OLD BANGER re­born

Re­built from the ground up, this ‘80s In­ter­na­tional has been put to work as a tip­per and wa­ter cart,

Deals on Wheels - - Used Truck Review - Matt Wood writes

Iswear there are some trucks that were de­lib­er­ately en­gi­neered to be fallen out of. The best ex­am­ple I can think of is the In­ter­na­tional T-Line cab. If you’d pok­ing around the ‘burbs in an Acco and the boss then chucked you the keys to a T-Line, chances are that the first thing you did when you got to the other end of the jour­ney was plum­met to the ground scrab­bling for grab han­dles and steps that weren’t there.

I’ve also been told that the Mack Ul­tra­liner was an­other se­rial of­fender when it came to driver’s plum­met­ing from the cab and land­ing on their ar­ses in front of an au­di­ence.

I found that there are a cou­ple of ways you can re­act af­ter an undig­ni­fied exit from the truck cab. You can spring back to your feet like an Olympic gym­nast and pre­tend it didn’t hap­pen. Or you can take a bow and ask for a round of ap­plause. Or you can just limp away cry­ing softly.

And while I used to reg­u­larly fall out of a T-Line back in the day. I never had the op­por­tu­nity to fall out of the T-Line’s flash high­way si­b­ling, the Atkin­son.


It’s amaz­ing what you can find kick­ing around the back blocks of Aus­tralia some­times. We

have a habit of not let­ting our old bangers die. Where other coun­tries hock their trade-ins off to de­vel­op­ing mar­kets, we tend to re­build rather than re­place. Even new trucks tend to have a sec­ond and third life within the same com­pany.

As a re­sult there are some old jig­gers still around work­ing that were pretty flash back in the day.

I re­cently came across this old 1983 Atkin­son 4870, which has just been re­built from the ground up and put back to work. So I got in touch with the own­ers, fa­ther and son Bren­dan and Nick McKnight, and asked if it would be okay if I came around and fell out of their truck.

Nick is a diesel me­chanic by trade and he came by the old girl about 18 months ago. Like any old banger that rolled out the In­ter­na­tional plant in Dan­de­nong in the 70’s and 80’s the cab was pretty well, er, ven­ti­lated. Rust has never been kind to these old boxy cabs.

So Nick pulled the old girl to bits and started to re­build this for­mer high­way hero, start­ing with the 44,000lb Rock­wells in the rear be­fore com­pletely re­build­ing the 15-speed re­duc­tion ‘box and the jewel in the crown, a 14-litre BC3 Cum­mins.

The cab was stripped back, re­paired and painted. The in­te­rior was re­trimmed, though Nick looks a lit­tle pained when he talks about that. Purist will prob­a­bly be hor­ri­fied that the grille has been re­done in ham­mer tone. But ac­cord­ing to Nick the bright work was “pretty knack­ered.”

A PTO and a tip­per body were added and the 4870 was now ready to go to work as a wa­ter cart and oc­ca­sional tip­per.

The old Atki was look­ing pretty schmick when I rolled up the drive­way of the McKnight’s Cen­tral Vic­to­rian prop­erty.

“The whole thing was a bit of a chal­lenge,” says Nick, “There was lots of rust in the cab.”

But as a me­chanic by trade the run­ning gear wasn’t as much of an ad­ven­ture. “We’ve got it run­ning pretty sweet, we played with the cam tim­ing a lit­tle to make her bark,” he says.


I climb into the cab – care­fully. That fa­mil­iar old T-Line style dash greets me. It’s not hard to see the rem­nants of a high­way her­itage in here. A space in the over­head con­sole where the CB used to be, the old school fan on the dash. The air con has been in­stalled but hasn’t been con­nected yet.

Be­hind the seats is a pretty size­able bunk for the times, and this what re­ally sets it apart from the T-Line In­ter. Where the in­ter­na­tional had a padded shelf that you could crawl onto (and plenty did), the 4870 has a proper sleep cab with shelves and lights.

Like so many old me­chan­i­cal en­gines, the BC3 Cum­mins has a lot of char­ac­ter. Just the ex­haust note at idle makes the truck sound like it’s rar­ing to go, like it’s wait­ing to be un­leashed.

I hit the maxi’s off and grab a gear – the re­built ‘box is pretty tight, and idle away. Clearly no one at In­ter­na­tional ever in­tended for any­one to use the clutch pedal once mo­bile. So I stir the ‘box with­out it.

Fun­nily enough I’d just got­ten my head around driv­ing a 15 over­drive and now I had to re­set

We’ve got it run­ning pretty sweet, we played with the cam tim­ing a lit­tle to make her bark.

back to a straight 15 re­duc­tion. But once we got haul­ing all of those 400 horses were a sound to be­hold.

As we were empty the old steel Hen­drick­son arse-end kicked and bucked a bit but I was too busy lis­ten­ing to 14 litres of Cum­mins singing in the breeze. And even though there was no need for it, I just had to hit the jakes when it came time to slow down at a coun­try in­ter­sec­tion. For any­one who grew up around trucks that roar still echoes down the decades. Of course I then had to re­mem­ber to flick it back off again. This ain’t no elec­tronic en­gine.

That fa­mil­iar feel­ing of clang­ing down the down the road sit­ting a big old Cum­mins while hunched over the wheel starts to come back to me. The wheel is never still on this rough bush black­top. We roll back down the drive­way and into the shed. I swing out of the cab, miss a step and stum­ble. Luck­ily Nick is on the other side of the truck and doesn’t see. Awe­some, this means I can stroll away non­cha­lantly as though noth­ing hap­pened.

It would have been a big truck in its day; an open-road hauler with lux­u­ri­ous ac­com­mo­da­tion. And that big wrap-around dash makes you feel as if you’re at the wheel of a ma­jor piece of ma­chin­ery. It feels like a cock­pit rather than just a place to sit.

The In­ter­na­tional brand is on its way back to Aus­tralia but the 4870 was the last truck in the world to ever wear the Atkin­son brand. We won’t be fall­ing out of the like of them again, in fact these days we have fur­ther to fall.

1. The 4870 fea­tures a fa­mil­iar old T-Line style dash.

2. The 14-litre BC3 Cum­mins has been com­pletely re­built.

3. The 4870 has a proper sleep cab with shelves and lights.

4. The Atkin­son 4870 was built at the In­ter­na­tional plant in Dan­de­nong.

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