed Wright’s lead and made the tough de­ci­sions sooner, rather than hov­er­ing in vain hope of a quick re­cov­ery.

Whether we had to have it or not is de­bate­able, but this was cer­tainly a re­ces­sion that hung around far longer than any­one ex­pected. Road trans­port was ham­mered par­tic­u­larly hard and dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions were forced on com­pa­nies of all per­sua­sions, but es­pe­cially those with sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing tai­lored al­most en­tirely to the do­mes­tic mar­ket. Com­pa­nies like Ken­worth.

In fact, things were so crook in the Bayswa­ter bunker that then sales man­ager Rus­sell Davey rang a town crier’s bell af­ter ev­ery or­der had been credit ap­proved. A col­lec­tive cheer went up ev­ery time it rang, but the clangs were few and far be­tween.

Be­hind the scenes though, with busi­ness in the pits and the fac­tory build­ing barely half a truck a day, Ken­worth was qui­etly work­ing on the cre­ation of some­thing new. Some­thing for bet­ter times ahead but with the im­me­di­ate abil­ity to gen­er­ate in­ter­est and ex­cite­ment in an oth­er­wise de­pressed and de­press­ing mar­ket. Some­thing big, bold and home grown.

Back then, the star of the Ken­worth camp was un­ques­tion­ably the rev­o­lu­tion­ary T600. Launched on the Aus­tralian mar­ket in 1987, the slip­pery ‘Anteater’ had turned con­ven­tional truck de­sign on its head with its in­tense ac­cent on aerodynamics. Yet as well re­ceived as it was by fuel-fo­cussed op­er­a­tors, T600 did not tick all the boxes for ev­ery­one.

Some­thing was miss­ing and it was that ‘some­thing’ which at the back end of 1990 first came to life as a pro­to­type T900.

PROJECT JABIRU

Prob­a­bly the most re­spected engi­neer in the heavy-duty truck busi­ness, and re­garded by many as one of the most like­able and prin­ci­pled peo­ple you’re

likely to meet any­where, Gary Hart­ley re­calls those days with the re­laxed con­fi­dence of one who has both sur­vived and suc­ceeded.

In years to come, An­drew Wright would pro­mote him to chief engi­neer and un­der his watch would evolve an eclec­tic range of trucks which, whether they made it to pro­duc­tion or not, would at least typ­ify Bayswa­ter’s ca­pac­ity for ap­pli­ca­tion en­gi­neer­ing on a de­fi­antly Aus­tralian scale.

Ex­am­ples are plen­ti­ful but in some minds, in­clud­ing this one, the abil­ity to rad­i­cally trans­form an ar­chaic K-se­ries cab-over into the mod­ern form of the K200, and most re­cently cre­ate an en­tirely new fu­ture with the widely ac­claimed T610, are con­vinc­ing tes­ti­mony to the prow­ess of Ken­worth’s de­sign skills and en­gi­neer­ing re­sources.

Right now though, as we speak in his Bayswa­ter of­fice, it’s a typ­i­cally hum­ble Hart­ley con­tem­plat­ing life af­ter Ken­worth. Re­tire­ment beck­ons and be­fore this story ap­pears in print he will have pulled the plug on al­most 30 years with Pac­car Aus­tralia.

The pride is pal­pa­ble as he can­didly re­flects on a com­pany and the peo­ple who have had such a dra­matic in­flu­ence on the laid­back bloke from Bund­aberg, Queens­land.

Im­mersed in the cul­ture of a proud and of­ten aloof com­pany, and sur­rounded by some of the most pas­sion­ate and prag­matic peo­ple he would ever meet, Gary Hart­ley took to Ken­worth like a duck to wa­ter. Yet he is quick to con­cede that of all the col­leagues and cus­tomers he would come to meet and ad­mire, none stood taller than the stout, ro­tund and fiercely in­trepid Al­lan Stead.

“Steady” re­tired in 2004 af­ter 39 years in the Ken­worth camp, largely in cus­tomer ser­vice and sup­port roles, where his me­chan­i­cal and prod­uct knowl­edge were both in­valu­able and crit­i­cal at all lev­els. Sadly, he passed away ear­lier this year but his legacy is huge, with a smil­ing Hart­ley re­flect­ing, “Steady wasn’t al­ways po­lit­i­cally cor­rect, but his ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge were ex­cep­tional and we’d of­ten spend a lot of time just talk­ing about how things could be made bet­ter.

“That’s one of the things I’ve re­ally en­joyed about work­ing here. You don’t have to wait for a new model to make im­prove­ments. It’s just an on­go­ing

“T900 marked the birth of a new era for Ken­worth.”

thing. Ev­ery day some­one is think­ing about how to im­prove some­thing, whether it’s a par­tic­u­lar model or pro­cesses in the fac­tory, or what­ever.

“Any­way, for me and a lot of oth­ers, Steady was in­spi­ra­tional. He just had the abil­ity and the pas­sion to push any­one’s en­thu­si­asm to another level, and peo­ple at ev­ery level went to him for his in­put and ad­vice. And I mean ev­ery level.

“I miss him a lot. I know I’ll never meet any­one like him again.”

For Gary Hart­ley, how­ever, it all started in Jan­uary 1988, ar­riv­ing at Bayswa­ter with a de­gree in me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing and a solid back­ground in the air­craft in­dus­try. The longserv­ing Charles Adams was then chief engi­neer, ap­point­ing Hart­ley to con­cen­trate largely on strength­en­ing dura­bil­ity as­pects of the T600’s cool­ing sys­tem. Af­ter all, while the T600 was cer­tainly rev­o­lu­tion­ary in de­sign, it wasn’t with­out its is­sues and it took time, tests and con­stant ap­praisal to build the dura­bil­ity de­manded by a crit­i­cal Aus­tralian mar­ket.

In many eyes, how­ever, T600 could never fill the gaps left by the tire­lessly tough W-model and SAR which had been dropped to make way for their slip­pery suc­ces­sor. In a move to at least par­tially fill the void, the ul­tra­de­pend­able and Aus­tralian de­signed T650 with a set-back front axle ap­peared soon af­ter the T600 and even now re­mains a ver­sa­tile stal­wart among Ken­worth con­ven­tion­als.

But still, some­thing was miss­ing. That clas­si­cally Ken­worth im­age so deeply rooted in the W-model was gone and it cer­tainly didn’t es­cape Bayswa­ter’s at­ten­tion that since the demise of its clas­sic con­ven­tional, sales of Western Star’s 4800 and 4900 mod­els had im­proved con­sid­er­ably. To many Ken­worth in­sid­ers, Star’s growth was bla­tant proof that the mar­ket for big, broad Yank beaks was alive and well.

Cer­tainly, these were dif­fi­cult days, yet even Western Star’s in­creased com­pet­i­tive­ness came to be one of sev­eral fac­tors con­spir­ing to cre­ate new mo­men­tum for Ken­worth. Dif­fi­cult as it was, the re­ces­sion was at least pro­vid­ing the scope to think of new projects, in­spired to a large ex­tent by a group of cus­tomers (not least Kiwi op­er­a­tor Mike Lam­bert) push­ing for some­thing akin to the ven­er­a­ble W-model and vow­ing to put their money where their mouth was, if and when such a truck ever came to life.

The other fac­tor was An­drew Wright. Ac­coun­tant by pro­fes­sion, fiercely de­ter­mined and hugely com­pet­i­tive by na­ture, and a truck nut by de­sire who loved dab­bling in de­sign con­cepts – much to the oc­ca­sional frus­tra­tion of his se­nior staff – Wright was all ears when peo­ple like Mike Lam­bert started giv­ing as­sur­ances they’d be more than happy to buy a mod­ern long-bon­neted truck built on the de­sign prin­ci­ples of the iconic W-model.

This was, af­ter all, a lean time when any truck sale was a big achieve­ment, so with his pen­chant for dab­bling in de­sign duly stirred, Wright set Charles Adams and his en­gi­neer­ing team to work on a se­cret new model ex­er­cise code-named ‘Project Jabiru’.

Why the project was named af­ter a big Aus­tralian stork (maybe the big beak?) is any­one’s guess but as Gary Hart­ley ex­plained, the goal was to pro­duce a long-wheel­base truck loosely based on Amer­ica’s W900S model with a set-for­ward front axle. Still, there was never the in­ten­tion to sim­ply ‘Aus­tralianise’ an Amer­i­can truck. That idea was fraught with dura­bil­ity dilem­mas whereas lo­cal en­gi­neers had proved, with the SAR in par­tic­u­lar, that

“It took just one look to re­alise they’d nailed it.”

a truck built in Aus­tralia, for Aus­tralia, had the abil­ity to hit the mar­ket with a min­i­mum of teething is­sues.

Mean­time, with new truck sales in free-fall, the ur­gency of the project was not lost on Ken­worth em­ploy­ees, from the fac­tory to the top of­fice. The de­sire to suc­ceed was in­tense. Liveli­hoods de­pended on it.

It was, says Hart­ley, an in­cred­i­ble team ef­fort which took the project from con­cept to the first pro­to­type rolling off the Bayswa­ter line in just nine months and crit­i­cally, con­fi­dence in the truck called T900 was high from the start.

Yet, in what has since been shown to be some­thing of a trend at Ken­worth, hard times are also a time to in­vest in new ini­tia­tives. In this case, and despite the ob­vi­ous fact that most com­pany bud­gets were firmly in lock-down, Ken­worth poured more than a mil­lion dol­lars into a new-fan­gled sys­tem called com­puter-aided de­sign, or CAD.

“The T900 was the first model we started us­ing com­puter-aided de­sign to gen­er­ate parts draw­ings and it was cer­tainly a ma­jor fac­tor in get­ting the truck from con­cept to pro­duc­tion in such a short time, and for a pro­to­type, in such good shape,” Gary Hart­ley com­mented.

To­day, of course, com­puter-aided de­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing are part and par­cel of pro­duc­tion pro­cesses everywhere, but back in 1990 this was ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy which sig­nalled the end of draw­ing boards at Bayswa­ter.

There were, of course, early glitches and not ev­ery­one took to the new sys­tem well. “Pro­gres­sion from draw­ing boards to CAD came with its chal­lenges,” Hart­ley re­calls. “At the time, there were not many other com­pa­nies us­ing main­frame CAD, so we were some­what on our own ini­tially.”

Still, and despite the mag­ni­tude of the in­vest­ment un­der such dif­fi­cult eco­nomic con­di­tions, it’s an adamant Gary Hart­ley who in­sists the long-term ef­fi­cien­cies were ev­i­dent from the out­set.

To­day’s sys­tems are far more ad­vanced, but it had to start some­where and in more ways than one the T900 marked the birth of a new era for Ken­worth.

CHRIST­MAS PRESENT

As Christ­mas 1990 drew close, an in­vi­ta­tion ar­rived.

If I re­mem­ber rightly, it didn’t say much, just ask­ing if I’d like to visit Bayswa­ter for a pre­view of “some­thing spe­cial”. Stupid ques­tion re­ally. Of course I would.

Typ­i­cally, Ken­worth had done a good job of keep­ing a se­cret and af­ter a look at the new CAD sys­tem in op­er­a­tion, our small group was fi­nally shown the T900 pro­to­type at the back of the Bayswa­ter head of­fice.

It took just one look to re­alise they’d nailed it. The char­ac­ter and im­age of the big, bold clas­sic Ken­worth con­ven­tional was back. Big­ger, bolder and from all in­di­ca­tions, bet­ter than ever. Bet­ter still, I’d get to drive it the next day.

The fol­low­ing edited para­graphs are ex­tracts from a re­port I wrote in the Fe­bru­ary 1991 edition of the highly re­garded and sadly de­funct Truck

& Bus magazine, yet the words are per­haps as apt to­day as they were then: “The foun­da­tions of the T900 are not

those of the W-model. The cab shell is that of the (wider) T600.

“From ap­pear­ances alone, the ex­er­cise has been suc­cess­ful be­cause the T900 em­bod­ies all that was at­trac­tive and sought af­ter in the W-model, in­clud­ing an even longer bumper to back-of-cab di­men­sion to en­hance ride and steer­ing qual­i­ties.

“And if some idea of a truck’s han­dling can be gleaned from a cou­ple of stints around a dirt track in the back­blocks of GM-H’s prov­ing ground at Lang Lang in Vic­to­ria, then the T900 cer­tainly has the stan­dard of steer­ing re­sponse and road feel Ken­worth claims for it.”

“The su­perbly pre­sented pro­to­type came equipped with all the good gear (and) it was hard to imag­ine a more well equipped or de­sir­able work­place, all en­cased in a truck that oozes im­age and pres­tige.”

Some of that good gear in­cluded in­no­va­tions such as laser-cut ex­haust shields, bulk­head sleeper doors, the ini­tial choice of round or rec­tan­gu­lar head­lights, dual-skin fire­wall, and a mod­u­lar Aero­dyne sleeper which would en­dure un­til 1998 when the new T904 would de­liver a fully integrated sleeper. Back then there was also the choice of the lat­est en­gines from Cat, Cum­mins and Detroit Diesel.

With­out putting too fine a point on it, suc­cess was im­me­di­ate. Sure, not in great num­bers given the eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties of the day, but the re­sponse from op­er­a­tors was un­de­ni­ably strong as the one and only pro­to­type went on a promo trip across sev­eral states. Sadly, how­ever, that first T900 met a dis­as­trous end when Mel­bourne wharfies man­aged to drop a con­tainer on the truck as it was about to be loaded onto a ship for demo du­ties in New Zealand.

Even so, Ken­worth knew it had in­deed cre­ated some­thing spe­cial and best of all for a com­pany de­ter­mined to haul its way out of a re­ces­sion­ary rut, those op­er­a­tors who had ex­pressed a will­ing­ness to buy a big bon­neted suc­ces­sor to the ven­er­a­ble W-model proved to be good for their word. Among them was New Zealand’s Mike Lam­bert, who in mid-1991 placed an or­der for four units in­clud­ing an 8x6 tri-drive ver­sion.

It was, how­ever, per­haps in­evitable that with the T900 in­vok­ing the im­age of the W-model, there would come calls for a model to repli­cate the slop­ing snout of the all-Aus­tralian SAR. Thus, in the back half of 1992 came the T950 which for al­most 15 years would sit along­side the T900 and its suc­ces­sors as flag­ships of Ken­worth’s con­ven­tional class.

The rest, as they say in the clas­sics, is his­tory. In fact, both the T900 and T950 would be­come clas­sics in their own right, build­ing for­mi­da­ble rep­u­ta­tions and as­pi­ra­tional stature in ev­ery­thing from rigid truck and dog work to se­vere road­train tasks across the length and breadth of the coun­try, and be­yond.

Emis­sions reg­u­la­tions and sub­se­quent en­gine tech­nol­ogy would, how­ever, have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on both mod­els. In the T900’s case it would lead to sev­eral evo­lu­tions, start­ing in 1998 with the higher stance of the T904, fol­lowed by the T908 and to­day’s highly pop­u­lar T909. For the record, well over 5000 T900 de­riv­a­tives have been built since the first pro­to­type rolled out of Bayswa­ter and it’s a num­ber sure to keep grow­ing as the T909 con­sis­tently ac­counts for around 20 per cent of Ken­worth pro­duc­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, the im­pact of emis­sions would be com­pletely de­struc­tive for the T950 as the cool­ing de­mands as­so­ci­ated with emis­sion­sre­lated en­gine tech­nol­ogy took ef­fect. A big­ger cool­ing pack­age sim­ply couldn’t fit un­der the droop­ing snout and at the end of 2006, the model was dropped from the Ken­worth range.

Like the T900 though, the leg­end had al­ready been cre­ated and the T950 would not be al­lowed to slide qui­etly off the radar. At least, not for­ever.

LEG­END 900

In sim­ple and per­haps cyn­i­cal terms, the ‘Leg­end’ con­cept is just a clever mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tive. Bring back the de­funct T950 as a tricked-up lim­ited edition se­ries and let the true be­liev­ers in­dulge. Then if that proved suc­cess­ful, re­peat it with the 900.

Pac­car Aus­tralia sales and mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Brad May be­grudg­ingly ac­cepts the com­mer­cial in­fer­ence but with blunt cer­tainty says there’s more to it. Far more!

Then again, you’d ex­pect noth­ing less from a man who is unashamedly a Ken­worth ‘tragic’. So, too, is his older brother, na­tional fleet man­ager Steve May. In fact, if Ken­worth was a colour, the May broth­ers would bleed it, and it’s an in­fu­sion which started a long, long time ago.

First, their fa­ther Kevin whose re­gard for the Pac­car prod­uct ─ both Ken­worth and Peter­bilt ─ as a driver and owner, was count­less times the topic of con­ver­sa­tion over the kitchen ta­ble. As Brad ad­mits, the im­ages were in­grained from a very young age.

From there, it was prob­a­bly in­evitable the broth­ers would work at Bayswa­ter. Here, of course, was Al­lan Stead who would be­come men­tor and mate to both, and whose blunt prag­ma­tism and staunch in­tegrity would have an in­deli­ble in­flu­ence on Ken­worth ca­reers, which in Steve’s case has notched 35 years and Brad’s al­most 25 years.

Any­way, back on ‘Leg­ends’ of the me­chan­i­cal kind, Brad May is quick to cite the re­duced cool­ing de­mands of Cum­mins’ ISXe5 en­gine as a ma­jor mo­ti­va­tor in the 2015 re­turn of the T950 in lim­ited edition ‘Leg­end’ form. Cool­ing dif­fi­cul­ties with the pre­vi­ous EGR Cum­mins were, af­ter all, the main rea­son the T950 went out of pro­duc­tion in the first place, so it stood to rea­son that a cooler Cum­mins should form the foun­da­tion for a lim­ited edition ‘spe­cial’.

“We al­ways knew there was an ap­petite for bring­ing back suc­cess­ful mod­els no longer in pro­duc­tion and the T950 was the per­fect place to start,” Brad ex­plains.

“It was ac­tu­ally Mike Fowler from Cum­mins who said, ‘The e5 runs so cool, you could bring back the T950.’

“So we did and his­tory shows it was very quickly ac­cepted, which gave us the con­fi­dence to fol­low with the 900.”

Quickly, in­deed! Ken­worth lim­ited the T950 Leg­end to just 75 units and the or­der book was full in less than 48 hours. Op­er­a­tors slow on the trig­ger sim­ply missed out and to say there were a few ruf­fled feath­ers is an un­der­state­ment of some mag­ni­tude.

“Yeah, we def­i­nitely copped some flak,” Brad ad­mits.

It was a sit­u­a­tion which would not be re­peated with the Leg­end 900 and with cus­tomers given plenty of ad­vance

no­tice, the or­der book was opened for one day only in July. True to form, Ken­worth won’t say how many or­ders were taken but the whis­per is a num­ber above 250. In­cred­i­ble!

As for the sug­ges­tion of the ‘Leg­end’ se­ries be­ing sim­ply another way to sell trucks, a can­did Brad May says, “Of course, it’s nice to get a good com­mer­cial re­sult, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

“It’s a cel­e­bra­tion for us and for a lot of our cus­tomers. To do some­thing like this is a way of recog­nis­ing the con­tri­bu­tion of many peo­ple, in what we’ve achieved in this coun­try and what the brand has achieved for lots of op­er­a­tors.”

Thought­ful for a mo­ment, he con­tin­ues, “It res­onates with peo­ple and rekin­dles some­thing spe­cial.

“Peo­ple get caught up in the pres­sures of trans­port and some might even come to re­sent the in­dus­try they work in. But then you pro­duce a truck like this and you see some­thing in their eyes. They re­mem­ber what they liked, even loved, about trucks in the first place.

“Peo­ple who are nor­mally stern busi­ness­men, suc­cess­ful peo­ple who don’t or­di­nar­ily show much emo­tion … it arouses a pas­sion in them, some­thing good, some­thing very proud.” He’s right! Typ­i­cally, Ken­worth had done a good job of keep­ing de­tails of the Leg­end 900 un­der wraps but from the mo­ment peo­ple set eyes on it at the Bris­bane Truck Show, there was an ob­vi­ous stir­ring in the hearts and minds of many.

At a quick glance, the Leg­end 900 dif­fers from the cur­rent T909 with its re­turn to a mod­u­lar bunk and a cab sit­ting much closer to the chas­sis than its mod­ern de­scen­dant. Con­se­quently, the bat­ter­ies of the Leg­end sit be­tween the rails be­hind the cab rather than un­der the sides of the cab.

There is, how­ever, cer­tainly no short­age of her­itage. From the crafted wood­grain Fuller gear knob, the flat dash, the split wind­screen, big ex­haust stacks, the spe­cial badg­ing and de­cals on the seats, in the bunk and on the hood. Even the KW bug is from a time long gone, while un­der the hood the X15 Cum­mins is painted black with a red rocker cover, re­call­ing the N14 ‘Red­head’ of decades past.

As Brad May men­tioned, you could see the pas­sion in their eyes. The wist­ful gaze, a soft hand slid­ing across the guard, a dreamy look in­side the cab, a mo­ment of re­flec­tion on times past, a nod of re­spect to the “Steady” script on the back of the bunk. And that was just me!

I knew I had to drive it ─ just once. Not far, but far enough to re­mem­ber a time when the T900 first forged a mon­u­men­tal in­flu­ence on Ken­worth’s fu­ture, and the rea­sons why some trucks truly de­serve to be called “Leg­end”.

Still, I was un­der no il­lu­sions. The ‘Steady” truck was the only Leg­end 900 in ex­is­tence and in a mag­nan­i­mous trib­ute to man and ma­chine, it will not be sold.

In­stead, it will spend its days in Ken­worth’s Hall of Fame in Alice Springs and un­der­stand­ably, Ken­worth didn’t want to risk the truck spend­ing any more time on the road than ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary.

Fair enough, but in 1990 I’d driven the orig­i­nal T900 when it was the only one of its kind, so why not this one? Be­sides, I reckon Steady would’ve given me the nod any­way.

And so it was that on a crisp, sunny win­ter’s morn­ing in the back­blocks of Bayswa­ter I fired the Cum­mins into life and with Brad May in the pas­sen­ger seat, steered the big beak through the ’burbs and into the hills through Yarra Glen, up The Slide and north through Yea.

It wasn’t far, all up a round trip just a touch over 300 kilo­me­tres. But it was enough and I loved ev­ery mo­ment. The raw plea­sure of it. The ride and han­dling of a true driver’s truck, the slick shift of the stick, the muted growl of the en­gine gur­gling through seven-inch stacks, the classy fin­ish of the cab and all the touches defin­ing the Leg­end 900 as some­thing truly spe­cial.

And best of all, the sheer pride and sat­is­fac­tion when you climb in, es­pe­cially when some­one’s watch­ing. Cool, re­ally cool!

Snip­pets of 1990 slipped in and out of the mem­ory bank, and for a few brief mo­ments I was re­minded of other peo­ple, other times, and why I’ve spent nearly 40 years driv­ing, talk­ing and writ­ing about trucks. It’s in the blood, I guess, and on very rare oc­ca­sions some­thing comes along to rekin­dle the pas­sion, and sud­denly the hook goes in a tad deeper.

When it’s all boiled down, I sup­pose it re­ally is all about a truck and a driver.

In what seemed a heart­beat, we were al­most back at Bayswa­ter. “So whose idea was it to ded­i­cate the truck to Steady?”

Brad took a while to an­swer, be­fore fi­nally, “Mine. Do you reckon he’d like it?”

“Mate, he’d have a grin from one chubby cheek to the other,” I replied.

Across the cab, the silent smile was enough.

The orig­i­nal T900 pro­to­type: Born tough in tough times

Steady! The one and only Al­lan Stead

Brad May with a cou­ple of throw­backs to another time. The plea­sure was all mine

The re­tir­ing type: Gary Hart­ley just a few weeks be­fore his last days at Ken­worth

One for the road: In all its forms, T9 han­dling and road man­ners have long been top-shelf

The orig­i­nal T900 pro­to­type at­tracted plenty of at­ten­tion. Af­ter the iconic W-model, it was just what Ken­worth needed

Okay, this one’s self-in­dul­gent. I can’t help it. I loved it

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