‘A modern Classic’ would probably be an apt term to describe the 1976 Kenworth which is owned and operated by Matt and Courtney Hambridge.
The 47-year-old Kenworth’s iconic SAR styling is straight out of the 1970s, coupled up to a current era engine and driveline.
Based just south of Sydney at Yerrinbool, Matt and Courtney operate MCH Heavy Haulage, with a fleet of predominantly cabover Kenworths, joined last year by the SAR, which has taken pride of place as both a flagship vehicle for the business and one which will be part of the Hambridge operation for many years to come.
Coupled up to a Drake quad float and loaded with a Caterpillar PM620 profiler, the couple had the Kenworth on display in late February at the Gundagai Tractor Pull and Swap Meet.
With the truck having recently once again become a fully working truck as opposed to an historic one, Matt gave a background to both the unique specifications of the SAR and its new home as part of the MCH fleet.
“It has the features of a modern truck in an older truck. It actually has a Series 60 Detroit in it and all the running gear out of a K104 Kenworth with an 18-speed ‘box and an airbag rear end,” explained Matt.
“The 14-litre Detroit is rated at a little over 600 horsepower, so it has no problem getting over the hills! It is a bit of a toy, I just wanted something that I could do up so we got a hold of it and started tinkering.”
Having been on the lookout for an older SAR and having just missed out on another example, a flick through the classifieds on Gumtree late in 2022 soon had Courtney on a plane to Western Australia to check out the truck.
“Courtney found it on Gumtree and went straight over to Perth that afternoon to look at it, she came back and got a bank cheque and we went back over and drove it home,” said Matt.
“It has been converted with all the newer gear over there and the fella needed to buy a set of grain tippers for the harvest season and needed to sell it.
“We were a bit lucky; the truck had been sitting in his shed for four years, and he had only had it on Gumtree for two days.
“We bob-tailed her home – I am a bit time poor so didn’t have time to get a trailer sorted – there was a bit of hopping and carrying on but with the airbags it wasn’t too bad.”
Having planned to take a couple of his restored GM-powered Dodges on a trailer to Gundagai behind the SAR, Matt’s plans soon changed when one of his clients needed the profiler picked up out of Wagga to go back to Sydney.
With the truck having been put back on full registration the week before it was an opportunity for the Kenworth to start earning its keep.
“It’s the first week on the road as a working truck. It had been on vintage plates prior.
“I said to Courtney that it’s a bit of a waste having it sit in the shed and not being utilised so we got it spec’d to 75-tonne and got it back on full rego.
“Coming down here it was a perfect opportunity to take it for a run and still utilise it in the business. We took the weekend off for the show but this will save two trips.
The MCH operation is run as a family business and undertakes a variety of roadworks and road maintenance projects for companies such as Fulton Hogan.
From their Yerrinbool base the MCH trucks and equipment work throughout the Southern Highlands, and with the recent floods requiring a number of road projects to be undertaken, Matt’s team has been as far afield as West Wyalong and Narrandera.
The current fleet includes five K200s, a K104 and a K108, and looking to the future Matt is about to put two A-double tipper sets on the road to haul asphalt.
“We built up the business with excavation and heavy haulage. We wound it down a bit through Covid and have found our niche market, the A-doubles we have invested money in to maximise what we can do with our staff and so forth. We are a small family business but we all work together and get through it, taking on the two double setups is a big risk but if you don’t have a go you’ll never know,” he said.
The family ties extend through to the SAR, which has been dedicated to Matt’s great grandmother, Catherine Grace Hambridge, who was better known around the place as ‘Dynamite Kate’.
“I wanted a truck I could do up in honour of her. I was probably a little too young but she drove for TNT on parcel freight for a number of years,” recalled Matt fondly.
“She had a reputation, apparently she used to go off like a firecracker at Marulan!” he added with a smile.
Also adorning the sleeper cab are the names of Matt and Courtney’s three children, Katie, Tyler and Chloe, with 13-year-old Katie apparently showing good form already changing gears around the MCH yard.
Matt reckons with the support of Courtney, who is also regularly behind the wheel of a truck, his father Ian, and other family members helping out along the way his business is well poised for the future.
It is the passion for his machinery and work that will keep the MCH name, and the ‘best of both worlds’ Kenworth out on the roads for a long time yet.
“I don’t treat driving trucks as a job – I enjoy doing what I do and that’s why we have invested in the SAR.
“It is old but modern enough that I can still put it to work, and this is something we can hand on down to the next generation,” he concluded.