BLUE TATTOO

In Kenworth, Top Truck8 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineAugust 3, 2020

The glimmer of sunshine yellow from the chassis of this crisp K200 is a nod to the historic backbone of this passionately run family business.


Photo: Trevor taps the big KW off the top of the Taihape Divi on a southbound mission.

The early seventies heralded the arrival of the W model Kenworth here in New Zealand, and based on the reputation that the LW and early K models had already carved for the marque, it was no surprise the W model was highly anticipated. Many well-known Kiwi transport liveries began adorning the new offering from Seattle. These various fleet colours were applied using many of the recommended factory designs – ‘Blue Ridge‘ ‘Ozark‘, ‘Rainier‘, and the ever popular ‘Seminole‘ to name a few. Masters of the brush, the likes of Peter ‘Greeny‘ Green would then meticulously apply the pinstripes, lettering and scrolls, bringing the rig to life with personality. However there were a handful of fleets using the simplicity of a complementary colour palette to blow your mind, and have you racing for the trusty Instamatic to expose a couple of shots of Kodachrome at their latest acquisition hammering down the highway. Alexander‘s bright gold and sunshine yellow Kenworths with polished alloy bulk bins from Hautapu in the Waikato was one such fleet.


Photo: The striking bright gold and sunshine yellow colour combination that adorned the early Alexander W model Kenworths.

Talking with Rod Alexander, fleet and logistics manager for the family business Alexander Group, he is quick to recollect memories as a young fella assisting the drivers on the weekends at the old yard. Washing and polishing of the resplendent line up of Kenworths was mandatory, so come Monday morning they would again emblazon the highways throughout the North Island in golden flashes of gleaming paint and chrome. Rod also describes how every weekend the wash detail included his Dad‘s request for the full removal of the yellow bin covers so they too could be scrubbed clean. “The spin-off for us kids was that on a hot summer‘s day the bin covers made for the best slippery slide ever created.” A recent opportunity for Alexander Group brought about the need for an urgent addition to the fleet. Rod described how a complete unit was required to be roadready within 12 weeks. For this job Rod needed an extra set of hands, someone who could help manage the build project and then take the helm once the unit was ready to get to work; this is where a longstanding friendship came into play.


Photo: Trevor Harcourt‘s association with the Kenworth marque spans his driving career as an owner-driver with an imported K100 Aerodyne, a couple of K104s, a K108, and then this stunning K200.

“Trevor Harcourt used to drive for Dad back in the day and we have always kept in touch. So when this job came along it was a great fit for everyone,” said Rod. Finding a task-specific rig is near impossible, especially at short notice, so that‘s where conversations with Raymond Transport from Mount Maunganui led to the purchase of the K200 Kenworth that was surplus to their requirements. The truck was put on the road new by Raymond Transport in 2015, and well specced at the time, with an E5 Cummins now rated at 451kW (605hp) with a 22 series 18-speed manual Eaton Fuller Roadranger, and Meritor 46-160 diffs riding on Kenworth Airglide air suspension. The K200 was in very tidy condition, so it was a simple task of applying the company colours, with responsibility for the immaculately completed rig going to the team at Fleet Image in Hamilton. From there it was just a matter of fitting a standard front bumper instead of the bull bar it had come with, as well as the application of a few extra rooftop marker lamps. A trailer specific to the job of bulk delivering Diesel Emission Fluid (DEF) for Chempro was also required, so with the incredible assistance of Wayne Gardner at Patchell Stainless, the decision was made to utilise a 2011 Patchell quad skelly already within the fleet. The attraction was the speed and flexibility that the twist locks of the skelly offered the operation. With this in mind, a purpose-built twist lock frame complete with stainless steel tank and delivery equipment was designed and built by the Patchell team in record time. From there, in one simple move, it was swung onto the back of the refurbished trailer, and the combination was ready to go to work.


Photo: Twin chrome exhaust stacks either side of a pair of Donaldson Cyclopac air cleaners and plumbing, the hallmark of the cabover Kenworth, add a coat of Alexander sunshine yellow – perfect!


Photo: If you didn‘t know, you‘d think the entire unit was only just out of delivery kilometres.

There is always a story behind a name and the K200‘s name ‘Blue Tattoo‘ is no exception. Rod mentioned that when thinking of an appropriate name he reflected on the fact that for Alexander‘s this was a fresh new venture delivering Chempro‘s AdBlue branded DEF. He suggested to Trev ‘Blue Tattoo‘, which translated into something fresh and new, and ‘Blue‘ also represents a tip of the hat to the delivered product‘s brand name. It got the thumbs up and on it went. The K200 is a true credit to all who have had a hand in its transformation. The presence of sunshine yellow in the truck‘s colour palette honours those original trucks the family operated, and small details like painting the headlight and spotlight protective mesh grilles in that colour make for a dramatic presence that immediately transforms the look of the unit. This is a rig that at first glance appears to be factory fresh with just delivery kilometres, definitely not one that has more than 400,000km on the clock now. Rod told us how the company is not in the habit of buying secondhand trucks, however the speed in which this new job had to be up and running left them no choice. From our perspective, the way in which this rig is presented and the history that it has already earned for itself makes it an extremely worthy recipient of this month‘s Top Truck award.

Photo: Trevor Harcourt, years of experience as an owner-driver, now the proud captain of Alexander Group‘s ‘Blue Tattoo‘.