Is this the greatest Legend of all?

Anyone who has read my writings on the Cornwills will know that I am an unabashed fan of the family. The reasons are twofold: they are the best bunch of blokes you’d ever wish to meet, and their trucks – all their trucks – are a sight to behold.

Go to a truck show in Victoria, and if Cornwill Transport is there you can virtually guarantee that they will walk away with an award or three – such is the build quality of their trucks and the preparation that goes into their presentation.

Do you know anyone else who jacks the truck off the ground to tyre-black the wheel treads underneath?

Brothers, Wayne, Troy and Rick Cornwill have been presenting their trucks to the public and winning awards since the Castlemaine Truck Show of 1994, when their Kenworth K125, ‘Penthouse’ won Rig of the Show. It was still winning in 2005 at Alexandra.

Troy, Zac, Rick and Wayne Cornwill at the Koroit Show. Image: Graham Harsant

It is not unusual for one of their trucks to be runner-up to another of their trucks in category awards. These trucks are not just show ponies, but also lead a working life, hauling steel from the Geelong Port into Melbourne.

I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to their parents’, Kevin and Wendy’s home and have seen the awards cabinet – except it’s not a cabinet. It’s a room…and a big room at that.

In recent years their superb 2008 Kenworth T908, ‘Paradise’ has cleaned up at just about every show it has attended. But now the Cornwills have a new beast on the road – a Kenworth Legend SAR Build #59. And what a truck this is.

We all know of Kenworth’s magnificent marketing ploy of offering the Legend SAR for sale for one day only and selling 700 trucks on that day. Its success is beyond dispute and its refinement over its parentage in terms of modernity and (particularly) interior space is plain for all to see.

Now, I have to admit that personally I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. I’ve seen many at truck shows and they have been superbly presented. They just have not ‘grabbed’ me in the way that the 9 0h Legends did. Indeed, Cornwill’s Paradise has been my favourite-ever truck, since I first laid eyes upon her.

Legend SAR, Build #59 rolled off the production line around October of 2022 and was delivered to an address in Bannockburn, past Geelong, Victoria.

The Cornwills have a new beast on the road – a Kenworth Legend SAR Build #59. Image: Graham Harsant

Upon arrival at Cornwill Transport’s home base, Troy and Wayne proceeded to pull the truck apart. Out came the entire interior. Off came, bumpers, guards, lights, steps, walkways and grab rails. Then, and only then did Wayne and Troy (and Rick when available) proceed to rebuild Troy’s ‘dream’ truck – ‘Dynamite’.

Why Dynamite?

“The name is derived from TNT – the transport company, not the explosive,” says Troy. “They ran a lot of SARs back in the 70s and 80s and they were quick. Dad and I would be driving along and one of their trucks would fly by us, doing I reckon 130km/h, or 80mph in those days. I said to Dad that any faster and they’d explode. Hence the name of our truck.”

The understated mural changes according to light and angle.

The mural on the back of the cab, created by Haiden Oswald of YBI-FX Truck & Art Signage to Troy’s design, depicts a stick of dynamite in front of a city backdrop (where the truck will spend most of its days) and also features a tachograph – common on trucks from the 70s through to the mid-90s.

The mural is a master class of artwork, changing as it does from super subtle to in-your-face, depending upon the viewing angle and light – again acceding to Troy’s desire to present it in this way.

From the factory, the truck was a fairly standard build with a 50” cab but was ordered with double bunks and three tanks on each side, giving it the same wheelbase as Paradise. Looking on from the side however the truck looks much longer with the 5th wheel set further back.

“It’s just an optical illusion,” said Wayne. “We deleted the shroud around the back of the cabin because many of those old TNT trucks were day cabs and we wanted to try and replicate that look.”

Troy and Wayne rebuilt the truck themselves from start to finish, calling on outside help only when necessary. Steve Thomas of Southern Kustoms provided the steering wheel and painted the steel floor panels – cut out by Troy – to match the dashboard, which also has two extra dials on the right of the steering wheel, filling that side of the dash to match the dials on the left. “Gotta have it look balanced, right?”

Matching dash, steering, gear knob and floor creates a unique and spectacular interior. Image: Graham Harsant

Inside, this truck is the stuff of Troy’s dreams, realised.

“We didn’t start out to build it as an old truck, or to look like it, although a lot of people have that impression. It was just the vision we had at the start and how it turned out is like that.

“The shape of the truck obviously has that old feel anyway and what we’ve brought into it has added to that.”

Apart from that spectacular floor there are two 70s style fans hanging from the roof – an addition Troy is very pleased with from a practical point of view.

“There are those days and dusty places when the fans are preferable to the air-con.”

The doors carry 70s style armrests on the sills – again harking back, but also very practical. The passenger foot well box has Dynamite laser cut into it by JR Laser Cutting of Geelong.

The laser cuts are all backlit, resulting in a spectacular night show. In the middle of the footwell, Troy’s son, Zac, niece Laana and nephew Rocco’s names are also laser cut into the metal and sit proudly alongside Grandpa, Les Mortlock’s image.

The names of Troy’s son Zac, niece Lanna and nephew Rocco are laser cut into the metal and alongside Grandpa Les Mortlock’s image. Image: Graham Harsant

“Pop died last year, just short of 100 years and loved all that we did,” said Troy. “A photo of him was taped to the air cleaner all through the build and will stay in the truck forever.”

The sun visors – normally black – now match the tan interior and are buttoned to match the upholstery and interior lining.

The seat bases are painted in black pearl which show depth when lit. They also contain the Cornwill name that looks like stainless in the daylight, but also glows red at night.

All Legend SARs come with a wood grain logo, but Troy had it replaced with one etched into a billet of aluminium with the Cornwill name included.

The cab is finished off with a couple of Bull, or work lights – again in period. Of course, there is an 18-speed Road Ranger because they didn’t have autos back when.

There are so many changes to the exterior – some big and many small – that I’m sure to miss some of them.

Below the Kentweld bumper sits the backlit Dynamite name, balanced at the top of the cab with a sun visor from the 90s which is a little longer than the 80s version and which the boys dropped down a little to improve the look.

Above the visor sit just 5 ‘old school cool’ non-led lights. The stainless mirrors sport just one light each, “keeping it simple,” says Troy. Again, there’s just one light on the back of the air cleaners to light up the doors, which come within 5mm of them when opened.

The perforated aluminium running boards normally found on most trucks have been replaced with stainless steel, as has the walk plate.

Troy built bridges across the chassis rails, laid an inner plate of 3mm aluminium over them and then folded the stainless over the top. The walk plate finish is like an ice rink; incredible when you know how hard it is to pull stainless without it warping.

The walk plate is ice rink smooth – a masterclass of welding and engineering. Image: Graham Harsant

Complementing the walk plate are the stainless wheel arches. No biggie you may say, until you look a little closer and can’t see how they’re attached to the chassis. That’s because the boys designed brackets to fit inside the guards so they look at though they’re floating.

Finishing off the rear of the truck is the stainless, custom built tail light bar – a work of art in itself. Manufactured by Austeng Engineering in Geelong to Troy’s design, three pieces were welded together to create one sealed box, the bar took a week’s labour to manufacture.

Then Troy and Wayne spent seven hours polishing it when complete. You will not see a bar like this anywhere else. The boys also had it raised a little so you can see the (stainless capped) boosters.

Then there’s little things like the front mudflaps wrapping around the edge of the guards. The Kenworth Legend SAR logos sitting under the cab doors are backlit, as are the Cummins X15 logos cut into stainless under the bonnet. Most will never see them, but Troy knows they are there.

A grab handle replaces the grab rail to keep cab exterior flowing. Image: Graham Harsant

The pipes are 7” and have a grab handle attached – thereby deleting the grab rails that normally sit behind the doors, “just to give a cleaner look.”

Under the tanks and above the bottom steps are 12 lights down each side of the truck. Again non-led, (Troy prefers the softer light they put out) each light is mounted to a Cornwill-designed bracket and has ‘SAR 59’ laser cut into the base so it reflects (night and day) onto the running board.

The battery boxes have had 2 inches cut from the bottom to bring them into line with the rest of the cab.

“Dad came out and asked me what the hell I was doing,” says Troy. ‘Are you right in the head?’ he said. ‘A brand new truck and you’re hitting it with an angle grinder!’”

There is so much more, and yet there is more to do. Troy wants to quilt the inside of the front guards in diamond patterned black cross-stitch, the rear of the front bumper needs to be filled and there is a mountain of stainless to come for the engine.

“Can’t have too much,” quips Troy. The fan will come off to be repainted old-school complete with rivets.

Has Legend SAR Build #50 been built to win truck shows?

“Absolutely not,” chorus Troy and Wayne. “Look, it’s nice to win an award but it’s nicer to have other truckies and members of the public come up and compliment us on our trucks.

“We build them because we love them and we live in them. The public – and show judges – wouldn’t know about some of the lighting we have, under the bonnet for instance. But we wanted it so we fitted it and we know it’s there.”

That the Cornwill trucks are pristine is plain to see at truck shows, but the fact is that they always look like this, whether on the job – as they all are, have been or will be – or not.

A visit to the family home and you would instantly know where they get it from. Mum, Wendy keeps a house where the floors shine like the trucks. Dad Kevin’s lawns are a magic carpet.

Presentation is ingrained into the Cornwill boys. Troy and Wayne put in thousands of hours, working up to 18-hour days on the weekends to get Dynamite to where they wanted it to be. That’s how you produce a great truck and that’s how you win awards.

Dynamite is a beautiful rig but like all Cornwill trucks it is more than that. It is an expression, as Troy says, “of passion and of family”.

Is ‘Paradise’ still my favourite truck? I love that T908 and one day the guys have promised that it will bear my coffin because, well, Paradise. It is a magic truck with a proud heritage of work and awards behind it.

But in Dynamite the Cornwills have reached new heights in design, fit, finish and presentation. This Legend SAR sceptic is no more.

Is this truck the greatest of Legends? I reckon it just might be.

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