In April 2020, Travel16 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMay 15, 2021

An afternoon chatting with the late Trevor Doidge’s wife Jocelyn and his son Jim is a privilege and an opportunity rarely afforded. During the 1960s, Trevor’s was the largest privately owned fleet of logging trucks in New Zealand. He was one of the era’s great trucking men.

Jocelyn and Trevor Doidge, circa 1957.

Trevor Doidge had purchased 30 International trucks from Ross Todd Motors in Tokoroa by 1962. A great achievement for a man who started, as so many did, carting native logs with an ex-army GMC.

Trevor grew up in Tauranga. In 1945 at the age of 15 he was already driving a D2 Caterpillar bulldozer clearing scrub and breaking in farmland at Mangakino in the South Waikato.

Trevor went on to purchase his own bulldozer, and a Chev truck to tow it with. Day after day he would be seen clearing land in the Kaimais with the obligatory roll-your- own cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

Like so many other modern-day pioneers, Trevor’s next advance came in the form of an ex-army machine carting native timber. It was 1949 and the truck was a 6×6 GMC that he bought from Alf Watchorn, and he used it to haul native logs from Soldiers Road in the Kaimais to Gamman’s Mill at Omokoroa. After a couple of years he moved to Tokoroa, eventually selling the GMC and purchasing four seven-ton petrol-powered Commers for carting pine logs into Hutt Timber and Hardware in Tokoroa.

T. Doidge Ltd was formed in 1952, with Trevor carting native logs out of Mokai to the Maroa Mill (Taupo Totara Timber) and the Whakamaru Mill (Rotoiti Timber Co.).

Trevor met and married Jocelyn in 1957, proudly building their first home (a Beazley) in Tokoroa. Then along came their son, Jim, followed by daughter, Karen.

During the 1950s, the pressure was on for trucking companies in New Zealand to have larger trucks that could haul more load per truck. In 1958 Trevor borrowed £20,000 (NZ$650,000 today) to purchase six new International trucks. They were all 6×4 ACF174s, with 6-cylinder 308 cubic-inch Black Diamond petrol motors, towing Tidd pole trailers. As the company grew, these trucks were soon followed by four International S174 S-lines, 10 more ACF174s, and four BCF Internationals. All were petrol-powered, with the BCFs sporting 345 cubic- inch V8s.

In 1959, Trevor based an SF174 International in Taumarunui, carting to White Cliffs Sawmill in Manunui, following it in 1964 with a brand new International RF195, driven by Frank Talbot. When travelling over the ‘Ponga’ (Ponga Ponga Road) between Taumarunui and Turangi, these units required a little Kiwi ingenuity. A water tank was placed behind the cab, with hoses down to the brake drums, cooling them down on this winding, steep, King Country road.

Trevor soon also had trucks working in the Central Plateau. One based at National Park, contracted to cart logs for Bolstad Contractors to local mills, and the other based in Turangi, hauling native timber into the Fletcher’s Mill there.

There’s no question the ever-growing fleet of well presented Internationals was getting noticed beyond the forest boundaries too. In 1960, the Doidge trucks featured in an advertisement in Time magazine, something few New Zealand transport operators can lay claim to.

In 1961, Trevor purchased his first International R190 with 450 cubic-inch petrol motor. It came with a price tag of £5000 (NZ$162,500 today). That year also saw the arrival of an International Mk1 ACCO 182 with a 6-cylinder petrol motor. At the time of purchase it was only the second one in the country, the first going to Dargaville. T. Doidge Ltd records show this truck cost £2615 (NZ$84,830 today), with repayments of £131 (NZ$4250 today) per month.

That all meant that over a period of four years up to 1962, Trevor had purchased 30 International trucks from local dealer Ross Todd Motors Ltd. Documentation of all of those trucks exist to this day. The company accountant kept records of every truck purchased: chassis number, engine number, purchase price, repayment amount, who it was sold to, or if it was written off. “Most trucks in the fleet were paid off within two years,” recalls Jim Doidge. As he browses through the records, he notes an International RF195 was purchased in 1964 for £7500 (NZ$243,488 today),with monthly repayments of £258 (NZ$8371 today). Jim proudly states, “In 1964, Dad replaced many of his trucks, with all payments on them completed in 1966. By the time he sold the company to Ross Todd Motors, he had purchased a total of 60 trucks, with up to 42 on the road at any one time.”

Aside from the many Internationals, at it’s peak this legendary fleet included four Whites, one TK Bedford, and one Commer.

The early 1960s saw two iconic trucks join the fleet: custom-built International hybrids with the apt names Colossus and Brutus. Colossus was an early 1950s 6×4 Mack and Brutus an ex-NZFP Sterling Transporter. These were both remodelled by Ross Todd Motors and Doidge mechanics, using the chassis, rear diffs, and suspension of the existing trucks and fitting International cabs, with new bonnets and mudguards fabricated to suit.

Powered with GM671 diesel engines with twin-stick gearboxes, these mighty machines were absolute legends in their day. Colossus and Brutus carted into the log sorting area at the Murupara railhead. The logs were cut in half and loaded onto the rail wagons to go to Auckland as peeler grade.

As Jim peruses the T. Doidge Ltd files, he notes: “Fleet number 26 was the first diesel-powered R190 International. It was an ex-Europa tanker, bought by Dad in 1961. Ross Todd Motors removed the petrol motor and repowered it with a GM671.

“At the end of its life in 1972, this truck had travelled more than one million miles …yes, miles!”

Eight of the T. Doidge Ltd fleet were repowered over the years. In 1965, Ross Todd Motors repowered two RF195 Internationals using 6V53 GMs with Allison MT41 automatic gearboxes and 4-speed auxiliaries. That year also saw employee Roger Clotworthy team up with Shaun Hurst from Gough Gough and Hamer in Rotorua to repower a White 2064 with the first Caterpillar engine in New Zealand. The 1673B 245hp engine required a 7” (18cm) chassis extension to accommodate its size (New Zealand Trucking magazine, October 2020, ‘Heart and Soul, Roger Clotworthy’).

Alan Southern worked as a mechanic for Trevor in the 1960s and 70s. He recalls Trevor being a good boss. “Hard but fair. He called a spade a spade but he looked after you. When my wife and I got married, Trevor offered us cutlery and household items to help us out. He was a good bloke.”

Alan worked under the guidance of Roger Clotworthy. “I enjoyed working in the Doidge workshop. Roger and I would design many things together. We would repower engines and improve bits to make them easier to maintain. We worked six or seven days a week. We had spare gearboxes and diffs in our workshop. We would work on the trucks overnight, so they were ready to go the next day. When out on a breakdown, we would dig a hole on the side of the road, to change a diff… Those were the good old days.”

Alan then recalls a story he was told. “I’m not sure if it’s fact or not, but the story goes that a Doidge truck was stopped by police, with scales set up, ready to check the weight of the truck. The cop took off to chase a car, only to return to find his scales were gone.
“A short while later, Trevor had a great set of scales set up in the bush, to weigh the loggers.”
The mid-1960s saw Trevor diversify and have ex-loggers modified into concrete trucks.These operated around Tokoroa for Grayburn Readymix.

“Trevor was proud of what he built up. His trucks were his toys. He was a stickler for a smart-looking fleet. When employing drivers, Trevor would drive past their house to see if it was kept tidy. If the house was tidy, then they would keep their truck tidy,” Jocelyn recalls. “He was a fair boss, spoken highly of by his drivers.”

“His trucks were his pride and joy,” says Jim. “Every truck had its own toolbox, complete with spare sets of spark plugs and tools, as well as tins of polish. When Dad sold his business, everything was paid for.”

Jim then remembers a funny anecdote about Trevor. “In our house in Tokoroa, there was a patch of wallpaper that was well worn, where Dad rested his head for long periods talking on the phone about trucks.”

Jocelyn adds, “The Brylcreem wouldn’t have helped!”

Like many trucking families back in the 1960s, Sunday drives were often truck- based. “A Sunday family drive would head to Rotorua, the Mount and Tauranga, calling in to visit all of our drivers and he would often drop off parts to them,” says Jocelyn.

“We would finish the day having dinner with Nana Doidge. We would also check on the house in Murupara. Trevor bought it for the drivers to stay in if they couldn’t make it home or just needed a place to stay.”

Listening to the two of them it was obvious Trevor had a good rapport with his drivers and would often socialise with them. “I remember sitting in Dad’s International ute, in the car park of The Timberlands Hotel in Tokoroa on a Saturday afternoon,” says Jim.

“Dad would be having a few beers with the boys. Every now and then you would get a raspberry drink to shut you up. Dad looked after his men. If they had to relocate to other towns he would set them up in a house.

“But he also made sure they knew the value of the trucks they were driving. Dad would tell the drivers ‘Remember, you’re driving a farm’, in reference to the cost and value of the truck.”and value of the truck.”

Jim and Jocelyn enjoying a riminess through the family albums.

Trucks and drinking often went hand in hand back then. “A few of the drivers would buy half a dozen bottles of Waikato beer at the Tirau or Putaruru pub at the beginning of their journey,” says Jim.

“By the time they drove over the Kaimais heading to the port, those bottles would have been drunk. The publican would throw the bottles in through the open window and the driver would pay the bill at the end of the month.”

There was no question that the business benefited from its labours. Reinvesting in the business was continuous and staff could always see the fruits of their efforts in terms of constantly improving trucks and facilities. A new depot in 1965 reflected the class and professionalism of the Doidge enterprise.

In 1966, aged 36, Trevor decided to close the chapter on T. Doidge Ltd, and sold out to Ross Todd Motors. He kept his beloved International ute, as well as his TK Bedford. The Doidge family moved to Whangarei, buying a farm at Marua, Hikurangi.
Soon after, the transport licence of Oakleigh Transport was purchased, and carting stock with two Leyland 400-powered TK Bedfords and a sleeper-cab Mercedes LPS 1418 was added to the new portfolio. Next came a fishing boat based out of Mangonui in the Far North.

“He just fancied owning a fishing boat,” says Jocelyn.

Oakleigh Transport was sold in 1970, and with Trevor now 40 years of age, farming become the Doidge family lifestyle until Trevor and Jocelyn retired, moving back to the Tauranga area at Pyes Pa, where they lived until Trevor passed away in 1995, aged 65.