Truckie’s restored S Model International has a special place in his heart

John Sheppard shares the story behind two very special trucks – a 1980 S Model International and a 1987 K100E
S Model International

If you’re a transport operator in regional Victoria, you’ve probably heard of the Sheppard family. 

A passion for trucks runs deep in their veins, and 75-year-old John Sheppard couldn’t be prouder that his son Tony and grandson Rhys have both followed his footsteps into the transport industry.

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In a recent issue of Deals on Wheels, we shared how Rhys, now 20 years old, was gifted a 1978 R600 Mack by his grandad at the tender age of eight. 

John gifted this Mack to his grandson Rhys when he was just eight years old.

Restoring the truck was a labour of love for the two of them, with young Rhys pouring his pocket money into parts over the course of 12 years. 

The fully restored rig is now a regular sight at truck shows in Victoria – and the sweet story behind it was a big hit with our readers. 

You can read about it here.

We heard that John had a few other trucking tales to tell, so we caught up with him to find out more.  

John’s story

A third-generation truckie, John got his first driving job hauling lime from the pit to the rail siding at Warrnambool in a TK Bedford tipper owned by Dalgety Lime Works. 

S Model International
John bought his first truck, an International S Model, when he was 35 years old

His next role was with Doug Murray, carting bulk fertilizer from Portland throughout western Victoria, before spending 13 years working with Merri Transport. 

In 1985 he was able to buy his first truck, a 1980 S-Model International with a 300hp Cummins, a 15 speed Roadranger box and 3.7 ratio diffs.

Then in 1994, he and his wife Lyn purchased a courier business, which they ran for nine years before selling their fleet. 

But the transport bug never left John, and he decided to buy a 1980 Kenworth Aerodyne and go back on the road as a single truck operator. 

He carted woodchips from Morwell, Victoria to Millicent, SA for Sneaths Transport, before turning to interstate trucking. 

His son Tony followed him into the business, with two of his own Western Star rigs, and Tony’s son Rhys soon joined the party. 

Fast-forward to 2024 and John has recently retired, with time on his hands to divert into a big passion of his – restoring trucks. 

Like many truckies, John has a weakness for the nostalgic – and was given a thoughtful Father’s Day surprise last year when Tony tracked down the very first truck he ever owned.

Of course, John had no choice but to buy it, and he plans to restore it to its original glory. 

The 1980 S Model International

Nearly three decades have passed since John sold his S Model International, so finding it involved a combination of luck and detective work. 

John and the S Model back in the day, in its original colours

“I knew who I had sold it to – a bloke in Dubbo – and he in turn sold it to a truck collector in Echuca,” John says. 

“We go to Echuca for the truck show every year and we spotted it up there.

“The bloke in Echuca then sold the truck, but we knew who the buyer was. So eventually my son was able to track it down.” 

Tony arranged for John to drive the truck to the Echuca Truck Show himself last year, to bring back some happy memories. 

In the process of borrowing and returning the truck, John got to know its owner, and they struck a deal. 

“I had two trucks that I was using before I retired last year,” he says. 

“So when I retired last year I sold them to this guy and bought my own S Model International back.” 

The truck was a prime mover when John sold it, and he would like to restore it to the way it was. 

“Somewhere along the line, the chassis got lengthened and it got a tray put on to it,” he says. 

“It’s still got the tray on it now but I’m contemplating taking it off and putting it back to a prime mover. 

“I’d like to paint it back to its original colours of white and blue as well.” 

The 1987 K100E

John bought a very special 1987 K100E 20 years ago, from a friend of his in Shepparton, and used it as a working truck in Melbourne right up until his retirement last year. 

The K100E is a slice of Kenworth history.

It was originally a long wheelbase truck that had a HIAB crane mounted behind the cabin. 

“The HIAB crane had been taken off it before I bought it, but it was very long in the chassis,” John says.

“I had a metre removed from the chassis, and I had airbag suspension put under it.”

The truck is still registered, and the Sheppards now use it to tow Rhys’ Mack around to shows. 

However, the rig has quite a lot of history behind it. 

“For Australia’s 1988 Bicentennial, Kenworth celebrated by touring its new model range around the country,” John explains. 

“Only seven Cavalcade launch trucks were made – a C500, the T600A, a T650, the L700 and three K100Es.

“The trucks were all painted in the Australian colours – gold, with green and yellow striping.

“I actually ended up with two of the Cavalcade trucks. I sold one and I kept my K100E!”

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