Leg­end RE­BORN

In an ex­clu­sive Steve Brooks gets be­hind the wheel of Ken­worth’s new T900 Leg­end >

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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. With his bean-counter brain kick­ing into sur­vival mode, re­trench­ments at the Bayswa­ter, Vic­to­ria, 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 Wright, specif­i­cally, be­came pari­ahs as com­men­ta­tors and com­peti­tors pub­licly lam­basted 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, an as­tute 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 – 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 that 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-fo­cused op­er­a­tors, the 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.


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, 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 laid-back bloke from Bund­aberg in 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, 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

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

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 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 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 long-serv­ing 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, test and con­stant ap­praisal to build the dura­bil­ity de­manded by a crit­i­cal Aus­tralian mar­ket.

In many eyes, the 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 ul­tra-de­pend­able 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 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 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 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 freefall, 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, Hart­ley says, 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 lock­down, 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,” 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 that 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,” he 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 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, T900 marked the birth of a new era for Ken­worth.


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.

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

“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 that would en­dure un­til 1998 when the new T904 de­liv­ered 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 road train 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’s 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.


In sim­ple and per­haps cyn­i­cal terms, the ‘Leg­end’ con­cept is just a clever mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tive. Bring back the de­funct T950 as a tricked up, lim­it­ededi­tion se­ries and let the true be­liev­ers in­dulge. Then if that proved suc­cess­ful, re­peat it with the T900.

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 were 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 T900.”

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. 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 the ‘Leg­end’ se­ries was 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 closer to the chas­sis than its mod­ern de­scen­dant. Con­se­quently, the bat­ter­ies sit be­tween the rails be­hind the cab rather than under the sides of the cab.

There is, how­ever, no short­age of her­itage. From the crafted wood­grain Fuller gear knob, flat dash, split wind­screen, big ex­haust stacks, 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 men­tions, 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.

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 up 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.”

Across the cab, the silent smile was enough.

1995 KEN­WORTH T900. Fullers 18spd RR, 106T rated, 6 rod susp, re­cently re­built • 0428 854 666

2004 KEN­WORTH T904. P/mover, Cat C15 en­gine, 6 rod susp, side tip­per hyd • QLD 07 3171 1722

Above: The orig­i­nal T900 pro­to­type. Born tough in tough times

1993 KEN­WORTH T950. 45T rated dou­ble chas­sis rail, 13 spd RR, well maint. • 0412 824 768

2005 KEN­WORTH T904 6X4 PRIME MOVER. 110T rated, Cat C15 en­gine • QLD 07 3171 1722

2013 KEN­WORTH T409 SAR. 18 spd man, Cum­mins ISX EGR DPF • QLD 07 3073 8141

Above left: Steady! The one and only Al­lan Stead Above right: The re­tir­ing type. Gary Hart­ley just a few weeks be­fore his last days at Ken­worth

Above left: Ok, this one’s self-in­dul­gent. I can’t help it. I loved it Above right: Brad May with a cou­ple of throwbacks to an­other time. The plea­sure was all mine

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

Above: The T900 em­bod­ies all that was at­trac­tive and sought af­ter in the W-model Above right: Re­mem­ber­ing the Red­head. For the Leg­end 900, Cum­mins X15 car­ries the colours of the long gone N14 Red­head. Nice touch!

Above: 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

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

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