In International, Classics Locker, November 202016 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 31, 2020

A chance comment led Robin Wildbore of Levin to undertake his stunning restoration of a 1977 International Acco 1830A.

The Acco wasn‘t a planned purchase; it was more the outcome of a chance comment from someone that got Robin thinking. “I was an owner-driver for 18 years, for Lakeview in Levin. I owned Kenworths, I had a K100E, a K100G, and the last one I had was a T404S IT. [The first 404 IT in New Zealand.] A friend said to me ‘why aren‘t you into the classic truck thing, because you‘ve driven for years and years?‘ I thought ‘I don‘t know‘ and it sort of sparked me to do something about it.” Robin thought he‘d quite like a handy little truck because it would be useful on his large rural property. “I looked around and I always quite liked the Internationals, they were really good trucks. This one had a hoist on it, and I thought I could make something of that, and that‘s how it all started. And it just went from one thing to another to another to another.” Robin bought the truck in July 2014 and says it had been in the South Island all its life. “I know a couple of the previous owners, the chap who had it before, and one other guy I approached who sent me a couple of photos of it.” Robin says in one of the photos the Acco had a digger on the back and in the other a late thirties Chev or Ford. “At that stage it had a lazy axle in it. It‘s pretty short anyway, and it looked even worse. Some used to do that then, just a single axle in front of the drive axle, and the last outfit that had it, they took it out.”

Photo: Robin took the Acco on the Northern Classic Commercial club‘s run in August.

Another owner of the truck was a consortium, Mt Milne Machinery Ltd in Kurow. “There were about four owners, one was an uncle of Richie McCaw I think. I bought it off Barry Gard. He was the manager of one of the big deer stations down there and he‘d been left with the truck when the company was dissolved.” Robin says the Acco had spent a lot of time working off-road in Hakataramea Station. It had been deregistered for about 15 years and had no CoF, but luckily for Robin, it did have the original registration plates so he was able to apply to NZTA to have them approved to be reused. “That is the original registration plate on it now. I hate seeing things with modern plates, it‘s just not right. It‘s got to be periodcorrect; it just looks so much better with an original plate.” Robin says he found the Acco on Trade Me and thought it looked reasonably tidy. “But it did have a rather large knock in the motor, which was a run bearing.

It cost me as much to transfer it here to Levin as what I paid for it! And that‘s when the work started.” Surprisingly, the only rust the truck had was on the bottom of the doors. “It had been working offroad and a bit of hay got into the bottom of the doors and rusted the bottoms out, but otherwise it was pretty good. It was exceptional for one of these things, because they‘re shockers for rust. That whole series, right through to the T Lines, is shocking for rust, so there are not a hell of a lot of them around actually.” Although the truck had been stored in a shed for many years, for the 18 months before Robin bought it, it had been sitting outside. “It was covered in lichen and moss so I waterblasted it and cleaned it up.

Photos: Everything was difficult,” said Robin, but that didn‘t stop his outstanding attention to detail throughout this resto.

Robin rebuilt or repurposed a number of bits and pieces on the truck. “I rebuilt this, rebuilt that, rebuilt everything else! All the spring hangers have been done and I remade the sun visor. The stone guard came off a T Line that had to be shortened and reshaped. As I went along I thought, ‘oh, I better change that‘.” Robin left the transport industry in late 2005 and now owns industrial sweeping and scrubbing business, Sweep ‘n‘ Scrub. All the vehicles he uses for his business are red, and he says that was a deciding factor in the colour scheme for the Acco. After originally intending to leave it in the standard International off-white with a green strip, he decided to get Chris Rankin to paint it a rich red, with black and white detailing. “It was never going to be like it ended up – I was going to leave it as it was, the basic colour, but then I thought I‘d get it painted, so I painted all the chassis, and all under the deck.” Robin wasn‘t going to paint the interior either, but changed his mind after talking to someone who told him you could buy cab lights new from the States. “So, as mine were a bit yuck, I went online and bought some.

And with that I had to take the headlining out, and if I‘m taking the headlining out, I thought I may as well put some air horns on it, just to finish it off, and I may as well paint the interior! So you see, one thing leads to another, but at the end of the day you end up with a better result, it just takes a bit longer and it costs more!” The Acco originally had a 5-speed/2-speed but Robin changed the diff to make the truck more driveable. “I put a high-speed diff in it so now you can crank along at 90ks an hour with the rest of the traffic; it goes a hell of a lot better. Before it only used to do about 75kph. It was hopeless, and trying to drive it today would be useless. It was – I took it for a run, and thought ‘Jesus, this is no good!‘” The front bumper and diff came from Rotorua and were off a fire engine.

Photo: The Acco was a South Island truck all its life.

The next thing I had to do was fix the engine. It had a massively run bearing so I pulled that out and pulled it all to bits. My father-in-law, Ian McKay, is a semi-retired mechanic so that was his job, rebuilding that. It didn‘t take that long, because technically, the engine in those things was a tractor engine! They were a D-358 Nuess, made in Germany. “They were never renowned for being very powerful, but they were a beautiful running engine. They upped the revs to about 3000 to get more horsepower from them, and sometimes you just revved them into oblivion, and expected them to do twice as much as most people would!” Being a basic tractor engine, Robin said all the aftermarket parts were still available. “Liners, pistons, you can still buy them all, so we completely rebuilt it, but it wasn‘t exactly cheap! Like most things, you start and then after you get so far you think, ‘I should have done this and that‘. And then something else turns up which could have cost you a lot less.

I‘d done about half of it and I thought a nice little turbo would just make it go a bit better, and I was trying to find out what was used, and what you can‘t use, etc, and then I heard about that other truck, the one I‘ve got down in the shed.” Robin says that truck, a 1973 model, had a broken chassis, but it did have a turbo kit fitted on it. “I went and bought that, so now I‘ve got a spare engine. I flogged a whole lot of parts off it – all the better bits – for mine, and put the turbo on my one, and it doesn‘t actually go too bad now. It‘s still not a rocket ship, but it‘s not bad! You‘ve got to think, it‘s more than 40 years old now. In the context of what year it was made, that‘s what it was. You think, ‘jeez, those old things were crap‘, but that‘s what it was back then.”

Photo: Step inside and take a trip back in time.

Robin says it took a bit of work to get the bumper cleaned up, as it had been covered in hi vis and safety stickers. For its age, the Acco‘s upholstery was in good condition – Robin only had to reupholster the driver‘s seat and install new carpet in the cab. “The passenger seat and everything was all original, and just about unmarked. The upholstery is standard blue, exactly how they were new. The bottoms of the doors were not that flash, so I made up some nice fancy kick panels out of stainless steel and just covered up the damage, which actually looked bloody good. The gauges were all fine, I‘ve just had to put another couple in because they never had a rev counter or an oil pressure gauge.” When asked if there was anything particularly difficult about restoring the Acco, Robin says, “Everything!” because everything that moved was worn out. “Trying to find stuff that‘s not worn out ain‘t getting any easier. I went through three steering boxes before finding one that was usable.

I don‘t know if it had done a lot of work or never seen a grease gun – probably the latter! “It drives a bit more like a newer truck now with the new diff. I just upgraded the whole thing, and I also replumbed the whole truck. There was a lot of farting around, but we finally got it finished and got it running right and then it had to be recomplied, and revinned. I had a paper trail and it hadn‘t completely fallen out of the system, so it was reasonably straightforward at the end of the day.” Now the Acco is finished, Robin has been taking the truck on classic truck runs with the Northern Classic Commercials club. He also has plans to restore two other classic trucks he owns.

Photo: Simple wheel, simple dash, simple times.

“One I‘ve imported from Australia, and another one‘s sitting in the bottom shed. The one from Australia is a Kenworth K100E, which I‘ve just had complied. I want to restore that but that‘s nowhere near as big a job. That‘s what I first had when I went owner-driver, a K100E. I want to make a replica of it. This is an 89 – the one I had was an 88. It‘s the same spec, just about identical. My original truck was red and white, so this will be painted exactly the same. “The other truck is a 1966 International AB180, a bonneted one. I bought it with the other one down there, the donor truck. It‘s got a run bearing too, so I‘m going to repower that, do something that was done in the day because you couldn‘t buy what you wanted. That‘s the plan, but that won‘t be for a while. I‘ve got a 6V53 Detroit for that. Whether I ever get time to get it finished, we‘ll see.” Robin says the reaction to the restored Acco has been “pretty good”. “I just did it how I wanted it to look; people reckon I‘m a bit pedantic and fussy, but I‘ve always had pretty good trucks – well, I thought so.” In fact Robin is no stranger to the pages of New Zealand Trucking magazine, with his K100G Aerodyne featuring as Truck of the Month in the late 90s.