Truck show rookie takes home best Isuzu

Take a purpose, combine it with knowledge and a desire to do something different and you can build the truck you want.

James Camilleri picked up Best Isuzu at the Dane Ballinger Memorial Truck Show this year – the first truck show he’s ever entered. 

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The 2011 model was originally built for a Komatsu mine site in Queensland, and second-generation diesel mechanic Camilleri bought it with the idea to turn it into something “a little different”. 

He tells Deals on Wheels: “When I got it, it was covered in red dirt from the mines.

The Isuzu before work began

“I did quite a lot of work to it over four-and-a-half months.

“I modified the bull bar, got all the stainless done, put custom drawers in the toolboxes. 

“It’s got an imitation headlight on top of the working headlights, which is something Isuzu has done to update the shape of their trucks in their 2023 model. 

“So I put that on it as well, to make it look like a new truck when it’s not.” 

Camilleri, who lives in Sydney, says that as a mechanic he didn’t really need a big Kenworth or Mack. 

The front of the truck had a full makeover

However, he wasn’t going to let the fact that he had a smaller truck stop him from getting scrollwork.

“This is probably the biggest truck I’m going to get to work out of as a diesel mechanic, so I thought stuff it, why not just get this scrolled?

“It’s something a little different and something I’ve always wanted to do.

“Dennis from Signs, Lines and Scrolls in Smeaton Grange did the scrollwork, Justin Borg painted it for me, and Matthew Watson did the fabrication.”

Camilleri’s dad, Joe, is currently making a tarp for between the boxes. 

Camilleri says his father has been a big support to him, not just during the process of fixing up the truck but also throughout his career. 

“My dad put a lot of time and effort into the truck. He came to Melbourne with me when we picked the truck up. 

“We went to Bayswater to the Kenworth factory and did a tour there, we made memories along the way.  

Mid-transformation and ready for spraying

“He was a big part of why I became interested in trucks and being a mechanic. I used to go to work with him on school holidays and every weekend.”

The truck has already been put to work, with Camilleri driving it to different locations around Sydney as an on-site workshop for his business, Dynamic Fleet Maintenance. 

“It’s got a good compressor on it, it’s got an oxy on it, it’s got a vice on it and workspace – that’s all you really need. 

“We’re working the truck as hard as we can while trying to preserve it as much as possible, which is difficult!” 

Camilleri had inquired about buying a brand-new truck, but it was going to be too expensive and take too long. 

“By the time I had to wait for a new truck, and then build the tray, buy the HIAB, set it up the way I wanted it, you’d be looking at $250k. 

“You’d be better off buying a Kenworth by the time it’s all done. 

“I knew this truck needed a bit of love, but I was willing to spend the money on it, to fix it up and get it where it is now.

“They didn’t change the Isuzus very much over the years, so you can get a brand-new truck, wait for it and spend all that money, but it’s not really that different.” 

Dennis from Signs, Lines and Scrolls at work

Camilleri is a fan of Japanese trucks in general. 

“I chose Isuzu because the parts are cheaper than Hino’s, and they are pretty accessible as well. 

“But anything Japanese is usually reliable.” 

He says if you’re thinking about restoring an older truck, you need the right people on your team. 

“It’s hard to find people that you can trust and rely on. 

“If I didn’t know my truck was in the right hands, I probably wouldn’t have done it at all.”

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