Easy as 123 in a Kenworth K model

By: Steve Skinner, Photography by: Steve Skinner

Retired owner-operators Jan and Terry Newson maintain their connections with the trucking industry through the show circuit in their 1981 Kenworth K123

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Vintage truck shows can provide a reminder of the great people, the great enjoyment and the great careers that can be experienced in the Australian trucking industry.

Take Jan and Terry Newson, single truck owner-operators who made a good living for 45 years and now never miss a truck show in retirement.

"I’ve met lots of really great people," Jan says. "I respect them. They’re hard-working".

In trucking together: Jan and Terry Newson

Those descriptions fit husband Terry of course. "You never stopped laughing," Terry recalls. "We just had such a good time.

"We weren’t making massive money but we worked the long hours."

It was a ‘big cab’ in its day

The Newsons are members of the Western Sydney Historical Truck Club, and were one of the many exhibitors who enjoyed the sunshine with many friends at the ninth annual Sydney Classic and Antique Truck Show at Penrith’s Museum of Fire in June.

Their Kenworth K123 might not have been as shiny as many others on display, but it’s been well cared for and could easily come out of retirement tomorrow if need be, with its rebuilt 14.6 litre Cummins V8 V903T motor putting out 350hp (260kW) matched with a 15-speed Roadranger.

It’s a significant vehicle too: the 1981 Kenworth has an early version of the "big cab" with a bunk that was just wide enough for Jan and Terry to share on occasional country runs when Jan was able to get time away from her main job, which was Legacy for 20 years.

Mind you, Terry didn’t use a bunk much in his many decades of mostly daytime container-carting in and out of the docks in Sydney.

He was there in the late 1960s in a cab-over Commer with its V8 petrol Dodge 361 engine when containers first started appearing on the scene.

"They were sort of an unknown quantity, you didn’t know whether they were going to take off or what," Terry remembers. "Everyone was saying they won’t last, but I said I’ve got a feeling they will." One of the reasons was the pilferage problem with loose general cargo.

There's plenty of room out back of the K123

With a 20 foot container on the truck body and another 20 footer on a dog trailer, Terry was ahead of the game compared with those pulling the shorter 36 foot trailers permitted in those days, which could only carry one container. The Newsons were fairly quickly able to get into their first house, which they still live in today.

They began and ended their box-carting career with Johnstons Transport, and had 20 years in between with Liner Services – and say both were great companies to work for.

The former tanker hauler began its career in Melbourne

Terry gave the game away in 2012 aged 68 after a heart attack and bypass operation, and says to continue he would have needed a truck with modern pollution control equipment anyway. So his workhorse of 18 years retired then too.

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