In terms of trucks that have burnt their way into the psyche of the Australian transport landscape, the Kenworth SAR would have to be one of the first truck models which springs to mind.
From its first incarnations in the 1970s through to the current T610 SAR and the much-anticipated Legend SAR released last month at the Brisbane Truck Show, the Kenworth, with its short sloping bonnet, has also been a favourite model for truck restorers over the years.
There are few better examples on the historic show circuit than the 1986 SAR which was purchased and restored by the Cleary Brothers organisation from Wollongong, with the truck, its custodian and Cleary Brothers team member Keiran Sullivan making the trip from the coast into the NSW Riverina for the Lockhart Truck Show earlier this year.
Having a fleet dominated by Mack product, and having restored a number of old Bulldogs over the years, the Cat-powered Kenworth was somewhat of a change in tack for the Cleary Brothers team, who undertook the full mechanical and body restoration in their Port Kembla workshop over a couple of years.
“We have never been big Kenworth operators – we grabbed a few T404 SARs and K108 Cab-overs and we thought we would do something different to doing another Mack up – Cleary Brothers are also very passionate about the Caterpillar product line, so I think that was a drawcard as well,” said Sullivan.
“We started it in 2016, we had just finished doing the ‘Cunningham’, a Centenary Mack Trident and we took this on and did everything in-house.”
The Kenworth had had a bit of a potted history, having been painted lime green in colour and been parked up in Western Australia with a seized engine for 10 years.
It initially went to Klos Brothers in Victoria before making its way up to Wollongong where the overhaul got underway.
“It was pretty buggered when we got it, the motor was locked up – we went to put another block in it out of our stock spares in our machinery shop and the numbers were different, so we had to buy another block and put a rebuild kit through that, its rated to 425 horsepower. We also put a Neway air suspension on it to make it a bit more comfy as we are driving everywhere bobtail with it,” Sullivan said.
Having been stripped back to the chassis rails and worked back up, the SAR was painted in its deep red colour and the interior overhauled back to showroom finish.
“The interior is back to its original condition, with Gilbert and Roach in Narellan helping us out, the interior fit-out was a lot easier to source than any of the Macks we have done – we ordered it on the Monday with all the serial numbers and we had it ready to go on the Friday,” he said.
The exterior also got a bit of a touch up with rear light bars along with stainless guards and wraps on the tanks, “We were a bit over polishing tanks on a Thursday night before going away to a show,” he said with a grin.
Completing the exterior is a large mural on the back of the sleeper paying tribute to Australia’s World War 1 armed forces which is a real head-turner.
Preserving machinery and trucks has been a passion for the Cleary Brothers over the years, with the company having its own museum at Port Kembla which has an open day once a year.
“Restoration has always been a big thing for the company over the years, we do up all our own machinery, including a couple of NR Macks and a D7 and D2 Cat dozers-most of the projects we do usually take a couple of years as we work them around other jobs,” he said.
With Mack being the feature brand at Lockhart, there was also a 1964 B61 Mack on display which has been owned by Cleary Brothers since new, and like the SAR had undergone a full restoration in the company workshops after being retired from active service.
The Cleary Brothers group has around 120 trucks working in the business on a variety of work including tipper, heavy haulage and agitator applications. Having spent about eight years behind the wheel in a number of driving roles Sullivan now works in the construction division.
“I would love to get out a bit more…that’s why I come to these shows. We try and get out every couple of months, we do the Kenworth Klassic every year and try to get to a lot of the rural shows, and of course the Illawarra Convoy for Kids is always a big thing for us as we have done a lot of work up and down the NSW south coast over the years.”
Sullivan and the SAR were part of a large contingent of predominantly Mack trucks which were making their first visit to Lockhart from the Illawarra and was impressed with the turnout and variety of modern and historic trucks to the Riverina town.
Needless to say, the next trip to a show the Kenworth makes will see Sullivan again behind the wheel giving the yellow Cat motor under the short SAR bonnet a solid workout.
“She winds up pretty well and she’s a bit rough…but it’s also good fun,” he concluded with a grin.