In November 2023, Million Mile Club4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 27, 2023

The first inductee for November 2023 is this extremely tidy K104 Kenworth combination. Carrying the personalised plate ‘FATKDB’, this mighty K104 was put on the road in 2003 by Rene Niovara-Dave to service his Mainfreight interisland contract. When Rene puts a truck on the road, it is always something special. Sporting an outstanding airbrushed mural across the Aerodyne’s party hat, it featured a jet-black panther as well as a slinky Michelle Pfeiffer in her Catwoman outfit. Running the name Insomnicat, it was a head-turner for sure.

Under the floorboards of the big K model was the venerable Caterpillar C15 and 18-speed Roadranger combination; some would say a marriage made in heaven. Rene could not fault the K104.

“It was a great truck for me, we put 2,800,000km on the clock in the time I had it and it only ever let us down six times out on the road. Three times it was broken rocker arms, a C15 thing, once a transmission oil cooler line that wore through, and twice for the throttle sensor cable. You really can’t complain with that. When I got the Christchurch- Dunedin grocery run, it had done 1,300,000km. I wanted guaranteed reliability, so we fitted a rebuild kit into the Roadranger, as well as a new clutch just to be sure. At 1,500,000km, we did a complete rebuild of the Cat, as well as fitting a new radiator and intercooler.”

Rene credits maintenance guidance like this, from HDPS, that gave him full confidence regardless of the numbers on the clock. “Being young in the industry, I have always respected my elders. The likes of Jim Garters and [the late] Andrew Bulman, also Steve Herring at Southpac trucks. If you listen, they will give you their knowledge. It was only the confidence I had in those three guys that kept me going, long days for man and machine.”

New to Rene Niovara-Dave, Insomnicat, with its airbrushed murals, was a real head-turner.

There were many hoping to purchase the K104 when Rene finally put it up for sale at 2,800,000km. Front of the queue was the Brenics’ team. A chat with Brendon Johnstone of Brenics reveals that they are stoked to have the K104 in the fleet.

“Yeah, we chatted to Rene early on to make sure he knew we wanted the truck once he was ready to sell it. We have put about another 850,000km on it since we have had it, so it is sitting somewhere around 3,600,000km now. It was unfortunately involved in an incident that required fitting a new cab, so it was sent to Willy Malcolm in Rotorua for the treatment. He did a great job of it, and it is in damn good shape again,” says Brendon.

“We fitted a new crate motor into it after we had put about 100,000km on it. A sensor issue that no one knew about between the wrecked cab and the replacement meant that the new crate C15 was running too hot, and ended up slipping liners. There was only one thing to do, remove it and rebuild it from top to bottom, the only way to guarantee solid reliability. We also did a suspension and chassis tidy up, just going through it and inspecting it and replacing anything that was worn.

“Yeah, it is a solid truck and it has a lot of good working life left in it, for sure,” says Brendon.