When veteran driver Trevor Southern was asked to take a fully restored 1993 Kenworth T650 from Tully in north Queensland to the Transport Hall of Fame at Alice Springs he jumped at the opportunity.
The Kenworth is T6 one of a fleet of more than 100 trucks operated by Blenners Transport which has depots at Tully, Cairns, Innisfail, Mareeba, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Brisbane.
The 57-year-old Trevor has worked for Blenners for almost 18 years both as a driver and as a fitter mechanic in the huge workshop at the company’s Tully headquarters.
“In 1993, Blenners owners, Les and Judy Blennerhassett took delivery of T6, a Kenworth T650, their fifth Kenworth sold to them by sales rep, Tony Burton from Brown and Hurley Townsville. This unit was driven by Rodney Reis running to Melbourne and Adelaide markets from El Arish, North Queensland,” Trevor said.
Under the bonnet of the 650, was a CAT3406C ATTAC PEEC 400hp @ 1800rpm motor geared by a FULLER 14613B transmission.
The rear axles were Rockwell SSHD with 3.55 ratio diffs. Its suspension was a Kenworth Air Glide 100, having a GVM 26,000kg and GCM 45,000kg.
“This vehicle travelled the long routes for many years before being semi-retired from interstate to do some float work and local pick ups from the farms to the depot,” Trevor told Big Rigs.
He said that in 2019 after travelling over 2,000,000km, it was decided by Les and Judy that this workhorse had earned itself some care and attention and so it was time to restore her back to her former glory.
“Ideally, they would have liked to restore T1 (truck one) as it was also a T650 but it had been sold and written off years earlier. To begin the restoration, two new chassis rails were ordered from Melbourne and with that, the rebuild began. All other parts needed for the rebuild were purchased from Brown and Hurley Townsville.”
Assigned to this mammoth task was Blenners’ truck mechanic, Greg Stonehouse, who spent countless hours at the Tully depot workshop, stripping it down to replace the chassis rails and start the rebuild.
“Greg carefully stripped the cab and sleeper back to a bare shell, replacing brackets, floor mounts and generally refurbishing the whole interior.
“As Greg put her back together piece by piece, Aaron Carmon, Blenners’ spray painter, gave her, a new glossy shine with the original paint colour scheme being renewed. Towards the end of the restoration, the truck was taken to Jeff Barrie at Cyclone Airbrush Signage and Graphics at Caboolture to add the stripes and sign writing.
“The job was completed in August 2021 and displayed at Brown & Hurley’s 75th Anniversary celebrations in Townsville sitting beside Blenners’ 300th Kenworth T650 in the original paint scheme.”
In 2021, the fully restored T650, accompanied by Les and Judy, was driven to Alice Springs by Trevor to attend the reunion at the Alice Springs Transport Hall of Fame.
Trevor recalls travelling to Alice Springs with Helen in the restored Kenworth and meeting Les and Judy at Camooweal just on the Queensland side of the border with the NT.
“We stayed in motels during the three-day trip to Alice Springs where the Kenworth was displayed at the National Transport Hall of Fame for a week,” he said.
“Roads in the NT are top class and we thoroughly enjoyed being in Alice Springs. Although about 700 people were expected at the reunion only about 400 attended due to Covid lockdowns.
“Surrounded by other shiny Kenworth prime movers, the T650 sat proudly, gleaming on display for the week, in the Kenworth Hall of Fame Shed. In her retirement, the T650 will spend time on display and participate in some charity events and truck shows.”
Trevor has been involved in the road transport industry since aged 16 at Tully after having moved from his home town of Kerang in Victoria.
“I first worked for Mal Bakon of Malley’s Transport at Tully initially hand loading bananas and started driving interstate at age 18 in a S2 Kenworth carting bananas and general to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. I thought I was King of the Road,” he said.
Later, he took on an apprenticeship as a fitter and got married to his wife Helen.
About 18 years ago Trevor joined the fast-growing Blenners’ workforce and hasn’t looked back.
“I drove interstate for nine years carrying produce and then ended up in the Tully workshop and have been there since. But I still drive trucks when required,” he said.
One of Trevor’s four children, Ashleigh Southern, 30, who now lives in Sydney, has represented Australia at two Olympic Games as a member of the women’s water polo team.
“That was at the 2012 London Olympics, when Australia won the bronze medal and at Rio de Janeiro in 2016 when they came fourth,” said Trevor.
Trevor, who lives in the scenic coastal town of Cardwell, near Tully, has no doubt that he will continue working in the industry until his retirement.
“I said I was going to give the game away and a fellow driver told me [in 1987] that I should go and see a doctor and get a blood transfusion. He told me once the industry is in your blood it stays there for life.”