Motor Truck Distributors celebrated 50 years of Mack trucks in New Zealand this year. The celebrations culminated in a massive gathering of Mack trucks from around the country at Manfeild in October.

More than 130 Mack trucks joined a convoy that travelled from Motor Truck Distributors in Palmerston North to Manfeild Racetrack in Feilding. The show was held in conjunction with the Manawatu Car Club OctoberFAST event and Mack fans from all over New Zealand gathered in Manawatu to celebrate the brand.

In all, 172 Macks through the ages were on display. The oldest was Graham Manson’s 1940 Mack ED pick-up truck. The line-up also included the first Mack assembled in New Zealand (originally owned by Manson) and a 2022 Mack Super-Liner 50-Years.

The day ended with a Mack-only lap of the racetrack, with about 125 trucks taking part.

Ron Carpenter established Palmerston North Motors (which became Motor Truck Distributors) in 1968 and, until 1972, the business traded solely in used heavy vehicles.

He brought the Mack brand to New Zealand when the government removed import licensing in 1972. That year, a franchise agreement with Mack Trucks Inc. USA was obtained, and production started in Palmerston North with the first Mack FR to be assembled in New Zealand.

Regulations required final vehicle assembly to be done in New Zealand, so Ron elected to operate CKD (completely knocked down). This meant only parts were imported and the full first manufacture took place in New Zealand, allowing trucks to be custom-built.

In 1987, the 1000th Mack truck was assembled and delivered, and Ron was awarded International Distributor of the Year.

“Did I ever think I’d sell 1000 Macks? If you think those things, they won’t happen because all you’re doing is dreaming,” says Ron. “If your only measure of success is dollars and profit, you’ll never achieve half the success you would have if you’d had more down- to-earth, day-to-day goals. Things happen by getting your head down and your arse up and concentrating.”

He says Mack owners have a lot to do with how the brand is revered today.

“I remember standing on this same stage 35 years ago for the Mack 1000 celebrations and seeing many of the same faces. I haven’t seen that same sense of great passion among owner groups of any other brand.”

Ron says when he began selling Mack trucks they cost one and a half times the cost of a house.

“And that was their living, so if a customer needed a part that wasn’t in stock, we’d take it off a truck on the assembly line because nothing was more important than keeping a truck on the road.”

Business was always conducted face-to-face in those days and he says lasting relationships were built with staff and customers.

“I’d like to thank those from the early days of MTD, and Graham Manson, who got truck number one. You are all part of the story.”

Former MTD general manager Murray Sowerby says that when Ron interviewed him for a job in 1981, he had no idea how iconic the brand was. “I told him I had no sales experience, and he said that was better because I wouldn’t have any bad habits.”

Murray says it soon became apparent how passionate the people he worked with were about Mack trucks, and when he looks back at the business, the people are what made it so special. “If you don’t have the right people with the right passion, you don’t have anything. I hadn’t just taken on a job; I was made part of the family.

“After an absolutely fantastic day and that line-up of absolutely fantastically restored Mack trucks, I look back at the almost four decades I worked for the company and I’m humbled.”

Murray says Mack was an industry leader, and the 24/7 service offered was something no other company could match.

“It didn’t matter where you were working, if something needed fixing, any time of the day or night, they would drive or fly to it. Trucks would be repaired on the side of the road – you couldn’t do that today – the traffic management would be prohibitive.”

Murray says MTD has always had a very low staff turnover. “Employee No.5, Carl Capstick, lived with Ron and Jenny (Carpenter), and he is still with the business today. Brent ‘Cookie’ Cooksley has been working there for 47 years. It starts and finishes with the people.”

Mack Trucks national sales manager Stu Wynd says the event couldn’t have gone any better. “The weather gods were smiling for us, and it was great to see such an amazing display of trucks on show. The trucks are a real credit to the people who spent hours, weeks, months preparing them for the day.”

According to Stu, the Manfeild staff said it was the biggest event they had had in nearly 20 years, with about 5000 people through the gate.


MTD New Zealand was founded under the name Palmerston North Motors and, until 1972, traded solely in used heavy vehicles.

A franchise agreement with Mack Trucks USA was obtained, and that year production started in Palmerston North, with the first Mack FR model truck to be assembled in New Zealand.

A move was made from Matipo Street to the current site on Malden Street to accommodate a CKD product facility and the growing demand for the Mack product.

A nationwide service network (Truck Stops NZ) was set up to provide parts and service for many trucks working throughout the country.

MTD was purchased by Corporate Investments to form part of the Truck Investments group, and that year, MTD took over the Renault franchise for New Zealand.

MTD closed its Palmerston North CKD facility and began importing fully built-up Mack product from what was then Mack Trucks Australia (now Volvo Group Australia). The Truck Investments group was purchased by Cycle & Carriage.

The Truck Investments group was sold to Sime Darby Berhad.

MTD won the rights to represent Volvo Truck and Bus product in New Zealand. Today, MTD Trucks is a fully owned subsidiary company of Sime Darby Motors New Zealand.