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
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.
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.
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