Dave Whyte follows the Legend T950 trail
The Kenworth brand is definitely a crowd favourite among Australian operators. The iconic and uniquely Australian trucks that have rolled out of the Bayswater plant since 1971 have helped the brand build a reputation for toughness, versatility and durability, and have kept Kenworth at the top of the heavy-duty truck sales charts for many years.
To celebrate the journey, and those who have been a part of it, Kenworth decided to release a limited edition model that would encompass all that the brand has stood for over the years. While it would have been easy to just dress up a current model, add a bit of bling and limit the number produced from the factory, the decision was made to go with an older model, and that was the T950.
The Kenworth T950 was originally manufactured between 1992 and 2007, and embodied everything there was to love about the big bonneted American trucks of the time. A high-set cab, tough looks and the power to match made it popular with single trailer and road train operators alike.
The typical Kenworth fitout, including studded vinyl trim and woodgrain dash, also gave a sense of luxury, something that continues in the Kenworth trucks of today. In fact, as a kid, my dad drove two different versions of the T950, and hence I spent a lot of time aboard them myself. Man, were they big ships in their day! But the release of the T950 Legend, nine years after the last T950 rolled out of the Bayswater plant, was to bring something even more iconic – and somewhat more desirable to the masses.
The T950 Legend production run was limited to 75 units, and all were sold within just 48 hours. Now Kenworth, as I mentioned, has always had good sales figures, but to sell 75 trucks in two days must be some sort of a record, and speaks volumes about the passion Aussie operators have for “old-school cool”.
Among the old-school features of the T950 Legend are a remake of the flat dash panel, badging that harks back to the 70s, and the repainting of the Cummins ISX engines to the beige of days gone by. Vintage style gauges with white background, a woodgrain gear knob (all 75 were built with Eaton manual transmissions), and unique T950 Legend badging and embroidery throughout the cab, top off the list of custom finishes that set these trucks apart from the crowd.
On a recent cold winter’s morning, I travelled to Jerilderie to catch up with one of the lucky few who get to steer a T950 Legend. Jamie drives Legend number 51 for Guse Transport Services, a small operation based out of Wondai in Queensland, and tows tippers in either B-double or road train configuration. He has worked for the Guse family for three and half years. “Mainly running around the Downs, South Burdett, Kingaroy area. I get home every weekend, unless it’s harvest time or we’ve got a bit on,” he said.
Jamie has clocked up 75,000 km on the T950, and said, “It probably hasn’t quite loosened up yet. I quite like the motor. It’s the first one I’ve had with the AdBlue.”
Rated to 600 hp/2050 Nm, the ISXe5 is returning around 1.85 km/l when fully loaded – not too bad for an engine that hasn’t loosened up. “I think it’s quite nice to drive, easier to drive, going back to the old style with a bit more pedal control and that sort of thing,” Jamie commented.
The truck is rated to 110 tonnes, and rides on eight-bag Kenworth suspension on the rear, and three-leaf parabolic springs up front, which Jamie says feel a bit soft.
“The last truck I had was a T608 with huge leaf packs in the front, so it’s gone from one extreme to the other. The ride in it is nice though,” he said. “The truck is nice and comfortable. It’s set out pretty well inside. You lose a little bit of room, not having an integrated bunk, but it’s still a nice cabin.”
“I’d never operated a 950 before,” Jamie said. “It’s like a cross between a T909 and a T659, with not bad vision and you can still see the bullbar, as compared to the T909. I lost a bit of turning circle from the 608 to the 950, but you’re going to get that with a big truck, I suppose”.
And a big truck it is. The T950 is an imposing bit of gear, and carries just a nice amount of bling to complete the look.
“I’m pretty lucky,” said Jamie. “The Guse family look after me. They like good gear, and I like good gear”.
The T950 isn’t the only limited edition Kenworth in the Guse fleet, and joins a T909 Director Series and a 50th Anniversary K200, with a T404ST and a T409 making up the five-truck fleet.
Maintenance on the Guse fleet is carried out in house by Harley’s Heavy Diesel, which has a workshop and pit at the Guse depot in Wondai. Maintaining the appearance of the trucks is also taken care of in the yard, as Jaimie explained: “Mick (Guse) has got young fellas that wash them. It’s a bit of a ritual, every Saturday morning they go through and wash them all.”
The interior of the truck was also spotless, though I suspect this might be Jamie’s work, and this is no mean feat given the dusty and dirty conditions often encountered on tipper work. While the big T950 is a bit of a statement in itself, it also makes a statement about the company and the driver. While it may be a limited edition, it is also the right truck for the job, and looks the part while getting it done.
The idea of bringing back a model that was phased out almost ten years ago would seem almost backwards to many people. The transport industry, and Kenworth customers in particular, seem to love the idea, however. While the T950 Legend trucks have all the modern technology, including safety and environmental technology that wasn’t around when the original T950s were being built, they still retain that certain something that makes them desirable. Maybe it’s the rough and rugged appearance, maybe it’s the limited edition thing, or maybe it’s the memories from when we were all a little younger and drooled over the big boy’s toys. Whatever it is, it’s not just limited to the T950 Legend, there’s a little bit of it in every Kenworth (yes, even the little ones). What the T950 Legend does, though, is put it front and centre, without the excuses and justification, and that’s just the way it should be.