Deals on Wheels - - New Truck Test -

the stand­out fea­ture was the ex­cep­tional ‘un­der­stand­ing’ be­tween en­gine, trans­mis­sion and re­tarder over rolling ter­rain. In all mod­els, the co­he­sive re­la­tion­ship be­tween the var­i­ous func­tions is noth­ing less than out­stand­ing, and per­haps best high­lighted by the fast and al­most undis­cernible en­gage­ment of the ‘Eco’ roll func­tion on down­hill sec­tions.

Yet as good as the 1630 model was in many re­spects, a steer­ing wheel sit­ting off-cen­tre and what seemed a con­sid­er­able need for wheel align­ment were sur­pris­ing and dis­ap­point­ing fea­tures. For­tu­nately it was the only one of the four demo units with these traits but, as Mercedes-Benz knows only too well from past ex­pe­ri­ence, ser­vice is ev­ery­thing in this day and age – and that cer­tainly in­cludes a high level of at­ten­tion to pre-de­liv­ery stan­dards, whether it’s a press test or not.

Step­ping from the small­est to the big­gest, the 3243 eight-wheeler sets it­self apart in sev­eral ways, not least through a sig­nif­i­cantly more ag­gres­sive grille de­sign de­rived from the heavy­duty Mercedes-Benz Arocs range.

De­spite its dis­tinct ‘bite your face off’ looks, this truck dis­played ex­tremely good road man­ners with a level of steer­ing re­sponse largely at odds with the ten­dency of most twin-steers to ‘bite’ into bends. Sur­pris­ingly, though, the twin-steer lay­out was a non-load-shar­ing de­sign. Ac­cord­ing to Mercedes-Benz sources, this par­tic­u­lar truck was pri­mar­ily im­ported as a test unit for a dis­tinct ap­pli­ca­tion and we’re as­sured a load-shar­ing front sus­pen­sion will be the norm by the end of the year.

Next was the 2635 6x4 which, as al­ready ex­plained, had the ben­e­fit of 70,000km of re­al­world test­ing un­der its belt and was ar­guably the smoothest and most re­spon­sive of all four trial units. In ev­ery re­spect, this was a highly im­pres­sive truck which made easy work of the di­verse road con­di­tions and points to an even more pos­i­tive opin­ion of the new Benz breed as time and toil gather.

Fi­nally, the 6x2 2530. This was per­haps the most unin­spir­ing of all four, not be­cause it did any­thing wrong but be­cause it ran the same en­gine and trans­mis­sion com­bi­na­tion as its 4x2 coun­ter­part yet car­ried con­sid­er­ably more weight. Plus, I climbed in im­me­di­ately af­ter driv­ing the lively 2635 model. Con­se­quently, per­for­mance felt no­tably more sub­dued.

That said though, it’s still a model which shares all the im­pres­sive traits of its rigid sib­lings – such as an ex­cep­tion­ally smooth and in­tu­itive en­gine and trans­mis­sion com­bi­na­tion, great ride and han­dling, easy ac­cess into and out of a func­tional and en­tirely com­fort­able cab, and lev­els of oper­a­tional re­fine­ment that are both ex­ten­sive and quickly fa­mil­iar.

As we’ve now said on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, Benz is back. Big time!

“We like noth­ing too ridicu­lously over the top. We gen­er­ally like a heav­ier block let­ter. We like a shadow on it, or a shade.

“We like sim­i­lar things to [what] other driv­ers would have. Some­thing that was writ­ten in the

’70s would still fit to­day’s truck driver. We’re not very good at change.”

He has ob­served sub­tle dif­fer­ences be­tween the scrolling styles used in dif­fer­ent states. For ex­am­ple, some Syd­ney sign­writ­ers will of­ten draw a line all the way through their scrolls. Rick says Vic­to­rian sign­writ­ers are more likely to draw a line that meets a scroll but doesn’t pass all the way through it, “or starts be­hind the scroll”.

“In Queens­land they would prob­a­bly be a lit­tle more ex­tended in their scrolls,” he says.

Ole ‘Lee’ Chris­tensen’s scrolls il­lus­trate this style. Lee of­ten uses a spe­cific scroll pat­tern which has been used around Bris­bane since the horse-drawn era.

Within states there are vari­a­tions of sig­nage styles. Rick is con­fi­dent he could dis­tin­guish be­tween the work of other Vic­to­rian sign­writ­ers in­clud­ing Win­ton Fran­cis or Euroa, Gor­don McCracken of Wodonga, the late Mal Ash­downe of Mel­bourne, and the late Frank Weeks of Gee­long.

Rick says lines and scrolls look great on all brands of trucks.

“Be­tween brands, it would only be the area that you scrolled that would be dif­fer­ent – as op­posed to the style.”

He has em­braced modern tech­niques. “The ad­vent of PVC Tape has made it just that lit­tle bit quicker to top and bot­tom the let­ters.”

Rick some­times uses this re­mov­able tape as a guide to help hand brush long straight lines. “Some peo­ple use it. Some don’t. It’s just another tool in the box.”

Ad­he­sive vinyl let­ter­ing is also part of his tool­kit. “It has to be gen­er­ated on a com­puter and then for­warded to a plot­ter where it’s cut with an au­to­mated knife.”

He wit­nessed sign­writ­ers adopt­ing this method in the 1980s. It was widely used by the 1990s.

“Be­cause it’s cut out of vinyl, it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily have to be a junky, cheap job,” Rick

says. “I don’t den­i­grate any­body for us­ing any tech­nique.

“I try to in­cor­po­rate what­ever I need to do to come out with the cor­rect job. It may be vinyl let­ter­ing for easy re­moval. It may be hand-lined and scrolled or a com­bi­na­tion of both.”


Rick hand-paints his scrolls – ex­cept for the rare oc­ca­sion when a client re­quests vinyl scrolls. In this case, Rick would digi­tise one of his own hand-painted scrolls.

The num­ber of sign­writ­ers who spe­cialise in hand-brush­ing trucks is dwin­dling, but the de­mand for scrolls re­mains. That’s one rea­son some of the scrolls you see on to­day’s trucks are vinyl. Rick says ex­per­tise is needed to know where to place scrolls, re­gard­less of whether they are vinyl or painted.

Vinyl is pop­u­lar among fleet own­ers who turn their trucks over reg­u­larly. They want sig­nage which can be re­moved quickly and af­ford­ably when they sell them.

To­day many trucks are plain white, which is a log­i­cal money-sav­ing op­tion. But there are still plenty of eye-catch­ing trucks on the road. Sign­writ­ing draws at­ten­tion away from scratches and mi­nor dints, which is help­ful if you run up lots of kilo­me­tres be­fore trad­ing in your truck.

Rick loves old trucks. He says sign­writ­ers rely on a “cal­cu­lated guess” when asked to re­pro­duce the style of old fleets, be­cause old truck pho­tos rarely show sign­writ­ing in de­tail.

He is de­vel­op­ing a tech­nique which makes new let­ter­ing look weath­ered. In 2015 he painted the door of Ge­off Dolan’s cabover Ken­worth, de­lib­er­ately mak­ing it ap­pear as if it the sig­nage has faded for 30 years.

Rick hopes fu­ture truck re­stor­ers will re­sist the temp­ta­tion to strip and re­paint ev­ery project.

“We’ve got more than enough flash shiny ones now. I think ev­ery [truck] that gets painted and re­stored is another one that doesn’t ex­ist in its orig­i­nal liv­ery. I’d like to see a few more as they were – me­chan­i­cally cleaned up and vis­ually left alone.”

Above: Eight-leg­ger: Based on the heavy-duty Arocs plat­form, the 8x4 is a key model in the new MercedesBe­nz rigid range

1. In the dig­i­tal age, Rick Hay­man is proud to be among the sign­writ­ers re­spected for their brush skills2. The fin­ished job: Rick’s hand-brushed let­ter­ing on an In­ter­na­tional3. Rick Hay­man painted Ge­off Dolan’s cabover Ken­worth in 2015 and de­lib­er­ately made it ap­pear that the paint had been fad­ing for 30 years. Ge­off takes it to clas­sic truck events with this old Vaughan Trans­port trailer4. The Ken­worth’s door with its in­ten­tion­ally faded let­ter­ing

5. Rick hopes more trucks like this old K5 In­ter­na­tional will be pre­served “in their work­ing clothes”. He sug­gests one pro­fes­sional sign­writer and per­haps two farm­ers have writ­ten on the door6. Andy McKen­zie’s Ford has been painted, lined and scrolled by Rick Hay­man 7. Med­well’s Trans­port’s SAR Ken­worth had a white stripe on it when it ar­rived at Hay­man Signs. Rick hand-painted the lines and scrolls and added the dig­i­tally printed let­ter­ing 8. Gor­don McCracken with his own Ken­worth S2, which show­cases his sign­writ­ing abil­ity9. Gor­don’s dis­tinc­tive scrolls

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