HAPPY DAYS

Fol­low­ing a ma­jor setback, owner-driver Craig Hef­fer spent months restor­ing his 1994 Ken­worth K100E to its former glory. Now it’s one of the flashiest rigs around Yar­ra­wonga. Peter and Di Sch­lenk write

Owner Driver - - News -

CRAIG HEF­FER and his 1994 Ken­worth K100E have shared a few ad­ven­tures to­gether, like the time it blew a steer tyre and speared the truck and Craig into a tree. The truck stayed up­right but the cab was a write-off and the prime mover’s chas­sis was twisted.

“I had a trip to hos­pi­tal for a few stitches and sta­ples but came out al­right,” Craig re­calls.

“It was heart­break­ing. Af­ter a year and a half work­ing on the K100E, get­ting it fin­ished and on the road, it looked fan­tas­tic and then ‘bang’, it was back to the be­gin­ning again.”

The ac­ci­dent came three months af­ter the Ken­worth’s first re­build which had taken 18 months to fin­ish due to Craig’s driv­ing com­mit­ments. He took time out for the sec­ond re­build and had it fin­ished in less than five months. “The chas­sis was twisted so I stripped it back to the rails and Shep­par­ton Mo­tor Pan­els straight­ened it all out.”

Craig’s brother-in-law Cameron Fraser is an auto me­chanic so he fully rewired it and in­su­lated the new cab. “The truck didn’t go over, just hit­ting the tree but it ripped the side out. Looking at it later, the truck looked like it had gone over but hadn’t.

“Shepp Mo­tor Pan­els had a brand new E cab so I just put a new cab on and trans­ferred ev­ery­thing over.”

The K100E, nick­named ‘Still Happy Days’, is now a 1994 model with a 1992 cab. Un­der­neath sits a Detroit Diesel Se­ries 60 en­gine cou­pled to an 18-speed Road­ranger gear­box.

Craig has fit­ted Red Roo shock­ers all around the prime mover and he says these plus the par­a­bolic springs on the steer help the truck han­dle well.

“The Detroit is set at 550hp and it drives pretty well for a cab-over. I run lower pres­sure on the steers as I be­lieve you get a bet­ter ride, bet­ter wear and bet­ter han­dling.”

With the K100E Craig pulls a set of home­made drop-deck B-dou­ble trail­ers, cus­tom made for the job. The trail­ers ride on spring sus­pen­sion and Craig finds them very sta­ble. The 19.5-inch trailer tyres are so low they don’t al­low for big tool­boxes, so ex­tra stor­age lock­ers have been built in be­hind the drop deck, al­low­ing max­i­mum ca­pac­ity and stor­age.

HAUL­ING STRAW

The re­fur­bished Ken­worth is not just a show­piece how­ever. Based in the north­ern Vic­to­rian town Yar­ra­wonga and trad­ing as Heff’s Haulage, Craig hauls three loads a week to Syd­ney haul­ing straw. It’s been a long-term of aim of Craig’s to be­come an own­er­driver, just as his fa­ther Graeme had been. The Hef­fers lived in Nu­murkah and Craig loved noth­ing more than trav­el­ling with his dad who ran mainly from Mel­bourne to Bris­bane, his last truck be­ing a 3800 Atkin­son.

“Un­for­tu­nately the old man died when I was 13 but the diesel had ob­vi­ously got into me by then.

“I com­pleted a panel-beat­ing ap­pren­tice­ship but as soon as I got my li­cence, I was truck­ing.”

War­wick Doolan of Doolans Heavy Haulage gave Craig a go, firstly in a pi­lot car, then load­ing and un­load­ing be­fore pro­gress­ing to truck driv­ing.

“He was awe­some,” Craig ex­claims. “I was young and not many blokes would give you a start. He was a good boss to work for. That was the best job I have ever had, work-wise that is. Just the va­ri­ety taught me a lot.”

His first banger at Doolan’s was a 3070 Atkin­son, which he says was “good fun”.

“I went ev­ery­where but there was one draw­back. De­spite sit­ting around with the boys en­joy­ing a beer and a bar­be­cue, you were away from home.”

By then, Craig had mar­ried Rochelle and had two daugh­ters, Alan­nah and Lau­ren. He was miss­ing his wife and fam­ily. Craig gave up his life on the road and went back panel beat­ing. He lasted three weeks; he couldn’t stand the four walls so he landed a job with Cootes and stayed there for seven years. Start­ing off as a com­pany driver, he be­came an owner-driver, buy­ing one of Cootes’ T401s.

“Within the first week of own­ing the 401 it dropped a valve and I thought, ‘what in the world have I done?’

“With no war­ranty, no noth­ing, we had to do a com­plete re­build af­ter the sec­ond trip. Life in truck­ing, it makes you stronger, though.”

The T401 ended up be­ing a good, reli­able truck. Craig even­tu­ally sold it and started work­ing for Ge­off and Jenny Sheel of Yar­ra­wonga, cart­ing straw to Syd­ney. He was driv­ing a Ken­worth Aero­dyne for the Sheels, but Ge­off Sheel was not in­ter­ested in hav­ing a subby on his books.

But once Craig bought the K100E and spent 18 months restor­ing it, Ge­off handed him the straw con­tract. “It has all worked out very well. It is good work and I work for a great bloke.

OLD SCHOOL

Ac­cord­ing to Rochelle, Craig is a tra­di­tion­al­ist, opt­ing for the truck’s blue paint job. “It’s nice that it’s old school,” Craig says. “I like the air clean­ers on the roof.

“The hard­est bit was get­ting the arch on the front paint­work, and get­ting the blue to look even took an en­tire day.”

To make clean­ing eas­ier, Craig added a fair amount of stain­less to ‘Still Happy Days’. “We have wrapped the tanks and painted the ends. It’s all stain­less and chrome and the only thing to pol­ish is the bumper bar.”

Craig took the K100E to the 2016 Ken­worth Klas­sic at Claren­don, NSW and he says it turned quite a few heads.

Craig is still en­joy­ing his time on the road and is happy to get into the cab and go to work. “It’s bet­ter than work­ing in the fac­tory. It’s good and it pays a couple of bills, puts food on the ta­ble and the kids have clothes on their backs,” he smiles.

The Heff’s Haulage team: Craig Hef­fer, wife Rochelle and daugh­ters Alan­nah and Lau­ren

Stain­less abounds on Craig Hef­fer’s Ken­worth K100E

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