The trucking scene around the world has over the years been an area of interest for Hollywood movie producers, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.
It would be fair to say that the film Smokey and the Bandit, released in 1977, would be the most popular and well-known of the genre, as Burt Reynolds, Sally Field and Jerry Reed strutted their stuff with the help of a Kenworth W900A and a Pontiac Trans-Am on their mercy dash of Corrs beer from Texarkana to Atlanta.
Needless to say, the movie struck a chord with many truck operators around the world, and in the case of James Cornfoot, his Kenworth T909 is a rolling tribute to both the movie and, in particular, the ‘Snowman’s’ Kenworth which hauled the bootlegged beer across the southern states.
The 2020-model T909 which has been painted in the same colours as the Snowman’s W900A, spent six months at the Klos Brothers workshop getting a makeover and Cornfoot is delighted with the finished product.
“We set it up as a replacement for a T900 and we thought we would go with an ‘old school’ look so we went with the black and gold colours. We went down to Geelong to see Justin Klos and we used some of his ideas and some of my ideas and we ended up with a cool looking truck,” he said.
The T909 has also had a bit of bling added with straight exhaust pipes, a few extra lights, stainless drop visor and guards on the rear, with a little bit of work done around the back end to subtly acknowledge the famous movie.
“The 8-inch pipes really make it stand out and we put the ‘Screaming Eagle’ on the back deck,” said James.
“In the movie they had the screaming eagle on the bonnet of the Bandit’s Trans-Am so we put it there and we also put ‘’Smokey” there as a tribute. It’s all about the truck, we didn’t want to overdo it, but everyone loves it.”
With a Cummins X15 under the bonnet and a 130-tonne rating the truck rides on Neway suspension and is pretty much well spec’d for anything James throws at it as part of the Cornfoot Brothers Earthmoving business which is overseen by James’ father Norm and uncle Brendan.
Along with all the earthmoving gear, the operation also has around 12 trucks, including a Peterbilt 379 and a Kenworth T908.
James Cornfoot and his Kenworth get a good mix of work during the week in addition to working the variety of earthmoving gear.
“We run local and all over Victoria doing quarry stuff with a stag tipper set or, carting the machines about getting set up for the next job with our Drake 3×8 float.
“I do any of the truck work and also do grain harvest work in the summertime. We do focus on the earthmoving side, and we do trucks at other times – it’s a bit of a mix, I enjoy the work and never get sick of it…I can keep myself busy!”
The machinery connection extends through to Norm’s affinity for Wabco Scrapers, which especially in the 1970s were a powerful piece of earthmoving kit, and also resulted in James heading north to Queensland in the Kenworth earlier this year.
“My dad has a collection of the Wabco Scrapers and he has the 111, 222, 333 models. They used to be in Australia until they stopped making them.
“With the old GM V12 and straight pipes they scream…they sound better than trucks! He buys them around Australia and takes them to the farm back in Nagambie, we picked a 333 up in St George in Queensland few months ago. It was 65 tonnes and 4 metres wide.
“We shifted it to Melbourne in about two and a half days with the old man out in front on the pilot. It was one of the coolest trips I have done. Everyone was calling me up to say ‘nice truck’, or giving us the thumbs up!”
Along with its appearance as part of the Show ‘n Shine at the Winton Truck Races, James has clocked a few kilometres this year travelling to shows at Craigieburn and Beaufort and along with extended journeys away over the June long weekend to the Alexandra Truck Show and a run up the Hume to the Clarendon Kenworth Klassic in September.
He has in mind a few more events looking ahead to the end of this year and into 2023 so will no doubt be looking at keeping the Kenworth looking sharp.
“I’m the only one who washes this truck. I told my dad I will look after this one and keep it 100 per cent. It gets a good wash every week.”
It goes without saying James’ Kenworth is indeed a fine tribute and he reckons it not only looks good but is a more than capable performer and it would be fair to say he will be at the controls of it for some time yet – even if he has to hand the wheel over to his father from time to time.
“It’s grouse, it’s just a lovely truck and everything is just spot-on, every time I shift gears its beautiful.
“I do let my dad drive it sometimes – but not every day – but I have to keep him happy!” he concluded with a grin.