In Mini Big Rigs, July 20216 MinutesBy Craig AndrewsAugust 25, 2021

A passion for trucking and working with timber has resulted in a hobby that has led to a full-time venture for Mosgiel-based Craig Andrews.

Just over three years ago, Craig Andrews decided to build an old Marlborough Transport Atkinson pulling A-trains loaded with wood freight. A Refrigerated Freight Lines Kenworth also pulling A-trains was next, and then a Waitaki Transport Volvo G88, once again pulling the favoured combination – A-trains.

The first three were sold on Trade Me and made barely any money – building those early examples was slow going. Craig cut most of the components with a jigsaw and a hand saw. Detail was limited as everything was time-consuming, and ways to do certain things had not been devised yet.

As time progressed, a new scroll saw entered Craig’s workshop, but that was too small and was eventually replaced with a bandsaw. That and a drop saw were game-changers.

The process was further sped up by Craig deciding to make things to a specific width and scale.

(left) A pair of piano cab International Accos. The Longmans truck (right) existed as an A-train, but the McLarens Transport (Ranfurly) livery didn’t. McLarens ran the Acco, but not as a tractor unit pulling two trailers. (right) An International 3070 of MG & PW Blackwell from Duvauchelle, near Christchurch. It was built for Wayne Blackwell, who used to own the company.

(left) Is there anything more South Island than a Mack Ultra Liner in the colours of Tuapeka Transport from Lawrence? (right) A Ryal Bush DAF and a DT Kings UD Quon. Both units are spectacular.

An International T-Line owned by Ross and Jenny Small from Fielding.

Roll the clock forward to today and his hobby has began demanding more attention. Not long ago, Craig created a Facebook page, and Just Add Diesel! Wooden Replica Trucks was born.

“The Facebook page was created to see just how much interest there was. There has been plenty,” said Craig. “About 99.9% of the builds are to order – milk tankers, low loaders with dozers and diggers, bulk trucks, curtain-siders, logging trucks, spreaders, and livestock trucks have all been done.”

Craig says the old-school subjects are his favourite. “A Volvo G88 or 3070 International on livestock is right up there. Especially if the sheep crates have the old- style fuel company signs on the front of them – they look great.”

There are many on Craig’s own list of subject matter. “There are so many cool New Zealand trucks, such as the Lendich sleeper-cabbed W-model Kenworth, Southern Transport’s first Mack Super Liner with A-train trailers on livestock, and the Volvo F10 my dad drove at West Otago Transport. They would be at the top of my ‘want to build’ list.”

But for now, it is all about keeping customers happy.

(left) An Aztec Haulage ERF C-Series with a B-train load of mixed freight. (right) A Mercedes-Benz LPS338 in the colours of Mossburn Transport from Southland.

(left) An iconic RFL Mack R Model with its A-train trailer set-up, built for one of its original drivers. (right) A big Mitsi from the JD Lyon fleet. It was built for a fan of the company who held fond childhood memories.

Everything is hand-painted – the most time-consuming part of a build. No stickers are used. One truck is done at a time unless there is an order for two of the same truck.

“Getting them to look like the real thing is key. For that to happen, you need detail and correct scale. Mirrors, roof lights and stone guards are now standard. If the real truck has wide tyres on the steerers, then the replica has wide tyres. If the mud flaps have Bandag logos on them, then the replica gets them. I’m always trying to find ways to make them better,” he says.

The builds have been popular for birthdays and retirements or just to go on display in the customer’s company office or man cave.

“A lot of customers have a fond memory of a truck they used to drive, and it’s my job to replicate it as close to the real thing as possible.”

Just Add Diesel! is on Facebook, and there’s a website on the way later this year.

A Mack Super Liner from the Road Metals fleet complete with new Volvo digger.