Transport operator turned truck salesman, Jim Liapis, couldn’t believe his eyes when he was reunited with a much-loved 1986 Kenworth W prime mover he hadn’t seen for almost 30 years.
His son Andrew Liapis wanted to surprise him and managed to track down the truck with the help of Kenworth salesman Manny Melkonian, who had originally sold the truck to Jim decades ago. To their surprise, the 34-year-old workhorse was still going strong and in tip-top shape, working day in, day out.
Back in 1986, Jim had purchased two brand new identical Kenworth W trucks to expand his fleet at A.S&J Liapis Pty Ltd. “They had a 350 Cummins engine and were fitted with steel tippers and matching 3-axle dogs. Both trucks were basically bulletproof ,” said Andrew.
“My father had the trucks both painted in his own colours which were white with two-tone burgundy stripes, including a metallic burgundy dash surround and interior. The fleet in those days was primarily working for Anderson Quarries, then afterwards the trucks were migrated over to Boral and all painted yellow and green. I remember riding in these trucks when they were new, it felt like I was king of the road. They both left a major imprint on me as I favoured that particular model.”
Though business was running well, when the recession hit in 1990-1991, Jim’s business took a major hit. “Work literally turned like water running from a tap one day to being turned off just like that. The majority of the fleet was parked up for weeks on end which resulted in a major fleet disposal. My father and I often spoke about where our W models ended up,” said Andrew.
One of the Kenworth W models was sold to civil engineering business Armpell Civil, which operates out of Batemans Bay, on NSW’s south coast. And to Andrew’s surprise, that’s exactly where it has been for all these years.
When Jim sold off most of his fleet, he kept four trucks and by the mid 1990s had transformed his transport operation into a sales business. “That was also when I finished school, so I was in the yard there full time, buying and selling trucks,” said Andrew.
Now, the father and son team operate from the same Melbourne premises, Jim heading up Just Tippers Australia, and Andrew at the helm of The Used Truck Group.
For both Jim and Andrew, transport has always been a big part of their lives, with three generations working within the industry. It all started with Jim’s late father Andrew Liapis (who his son is named after). “Dad came to Melbourne from Athens in 1956,” said Jim. “Dad had always been in transport, from back home in Greece and then when he came out here. Within six months of arriving, he purchased his first used truck and tipper. I left school at the age of about 15 or 16 and basically went straight into the business. As soon as I got my licence, I took over his truck and the rest is history.”
Since moving from transport, Andrew and Jim are now primarily focused on truck sales. “In 2006 we acquired a trade-in of a 1986 Kenworth W model which reminded me of our original ones. My father and I both decided to restore the truck and keep it.”
The whereabouts of their original Kenworth Ws was still on Andrew’s mind, so the time was right to try and track them down. “With all of this isolation this year due to COVID, I decided to do some research. A contact at Kenworth had records of the chassis numbers for the trucks in my father’s fleet and we were able to track one down. It was still owned by the same people my father sold it to, it was still working and was still coupled to the same trailer it was with when it was brand new,” explained Andrew.
He reached out to Tony Hadlow at Armpell Civil and after some negotiations wasabletobuyitbackasa token of appreciation to his father. “We’ve had the truck for 30 years. It was working every day and working really well,” said Hadlow. “When I heard from Andrew, I didn’t know what to say. It took a while to digest it all and think it through, but I think it’s a great outcome.”
Though there weren’t any plans to get rid of the truck, Hadlow was glad the truck had gone to a great home. “I think the whole outcome is a really great story and that’s the only reason we decided to sell it. We were going to look at refurbishing it ourselves and had tried to retire it for a number of years, but it just kept going and going,” he said.
Jim and his beloved 1986 Kenworth W were reunited in late August, when it arrived back in the yard. “He didn’t know I was tracking it down, so when I told him I was buying it back for him, it was a real surprise. Seeing the truck again after so many years brought back memories of hitting the road together as father and son,” said Andrew.
“When I had it delivered here, Dad couldn’t believe his eyes. Everything is all original on it. When it arrived, it was parked in the exact same spot we photographed it in when it was brand new. A big thanks to Tony Hadlow and the driver Callie who has done a great job looking after it.”
Now Andrew plans to have the vintage Kenworth painted back to his father’s original fleet colours of white and burgundy, as it was when it originally left the showroom floor.