The Best of Time

In Kenworth, Tests, October 202116 MinutesBy Dave McCoidNovember 29, 2021

Part II

I was certainly looking forward to a run in Angels Share. Here was a layer of nostalgia deeper than simply a blat in a Cat-powered, BrakeSaverequipped, T950 Kenworth two decades old. Back in the early 1990s, I was on a quest for a new adventure and left my full-time job driving an MH Mack for Provincial Freightlines in Thames. Reliefdriving here and there was part of what followed.

One of my new semi-regular evening gigs was running pulp from Kopu at the base of the Coromandel to the Kinleith Pulp and Paper mill just out of Tokoroa. The truck was – you guessed it – a Cat-powered Kenworth T950, seven-axle log combination, owned by CJ Everitt in Waihi. I’d meet full-time driver Mark Magan at Kopu, run the load down and return the truck to the town of Paeroa 30km south. Sadly, Mark is no longer with us; he was a fantastic operator, fastidious with his gear.

The MH Mack had a 350hp Mack Econodyne motor, and the Everitt 950 had a 475hp 3406 Cat engine. It was the first time I had serious grunt under my right hoof, and I quickly learned the relationship between power and safety. In the Mack, you had to keep at it, whereas in the Kenworth, you had margin – and plenty of it. If the speed advisory sign for the corner said 65kph, you could drop her back to under 60kph if you wanted and that big ole’ bulldozer motor out front would have you back on 90kph again in no time. And yes, I was impressed with the T-series cab at the time, particularly fore/aft room. (You couldn’t not be after a day-cab MH.) It was a superb time and a stunning truck, and here I was again, all these years later.

The Chalmers rubber spring walk-beam suspension was popular in log trucks of the day.

When it arrived in 1992, the T950’s look spawned a new list of adoring superlatives from enthusiasts and journalists alike. Designed to keep the mechanicals a little cooler in the Aussie outback than the T900, it had an elevated cab, and as such, a beautiful long rake in the bonnet that was less severe on the eye than the old SAR. Adding to its aesthetic was a set-forward front axle. It looked like a hotrod. Looking at Angels Share now, nothing’s changed. It’s like the Julia Roberts of trucks – there might be a few miles on the clock, but it’s still Julia Roberts.

We caught up with driver Ben Morris on a log skid in Tutira, about 20km north of Whirinaki.

Ben’s been with Ngati Haulage for a year now. A local lad with 10 years behind the wheel, mainly on linehaul, he’s come to log trucks to spend more time at home with a young family. “I love it,” he said. “Storm’s bloody awesome to work for.”

Ben’s normal ride is the company’s 2012 T909, a truck new to Robin Mackersey. “She’s been off the road, so I’m driving the old girl. Mine should be back on the road next week.”

On a glorious spring morning, Storm and I stood watching the T950 under the loading grapple of yet another artisan operator, Luke Tarei, working for the Prince 7 crew.

The Caterpillar C15.

“I wonder how many times she’s been in this position? On a skid with loader putting on a load.” I say to Storm.

“Yeah, I reckon.”

Like Kane Bennett, brother Jarvis, and many others, Storm’s adamant there’s a place for the seven-axle combo. “She’ll take four 30-tonne loads out of here; less tyres, less axles, less stress on the truck – a lighter trailer that’s easier to handle and easier on the roads. There’s no argument the HPMVs have their place, but they’re not the one-size-fits-all everyone originally thought.

“I put airbags under the cab, and I’ll fit aircon as Selwyn has to Independence. She’s nice and warm in winter, but in summer… Geez!” laughs Storm. “I put wides on the front too, just to add that little bit of buffer for the weights.”

With an export 6m load on to 45-tonne GCM, Ben pulled off the skid and chained up in the safe-chaining area. Load neatly secured, it was time once again for this big-ole pussy to purr.

This is no modern day replica, its the real deal.

Arguably the greatest injustice ever wrought upon global trucking was the withdrawal of Caterpillar from the vocational truck engine market in 2010. Options are always good, and Cat’s decision, along with Daimler’s corralling of the Detroit Diesel brand, has left Kenworth today in a bit of Henry Ford moment with its big bangers: “You can have any motor you like as long as it’s a Cummins.”

Angels Share was born of a time when the words ‘custom’ and ‘built’ penetrated every aspect of the machine’s make-up.

Ben slips the clutch and starts picking cogs at 1300rpm. It’s that first 10 metres after lift-off that announces it’s a Cat that’s chasing this bug. Count the pots and wait for the turbo to spool up; there’s no other sound in the world like the big yellow motor that wrote the book on living in the rpm basement. The 950 effortlessly glides off – it’s a euphoric sensory attack, and I’m instantly back 27 years on my way to Kinleith. Well, not all the way back. Being a 2002 model, Angels Share has a C15, and she’s 450,000km on the fresh side of a rebuild.

Down around the twists and winds, Ben and the T950 were totally in control and comfortable with their respective responsibility.

The truck was spec’d with Chalmers rubber spring walkbeam suspension. It was a popular option at the time, and in his previous interview with Carl, Calvin Paddon said it was again chosen for its simplicity and durability.

“Yeah, it’s really good on traction,” says both Storm and Ben.

“If it had cross-locks, it’d be unstoppable,” says Storm. “That was a PHL thing, too – only having a power divider. With CTI, it’s untroubled. It’ll come out of places others don’t.”

The last two digits of the Angels forest number honors her old Pacific Haulage fleet number.

Inside out

Like Magpie’s Super-Liner in our last level 4 reminisce of a world we once knew, it’s inside where trucks have undergone their real transformation. In their recent heritage series, Kenworth has taken the edge off the culture shock, but Angel is a glorious original with features like NFCC – Nowhere for Coffee Cups.

I found the room surprisingly normal; the T-cab was indeed transformational back then. Storm’s truck has gold bezels and big switchgear, and the latter means Ben’s reach to switches is eased. The steering wheel is fixed and certainly not set at a 2021 angle. Oh, and its function is to steer – that’s why it’s called a steering wheel. It’s very smart in that regard.

Noise-wise, it wasn’t really offensive even by today’s standard. I didn’t put the meter on it. Why would you? But it seemed ‘line ball-ish’ with Kane Bennet’s 909 under load and slightly louder cruising. In terms of what was making the noise, I actually found it therapeutic.

The ride was fine; a 6×4, long bonnet and set-forward front axle, it was always going to be. Again, Storm’s fitted parabolic front springs just to make life easier, so she’s on par with today anyway. One thing that appears to have deteriorated markedly in 20 years is the roads the poor old girl has to deal with. And in that regard, she’s on point with anything – as sure-footed as hell.

Ben Morris doesn’t mind the old school life at all.

No stopping her!

We rolled south, and it was interesting to see how easy it was for an old-school sevenaxle unit with a bob-tail trailer coupling to keep in its lane. Even in the tight bits of the Tutira’s Devil’s Elbow, Ben ran the left-hand wheel on the fog line, and the right-rear trailer wheel was easily a metre off the centre line.

It all seemed so effortless for her. She ambled up the climb away from the Elbow in fifth overdrive, 1500rpm and 35kph. Then, of course, the party-trick: under the indicator on the left-hand side is that glorious big silver handle, the BrakeSaver. Running down through the White Pine section, repeating what he’d done dropping into the Elbow, Ben flicked on the Jacobs, then pulled that handle around. Neither was it just the retardation that impressed, its activation initiated that other distinct Cat sound-effect, the faint howl of the BrakeSaver doing exactly what its name implies. Maybe a little too well!

“Yeah, we had a COF precheck, and the brakes just hadn’t had the work they needed. You just don’t go near them. No need,” Storm says with a laugh.

Storm Harrison. “You adapt and overcome” is a military strategy that he applies to life.

Indicator on, we pulled into a rest area along the Whirinaki coast. It’d be fair to say I had to be dragged, kicking screaming from this machine. It’s everything about trucking in its purest form, in a simpler time. There’d be no shortage of people at the moment who would trade a lot to return to the latter at least.

What this truck has seen and done is unimaginable. It sat there, idling, while its young 29-year-old driver of today scanned its load for the tally base using a cellphone app. It really was a metaphor for so much. Like watching your grandparents swipe and click when they started their education with fountain pens and ink pots.

Thank you Storm Harrison and Selwyn Kirikino for keeping these old trucks proud! Long may they run.


Storm would like to take this opportunity to pass on his sincere thanks to a few mates for their friendship, assistance and guidance – as well as having his back: “Diana, my amazing wife, partner and mother to our little whanau. Dad, for all that you have taught me, and Mum for being there for me. My good mates from 10 Transport Company 2CSS. Ray and Louise Beale at R&L Beale. Alex Hayes at Alex Hayes Log Transport. The team at Harvest Logistics and their incredible ongoing support. A huge thanks to the Ngati team, Darron Laking, Ben Morris, Daniel Sargison. The New Zealand Defence Force.”

The New Zealand Trucking team would like to extend the most sincere thanks to the Harrison family for their support and enthusiasm in telling their story.


In writing this story, it was only right that we tracked down Angels’ twin sister, Independence, to see how she is performing. Her current owner and custodian is Selwyn Kirikino of Whakatane. When talking to Selwyn, it is immediately clear how pleased he is with his workmate, and how much his story is almost identical to Storm’s.

“This truck is my saving grace,” says Selwyn. “It’s an awesome mix of oldschool reliability with all the right gear to get the job done. I have added some modern-day technology like ratchet tensioners and belly chains to make her easier to work. But it is the strength of the truck and the Cat with the BrakeSaver – that’s exactly the gear I need. Yeah, I’d sell everything else before I ever sell this old girl.”


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