Feature, TOTM

Starry eyed over Limited Edition Constellation

MAY TRUCK OF THE MONTH: Matt Kane had his heart set on a Cat-powered Mack Super-Liner but ended up with a 2000 model Western Star, and a 4964FX Limited Edition Constellation at that. To say Matt was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.

 

“Can I love a Western Star? I’m a Mack man, can I love a Western Star?” That’s the question Matt Kane asked himself after spending years chasing the Bulldogs’ backside down the highway. After spending months fruitlessly searching for his own dream truck, an LT Super-Liner, Matt found himself staring at an ad for a 20-year-old limited edition Western Star and wondering if he could picture himself not just driving this iconic American brand but owning one. As you can see by the images of the truck here, and by the Matt Kane haulage stickers on the side, it seems the question has been answered.

Matt’s origin story may sound a little cliché, however if the recipe works then why change it, right? He grew up immersed in transport, left school as soon as he could, took on an apprenticeship until he could get his licence, and then got behind the wheel and has never looked back. Figuratively speaking that is, a good truckie always looks back.

The more detailed version goes like this. Matt grew up on the family farm east of Ballarat that had some cattle and a whole heap of potatoes. Because farming is only a part-time gig (being a little sarcastic here) Matt’s dad Leo also took on extra work driving trucks. He started with doing farm pickups for the local dairy in a little single drive 1419 Mercedes-Benz, then moving on to driving a Ford LNT9000 carting spring water down to Melbourne and containers back home to Ballarat.

“I would spend as much time as possible in the truck with Dad and always wanted my own,” Matt recalls.

Matt Kane is a proud truckie, and now a very proud Western Star truckie

As I mentioned earlier, Matt spent enough time at school to learn how to write neat enough to fill out a work diary and then bolted, motivated by a desire to get behind the wheel himself. As is the case in a standard trucking origin story, age was a factor and Matt filled in the ‘waiting to get a licence’ phase by undertaking an apprenticeship.

“I actually chose to go and get an auto-electrician apprenticeship, which I really enjoyed,” Matt says. “I found myself doing that job for about nine years.”

While Matt was honing his skills in the auto-electrical world, refining his ability to wire up extra lights and fix all those gremlin issues us common folk can never find, his parents Anne and Leo, along with his brother Paul and Paul’s wife Jane, had started a family transport company. They still had the farm as well, obviously though a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job like farming just wasn’t enough for the hard-working Kane family. To keep themselves even busier they decided to purchase a little Toyota Dyna and start distributing parcel and general freight around Ballarat. Hence Kane Transport was created.

Over the next few years Kane Transport grew, the parcel freight got busier and the general freight work around Ballarat just kept growing, quickly outgrowing the Toyota Dyna’s capabilities. Bigger trucks kept getting added and soon even more staff was needed.

Matt’s first Mack – an old CH day cab

In 2003 Matt hung up the multi-meter and circuit tester and put his newly acquired HR licence to good use, working for his dad and brother. “I left the auto electric work and began doing Ballarat to Melbourne runs in a 14 pallet Kenworth T300,” Matt explains. It didn’t take long for the diesel fumes and gear changes to once again embed themselves into Matt’s psyche. The desire to get into the bigger gear, even the goal of his own truck resurfaced and the purchase of Kane Transports first Mack, a second hand CH Mack, just added fuel to Matts driving desires.

From the driver seat of his T300, Matt saw multiple Macks start to join the fleet and soon enough he got to step up and became ‘bulldog branded’ when he got handed the keys to one of the company’s recently acquired second-hand Macks.

“My first Mack was a cool silver 2001 CH Mack. It was ex-Sergeants Refrigerated Transport. I drove that for about three years, it was a beautiful little truck,” he says.

At this stage, Kane Transport was predominantly covering Ballarat and Melbourne. That radius grew around 2006, the same time Matt moved from the silver CH into another Mack, this time a Vision. Matt spent another three years in that Mack, covering more ground, building his Mack mania with every kilometre.

Not for sale

The bulldog truly bit him in 2009 though when Kane Transport bought the old Jack Daniel Racing LT Super-Liner. “I loved that truck, that one was my favourite. I drove that truck doing everything – local, interstate, singles, doubles, even with a float behind it,” Matt explains. “No one else drove it, Paul did a few runs but that one was mine.

The Super-Liner that really locked Matt into the Mack mandate – the ex-Jack Daniel transporter

“In 2016 and 2017 I stepped out of trucks and moved into the workshop which I ran, looking after my brother’s fleet. I was chasing more family time and wanted to be closer to home, so I took on that role.

“My brother had a fleet of about 17 trucks, so it was a busy job with big hours.”

While he loved working for Kane Transport, that childhood dream of owning his own truck had never gone further than the back of Matt’s head. It was always an idea, waiting on an ­opportunity.

“I spoke to my brother about getting my own truck and he was very supportive until I tried to buy the Black LT,” Matt laughs as he recalls his brother’s absolute refusal to sell the LT Super-Liner. “Why would you though, it’s one of the last ones with a Cat in it, it’s awesome.”

Instead, Paul sold Matt the red Mack Vision that he had spent several years in. Thus 2021 saw the realisation of a lifelong dream for Matt, the formation of Matt Kane Haulage.

A single trailer is all Matt needs for the work he does

“I only ended up working the Vision for about nine weeks before I bought the Star. I was still hell-bent on getting a Cat-powered LT Super Liner and had been looking,” he says.

“My ‘I wish’ truck was always a V8 Super-Liner, everyone wants a V8 Mack, and they are so hard to find. If you do, they are going for ridiculous prices. So next best thing was a Cat-powered LT. I always kept an eye online to see what was available,” admits Matt, as he recalls the day he found the Western Star.

“It was Good Friday 2021 and I was on the ride-on. Anita came out with a beer, kicked me off and told me to go take a break. I sat down, opened up a sales page on Facebook and the first truck I saw was the Star,” Matt explains. “I’m a sucker for a ‘Z’ stripe paint job, so it caught my attention straight away. I loved the look of it and rung the number right then and there.”

Here is where the transport world gets very small. As soon as Matt placed the call and began talking to the guy on the other end, he recognised the voice. The original owner and the man who deserves humongous credit for the immaculate condition of this Western Star was an old acquaintance, Lloyd Peers.

“Lloyd used to live here in Ballarat,” Matt says. “When I was an auto electrician, I used to work on his V8 Cruise-Liner and remembered him and the truck.” It Turns out Lloyd traded that old V8 Cruise-Liner in on the Western Star back in 2000. Although they hadn’t seen each other in over 20 years, the two soon struck up a friendship over the phone and Lloyd agreed to hold the truck until Matt could get over the following week to check it out.

The drive over to South Australia to see Lloyd and check out the truck was where my opening line conundrum was playing out in Matt’s head. ‘Can I love a Western Star, I’m a Mack man, can I love a Western Star?’. Matt was trying to justify the idea in his head on the way over.

Matt Kane held Lloyd Peers in very high regard so when he passed he wanted him acknowledged on the truck

“I wasn’t sure about a Western Star but it had everything I wanted in a truck, mainly the C15, but I didn’t know if I would like a Star.”

However, the doubts vanished as soon as Matt arrived at Lloyd’s place. “The moment I pulled into Lloyd’s driveway and saw it, I’ve gone, ‘Yes I can, I really can’. Then I took it for a drive and thought, ‘Wow, what an amazing truck’.”

It wasn’t just the truck that Matt bought though, the trailer came with the deal as well as a workshop’s worth of spare parts and an extremely detailed history on everything done to Lloyd’s pride and joy.

Lloyd Peers was the only owner of the limited-edition Western Star. Bought from Hartwigs Trucks in Wagga Wagga NSW, the 2000 Western Star 4964FX Constellation is build number 17 of 49 Limited Edition Millennium Stars. Lloyd had worked the Star flat out for over 20 years, taking immense pride in maintaining the truck both mechanically and visually. “Lloyd loved that truck and only sold it due to a health issue,” Matt says, sadly adding that he bought the truck off Lloyd in April and he passed away in August.

Plenty of room to kick back in the back of the Western Star

“When I bought it I asked him how many kilometres it had done and without hesitation he said 5.4 million,” Matt says. Let me add in here, I conducted this interview after I had already taken the photos, including the interior shots. When he told me it had over five million kilometres under its belt, I seriously did not believe him. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I queried Matt a bit more about this claim.

“I believed him, the truck has 59,000 hours on it and Lloyd used to run Adelaide to Sydney three times a week,” Matt continues. “It has 3.9 diffs in it and word is it used to wind up pretty good. So, I believe that he could have easily clocked that up.

“Lloyd had two engines, he would run the C15 to a million kms, then swap it out with another C15 and get the other one rebuilt. When I bought it, the rebuilt motor only had 200,000km on it, had two new diffs and a new gearbox. It was like a brand-new truck.”

With the big motor and single trailer, Matt Kane’s Western Star hooks in and rocks along nicely

When you look at the state of the trailer as well, you can easily envision the level of care Lloyd took with the entire setup.

I think we can all agree, aesthetically, the truck does not look at all like it has done seven round trips to the moon (yes, I did the maths). In fact, it barely looks like it has done seven trips to Melbourne and back. It is a massive testament to the care that Lloyd showed for his Star and now Matt continues to show.

Work of art

There has been a little bit of assistance along the way, a facelift so to speak. In 2019 with the clear coat beginning to peel, Lloyd took a couple of weeks off and sent the truck into the Truck Art at Wagga Wagga for a full respray.

Look closely at the condition of the interior, it’s hard to believe this old girl has done over five million kilometres

“Originally the truck was a plain grey,” Matt says. “When Lloyd dropped it off at Truck Art he just said I want it resprayed but add a stripe, they said OK but what kind of stripe, and he just said, ‘you work it out’.”

Truck Art did an amazing job, giving the whole unit a fresh coat and breathing life back into it with a bit of line and scroll work. Inside the truck, it is unbelievably still original. Lloyd had his dog travel with him every day so there was a lot of dog hair hidden in places you wouldn’t believe dog hair could get to, but after a thorough clean it looks as good as the first day Lloyd rocketed off to Adelaide in it.

“I’ve made a few changes since I got it, it didn’t have any lights on it, so I added a few,” Matt says. “I put a drop visor on it, changed the air-cleaners, took the bug deflector off, put the swan on there, wrapped the tanks, just bits and pieces to make it my own,” Matt says. “I have had to rebuild the suspension, all the spring saddles, it cracked a couple of cross members and we had to sort that out.

“It is still an old truck so every weekend there is something to do on it. But I love that, I do most of it myself.”

Matt closes up after loading the big Star for another run into Melbourne

Matt has also made sure the nearly 25-year-old Western Star is not working as hard as it did in its early life. “I only do maybe 200,000 a year now, subbying for a few smaller outfits and a bit of local work for my brother if needed.”

He even has the odd job that gets him up into Queensland. All with his trusty single tautliner in tow.

“I’ve had a few guys ask me when I’m going to put a double behind it and I don’t ever intend to,” Matt says. “I’ve done all that stuff and I’m just happy with the single trailer in tow now. This way I get the big bonnet and the big bunk as well.”

As we start to wind this up, I am sure many of you have checked out the photos and try and comprehend the 5.7 million kilometre idea. Just look at the interior again and you can start to comprehend how much love has been shown to this truck throughout its life.

Even sitting on the farm in the dirt and dust, the anniversary Star is eye-catching

We can’t finish up however without swinging back to the opening line and getting Matt’s take now. He’s clocked up over 200,000km himself now, on a truck he didn’t know if he’d ever be able to love. He placed a swan where he’d hoped a bulldog would sit but now it seems he is fully converted.

“I’ll be honest, I’d never had anything to do with Western Stars up until this one and as soon as I bought it I just thought, ‘Wow, how good is this’. It’s the perfect truck, it has a great turning circle, the C15 goes well and boy is it comfortable,” Matt says.

“My brother has a few Volvos and you don’t get much more comfortable than them, but this I reckon is even better. So yes, it seems as a Mack man, I can love a Western Star.”

For more photos of Matt Kane’s Western Star Constellation, see the May 2024 edition of OwnerDriver magazine.

Previous ArticleNext Article
Send this to a friend