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Brown and Hurley: The building of a legacy

A fourth generation family business, Brown and Hurley has become one of the largest truck dealership groups in Australia, representing PACCAR’s Kenworth and DAF brands.

It has sold more Kenworth trucks than any other Australian truck dealer and took the keys to Kenworth’s milestone truck, a T659, as part of the manufacturer’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

That flashy new truck now sits in the Brown and Hurley Museum alongside the first Kenworth sold by the group in 1965, a Kenworth W923. Paying homage to that truck, it’s painted in the same red and white colour scheme.

On the back of the milestone T659 is an image of Alan Brown and Jack Hurley at the site in Kyogle, NSW, where they started their business.

The milestone T659 takes pride of place at the Brown and Hurley Museum.

Toowoomba-based operator, Doug Wyton, was Brown and Hurley’s first Kenworth customer.

On the 50th anniversary of that sale, his son Gordon Wyton bought a Kenworth T909, also in the same livery.

“So we’re still doing business with the same people 50 years later,” said industry legend and long-time Kenworth dealer Jim (JJ) Hurley.

And that sort of story rings true with many of Brown and Hurley’s customers.

“What’s probably been most rewarding for me is the amount of repeat customers we have. We’re doing business with a lot of third generation customers now,” Jim added.

“I’d say that over 75 per cent of our business is repeat business. If you look after your customers, they’ll look after you,” he said.

“Another really rewarding thing is seeing customers who’ve started with one or two trucks and are now major fleets. Their growth has helped us grow too. It’s also the friendships I’ve made with customers over time and the relationship I’ve had with Kenworth.”

Alan Brown and Jack Hurley met in the army during WWII and went on to become lifelong friends and business partners.

Alan Brown and Jack Hurley met in the army during WWII and went on to become lifelong friends and business partners. They trained troops in the maintenance and repair of army trucks and tanks.

After the war, they wanted to open their own mechanical workshop, but an existing business was worth more than they could afford.

Instead they settled on purchasing a bicycle repair shop in 1946, complete with a petrol bowser and an old shed out the back that they could use as a workshop.

The years that ensued saw their company go from strength to strength, all the while creating an unshakable bond between two families. Then, in 1964, Brown and Hurley became the first Australian dealer appointed by Kenworth. 

“There was a fella named Ed Cameron who began importing Kenworth trucks into Australia and he was looking for a dealer in Queensland – fortunately we got hold of that,” said Jim.

Today, the business is comprised of nine dealerships across Queensland and NSW. It has also won the Kenworth Dealer of the Year Award a record 14 times. Now, on June 1, 2021, it celebrates 75 years.

Jim (78) was just a toddler when his father Jack went into business with Alan, and he’s rightfully proud of how far the business has come.

“It’s such a big achievement. When I started my apprenticeship as a motor mechanic with the company in 1958, at the age of 16, it had been going for 12 years and for me that sounded like a lifetime, but it pales in significance. So I’ve been there for most of the journey,” he said.

Throughout the years, Jim has held various roles at Brown and Hurley, from apprentice mechanic, to managing sales at the Kyogle branch in 1975, then becoming group sales manager in 1986, followed by joint managing director in 1988 – a role he held up until his retirement from day-to-day operations in August 2012.

Though he’s still quite involved in the business to this day, as a member of the board, along with doing some of the special truck deliveries too.

The Brown and Hurley Museum is also his pet project – and a trip down memory lane.

“The museum was launched in 2008. I wanted to showcase the history of some of the trucks and equipment we’ve sold over the years. There are about 20 pieces on show, including some of the early stuff which I’ve restored – there are Kenworths, Volkswagons, Land Rovers, David Brown farm tractors, chainsaws and a White that’s the same as the first White truck we ever sold,” said Jim.

In recognition of his service to the industry, in 2015 Jim also received the honour of having a major extension to the Kenworth Dealer Hall of Fame in Alice Springs named after him. The 2000 square metre hall is called JJ Hurley Pavilion. He was instrumental in the development of the project, which is a 4000 square metre space devoted to the history of the Australian designed and built Kenworth, with over 25 trucks on permanent display, and others on rotation.

“In our pavilion, we have 22 brand new Kenworths on display and will add another three there this year. In 10 years, we should have about 45 brand new Kenworths.

“I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world with so many new trucks on show,” he proudly added.

With regards to the 70,000th Kenworth, though it will live predominantly at the Brown and Hurley Museum, Jim also plans to use it to take his restored vintage trucks around to various truck shows.

Brown and Hurley are the proud owners of the 70,000th Australian built Kenworth, a T659 that is a tribute to the company’s 75 years.

But how did Jim get his hands on the milestone truck?

“I had this idea that I wanted to have a Brown and Hurley 75 year truck for my museum, so that in another 100 years, that truck would still be there. I knew the 70,000th truck was coming up, so I spoke with Andrew Hadjikakou (managing director of PACCAR Australia) and he agreed and allocated that chassis to us – the T659,” explained Jim.

“I think the T659 is the most durable truck ever built by Kenworth in my own personal opinion. Former PACCAR managing director Andrew Wright and I used to travel around together and we’d get off the beaten track and go to where the trucks were working in really tough conditions, and talk to customers about how the trucks were working and make refinements to suit their challenging conditions.

“Basically it’s the same model that’s been around since 1987 – if you’ve got something that works, then don’t fiddle with it,” Jim said.

Hadjikakou officially handed over the 70,000th truck at a special event at PACCAR’s Bayswater manufacturing plant in March, though the truck itself couldn’t be there, stopped in its tracks at Moree, NSW, as parts of Australia battled through horrendous floods.

At the event, Hadjikakou said, “To JJ who joins me here on stage and to the extended Brown and Hurley family, who have joined us, we’re thrilled to have you here today, especially given the historical significance that 2021 holds for your own company.

“In this, their 75th year, it’s only appropriate that today Brown and Hurley become the new owners and take the keys of our 70,000th Kenworth.”

With 75 years already under its belt, Brown and Hurley can look forward to the next 75 years and beyond.

For Jim personally, seeing the growth the business has achieved over time has been so rewarding. “In 1986 we sold 100 Kenworths for the first time. It took 21 years to sell the first 1000 Kenworths, then 11 years to sell the second 1000. This year, in 2021, it looks like we’ll sell 1000 too,” he said.

But on top of sales and numbers, Jim’s connection with Brown and Hurley goes much deeper. It’s a legacy for his family and that of the Brown family, two names that have become firmly intertwined into the trucking industry’s history pages.

This shot of Jack Hurley and Alan Brown was taken in 1986.

Jack Hurley OAM passed away in 2007, aged 90; and Alan Brown OAM passed away in 2016, aged 94; though what they started continues to live on.

“It’s very rewarding to see that in the company my father started with Alan, I now have grandsons coming through the business.

“We had 114 staff in 1986, now we have 468 staff and there are a lot of long-term staff who have been with us for 10 to 20 years – even one fellow who has been here for 47 years. To think you’ve been able to give those people a job, and they’ve been able to build a house and a family, and you’ve helped them along is really special,” added Jim.

Throughout June, there will be various 75th anniversary events taking place, including branch open days, a charity golf day, show and shines and the launch of the 75th anniversary book at the Kyogle open day on June 5.

“My dad wrote a book for the first 60 years of Brown and Hurley and I’ve written the next 15 years, telling the Brown and Hurley story of service to the road transport industry,” said Jim.

Event details will be posted on the Brown and Hurley Facebook page.

75 years of Brown and Hurley

The move to the new Kyogle premises in 1953.

1944: Alan Brown and Jack Hurley meet and become friends.

1946: The pair purchase a bicycle repair shop in Kyogle, NSW, and that’s where it all begins.

1947: Brown and Hurley makes its first sale, a HG 42 Oliver Cletrac tractor.

1948: The business obtains the White Truck franchise, which it held until 1957.

1953: The move to new premises in Kyogle. Staff members are now at 14.

1957: Brown and Hurley becomes a Leyland Trucks dealer, up until 1968.

1964: The Brown and Hurley Group is appointed Australia’s first Kenworth Dealer, covering Queensland and Northern NSW.

1965: Its first Kenworth is sold to Doug Wyton in Toowoomba for £15,000.

1968: Brown and Hurley Group is appointed the first Volvo truck dealer in Australia. By mutual agreement, the Volvo franchise is relinquished in 1998.

1970:
Kenworth Australia’s Bayswater factory and office is completed, with production of Kenworth trucks starting in 1971.

2000: The DAF franchise is added into the mix, with Brown and Hurley Group appointed DAF dealers.

2006: Brown and Hurley celebrates 60 years.

2012: Brown and Hurley opens its Technical Training Centre.

2015: Brown and Hurley Group celebrates 50 years as a Kenworth dealer.

2017: Brown and Hurley PacLease begins operations.

2021: Brown and Hurley celebrates 75 years on June 1. It also purchases the 70,000th Australian made Kenworth.

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