Kenworth V Volvo Update: Woody Wagon takes Shape


Matt Wood drops by the Kenworth factory to see his custom K200 get built.

Kenworth V Volvo Update: Woody Wagon takes Shape
The custom-built 'Woody Wagon' K200 is one step closer to completion.

Our Kenworth-Volvo ‘culture clash’ project is progressing at a rapid rate.

What seemed like a far off eventuality is fast becoming a reality as we were on hand to watch our K200 prime mover slotted together at Kenworth’s Bayswater plant.

My stretch cab K200 is fitted with a Cummins ISXe5 Signature rated at 600hp and 2050lb/ft of torque.

Transmission duties are handled by an 18-speed Eaton UltraShift Plus automated cog box.

I also took the opportunity to paint it in one of my favourite colours, GMH Tiger Mica, and spec-up some shiny bling.

We’ll be spending a week on the road with this prime mover in February 2015 as we put it head to head with Australia’s other big selling B-double line haul prime mover, the Volvo FH.

Both trucks will be towing identically weighted B-double trailer sets as we aim to simulate a typical east-coast linehaul working week.

And that means driving, eating and sleeping inside Australia’s two biggest-selling heavy duty prime movers.

But before that happens, the trucks themselves have to be built.

I’m not in the habit of seeing my name up in lights very often, so when I strode into the reception area at Paccar headquarters I was just a little chuffed to see a message welcoming me to the factory. A nice touch for me, the pretend customer!

For fans of the KW marque, much of the history of the brand and indeed the Bayswater site has become a well-known part of the dusty folklore of trucking in Australia.

Just in case you’ve been in a cave for the last 40 years, the factory opened in 1970 and the first Aussie built KW, a K125CR, rolled out the gate in 1971.

In global terms the Australian Kenworth plant is tiny. Build rates fluctuate according to demand, but average between eight and 10 trucks a day.

However, the factory has an almost bespoke feel, which is no doubt apt for a company that builds a custom product for the local market.

Chassis rails are assembled, painted, plumbed, and suspension is then fitted.

Once the chassis is flipped around the right way up the drive train is fitted, but while this is happening the cab is being assembled, trimmed and painted.

The cab and chassis finally meet up on the line and this is when it starts to look like a complete truck. And it was this stage that I was on hand to watch.

In 2013 the 50,000th Aussie built KW came off this line and took place against the backdrop of car companies pulling out of local manufacturing.

As I sit and chat with Kenworth product development manager Brad May, there’s a distinct sense of pride both in the brand and the fact that the company manufactures here without any government subsidies.

The Australian Kenworth line-up is unique to the region and vehicles made here also find homes in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

"We like to think that our strength is engineering Australian trucks for Australian conditions," May says.

The K200 is a unique truck in the Paccar world and it’s the biggest selling heavy duty truck on the Australian market.

The launch of the K200 back in 2011 was the single biggest revamp of the flat-faced prime mover for decades and the more recent arrival of the Cummins ISXe5 has given the K2 a shot in the arm in terms of engine running temperatures and fuel economy. 

Out on the assembly line I watched as my grey chassis advanced to the next work station.

An overhead crane gently grasped my custom painted cab and slewed over to where the chassis awaited.

And then slowly but surely the cab was lowered down into place and secured. The ‘Woody Wagon’ was born.

This is the bit where I come over all sentimental, but it is actually a real blast to watch something you’ve custom ordered take shape.

As I watched the bolts being tightened I couldn’t help but be struck by the vibe of the place.

The KW factory doesn’t feel like a soul-destroying assembly line; it has a more positive feel, as if pride in what the employees do out on the factory floor isn’t just isolated to the front office.

Next stop for the K200 is to have some stainless bling fitted and the Icepack installed. The Volvo side of our project will be rolling off the line next and we’ll be in Wacol in Queensland to see it happen.

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