For Western Sydney’s Mulgoa Excavations’ owner Daniel Buttigieg, a blend of old and new equipment has helped his business flourish in the keenly-contested civil infrastructure landscape.
The Mulgoa Excavations fleet comprises a total of around 50 trucks and 40 or so pieces of machinery including excavators, crushers, graders and screeners.
Daniel started the company with a single 13-tonne excavator in 1997, which he would initially have floated to jobs through using other operators as he didn’t own a truck.
The new millennium year of 2000 saw Daniel working on the widening of Cowpasture Road in Sydney’s south west. Daniel was asked by the contractor, the NSW RTA (Roads and Traffic Authority) as it was then known, if he could also move some soil. Luckily for Daniel some of his relatives had trucks so he offered a price to successfully secure the work.
Soon after, Daniel purchased his first truck, a used W-Model which he still owns, for $25,000. This first Kenworth purchase sowed the seed of devotion to the iconic brand.
Around two years later in 2002, a second used Kenworth joined the ranks in the shape of a T601. This truck is also still working within the company’s operations but recently it has been the subject of a complete rejuvenation.
As with any hard-working truck, regardless of make or model, maintenance and servicing are pivotal to a truck’s reliability, so having a pair of older Kenworth models in operation saw Daniel form a long-standing relationship with the spare parts department of Gilbert & Roach, Huntingwood.
The decision to completely refurbish the T601 was actually made some four years ago, and as Daniel was to learn, nothing in the rebuild business is accomplished overnight. The need for replacement parts to complete the restoration of the ageing T601 resulted in regular discussions and surprisingly frequent contact with the parts department, in particular with Chris Said, G&R’s parts representative.
“Chris is the main man,” said Daniel. “He does a good job of looking after us in relation to our parts needs and has proved time and time again to be able to supply what we needed.”
John Vella, Mulgoa Excavations’ maintenance manager who looks after all the company’s equipment maintenance requirements as well as occasional driving duties, agrees.
“It would not be strange for Chris to drop in on his way home and spend a few hours here sitting down with us to identify the correct parts for our project,” said John.
Not surprisingly, there were some occasional difficulties encountered in relation to sourcing the correct parts for the 26-year-old truck.
The original reference platform for looking up part numbers from over a century ago was recorded on microfiche. Although thankfully these original files have now been updated to computerised data storage, the tracing of superseded numbers for old parts still provides challenges.
It was in areas such as these that Chris devoted a great deal of time and effort, with additional assistance from the PACCAR Parts technical support team in Melbourne.
Daniel believes that adding to the difficulty in correctly identifying parts was the fact that his T601 was one of the very first models of its type in Australia and was somewhat of a prototype. This was highlighted when some parts correctly ordered, showed up with differences to those actually fitted to his particular truck.
According to John Vella, Chris Said has done a great job in helping them secure period-correct parts including all new dash panels and gauges to finish of their restoration.
When Daniel purchased the T601 it was a prime mover with a 50-inch bunk on it. Under the bonnet was a 3406E C-15 Caterpillar engine rated at 550 hp in front of an 18-speed manual Roadranger gearbox.
“She was a Big Banger in her day,” Daniel proclaims.
Not long before the T601 came of the road for refurbishment it had undergone a full rebuild, so mechanically all that was done to the engine was an in-chassis bearing roll-in and a replacement camshaft.
The refurbishing of the cab required considerable investment, with Daniel confirming he had put in $30,000 in the paint and panel work alone. This was completed by Grange Smash Repairs in Smeaton Grange, specialists in heavy vehicle customising, restoration and repairs.
Scott Wilson, one of the mechanics at Grange Smash Repairs, completed most of the work on the T601.
“It was his baby and he did a great job with it,” said Daniel.
“For the first three years we just did a bit of work on the truck here and there. But in the last 12 months things ramped right up to the completion of the total restoration late in 2019.”
The T601 now has around 1.5 million kilometres on the clock and will be consigned to towing a tag trailer for work within the business.
Following the business model of the amalgamation of old and new, Daniel has recently purchased a used K200, big-cab Kenworth to handle machinery float movements for the business.
Purchased at auction, the K200 was white and has subsequently received the striking orange and black touch of the spray-gun to welcome it into the Mulgoa Excavations fold.
Additionally, the K200 was fitted with new guards and rims. The black fuel tanks were wrapped in stainless to really make the orange and black colour scheme pop.
Complimenting the older trucks in the Mulgoa Excavations fleet are also numerous new Kenworth trucks, primarily truck and four-axle dog combinations at PBS specifications. Daniel is also extremely proud to be the owner of a T950 Legend # 19.
“We buy all our new Kenworth’s from Gilbert & Roach at Huntingwood, with the sales facilitated by Michael Mortison,” Daniel said.
“Gilbert & Roach really looks after us well and this has led to us incorporating into our fleet several Isuzu trucks for use on water carting duties around worksites. You can’t go past these Isuzu’s with automatic transmissions for this type of work.”
New-truck sales are important, but conversely, parts sales and back-up support should also be highly regarded.
With the appreciation and support shown by enthusiasts for the Limited Edition Heritage truck models over recent years, it’s a great indictment of the standard of product support and customer service available from manufacturers like Kenworth, with divisions such as PACCAR Parts and at dealership level as with Gilbert & Roach, that components can be supplied for both old and new models, supported by knowledgeable people to track them down.