Kenworth T610 SAR: The definitive Scotty Douglas review

Photography by: Ashraf Knackler


KW10 KW10
KW1 Tipping off at Western Suburbs Concrete in the early morning light. The T610 SAR makes for a nice modern take on a traditional look. KW1
KW2 This joint would have to be one of the busiest concrete plants I’ve seen, truck after truck streams through the gates. KW2
KW3 Shiny……shiny is good. KW3
KW4 I’m not nuts about this 3rd step placement. The spacing is a bit awkward. KW4
KW5 Jason Davis has had the keys to this banger since new. After a pretty varied driving career he’s found his ideal gig now. KW5
KW6 This PBS set-up still sits inside the 19 metre length envelope but can take a 39.5 tonne payload. KW6
KW7 I figured the bloke should be able to at least drive his truck for some of the day. KW7
KW8 “Idiots….I see idiots all around me…” KW8
KW9 Tipping off at Emu Plains, Big Jay reckons this thing has a pretty handy turning circle for this kind of work. KW9
KW10 The Borcat tipping body and quad dog make for a shmick looking combo. KW10
KW11 See? There are decent tipper drivers out there! Jase sweeps all the loose sand off the drawbar before we leave the site. KW11
KW12 This dash is a big leap for Kenworth, but the layout is very easy to use. It also doesn’t have a cheap plastic Yank feel. Still not sold on the bright yellow grab handles though! KW12

My fascination with trucks and trucking started in a strangely auspicious way. It started with a shit-tsunami; it was clearly a sign of things to come.

 

The irony of that is not lost on me; in fact every day on the road or in a warehouse somewhere, some numb-nut attempts to replicate what happened that fateful spring day.

Shit-Tsunami

I would’ve been about 8 years old and I’d just been given a model matchbox truck, a silver single-drive Ford LNT complete with tipping trailer. It was my prized possession.

The bonnet flipped open to reveal a shiny engine, the windows were tinted green and the tipper body raised. That truck and I did plenty of highway miles across the lounge room carpet hauling express loads of Lego. I even managed to alternate between making engine noise and fictitious CB radio conversations without drooling too much. I was clearly doomed to a life of trucks.

Then one day a brand spanking new LNT rumbled up the driveway of the family farm, a real life-sized one, hauling a stock crate. I was in awe, my pudgy little feet carried me down the verandah steps in a trance as the bonneted behemoth sat out the front idling.

Sun glinted off the chrome radiator grille and the rain caps on the ends of the exhaust stacks tinkled in unison with the engines’ idle. I circled this shiny beast in a daze, the driver clearly thought I was an idiot and decided to ignore me. I stood beside the truck taking it all in.

It was then that the load of Merino ewes inside the crate decided to walk over to my side of the truck for a sticky beak. A tidal wave of liquefied sheep shit and piss crashed over the side of the trailer with the movement, coating me from head to foot in ovine excrement.

The driver near pissed himself laughing; in fact he missed a step on the way out of the cab.

May as well start as you mean to continue eh?

Mud-Carting Virgin

But apart from that old toy LNT tipper and its urgent loads of Lego, I’ve never had a go at being a mud-carter in real life. However, I have been drooling over the new T610 Kenny since I first saw it but I haven’t had the chance to have a steer of one. The boss certainly isn’t going to buy me one; he thinks I’m a prick.

But I managed to con someone to let me have a go of theirs. I got to tick a couple of first time boxes; my first as a mud carter and my first go of the new T610.

Jason (Big Jay) Davis was another kid doomed to a life of trucking, for the vast majority of his working life he has been behind the wheel. From little rigids in the early days to linehaul B-double and tipper and dog.

In fact, way back when I was spluttering across my Victorian lounge room carpet with my Lego loaded Louie, Big Jay was also spluttering across his own Penrith lounge room floor with a matchbox Scammel Crusader towing a float and dozer.

What a likely couple of sad bastards.

New Banger

The big fella is quite a happy camper these days though. His bosses, Mark and Linda Anzellotti Of Silverdale NSW based Subbies Tipper Hire, have just handed Jason the keys to a brand spanking new Kenworth T610 PBS truck and dog.

The white 610 makes for a striking looking jigger, and with just under 10,000km on the clock it’s still being run in. The tipper body and quad dog are from Borcat and under PBS the whole combination can run at a gross weight of 57.5 tonnes. In payload terms this means 39.5 tonnes of yonnies in the back.

This truck tends to do mainly quarry work, feeding sand and gravel into concrete plants dotted around the Sydney area. Being a PBS truck means it’s restricted to the PBS road network. The good thing about this for the big fella is that this means there’s none of that dirty pokey demo work. Its pretty much just quarry to plant.  

Mud carters cop a lot of flack from both the wider community and even from within the trucking fraternity. It’s not helped by some….er…..interesting displays of driving prowess from some individuals out there. But really, a lot of this can be put down to the fact that these trucks are on the road when everyone else is, not on a highway in the dead of night. If you drive like a flog at 1am there are not a lot of people around to get the shits, or video you on their phones.

The combination of a squared off bonnet SAR and the curvy new 610 cab tends to polarize a few people. I however, actually quite like it.

In the early morning gloom I climbed up the steps into the Kenny’s wheelhouse. I’m not real keen on the third step placement though. The spacing between the steps is awkward, though I ‘spose you’d get used to it. I’m also not a huge fan of the bright yellow grab handles either; it kinda makes me feel like I need an induction before I’m allowed on site.

A Vision Splendid

But once I got my arse planted in the driver’s seat I have to say I was pretty impressed with the cab. I had my doubts because I actually like the old narrow cab and I didn’t see the need to adopt a new yank design for Oz. Visibility out of the day cab was exceptionally good and the mirror design and placement is a standout; no more looking around mirrors at intersections!

I was also concerned that the American style dash would be a plastic fantastic, but I was instead greeted with a modern leather clad layout that still had a quality feel. Best of all, the guys down at Bayswater have finally standardized the switch layout, no more guessing what switch does what and where!

It used to shit me to tears when everytime I jumped into a different K-dub I ended up searching for the bloody headlight switch, or the jake switch, or the interior light switch. Remember those old cruise control and jake stalk switches from a decade ago? They were usually the first thing you broke if you swung your bag around a bit much getting in or out of the cab.

I swear that there was, at some stage there was someone on the Kenworth assembly line whose job was to randomly change switch placement just to screw with people’s heads.

Freeway Run

With the seat adjusted and the big fella safely strapped into the passenger seat I rumbled down the M4 to pick up the first load of the day, I wish I could say the same about the freeway though, it was packed. This thing has a pretty short wheelbase so it can fit inside 19-metre length restrictions, I thought that this may make it a bit twitchy but it actually steered quite well.  The doggie out back did what it was told and followed faithfully.

The empty run down the M7 and M2 was pretty uneventful until we hit the clotted and clogged varicose vein known as Pennant Hills road. Anyone who tackles this piece of bad karma generating real estate on a regular basis knows that apart from the occasional wildlife observation opportunity, getting through this shit storm is about as much fun as having your hemorrhoids cauterized with an orbital sander.

The Mt White weighbridge on the M1 is placed in a very awkward spot really. If you’ve left Sydney in peak hour you’ve generally got the shits by the time you get there; having recently negotiated PH road. So if you get wheeled in the first thing you feel like doing is biting the ears off an RMS officer!

Name Change

But, the admittedly empty, big Kenny took it in its stride. The old Cummins ISXe5 badge has gone, replaced with the much cooler looking X15 badges. I’m told that this is the only real difference, but initial observations are that this engine seems to lug down even better than engines wearing the old badge. Maybe they’ve just updated the fuel system software since the last time I drove one.

After getting off the M1, I pointed the jigger up the hill towards Mangrove Mountain; we were getting a load of 20mm gravel out of Kulnurra. Anything with a set forward steer axle like the SAR is generally pretty good to steer on shitty road surfaces. We were going to find out on the way back with a bit of pudding in those bins.

After negotiating the quarry, the weighbridge and enduring the obligatory homoerotic banter, I pointed the SAR back up the hill and out of the quarry. It’s a decent drag out of the hole and apart from an overly optimistic gear change on my part, the 610 lugged out up the grade quite well.

Ride Time

The combination of a short truck, relatively big weight and a dog trailer was a pretty good test of the 610 platform. The 8-bag rear end kept the thing feeling stable and as before, the dog did what it was told. To pass the time, Big Jay made a consistent point of calling up and trade insult his co-workers on the UHF to good effect.

The 18-speed stick shift is all you expect it to be, easy and positive and the clutch well weighted yet light. Given how green this engine is I was still surprised how well in hung on under load. We’d left Kulnurra grossing 57.3 tonnes, our destination was Western Suburbs Concrete back in Penrith. What did take a bit of getting used to was the laggy throttle response of the X15, I’d blip the throttle on a down change and the bloody engine would barely register the rpm. So yes I muffed a couple of gear changes.

Jay just glared at me with silent reproach at these moments, if there was a thought bubble above his head it would’ve read "You screw with my truck  Buddy, they’ll never find your body."

Old Mack

Jason only recently took delivery of this truck after hopping out of a solid yet well-used Mack Vision. "That Mack was a great old truck, it was no powerhouse but it really had a go," he reckons. That said he’s over the moon with the 610.

"It’s a forgiving truck, it’s got more grunt than the Mack and it’s just an all round easier drive." He’s even logged a bit of wheel time in the company’s other truck, an International Eagle. "That old banger sounds great, and it pulls like a train but you know you’ve done a shift at the end of the day."

As far as the SAR goes, he reckons it’s a good thing from a driver’s point of view. "You hop out of it at the end of the shift feeling a lot better."

The next load was a load of fine sand out of Maroota back to Emu Plains, again the Kenworth was in its element winding along the narrow asphalt as we thundered through the bush. The X15 still managed to impress, it’s currently rated at 580hp but the way it lugs down makes it very driveable.

Good Gig

And you know what? This mud-carting malarkey isn’t actually a bad gig, especially out in these parts anyway. Sure there’s traffic but that’s unavoidable but there’s also plenty of off-roading and some nice tight places to challenge your reversing skill as well. Jase agrees, after years of varied jobs, he’s very much found his place in the world, and he can’t speak highly enough of Mark and Linda as employers, "I’ll retire here," he says emphatically. This thing is doing pretty good on juice too, I averaged 2.26km/l, not to bad for a PBS truck hauling in the ‘burbs.

You may get the impression that I’m some sort of KW fan-boy. I’ll admit to having a bent for North American iron which of course means I appreciate a K-dub amongst others. But I’ll be the first to admit that I gotten the sh*ts with Kenworth over a number of less than impressive designs over the years.

Not All Roses

Anyone remember the flapping dipstick cover on the K104B? It gave you impression nobody drove the design before they built the bloody thing! Then there’s the engine hump in cab over’s that endured until the K200. The stupid cruise control and jake stalks?

The scalp slicing entry to a K series? Dare I even mention Cat ACERT? Or even better Cummins ISX-EGR? Or how about the absolute bloody travesty that was the 3-pedal Auto-shit transmission?

I’ve driven some absolute plonkers wearing a KW bug on the front.

The T610 SAR however, isn’t one of them. They reckon that Kenworth Oz spent 20 million big-ones developing this truck. The funny thing is that the first things I really noticed after all of that investment was the inclusion of 3-cup holders and the new mirrors! Big-ticket items indeed.

There are plenty who’ll bang on about this American cab not being a "real" Kenworth, most likely from the vantage point of their old cab-over Kingswood. Sure the initial run of cabs arrived flat packed from Seppo land but that’s only until the tooling is set up at Bayswater.

The T610 may be a new generation Kenworth, but really, it’s a Kenworth for a new generation.

Bugger me; I just got all poetic ‘n’ stuff. If I keep this shit up someone may even give me a job!

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