CLASSICS LOCKER - THE RUSSELL'S RESTORATION

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Volvo’s G88 continued a line of some of the marque’s most important 20th-century models; these comfortable cabovers gaining a dedicated following. Here’s the restoration story of one of New Zealand’s earlier G88s in some iconic colours.

Dalhoff and King introduced the Volvo G88 to the New Zealand market in 1972, and it stayed on its catalogue for most of that decade. Initially, the G88 was rated at 260hp (194kW), which was later lifted to 270hp (201kW). The model had a 16-speed synchromesh range change gearbox and Rockwell rear axles riding on Hendrickson suspension.

Aside from excellent power steering, other features making them a desirable ‘driver’s’ truck included fully sprung seating, individual heaters and a quiet work environment in the big sleeper cabs.

Northern Southland Transport Holdings bought a pair of Volvo G88 tractor units and an N1021 in 1977. The N10 and one of the G88s were on display at the New Zealand Road Transport Association Truck Show, held at the Invercargill Showgrounds in September 1977. These were among a whole shipment of new Volvo trucks that were to wear the “IQ” prefix on their registration plates.

IQ3526 became Northern Southland Transport’s fleet No.3, based at Mossburn, while its purchase buddy would be based at Lumsden. Both primarily towed 42-foot Domett Fruehauf self-steer semi-trailers wearing Sutton stock crates. They also carried out general freight and oversize duties as required.

 
The pair of G88s that Northern Southland Transport bought new carted livestock about 70% of the time. (Photo by the late Dave Carr.) (left) Bradleys Transport in Timaru carted tallow and coal and firewood with the G88. (right)

No.3 often towed a three-axle lowbed moving machinery as well as a bottom dump gravel semi on occasion, making it a versatile and variety-filled truck to drive.

Northern Southland Transport was formed in 1964 when George Hedley (Lumsden Transport), Cliff Bennetts (Mossburn Transport) and Terry Gilligan (Te Anau Transport) merged with Manapouri Haulage. The aim was to rationalise equipment in general rural cartage and undertake a fair proportion of the cartage to the giant Manapouri hydroelectric power scheme. This involved the movement of thousands of tonnes of materials and equipment. Another couple of small operators in the area were taken over as well, and some five years later, Wakatipu Transport at Queenstown joined the fold.

In 2014, Sandra and Chris Russell were looking for a truck to restore. They would have liked to have used the F12 they had operated as a milk tanker in their company Horizon Transport.

However, Chris had driven a G88 for a local farmer back in the mid-1980s and he always had a soft spot for them. He saw a pair of G88s for sale on an online auction, which he bought just ahead of a contractor who runs a fleet of them. One of these was IQ3526, and the other an ex-Ellesmere Transport unit. IQ3526 had been in the South Canterbury area since its departure from Northern Southland Transport in the late 1980s.

It had been in the ownership of a Mount Cook Freightlines owner-driver before being sold to Warren Bradley, who used to haul bulk tallow tanks as well as work in his firewood business.

The bones of both Volvos were duly collected from Timaru with the aid of a lowbed on loan from the farmer Chris had worked for and the tractor unit of friend, neighbour and employer Brett Hamilton.

   
1) The whole venture became a tribute to the late George Hedley, father of the G88’s co-owner Sandra Russell. 2) Most parts were photographed and labelled during the dismantling process.

   
3) Rust never sleeps: new inner rails had to be fabricated before reassembly. 4) The start of a complete nuts and bolt restoration.


5) Sandra and Chris stand in front of several years of hard work and dedication. The vehicle is a truly great addition to this country’s growing classic truck movement.

Brett, who had worked at the local Volvo service agency, would prove invaluable with both advice and practical skills throughout the whole restoration process. A donor cab was also retrieved from Timaru from classic truck restorer and advocate Bruce Anderson, along with much encouragement.

After a complete strip-down and clean-up of parts, it was decided to use the cab from the Ellesmere unit – which was the better of a poor selection – as well as many bits off the Anderson one. A progressive photo library was made of all stages, and all parts were numbered and catalogued.

The chassis was in poor condition, with severe heave found when it was stripped and separated. Local engineering company Fortune Brothers fabricated a new inner chassis rail. Brett rebuilt the engine over the winter of 2017, putting in some long hours on chilly days and nights. Some parts, like bearings, were sourced globally and many others were picked as the best bits from the two engines. The camshaft was ground before reassembly. The gearbox would jump out of third and fourth gear, so a SR61 gearbox from an N10 was sourced from a local wrecker. The rear axles were completely dismantled and rebuilt.

Many cosmetic parts, such as grille surrounds and footsteps, were fabricated. Willie Stroud did the panel work, with a pleasing result. All the interior has been restored to a high standard with velour upholstery, curtains, engine covering and dashboard – all just as they were in 1977.

The whole project was done as a tribute to Sandra’s father, George Hedley, one of the co-founders of NSTH more than half a century earlier.

The new restoration publicly debuted at the Invercargill Truck Show in 2019 and has since paraded at truck shows and as part of the Southern Circuit Tour of the South Island. It has also travelled to Cromwell to meet now-retired Keith Turnbull, its original driver.





The completed job – an excellent result.


Ken Bell drove the featured truck for about four and a half years at Mossburn, hauling stock and all types of cargo. It was an excellent job with a variety of work in some pretty spectacular countryside, with no two weeks the same. This made the whole job a great exercise for a young bloke watching and learning from some experienced men. N.B. NSTH No.3 was also involved in Ken’s courting days.

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