Features, Heavy vehicle, Heritage

New era for the ‘E’ Cab

December 1986 was a pivotal time for Kenworth in Australia, which saw the release of a variety of new models onto the Australian transport scene.

With the legendary W Model and SAR bonneted variants being retired in favour of the new T600 and T650 models, the long-serving K-series cabover line also received a revamp, with the new K100E taking its place in the model range.

“Pretty original and a bit unique.” Russell Brown with the K100E.

To display the model range to its customer base, the ‘Kenworth Cavalcade of Trucks’ made its way around Australia to Kenworth dealers with the trucks all presented in an eye-catching gold, yellow and green ‘boomerang’ paint scheme.

Fast forward some 37 years and one of the three K100E cabovers that was part of the Cavalcade has been fully restored and is now having its third lease on life, based out of Darwin under the ownership of Russell Brown. He had the Kenworth on display at the Rocklea Heritage Truck Show in May, where it had literally just rolled out of the workshop after a three-year restoration.

“Well it was for sale, and it was cheap…anyone will tell you the cheapest part of these things is buying them – it became a bit of a money pit! There are plenty of K100E trucks around, but I realised that it was one of only eight in the ‘launch fleet’ so it is pretty rare in that respect. It’s not the first ‘E’ Cab as a few snuck out of the factory before the official launch but it’s the one that featured in all the Kenworth brochures and so on.

It’s travelled the country – this was probably the first time they [Kenworth] did something like this around the country, and they have done a few more since then,” Brown explained.

Upon the completion of the Cavalcade, the truck’s proper working life began, with Brown becoming the vehicles’ third owner in the intervening years. “It was owned by a guy in Albury who was running for Refrigerated Roadways and then Richie Beaumont at Ipswich had it, and then it got parked up for about 10 years before I got it,” he said. 

As such, the Kenworth carries a 1986 build plate and under the square cab, with its original roof kit is a Cummins NTC444 with a 13-speed Roadranger sending the power through to the rear end. “It did have a torsion bar suspension, but it had a six-rod put under it to take a bit more weight, as they did back then,” he said.

Originally from Bendigo in Victoria and now based in the Northern Territory, Brown had been on the lookout for a project truck. He found the Kenworth at Burpengary and thought the truck’s history helped set it apart from other trucks to restore, as he explained, “I was looking around for something to do, I used to drive my father’s White Road Commander so I was hunting around for a White as a ‘maybe’ to restore for sentimental reasons.

“I’d always liked the COE Kenworths, and this came up. I thought it looked alright for not a lot of money; which I found out there was a good reason for, but it was pretty original and a bit unique so I thought I would keep going with it.” 

The Kenworth has had a full overhaul including new wiring and hoses. The bulk of the work was undertaken by PJ’s Custom Spray Painting and Truck Mechanical, with the restoration interrupted firstly by Covid and then the floods in Queensland last year, which saw over a metre of water though the PJ’s Custom Rocklea workshop.

Prior to its show debut, the Kenworth had only virtually just rolled out of the PJ’s yard making it in time for the Heritage Show. “I picked it up this morning! Put 150 litres of fuel in it, then went across to Brown and Hurley to get the mattress and put it in the sleeper and then here. It will be off to the sparkie on Monday for a few bits and pieces and then home,” Brown said.

Back home in Darwin, Brown operates two Camera House photographic outlets and has converted a drop-deck trailer to operate as a mobile photographic store with accommodation up the front and a retail/sales area in the back.

With the restoration complete on the K100E he was looking forward to getting the unit connected up and hitting the highway, “It’s a bit of a semi-retirement plan, the trailer has bunks, a stove, toilet and shower so it will be good to get it all hooked up and go for a bit of a drive about.”

With the Kenworth again looking sharp and ready to roll, the only thing Brown was lamenting was the absence of a trailer in Brisbane to hook on to for the trip home, grimacing at the thought of bobtailing the E-Cab over 3000 kilometres back to Darwin.

“As long as I am home by next weekend I will be right, I’m thinking it will be a fairly steady trip back – might just let the tyres down a bit and take it easy home across some of those Queensland bumps!” he concluded with a smile.

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