TOP TRUCK - The end result

Monday, January 7, 2019

This Kenworth Aerodyne operated by JC & PA Chapman of Brightwater is the culmination of three decades in the livestock transport game.


Photo: The K200 is refinished in Ego, a colour that has its origins with Ford’s BA Falcon model. In combination with copious amounts of polished alloy and stainless steel, it creates an unmistakable look.

As a youngster growing up in the central Canterbury heartland of Darfield, Jeff Chapman often left home in the morning and biked straight past his parents’ intended destination for him, that being the local primary school, to the depot of local transport operator Steve Mitchell Limited. Many days were spent riding around with the company’s drivers in the trucks of the era, which included Bedford TKs, Mercedes-Benz 1418s and cabover Macks. Land use in Mitchell’s home turf of Darfield and Hororata was a lot different from now, and plenty of manual work took place. Picking up sacks of potatoes and thousands of conventional bales of hay from farm paddocks and manhandling these onto trucks was a great training ground for the aspiring truck driver. His own transport career got underway carrying a mix of both livestock and general rural cargo at the wheel of a Volvo F10 for Bill Burgess, proprietor of WJ Burgess in Darfield. Following this, Jeff spent a number of years with a couple of other Canterbury rural transport operators, carting all manner of livestock.

A chance conversation with Danny Murphy, who at the time ran late Wairarapa livestock buyer John Pinel’s JP Trucking operation, saw Jeff relocate to the North Island where he took the wheel of ‘Stealth’, JP’s striking grey 525hp Mack Ultra Liner. One of the highlights of his time with JP Trucking came when he took the wheel of a new 630hp Cummins Signature powered Kenworth K104 Aerodyne. Complete with Fairfax crates, it was adorned with eye-catching graphics, and these trucks are still remembered by many in the industry to this day. The Pinel experience of good equipment combined with good work left its mark on Jeff, and following John’s death and the cessation of JP Trucking Ltd, he and wife Paula decided to take the plunge and “have a crack at it for ourselves”, carting livestock with the epitome of 1990’s trucking, a 500hp V8 Mack Ultra Liner.


Photo: In its usual habitat, the Kenworth backed into a set of stockyards.

An opportunity presented itself to relocate to the Nelson area during 2014, and as a result a relationship was formed working with Mike Harper Livestock Limited. Jeff and Paula’s 1992 Mack Ultra Liner had provided them with more than 10 years exceptional service, however with more work being asked of it than previously, the decision was made to replace it with something a little more modern. Harking back to years before when Jeff closed the door of the JP Trucking Kenworth Aerodyne for the last time, he recalls having a passing thought that one day he ‘wouldn’t mind owning one of these’. As the saying goes – there is no time like the present, so an order was placed with Mike Gillespie at Southpac Trucks for a Kenworth K200, supplied from the factory with a 5050mm wheelbase. This wheelbase allowed for the optimum manoeuvrability. A well-proven drivetrain was specified, comprising the Cummins ISX-e5 SCR engine producing 458kW (615hp) and 2779Nm (2050lb/ft) of torque. This engine sits in front of an Eaton-Fuller RTLO-22918B transmission with Meritor RT 46-160GP rear axles at 4.1:1 mounted on Kenworth’s Air Glide 400 rear suspension.

The spacious 2.3-metre Aerodyne sleeper cab is trimmed with Sandstone coloured upholstery and fitted with numerous embellishments including twin ISRI air-ride seats, double bunks, dual cab fans, and a fridge. Slimline air intakes and shortened side skirts are fitted to the rear of the cab, allowing the truck crate to be mounted as far forward as possible, optimising weight distribution. Other features include polished alloy wheels, twin 330-litre diesel tanks, and a factory fitted bull-bar. Chris Stanley at Custom Truck and Chrome fabricated the stainless visor, mesh headlight guards, wheel-arch flares, and step infills.


Photo: Jeff Chapman: as happy loading livestock as he is in the Kenworth’s driver’s seat.

At the time of the K200 going on the road there was a 12-month wait to secure a suitable build slot for both a trailer and crates, so it was put to work as an 8-axle combination using the gear previously worn by the Mack. Earlier this year a new Jackson Enterprises 11.08m 5-axle monocoque livestock trailer was custom-built to go behind the Kenworth. It is equipped with SAF Modular Air suspension and IMT FADB175-F22 axles shod with 17.5” diameter wheels to keep the deck height as low as possible, allowing maximum headroom for the stock to be built into the trailer crate. Total Stockcrates in Feilding built new 2-deck cattle/4- deck sheep crates for both the truck and trailer. Jeff is complimentary of the Total product and the company’s can-do approach to incorporating features he had come up that made both crates more user-friendly. The courageous journey that has culminated in the Chapmans putting the Kenworth K200 Aerodyne on the road, combined with its outstanding appearance, truly earns it the title of New Zealand Trucking magazine Top Truck for January 2019.