Used Truck: Bruce's Atkinson 3800

By: Steve Skinner


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When we spotted Bruce Langtree’s pride and joy at the Riverina Truck Show in the New South Wales city of Wagga Wagga recently, the old Atkinson looked a million dollars.

Used Truck: Bruce's Atkinson 3800
Bruce Langtree has been driving for four decades.

Immaculately washed and polished, the 1977 3800 series looked like the lovingly restored old show truck that it is.

But it’s also a workhorse, and just 24 hours earlier it looked very different – covered in dirt from the logging roads near Tumburamba in the NSW high country.

"We build forestry roads and the bulldust is fairly deep," Bruce says.

"Once you start driving down the road you can't see the truck from the door back, the dust is that heavy."

And that’s why the old Atkinson has enormous Kenworth air cleaners, to go with the Kenworth exhaust system.

"It's a bit unusual this one, it's not a standard configuration," Bruce explains.

"It's got a Peterbilt rear end, four bag (Peterbilt) suspension with SPG Rockwell diffs, three leaf parabolic springs in the front, and the front axle has been set forward."

Other key items have remained the same, such as the 15-speed Road Ranger box and the fibreglass cab – otherwise rather infamously known as the "Tupperware" or "plastic" cab.

These cabs were made in Melbourne and put on the truck built in the Dandenong plant of the old International Harvester company, which had bought the originally British Atkinson brand a few years before.

Reborn Engine

The key change from the original is the Atkinson’s 400 horsepower (294kW) big cam Cummins engine, which like most of the rest of the old truck, Bruce rebuilt himself.

"Most of these Atkinsons when they came out had 350 Cummins’ in them, and then a few of them came out with 892 two stroke GM motors," Bruce says.

"But when I went looking for an Atkinson I couldn't find one that had an 892, so I had to settle for the 400 Cummins, and it's been good, it's worked out pretty well."

That engine was in the Atkinson when Bruce bought it as "a mess" from a miner in Charleville a couple of years ago.

It had been pulling a pair of side tippers as a double road train.

Tough truck and dog work

The Atkinson pulls a three axle dog for an all-up weight of 43.5 tonnes and goes into pine plantations when the timber is ready to be harvested and carted out.

"It does the job well," Bruce says.

"It's had a few letdowns but when you pull something apart like that, it takes a while to get the bugs out."

Bruce describes the comfort on the rough roads as "pretty good", despite the 3800 having a standard original spring seat and set-forward axle.

"I'm sitting right over the axle and copping every bump on the road," he says.

 

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