Impressive Kenworth 601 restoration renewed truckie’s love for transport

Karl Thomas has two impressive restorations under his belt, a Kenworth 601 and T904, with a third in progress
Kenworth 601

Until last year, Karl Thomas owned a fleet of 14 trucks and 20 trailers with his Gold Coast-based transport company, Karl’s Transport. 

The business was going from strength to strength, but after Covid hit, it got harder and harder for him to find drivers he could trust. 

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Overworked and exhausted from trying to pick up the slack, Thomas made the decision to sell off most of his fleet and become a one-man show. 

Now, he’s an owner driver subcontracting for Blenner’s Transport and a couple of other operators, and he’s never been happier. 

Lights, chrome, action! The big Kenny shines

“It was definitely the right decision for me,” he tells Deals on Wheels. 

“I was losing my love for the transport industry a bit at the end, before I sold my fleet. 

“I took a six-month break before I went back driving, and now I’m really enjoying it again.” 

These days you’ll find Thomas running anywhere from North Queensland to Adelaide to Perth, while juggling a farm in Cobar at the same time. 

When he has a spare moment, he loves restoring old trucks – and has done two Kenworths himself (with help) so far, a 1997 model 601 and a 2006 model T950.

He bought the Kenworth 601, the truck he now drives, at the start of 2020. 

Kenworth 601
Before moving forward, it’s a case of stripping things back and checking what needs to be fixed

“It was an in-between job, it was always going to be my truck but we worked on it in between other jobs,” he says. 

“It was only 70-tonne rated so we had to swap the back end with another truck, that got us our 90-tonne rating. 

“We had the motor and gearbox out, and then the motor in another truck blew up so we put that motor straight in the other truck, and then I rebuilt the motor for the Kenworth 601.” 

The truck’s firewall also needed to be fixed up, as did the wiring. 

“I’ve got a really good fella working for me and he pulled all of the wiring out of the truck, put it in the back of his ute and took it home for a week. 

“He trimmed it up and put it all together again and when we went to start it, it just went ‘boom!’ and started up at the first turn of the battery!”

Some of the guys who used to work for Karl’s Transport helped out with the restoration. 

“After I sold all my trucks, we concentrated on finishing that off,” he says. 

“The good guys who used to work with me, they’d come around and muck around with the truck with me. 

“It was a pretty big project, so it was great to have friends helping with it.” 

The Kenworth 601 is now a stand-out truck.

Extra care is taken when it comes time for the painting

The T904 Thomas restored came from Lake Angelico in New South Wales. 

“My dad spotted it and it was fairly cheap – obviously it was cheap, because the cab was cracked in half! 

“I got another cab from WA, also for a pretty reasonable price. We were running over there with bananas anyway so we brought the cab back ourselves. 

“The truck went back to the chassis and we resprayed that cab, and did all the stripes ourselves.”

The Kenworth pair are hard to miss on the road

He has also just bought another T950 with the intention of doing it up. 

“We’ll have to pull the chassis rails out of it,” he says. 

“And it’s got a 50-inch bunk on it, I want to put a 60 on it.

“It will probably take me about a year in total to finish that one.” 

Having grown up around trucks, Thomas learned a lot about the mechanical side of things from his father. 

The love of trucking runs deep in this family

“My dad had trucks, and he had a driver wreck a couple of them in the space of a couple of weeks,” he remembers. 

“We rebuilt them in the shed and dad drove one, I drove the other. I got my truck licence when I was 19.

“Dad was from a generation that did everything themselves, never paid anything to fix anything, so it all had to be done in-house.” 

He thinks you need plenty of time, patience and passion to restore a truck. 

“With the 950, if I can sell it for a profit I will, but I’m not worried about being stuck with it,” he says. 

“Just like some people like doing up cars – I like doing up trucks.

“It’s a hobby, and you’ve got to take your time with it.”

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