Mick Cleeland’s eldest son passed away at age 17, but with commemorative murals adorning the company’s Kenworth K200, it seems he’s never too far away. Peter and Di Schlenk write
Mick Cleeland’s colourful Kenworth K200 salutes his late son
AROUND 18 MONTHS AGO, Mick Cleeland decided to make an addition to his fleet and went out and bought a second-hand 2013 big-cab Kenworth K200. Although the truck had a fairly flash paint scheme, Mick wanted something more. So the K200 was repainted and murals portraying images of his late son Mike were added. Mike passed away in August 2012 at age 17, a victim of a car accident. According to Mick, his son was more into cars than trucks, although he had his heart set on becoming a diesel mechanic. Mick says the artwork on the K200, which replaced the “ugly red flames”, is out of respect for Mike, with the images depicting different phases of his son’s life.
“The crusher is there because he was working on a crusher up in Rockhampton and it’s great that he is out there and
with us in a way,” Mick says. “There is no better way to complete a tribute to him and it’s turned out to be a real head turner. People are taking photos of it all the time.”
The K200, nicknamed ‘Mike’s Ride’, has a GVM of 160 tonne with a big Cummins EGR pumping out 630hp. It had 290,000km on the clock when Mick bought it; now it’s well over the 315,000km mark.
It is set up with all the push-pull gear in the front, clips for fitting the ballast box and a 10-tonne front axle plus six-rod rear end.
“It is a little bit big for around town at times, but I’ve had a few Argosies and it was just time for a change,” he explains.
Mick and his wife Karlene run Mick Cleeland Excavations in Brisbane with a fleet of four trucks and eight pieces of machinery. The couple’s son, Jake, is also a member of the team.
The bulk of the company’s business involves home building platforms and excavation work for pre-cast tanks in both sewerage and rainwater applications.
“The tanks would be 80 per cent of our work, although the water tanks have slowed down a fair bit but the sewerage side has powered on,” Mick explains. “Everyone with little acreage blocks can’t be on septic anymore.”
“It is a little bit big for around town.”
Mick has been self-employed for about 22 years, originally starting out with his father Doug, who was in the earthmoving game as well.
“It has grown into a little earthmoving business around Brisbane,” Mick says. “We’re just plodding along and trying to upgrade a few trucks and make it a bit different and more presentable. Presentation is a big thing as we turn up at our customer’s site.”
The K200, which generally pulls a tri-axle float, has a big bed although Mick prefers sleeping in his own bed at home. “Some days the K200 would only do 50 kilometres,” he adds. At present Mick is looking for another big-cab Kenworth but if his youngest son Max has anything to do with it, it will be an old SAR. “The youngest one, Max, is truck mad,” Mick smiles.
“For Max, everything has to be big with flashing flights. He wants it to be done up with Captain America.”
Tribute truck on show
With Jake behind the wheel, ‘Mike’s Ride’ takes in the show circuit, including last year’s Casino Truck Show. That was Mick Cleeland Excavations’ second appearance at Casino, the K200 joined by another member of the fleet – a ’97 Kenworth K100.
However, it was the finished paint work on the K200 that inspired the Cleelands to dress up the old Kenworth.
“This one is a tribute to my great uncle Keith, who never came back from World War II,” Jake says.
“He was in the air force so it’s the same idea again; to pay some respect to him and all the other blokes that served and did their bit for peace for our country.”
The ’97 Kenworth had already been stretched when Cleeland bought it. With a 12.7-litre Detroit engine producing 500hp, it is coupled to an 18-speed gearbox and an eight-bag rear end.
Jake found out about the truck’s history when he was fuelling up one day at Heathwood near his home.
“A bloke came up to me and said it was his old truck,” Jake recalls. “I replied that it couldn’t be and he went on to tell me about a dent that he put in it, so he knew it was his truck.”
The old Kenworth was previously an overnighter for TNT, hence the orange colour cab, doing Port Macquarie to Brisbane overnight.
“It has done a few hard yards but is still in very good condition,” Jake says. “Now with the murals, it attracts a lot of attention. It’s all freehand airbrushed.
Jake says he has enjoyed being around machines and trucks all of his life. “Since I could walk I would go with Dad and, whenever I could, spend afternoons and Saturdays in the shed. I would move the trucks around and play in the machines before learning how to operate them,” he recalls.
“It’s pretty awesome; I’m 20 and get to drive a big cab K200. It does make you take a step back and I think I’ve got it pretty good,” Jake continues. “Truck driving is so hard to get into and I was able to walk straight into it.”
“Everything has to be big with flashing flights.”
Below: Mick Cleeland’s Kenworth K200 is a tribute to his late son Mike
Above: The old Kenworth recalls Jake’s great uncle who passed away while on duty in World War II