34 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 19, 2020

His name engenders the greatest respect when heard spoken in transport circles. It‘s a name synonymous with warmth, friendliness … and making your truck go a whole lot better than it did before. It could only be the late Roger Clotworthy.

Photo: A ‘Roger spec‘ Mack Super Liner at work for Maroa Logging Company.

He touched so many people‘s lives and never expected anything in return. He was honest, humble, and a hardworking man.” Roger Clotworthy‘s son, Kevin, describes his father, a man many looked up to. Roger‘s knowledge and know-how in the trucking industry was exemplary. Born in Whangarei in 1935, Roger had a traditional farm upbringing where bullock teams were part of everyday life. He grew up around horses and was a talented showjumper, winning so many ribbons they were stitched together to make a blanket. Despite being raised around animals, Roger had a passion for vehicles from an early age. After finishing his school education, he embarked on a car mechanic apprenticeship with the Austin dealership, Carr Brothers, in Whangarei. During this time, Roger was balloted into the NZ Army under the compulsory military training scheme, with his basic training completed at Papakura. Serving in the Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Unit, he held the rank of acting corporal. During convoys, Roger was tail-end Charlie, there to help with any breakdowns along the way.

Photo: Standard Clotworthy work attire, overalls and towelling hat.

The trucking career begins
In 1956 aged 21, Roger started what would be a lifelong career in the trucking industry. He made the move south, where a Mr Nicholson – based in Whakatane – hired Roger to cart metal from Turangi to the Rangitaiki Plains at 60/8 Iwitahi, for the construction of the Napier- Taupo highway. Following this, he carted metal for the realignment of State Highway 1 during the construction of the Atiamuri Dam. These tedious jobs were carried out in a petrol-powered Commer truck, a common sight on our roads in the 1950s. Roger‘s driving career progressed in 1956 to an International R190 he drove for NZ Forest Products (NZFP), carting export logs to Mount Maunganui. The truck was powered by a 450 cubic inch 6-cylinder RD450 petrol engine, and pulled a Tidd pole trailer. Rumour has it an essential part of Roger‘s lunch box during this time was the inclusion of a few tools to give the truck a ‘tickle-up‘ during his lunch break! Roger‘s route took him through Rotorua, as the Kaimai road back then was a mere single-lane gravel road. On the odd occasion the Kaimai road was used, the route took drivers on a left turn at Barkes Corner on to Cameron Road, followed by 15th Avenue, through Welcome Bay, on to Kairua Road to Te Maunga and through to the Mount. The Maungatapu Bridge, completed in 1959, followed 29 years later by the Tauranga Harbour Bridge in March 1988, and then Route K Toll Road in 2003, have each shaved significant time off that journey! In 1959 Roger married the love of his life, Isabel, and together they made the move to Tauranga in 1960. They went on to have five children, Bruce (Roadie), Kathryn, and triplets Kevin, Stuart and Colin (sadly Colin passed away at birth). With the move to Tauranga, Roger took up a position with Ian Rorison, driving a Commer ‘Knocker‘ TS3 4-wheeler towing a 2-axle trailer, carting fertiliser.

Photo: Roger and his horse, Bessie. Roger won so many show jumping ribbons he was able to stich them together and make a blanket. Of course the question has to be, what did Roger feed Bessie to make her run faster and jump higher?

Photo: Fleet No 51 with its new Scania heart.

Photo: Roger at the wheel of Brutus.

The Doidge days
After only a year, Roger was lured to work for T. Doidge Ltd (Trevor Doidge) in Tokoroa. His 21-year stint in this family business started on No 22, an International S-line, S174, powered by a 308 cubic inch BD308, 6-cylinder petrol engine. Again it towed a Tidd pole trailer carting logs from Kinleith to Mount Maunganui. A year later Roger was given the keys to a new International R190 (No 28) on the same work. There was some jealousy within the ranks, with other drivers querying why Roger would get a new truck after only six months‘ service. However they were quickly advised by management that Roger was rewarded ‘because he looks after his gear‘. July 1963 saw a move on to No 35, the legendary ‘Brutus‘, an ex NZFP Sterling Transporter with a Hercules petrol engine. Ross Todd Motors rebuilt this unit with an International cab and homemade bonnet and guards. It was repowered with a GM671 (240hp) and given new Timken diffs. Brutus was an absolute icon back in the day, carting native logs in the backblocks of the Urewera Ranges. Diesel powered and having a Jacobs brake, Brutus was a big truck.

Photo: The T Doidge fleet in the heyday of International‘s reign. Taken in 1964.

On a hot summer day the cab would get so hot that jumping in the creek at the bottom of a hill with boots on to cool down was common, but by the time Brutus was back at the top of the hill, the driver‘s boots would be dry! Another new International R190 (No 45) came Roger‘s way in April 1964. Still carting native logs, this time with a Domett log trailer, one of the first with a dolly setup. Roger came off the road in 1966 to become the transport/ workshop Manager for T. Doidge Ltd, often working long hours followed by an evening at home making phone calls or working downstairs in his workshop. Kevin recalls his Dad spending many hours patiently splicing steel wire rope into strops for logging bolsters. “It was like watching an artist, dressed in his overalls and leather gloves, his only tool being a large marlin spike, unravelling the thick wire strands, forming an eye and splicing the strands back into the rope to lock everything in place.

Brutus when new. Rebuilt and ready to rock.

An art that has been lost to modern technology.” When new trucks would enter the Doidge fleet, Roger was known to carry out his own pre-delivery check. If Roger drove a truck back in the gate at Ross Todd Motors, they knew there was an issue with it. Roger altered the angle of the twin-stick gear levers so it was possible to change both gear levers together with one hand. Without this a driver would thread his right arm through the steering wheel to keep the truck on course, change one lever with the right hand and the other with the left. Remember, this was without power steering. He was all about improving techniques and making tasks easier for drivers, continually picking out any issues he felt he could improve on. A perfectionist on how everything ran, constantly finetuning. Roger‘s eldest son, Bruce (Roadie), recalls one PD check Roger completed, in a repowered International R190 with Detroit 6V53 power, and an Allison automatic gearbox with a 4-speed auxiliary. “With a picnic packed, we set off on a day out from Tokoroa to the Chateau (Mount Ruapehu). Kathryn sat on Mum‘s lap, while us boys stood for the whole journey.” Ah, the days when work could be combined with family. Kevin remembers other family days out in the family EH Holden, where Roger would take a slight detour. “Mum would ask, ‘where are we going?‘ Dad would say, ‘I‘m just going to duck into so-and-so‘s yard to have a look-see, and a quick catchup‘. A couple of hours later, Dad and us boys would arrive back at the car, covered in dirt. Mum‘s fuse cut short, Dad was oblivious to any wrongdoing!” Jim Doidge, Trevor‘s son, tells a story from his childhood.

Photo: Hauling native logs.

“One of the Whites in the fleet had a blown diff. Roger ordered a new diff from Cable Price in Hamilton and described specifically which diff he needed. Unfortunately the wrong diff arrived, so Roger, along with Trevor, went to Hamilton to return it and procure the correct one. I was six and went along for the ride. During the journey, I heard an angry Roger say, ‘I‘m gonna stick this diff head where the sun don‘t shine‘. When we arrived I didn‘t want to get out of the truck, I was too scared and remember thinking, ‘Wow, that guy‘s gonna be sore!‘” Trevor had great zeal for progression. Together with Roger‘s expertise, countless changes and conversions to gear were made. Roger was heavily involved with repowering much of the Doidge fleet, as well as many conversions from petrol to diesel.

He was also responsible for the conversion of the Tidd pole trailer to an 8-foot spacing. Although this slowed the journey down, the great advantage was an extra two ton payload. In 1965, while working at T. Doidge Ltd, Roger teamed up with Shaun Hurst from Gough Gough and Hamer in Rotorua to repower a White 2064 with the first highway Caterpillar motor in the country, a 1673B rated at 183kW (245hp). Fitting the engine and radiator in required a 7” (18cm) chassis extension. The repowered beast went on the road in May 1966 and Roger and Shaun could not contain their excitement on the night the conversion was completed. Shaun recalls the moment. “At 10:30pm we took the White for a dash up to Lake Tararewa, with no bonnet or side guards, just a big yellow engine sticking out the front! When we got that thing running that night, we weren‘t going to just go home and have a cup of tea.” A Caterpillar repower like this had never been performed before in New Zealand. “There was nothing else like it on the road,” says Shaun. “I learned a lot from Roger. He talked a lot, but I always took the good bits out.

Photo: The first Caterpillar highway truck engine was fitted to a White 2064 by Roger and Gough Gough and Hamer‘s Shaun Hurst.

He was always thinking what could be built next.” In recent years, many people in the industry have tried to locate this iconic truck. Shaun put the word out and it was finally located in Murchison. Paul McNae has since purchased it and it is currently being lovingly restored at Graham Manson‘s property, near Rotorua. When finished, it will be used as a show truck and taken for jaunts in vintage truck convoys. According to Shaun, “After 53 years, that engine still runs sweet as a nut”. During his time at T. Doidge Ltd, Roger also instigated and oversaw eight GM repowers (six 671, and two 6V53 autos) as well as five Scania repowers, one at Ross Todd Motors in Cambridge, with the rest at Doidge‘s workshop in Tokoroa. All the Scania motors and all but one of the GMs went into Internationals, with the remaining GM going into a White. Scania had said transplanting their engines into the Internationals would be impossible. However with Roger‘s expertise and new engine mounts fabricated, it happened. “When Roger tinkered, repowered and converted, the result was often described as being ‘Rogerised‘,” said Jim.

The move to Maroa Logging
The early 1980s saw Roger make the move to Maroa Logging, owned by Graham Manson and Mike Lambert. The company was based at Maroa, on State Highway 1 between Atiamuri and Taupo. As mechanical manager, Roger looked after the four off-highway units carting into Kinleith. There were two Kenworth 849s, with 3408 V8 Caterpillar engines, as well as two Mack R797 RSX, ENDTB 866s. The Macks were rated at 280kW (375hp) and fitted with Flintstone/butterfly hoods. The pair was a cancelled Middle East order and so were named ‘Ayatollah‘ and ‘The Shah‘. “Roger was innovative in many ways and put in many good years at Maroa,” says Graham. “With an engineering mindset, Roger would set up the gear and change things around as needed to suit the job. He extended drawbar lengths on the trailers so they would track better behind the trucks. It was common to see plans chalked out on the workshop floor and the trailer manufacturers would come in and measure up Roger‘s plans and designs. Roger didn‘t always need a drawing in front of him, he had it all in his head and visualised it from there.” Graham has a chuckle when remembering one of Roger‘s quirks. “At the end of each day, Roger would clean all of his tools and then talk to them as he put them away. Every tool had its place and there was a tool for every job that may arise. Some of those tools were modified by Roger to complete a specific job.” While at Maroa Logging, Roger had a considerable involvement with MTD (Motor Truck Distributors) in Palmerston North. He was heavily involved in developing new ideas with them, along with continual improvement of existing products. If something broke, Roger would be there to see what improvements could be made.

Photo: One of the Maroa Logging Company R797 Flinstone Macks on a skid in Kinleith ready for departure.

Photo: Don Petley and Roger with one of the Flinstone Macks.

Everything had to be that little bit stronger or perform to a higher standard. Having made his own modifications and additions to the Maroa loggers in his care, Roger would forward these ideas to MTD to improve future off-highway builds. These became known as the ‘Mack Maroa Roger Spec‘. In later years, Roger was recognised by MTD for his great work with the offhighway Mack loggers, and was presented with a Mack Bulldog mounted on a plaque. Roger also received VIP treatment when he visited the Mack assembly plant in Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA, arriving home with one of the coveted bulldog ashtrays. “Roger would come down to Palmerston North and make sure we were doing as we were told,” laughs former MTD general manager Murray Sowerby. “He always talked about work, never anything else. It was always about the off-road loggers and the logging industry.” Graeme Pederson also worked for Maroa Logging in the 80s, and recalls Roger‘s nickname back then was ‘Ramjet‘. Graeme, along with Mike Troon (ex-Maroa Logging), and Paul Hopcroft (Butch, TD Haulage), recall Roger‘s precision with running repairs with this story. As a driver would come into the Maroa yard to refuel, Roger was ready and well prepared to fix wheel bearings or replace brake shoes. His tools lined up on a sack, ready to go. Known for his great systems and accuracy, Roger had stepped out the exact spot he would need to be, so his tools would be in line with the said axle as the truck pulled up at the pump. By the time the driver had checked his oil and tyres and had refuelled, the wheels and drum would be off, old linings off and new ones going on. The driver would then help put the wheel back on the axle, nuts on tight – and back a half turn – jack down, and off for the next load. This streamlined operation has been likened to a V8 supercar pitstop! The Maroa workshop was basic: a compressor, basic tools and spare tyres. No rattle guns, just a wheel spanner, bar and pipe. All of this with a pumice floor. Roger‘s day didn‘t always stop after many hours in the workshop either. Maroa Logging had its own loader, located where the work was in the forest.

Photo: A Kenworth 849 loading. Once the last truck was loaded at 4pm, Roger would head away from the workshop to whereever the loader was and service that too.

Photo: A Mack Super Liner Roger Spec. The trucks became synonymous with Maroa. Roger was recognised by MTD for his contribution to developing their Mack off-highway spec.

The loader worked non-stop from 4am to 4pm every day, so servicing had to be carried out after the last truck had been loaded. Roger would head out after 4pm, drive to the location, and service the loader. Mike has fond memories of working alongside Roger at Maroa. “Having no spare parts on hand, we once spent 10 minutes looking for a nut and bolt on the pumice floor. ‘It‘s got to be here,‘ said Roger.” Mike says Roger was a true gentleman. He was an enthusiastic and excitable guy who was always on the go, darting from one job to the next. “Roger‘s nickname for his overalls were his ‘ovaries‘,” he laughs. “His towelling hat was a constant on his head.” The only time Mike recalls Roger losing his cool was the day Titii Winiata‘s trailer was in for repairs. “Titii was towing a pup trailer and rolled it around the esses before Hay Road. Roger decided to sort out the ‘Maori missile‘ as he was fondly known and, quite irritated, said, ‘you were speeding and that‘s what caused this … you were speeding‘. Titii‘s reply was ‘No I wasn‘t Rogee, I was $%#&ing flying‘. What could Roger say to that? And so began the nickname ‘Rogee‘. “Roger was very old school,” said Mike. “He liked the 5×4 boxes in the Maroa off-highway loggers, as opposed to the more modern 13- and 15-speed manuals, and there was always banter between the Maroa boys and Mike Lambert‘s highway drivers like Boots and Micky Connolly, about the ‘manliness‘ of their respective transmissions. Roger called them ‘those Roadranger thingies‘.” He also recalls Roger never held anything against you, his theory was ‘man up if you make a mistake, learn from it and don‘t do it again‘. Roger‘s years at Maroa Logging involved amazing innovations and creations, many of which would be taken as just the norm these days. Roger fielded numerous phone calls over the years from other transport and logging operators, running ideas past him and obtaining his opinion on the setup of new trucks or alterations to existing gear. Roger‘s opinions were highly regarded and he had no hesitation in helping others, no matter what company they worked for.

Photo: A beautiful Ed Mansell shot of one of Maroa‘s R797s taken on the Kinleith weighbridge.

Time for a change – TD Haulage
By the mid-90s, Roger and Isabel were living back in Tauranga and Roger took up a position in the workshop of TD Haulage at Mount Maunganui. He was involved in servicing the trucks, and TD‘s fleet of Belarus tractors at the Carter Holt Harvey Pulp and Paper Mill in Kawerau. They were an impressive sight hooked up to trailers carting sawdust, bark, shavings and woodchip, able to accommodate a 30 ton payload. As the original motors in these tractors wore out, Roger helped other TD mechanics repower them from a 160hp V6 Belarus motor to a 180hp MWM (Detroit Diesel imported) 4-stroke, 4-cylinder motor. Roger‘s skills were not limited to mechanics, maintenance and repowering motors. He would often take on the role of bus driver in the famous TD Haulage social bus, BBQ cook at company social functions, and ‘deckie‘ and cook on John Dyne‘s launch, Atu. A huge advantage to him having such roles was everything was always cleaned and put away at the end. The TD workshop and tractors were Roger‘s life for more than 20 years, however, as age crept up on him, it came time to scale back. Not ready to leave the industry, Roger became yardman and general rouseabout, with maintenance of the truck wash being his next passion. Four years were spent in these roles before he finally retired at the age of 80. TD Haulage managing director John Dynes fondly remembers Roger having a passion for what he did. “He never left the house without his overalls.” Roger‘s sons Bruce and Kevin followed in their father‘s footsteps, driving big rigs. At one point, both boys were driving for TD Haulage while Roger was working in the workshop. Adding to this family commitment, Isabel joined the team, helping out with the gardening. Bruce is known to most as ‘Roadie‘ (New Zealand Trucking magazine, June 2020), which led to Roger being affectionately known around the TD yard as ‘Gran-Roadie‘. John and Butch together described Roger as “extremely hardworking, dedicated, honest, loyal, methodical and a team player”. “He was always the last person up the stairs at smoko and the first one down again, to head back to work,” says John.

Photo: From the mid-90s Roger‘s new home was TD Haulage.

Photo: One of the TD Haulage Kawerau-based Belarus tractors that Roger helped repower

A life well lived
During his lifetime, Roger was a member of the NZ Road Transport Association, a member of IRTENZ (the Institute of Road Transport Engineers of New Zealand), and LIRA (Logging Industry Research Association), the latter allowing the opportunity to attend field trips to Canada and Sweden. Roger was also a member and past president of Rotary for 50 years, and a life member of the Rotary Caravan Club. Roger passed away after a battle with Alzheimers on 8 May 2019. Bruce said that as Roger‘s health deteriorated it was great for him to be able to let Roger hang out with him at Brett Marsh Transport where he worked. “He would often be there for hours hanging around and helping. Our roles had changed.” Roger Clotworthy spent his life dedicated to his family and work in the transport industry. Kathryn recalls a time he was found under a Mr Whippy van finding out how it worked while the family was on an outing. “Mum had got the ice creams, and we couldn‘t find Dad.” Stuart told us that although trucks weren‘t his thing, he remembers his Dad help a friend install a motor in his launch. “The boat seemed huge. Now, after 40 years in the marine industry, I know my attention to detail comes from him.” And Kevin took Roger for a trip in the fuel road train he drove out of Port Hedland in West Australia. “He loved it, watching the trailers in the dust, telling me when he thought the gauges were telling us things were getting hot, and even though I told him to stay on the platform at the tank farm, I lost count of the times I had to go find him. ‘Just having a look-see‘.” Roger Clotworthy. A formidable intellect, willingly shared. A courageous, inquisitive, ingenious innovator; an affable, warm, gentleman, for whom no one had a bad word.

Photo: Such was the regard held for Roger‘s Mack spec, operators like Vern Higgins requested the Roger-spec on their own trucks.

I would like to acknowledge the contributions from the Clotworthy family, Jim Doidge, Graham Manson, Shaun Hurst, Murray Sowerby, Graeme Pederson, Mike Troon, John Dynes and Paul (Butch) Hopcroft. My time spent with these amazing sources of information was incredible. Without them, Roger‘s story could not be told. Thank you.