Guest of honour

In July 2023, Top Truck16 MinutesBy Carl KirkbeckAugust 1, 2023

Things were just that little bit simpler back in 1996. AI was something that involved wearing a long blue rubber glove down on the farm, and coffee was generally ordered ‘white with one’. It was also a time when cool trucks ruled supreme. This month’s Top Truck fills our annual retro spot and has its beginnings firmly embedded in that cool-truck era.

The October 1996 issue of New Zealand Trucking featured the spectacular new K100G Kenworth of Waiuku-based Dallas and Heather Guest as Top Truck. It was a fitting winner, a combination that struck the right chord between glamour and purpose. The 8×4 rigid flatdeck, with matching purpose-built Roadmaster four-axle trailer, was finished in a striking red-and-white livery meticulously applied by Frank Bogaart. Add a five-coil load of BHP steel under tight red tarps, and the look was unique and eye-catching.

Hot Stuff, as the K100G was affectionately known, was Dallas’ pride and joy, and was always immaculately presented. In fact, special mention was made in the article of how the KW’s good fuel mileage could be partly attributed to the amount of wax polish Dallas applied to the truck, helping it slip through the air more freely.

Red-and-white livery applied by Frank Bogaart, complemented by tight red tarps, Hot Stuff was a real head-turner when it hit the road in 1995.

The K100G at a factory loading dock, delivering another 29.2 tonne of payload, thanks to the low tare weight that Dallas achieved.

Dallas was a savvy operator, with transport industry pedigree. On his instructions, the KW was built with low tare weight in mind, with a 370hp M11 Cummins fitted on the Bayswater production line. It was the same when directing the team at Roadmaster, who built the deck and trailer. Heavy engineering where needed to secure loads of coiled steel, and save weight wherever else possible. The purpose-built truck and trailer came in at 16.3 tonne, giving a healthy 29.2 tonne payload – not too shabby in an age before today’s high-tensile technology.

Unfortunately, in about 2001, Dallas was affected by health issues, and he and Heather employed good mate Dean ‘Harry’ Naysmith to take over the wheel. Dean peddled Hot Stuff for the best part of a year but eventually had to follow his own business opportunities and handed the keys back to Dallas. At this point, Dirk Milne stepped in to take over for his good mate Dallas in his time of need. Dirk kept the wheels turning for the couple, continuing the contracted work out of the Glenbrook steel mill. Unfortunately, Dallas’ illness took a turn for the worse, and he passed away not long after. Heather continued to run the truck with Dirk at the helm for about another year before Les ‘Tinker’ Brown took over the reins.

In 2004, Heather decided to sell the truck and contract as a going concern. Once the word was out, it wasn’t long before Dean approached Heather, and a deal was made. Dean, now the owner of his good friend’s steed, opted to retain everything as it was, including keeping Les on board as captain in charge. The truck ran virtually faultlessly for another three years, but all things eventually change, and in 2008, with the mileage climbing, Dean decided it was time to sell Hot Stuff and purchase a replacement.

Pukekohe is a small town where everyone knows everyone, so it was natural that local growers the Chapman family – known for running it’s own fleet of sharp-looking trucks – would hear Hot Stuff was for sale. Once it joined the fleet, it was into the Chapman workshop for a rebuild. The workshop manager at the time, Mike ‘Flea’ Morey, led the team in a ground-up restoration and a conversion from 8×4 rigid to 8×4 tractor. On stripping back the M11, it was found to be a little tired and an in-frame rebuild was completed. The gearbox and diffs were serviced and looked to be in good health. The next jobs were to remove the best part of a metre from the chassis and fit the turntable.

Things were different back in 1995. Photos: Mike Beesley.

Hot Stuff arriving at the Chapmans yard ready for its transformation from rigid to tractor. Photo: Mike ‘Flea’ Morey.

With all the heavy engineering and mechanical work completed, the K100G was again handed over to Frank Bogaart to work his paint and sign-writing magic. The truck’s name was changed to Super Spud, however with this in mind, on close inspection you will find a very cool tip of the hat to the truck’s history. In celebration of Dallas and his Australian heritage, the Ford ‘Super-Roo’ character was retained from the old livery. A trailer full of spuds was added to acknowledge the Chapman family’s core business.

The truck had a few drivers at Chapmans, and to their credit, they all took care of the unit from top to toe. One of those was Jo Neustroski, who had the joy of piloting the newly named Super Spud. “It was a very special truck to drive, very cool. It had that aura about it. You knew its history. Even after washing it, you would just stop, stare and grin,” explains Jo. “It had a great bark, too. Using the Jakes in the likes of the Sisters on the desert, no matter how cold it was, you would have the window wound down so you could listen to the crackle. Also, the paint on it is incredible – such a cool look. Overall, the whole unit would put a horn on a jellyfish,” says Jo with a laugh.

Super Spud regularly ran bulk potatoes up the southern motorway into Bluebird at Wiri, and the impact of many hours in the traffic took its toll on clutches and the M11 Cummins. So when the M11 needed another rebuild, the Chapman family decided to add a little more horsepower and torque by replacing it with a later model N14 Celect Cummins with 460hp. This transformed the truck and certainly helped Super Spud’s regular driver Anton Page flatten out the climb up towards Hill Road, Manurewa, on his way to Wiri with another load of spuds.

Once again, time moves on – as do applications within a fleet – and Super Spud needed a new home. In 2019, the Chapmans placed an ad on TradeMe, which caught the eye of Palmerston North- based Mark ‘Quinny’ Quin. Mark phoned the Chapmans and got the lowdown on the truck and, after a good amount of internal deliberation, he made the call to purchase it.

No turning back now; Hot Stuff about to become Super Spud.

Refit complete, Super Spud seen here with a six-axle B-train in tow heading off to collect harvest. Photos: Mike ‘Flea’ Morey.

“My history in the trucking industry goes back some way now. Dad certainly started that for me with his company Rural Road, which later became Rangitikei Road Freight. He had the contract at the time to haul all the timber out of the mill at Tangiwai, and for some time, I was operating as an owner-driver alongside of Dad.

“I first had a K100E with an old B-train. This combination proved too heavy, so I purchased an ex-logger 8×4 rigid 4870 International Eagle. The Eagle was seriously well worn, so I completed a full restoration on it, bringing it back to as-new condition. I set it up with a flatdeck and hooked it up to a four-axle. It was an awesome truck, and very much like the combinations I drove part-time for the team at R&L Main out of Kopu,” says Mark.

“For me, the Kenworth brand goes back to Dad, really; he always wanted to buy one. He just could not bring himself to spend the money. He always ended up going the Japanese way – with Mitsubishi and Isuzu. We even had a few Renaults at one stage. So when I stumbled across Super Spud for sale, it ticked a lot of boxes for me. It was back when I was driving full time. I would go to the steel mill to load, and I would see Dallas there loading as well. So I knew of the truck, but I did not initially realise that it was the one and the same when I was looking it over at the Chapmans’ yard. So, yes, a real cool surprise, and also cool to be carrying on the history.

“The Chapmans did a great job of the conversion to tractor unit and rebuilding it. But when I got a hold of it from them, it had been working hard and was a little tired again and needed a bit of a general tidy-up. I stripped back the entire chassis and had it blasted and repainted. We did all the brakes, and also went through the cab to tidy up the little things – the usuals like a gauge or two, switches and light bulbs. I find those things are a pain if they’re not working correctly.

Stop, stare and grin. Photo: Jo Neustroski.

Super Spud, now in Mark Quin’s care, on a
mission with a good load of H3.2 MSG8. Photo: Mark Quin.

“So, yeah, I just slowly worked through it and sorted it out as I found problems. As for the exterior, I spoke to the Chapmans about leaving it in their colours, and they were more than happy for that. This simplified things greatly, as we had our signwriter just make new logos for the doors. It really did not make sense to repaint the cab as it was in such good condition, and it’s also cool to keep another bit of its history alive.

“The N14 is pushing out 460hp, and apparently about 1550ft/lb, so pretty respectable, and plenty for the bit of work that I do with it. The gearing had been reconfigured to better match the bigger N14 and 18-speed Roadranger. This helps to keep it working in the sweet spot. At 90km/h in top, it sits at just 1650rpm – so nice and relaxed with a bit up its sleeve. I get all my work done by James over at Rangitikei Truck and Diesel, and even he backed up how good the unit’s condition is. Going over it, everything really is solid, and at the last COF, it just flew through.”

When Mark was looking for a set of trailers to complete the package, his brother, Travis, who owns Rangitikei Timber, found the solution. Simon Buckeridge, while delivering timber to Travis, had mentioned an older five-axle flatdeck B-train set he had sitting at his Dannevirke yard and was thinking of selling. Travis passed this information on to Mark, knowing what his brother was looking for. “I got in touch with Simon over the next few months, and we sorted out a deal. To Simon’s credit, he did a great deal for me, and I am sure that he will be really pleased to see them spruced up and working again.” As it happens, the B-train could not have been a more fitting match for Super Spud, being also of 1995 vintage. And just like the first build Dallas commissioned, the B-train is also another quality Roadmaster build. As they say, some things are just meant to be.

All trucks have a story to tell as they age and change hands. As Super Spud now enjoys semi-retirement in the care of Mark Quin, we proudly celebrate its history and the people who have helped build its story by awarding Super Spud the New Zealand Trucking magazine Top Truck crown for July 2023.