Used Truck of the Month: 1980 Kenworth K125

By: Peter and Di Schlenk

Thanks to it being safely tucked away undercover each night, Anthony Ryan’s 1980 Kenworth K125 has kept its almost original condition. Peter and Di Schlenk write

Used Truck of the Month: 1980 Kenworth K125
Anthony Ryan bought the K125 second-hand in 1983.


Apart from harvest time, Anthony Ryan’s 1980 Kenworth K125 has spent every night in the shed since he bought it second-hand in April 1983.

However, it made a rare appearance outside daytime working hours when it took part in the convoy at this year’s Road Transport Hall of Fame Reunion in Alice Springs.

"I have been to quite a few truck shows and always said that one day I was going to do that, and this year we did," Anthony says.

"It would have been the longest period it’s been out of the shed, that’s why it looks as good as it does."

Anthony calls the small town of Halbury home. Around 150km north of Adelaide, it’s a place he has lived all of his life.

The K125 was originally owned by Graham McNeill in Quirindi in New South Wales. Anthony bought it through Gilbert and Roach and recalls phoning Graham about the truck back in 1983.

"He said I would only need a one-way ticket, and he was right. I’m sure it’s a Wednesday truck," he says.

The K125 came out of the factory with a Cummins Big Cam 400 and a Fuller 1215 RTO overdrive gearbox. Anthony repowered it in January 2007 with a Big Cam 2 and it’s now putting out 435hp (325kW).

The diff centres were changed at a million kilometres. As they happened to be on special at Kenworth, he changed both diffs for $8,000.

"Everything else is original, and it’s never been painted," Anthony says.

"That’s why people up at Alice Springs recognised it."

The Kenworth hauls grain and fertiliser, a vocation that Anthony and his parents have been involved in during their entire working life.

Anthony originally bought the Kenworth to pull a tautliner to haul fertiliser but he sold that trailer and bought his present tipper. He later added the pig trailer.

"It’s more versatile than a B-double but carries the same weight," he says.

"It’s allowed to go anywhere a B-double can go and it is very quick to change.

"For example, if you don’t want the pig trailer on, you just drop that and immediately you are back to a single, whereas with a B-double you have to wind down legs, unhook and swap onto your B-trailer.

"The pig trailer will just sit there because it’s a floating hitch."

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Hauling grain

Anthony’s father Pat Ryan began carting grain in the area in 1947, trading as PJ & NM Ryan.

"Dad came out of the war with a Maple Leaf Chev. He carted grain into Halbury as bagged product still coming in," Anthony says.

"As time went on, what they used to do was send the bags on an elevator, cut them open into bulk bins and we would then bulk the grain to Ardrossan."

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Although Adelaide is closer than Ardrossan, Adelaide’s long turnaround time remains a lengthy exercise.

By 1956, the Ryans had a 27hp (20kW) A5 Bedford with a single diff that towed an eight-wheel dog trailer.

They bought another, with Andrew’s mother Nell also getting behind the wheel."One morning my brother Barry was over at Ardrossan, and I was number nine from the sampler in Adelaide. He was about 150th in line and he beat me home," Anthony says.

"We were only little kids and mum would stop at Port Wakefield and get our milk bottles filled up.

"When we took off she’d reckon that either the bottles weren’t big enough or Ardrossan was too far because one would run out before the other and there would be a hell of a fight to get the other bottle, like kids do," Anthony says.

It was a real family concern — everyone was on the trucks: Mum, Dad and the kids.

Anthony still remembers how his parents built their original home out of poured concrete. Pat and Nell carted the gravel with their old Chev out of the Wakefield River at Balaklava. They would shovel it into the concrete mixer and then bucket it up into the formwork.

"You can still see the board marks," Anthony says.

"Those were the hard days.

"When I left school I only did three days a week because I would rather be doing things with my hands than my head.

"I worked on a farm, then Dad unfortunately got crook. We had trucks working for the highways department on the construction of the Broken Hill road over four to five years."

Branching out

Anthony returned home and spent a couple of years working for local carrier Bruce Agnew. His first long distance trip was to Longreach, hauling cattle.

Anthony and Barry later bought Bruce’s 1968 C1800 International, powered by a 160hp (119.3kW) Cummins.

It came with a 34-foot (10m) strap trailer with grain bins, a stock crate and $5,000 worth of goodwill.

Barry had completed a mechanic's apprenticeship and the two brothers worked together with a Bedford and the C1800 International, still trading as PJ & NM Ryan.

After selling the C1800 and the Bedford, Anthony and Barry bought a couple of cab-over TranStars from Bunker Freight Lines in Adelaide.

After five years of grain, fertiliser and general interstate, Barry traded his TranStar in on a 350 Cummins-powered 1979 Atkinson, around the same time when Anthony bought the K125.

"I was doing grain and fertiliser. In between that the truck was working with Clare Quarries out of the Spalding quarry.

"I went as far north as Copley, east to Olary, south to Tailem Bend and west to Pimba carting road mix."

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Anthony’s sons Dwayne and Kain have also joined the Ryan's generation in transport.

They both work for McArdle Freight in Bute driving Western Stars, predominantly running up the centre to Darwin, while Anthony carts fertiliser and grain for Ashley and Kaylene Robinson of Robinson Farms, Hoyleton.

In a convenient arrangement, the couple’s son Tom Robinson drives the old K125 for Anthony.

The Kenworth had done 420,000km when Anthony bought it and the rig has now done 2.6 million with many more to come.

One thing Anthony is sure of is that if he ever did buy another truck, it would be a Kenworth.


Name: Anthony Ryan
Company: A W Ryan
Truck: 1980 Kenworth K125
Engine: Cummins 435hp (325kW) Big Cam 2
Transmission: 15-speed Roadranger
Freight carried: Grain and fertiliser
Regular run: Mid north of South Australia


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