When he’s not on the road, you’ll most likely find interstate truckie Kev Harley in his shed, working on his custom metal creations.
It started as a small side hobby but is now gaining a lot of traction and interest. Harley’s handcrafted metal letterboxes, which resemble everything from Mack and Kenworth trucks, to animals and cartoon characters, have been turning many heads.
Based in Bundaberg, Harley has been driving trucks for about 20 years. He runs from Bundaberg to Adelaide each week, loaded with sweet potatoes, bringing carrots to the Brisbane market on the return leg.
“My only run is to Adelaide, so that’s four days on the road and then three days at home, and those three days are spent in the shed,” he said.
For Harley, trucking is in the blood. His father was a truckie and his older brother is a truckie too. When he first left school, he did a mechanic apprenticeship, while also driving trucks here and there. But after injuring his back, the mechanical work wasn’t a great fit so he turned to solely truck driving instead.
Harley works for a farming business called Shoobridge & Sons, which mainly grows sweet potatoes from its Bundaberg and Childers farms. Though the business has more recently branched out into growing macadamias too, having just planted 20-30 acres worth of macadamia trees.
When the time came for Harley’s truck to be upgraded, his boss asked him what sort he wanted – and a brand new Kenworth T610SAR fit the bill nicely. “It’s only a couple of months old now,. It was picked up at the start of the year. It’s a really nice truck to drive,” he said.
Harley began making some metal sculptures for his mancave about 18 months ago and now that’s managed to progress into a side business. “A couple of mates said I should try selling some of my work. I thought no-one would be interested but one day I made something to see how it’d go and I haven’t stopped since,” he said.
To start with, it was mainly metal animals and flowers made of spoons. More recently though, Harley’s creations have become much more detailed.
He ventured into letterbox territory when someone in Adelaide asked if he could produce one for him. “He asked for an Australia Post truck so that was my first truck letterbox. I also made a B-double letterbox for myself. Now I’ve done six or seven truck letterboxes.
“That B-double letterbox took over 100 hours to make – and that’s not including the time spent going to scrap yards and looking for materials.”
Harley relies on recycled metals for his creations wherever he can. “I go to the scrapyard every Monday, load the truck up, then go home and start welding. I try not to manufacture too much of it. The wheels on my B-double for example are old bearings from a Holden Commodore. I prefer to use pre-loved stuff wherever I can. The hardest bit though is finding the bits and pieces I need.”
Harley has so far made a few Kenworth and Mack truck letterboxes and when we spoke with him, he was about to start on an order for a Western Star, with a Peterbilt also coming up. “I can make them with semis, B-doubles, road trains, whatever tickles your fancy,” he added.
“Being a former mechanic, I’m used to building stuff – it used to be cars but now it’s letterboxes. I’m not big on television, I’d rather be in the shed doing something. Sometimes I do get a bit carried away. I think I’ll just quickly go and do something and before I know it, I’m out there until 3am.”
Through word of mouth and his Facebook page ‘One of a Kind Metal Art’, Harley’s letterbox work has been gaining quite the following. “They’re going all over the place now. I sent a sheep and a fire truck letterbox to Victoria and have sent some letterboxes to Adelaide too. Because I travel from Bundaberg to Adelaide, I offer a delivery service too if it’s en-route.”