Kenworth fanatic saves 17 Aerodyne rigs from the scrap yard

David Chapman fell in love with Kenworth trucks when he was just a kid, watching American TV shows like B.J. and the Bear, which featured a classic Kenworth Aerodyne. 

A teenage Chapman, or “Chappo” as he’s usually known now, was determined to get a job with the brand he loved – and wouldn’t take no for an answer. 

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“I had three options at the time,” he tells Deals on Wheels. “Get an apprenticeship, join the police force, or go back to school. 

“I hated school, so that wasn’t going to happen. I tried to get an apprenticeship with Kenworth, but they knocked me back. 

“So, I joined the police force, but I only lasted a few weeks. I really wanted that Kenworth job, so I went up to see them in person, and they agreed to give me an apprenticeship based in Sydney.

“Back in the day, they were still assembling trucks, out of boxes basically. I started there in 1974 and they were building their last couple of trucks, even though the factory was building new ones, they still had some bits and pieces in Sydney that they were throwing together to sell them.” 

Lawrence Transport brought their fleet of Kenworths to the show

Chapman stayed with Kenworth, moving up through the ranks to become the Service Manager, until the company closed his branch down. 

In 1985, Chapman set up his own business, Northwest Trucks in Tamworth, NSW, in collaboration with two business partners, Scott Turner and Michael McCormack. 

He’s spent almost 40 years repairing and restoring old trucks, but never lost his loyalty to the Kenworth brand. 

He teamed up with his business partners as well as motor trimmer Bruce Gunter to set up the Clarendon Kenworth Klassic truck show. 

“We started a show with just three trucks around 21 years ago,” he says. 

“Then we brought the Kenworth side of it in to mark 50 years since the first Kenworth was imported to Australia. 

“That was when the show really started cementing itself.”

There were some stand-out trucks from 2002 to 2012

Last year’s event brought together about 800 trucks, around 500 of which were Kenworths, old and new.

To celebrate 100 years of Kenworth in Australia, they had one of each model that was ever built on display. 

“We have a team of amazing volunteers working on the show and they pulled it all together,” he says. 

“It was so much work – too much work! I don’t know how they did it.”

Chapman is now officially retired, but has no plans to get out of the game completely, and is currently in the process of building a new workshop for his colleagues. 

“I’m building a big workshop so the boys can go work over there and I can just sit back,” he says.

“We’re going to do a lot of second-hand spare parts, because we’ve got yards and yards full of Kenworths. 

“We’ve got basically everything from current model Kenworth back to 1929. We’ve got 30 registered on the historic rego, and another 40 or so that aren’t restored yet, or are damaged and we’re going to repair them.”

Kenworth Klassic organisers Bruce Gunter (left), Dave Champan (right) with award winner Rob Starcic (centre)

The Kenworth Aerodyne remains Chapman’s favourite model, and he owns 17 of them. 

“They built 103 of them and I’ve saved 17 from the wrecking yards. I’m nuts,” he laughs. 

“I got to take one of the first Kenworth Aerodyne to the Sydney Truck Show when I was just 20 years old, which was an absolute privilege.” 

Chapman also got to meet one of his childhood heroes, Greg Evigan – the star of B.J. and the Bear. 

“We’re trying to get him to Australia for the Kenworth Klassic,” he said. 

“Maybe not this year, but next year!”

The focus of this year’s Clarendon Kenworth Klassic is the iconic W model. 

Chapman says that if anyone has a W model lying around their yard, it’s a great incentive to finish it in time for the show. 

“As soon as I announced the theme of the show this year, I had about 40 private messages in my inbox on Facebook from people who have half-restored trucks they’ve been building for 20 years – me included!”
he says. 

“I’ve got one we haven’t even started, but I’m going to build the complete truck. It was an iconic truck back in the day. And it’s going to be ready and raring for this year’s show!”

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