Old truck tragic

Classic Ken­worths

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

Adrian O’Con­nell wants me to choose – god­damit! I’m torn. I mentally hop from one foot to the other as I try and make a de­ci­sion. Parked be­fore me sit a pair of iconic trucks – and I can only drive one, which I think is a lit­tle un­fair.

I mean, how am I meant to choose be­tween a Cum­min­spow­ered 1980 model W924 Ken­worth and a Detroit-pow­ered 1982 S2 Ken­worth for a drive?

Not only that, be­hind me in the shed also sits a 1968 Flint­stone Mack tip­per that looks like it could use a run. The ex­pres­sion on my face prob­a­bly looks a lit­tle like one of those Face­book videos where peo­ple tease a kitten with a laser pointer.

Of course, I should be thank­ful Adrian is giv­ing me the time of day at all. He’s cur­rently flat chat in the midst of shear­ing and he’s rather gen­er­ously taken a cou­ple of hours out to show me around his truck­ing toys.

Ba­si­cally, I just need to suck it up and choose.


These trucks aren’t show ponies; they all need to earn their keep. The S2 has been stretched into a rigid and cur­rently has a stock crate on its back. The W model hauls hay and the Mack tip­per, well, tips.

The Cen­tral Vic­to­rian farmer runs about 3,000 acres of land which pro­duces An­gus cat­tle, merino sheep, canola, bar­ley and about 500 acres of hay. And, among all that, Adrian also finds time to play with trucks.

“I used to have an FLB Freight­liner as a farm truck with a Se­ries 60 and 18-speed in it,” he re­calls. “It was a good truck but it was an elec­tronic en­gine, of course, and I wanted to get away from that. So I bought the W model!”

The FLB stayed a part of the farm fleet for a while but, given the choice, Adrian found him­self al­ways opt­ing for the W.

“I’ve al­ways liked W mod­els,” he says, “There’s just some­thing about them that’s spe­cial.

“A fella said to me years ago that there’s noth­ing like jump­ing be­hind the wheel of a W model,” he grins. “He’s right, there’s noth­ing like it.

“Even back when I was a kid in school I would draw them,” he laughs. “They were such an iconic truck.”


Farm­ing has al­ways been Adrian’s pri­mary oc­cu­pa­tion but a love of trucks has al­ways been in the back­ground.

“I just don’t like the Euro stuff, though,” he adds. “We had a G88 Volvo for a bit and it was red hot on parts price wise.

“Like most farmers, if some­thing breaks you fix it. With the W

How do you choose be­tween two old high­way haulers? Matt Wood takes a look at a cou­ple of classic Ken­worths, but can only drive just the one

model I feel like I can just fix some­thing if there’s an is­sue. I’m a very hands-on per­son.”

The W model is a very neat bit of gear. The 14-litre Cum­mins is rated to 400hp and is backed by a 15-speed over­drive Roadie.

“We mainly use it to cart hay,” he says. “It prob­a­bly only does about 10 to 20,000 k’s a year de­pend­ing on where the hay needs to go.”

This can see the white W model run from Caris­brook to Geelong, Gipp­s­land or even up into the Rive­rina. “It’s a us­able toy, but it’s got to earn its keep.” The old Ken­worth also gets a run to the oc­ca­sional show.


I end up opt­ing for a steer of the old S2, mainly be­cause I’ve never driven one be­fore.

This one uses a 350hp Detroit 6V92TTA Sil­ver Se­ries to get some two-stroke mumbo to the drive wheels and, like the W model, uses a 15 over­drive for cog swap­ping. It’s hard to turn down a drive of a scream­ing jimmy at the best of times!

The S2 may not be as pretty as the W but I’ve al­ways been taken by the look of these short-snouted Ken­worths. With the big banger do­ing all the longer-dis­tance work, the S2 cov­ers stack haul­ing and hay cart­ing and also tows a dog trailer on oc­ca­sion.

This truck orig­i­nally be­longed to JJ Leech Trans­port in Castle­maine as a line-haul prime mover. Through the faded and chipped paint, traces of the old blue Leech liv­ery are start­ing to be­come vis­i­ble. Some­where along the line it was stretched into a rigid. But the Detroit fires on cue and set­tles to a dis­tinc­tive V6 idle as air builds up in the brak­ing sys­tem.

Adrian has owned this truck for about 10 years. The own­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence didn’t start out that well, how­ever, with the Detroit grenad­ing on the trip home.

“The bloke I bought it off was very apolo­getic, though,” Adrian re­calls. “He even of­fered me my money back.”

How­ever, Adrian per­sisted with the S2 and had the 692 re­built. With prac­ticed ease, Adrian steers the lit­tle Kenny out of the hay shed and out into the sun­light. The V6 rum­ble stays at a re­spectable noise level as we roll down the farm drive­way at a sen­si­ble pace.


Once out onto the main road, Adrian puts the boot into it and the 692 re­sponds with a bel­low. To date I’d never driven a tur­bocharged Detroit and cer­tainly never a V6.

Com­pared to nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V8 mod­els, the 692 sounds only slightly more sub­dued with a turbo on it. There’s still a supercharged whine to the GM as it winds up but it doesn’t feel as if it’s try­ing to suck the bon­net down its gul­let.

Then it’s my turn for a drive. Sit­ting in the driver’s seat, I’m amazed at what an er­gonomic hor­ror these things are. The tiny cab feels quite claus­tro­pho­bic and the un­even floor un­der foot makes it hard to find a com­fort­able driv­ing po­si­tion.

I grab a gear and get rolling. Be­ing a Detroit, it wants and needs to rev to make horse­power, so I feed it some fuel. The six is very peaky and re­quires you to be on top of your gear-chang­ing game. If you’re just a frac­tion too slow, the revs will drop and things will come to a halt pretty darned quickly.

I only muff a cou­ple of changes be­fore get­ting things go­ing. The 692 pro­vides an en­ter­tain­ing sound­track as I get up to speed. Of course it wouldn’t be a Detroit if there wasn’t a sat­is­fy­ing trail of fuel smoke in the sky be­hind us.

The short, stubby bon­net out front gives the il­lu­sion of driv­ing up­hill as we go.

But there’s real char­ac­ter in this truck and the Sil­ver Se­ries GM gives the rigid plenty of high­way legs. I’m start­ing to warm to it. And she drives pretty tight for a farm hauler.

The drive is all too brief but it at least gave me a bit of in­sight into the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. I love the pro­por­tions of these lit­tle Ken­nies and, of course, the ac­com­pa­ny­ing Detroit sound track. Adrian ad­mits that the S2 is look­ing a lit­tle used these days.

“It will get a re­build one day, though,” he says.

In the mean­time, there are sheep to be shorn and Adrian has to fly. He’s a lucky guy.

Farm­ing al­lows Adrian to in­dulge a pas­sion for old bangers as long as they can jus­tify their place in the shed.

I take one last look at the W model; it looks the goods, gleam­ing white in the sun­light. Maybe I should’ve just …

1. This 1982 S2 Ken­worth ‘mo­tor-vates’ with a Sil­ver Se­ries 692TTA Detroit 2. Ev­ery W model should have an an­gry duck on the bon­net 3. Farm­ing al­lows Adrian O’Con­nell to in­dulge in his truck­ing pas­sion 4. It may look well used but this S2 still...

Above: This 1980 W model sports a 400hp Cum­mins and a 15-speed over­drive ’box

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