KW 100 postscript: A truck show in New Zealand, Bubba Branch's 'Just a Phase' still a phase

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This line-up of 40-plus-year-old K-series Kenworth cabovers, all 'fully restored by the owners to original,' said photographer Rod Simmonds, featured prominently among hundreds of trucks in an early-February celebration of Kenworth's 100th anniversary organized by Southpac Trucks in New Zealand.
This line-up of 40-plus-year-old K-series Kenworth cabovers, all "fully restored by the owners to original," said photographer Rod Simmonds, featured prominently among hundreds of trucks in an early-February celebration of Kenworth's 100th anniversary organized by Southpac Trucks in New Zealand.
Rod Simmonds

Kenworth's celebration of its 100th anniversary began in January of 2023. Officially, it's been over for going on two months now, but a couple of different pieces of that celebration -- one close to home, the other about as far away as you can get -- came across the proverbial transom recently. 

The first? Atlas Heavy Haul's Bubba Branch and his 1996 Kenworth W9 were profiled in Kenworth's "100 Stories" series, hosted on the company's Youtube channel in the playlist at this link. Branch's W9 regular readers will recall from our 2022 profile of the rig, yet my oh my, what a truck. Always a welcome distraction to crowd out the stress of a long week headed into some time off, I'd wager. Nice to know "Just a Phase," as Branch calls the truck, is still a phase, as it were:  

Second, New Zealand-headquartered photographer (and so much more besides) Rod Simmonds was kind enough to share a few windows on a big 100th-anniversary celebration in his native New Zealand, where KW trucks are sought after and, from the looks of it, as celebrated as they are among fans in the United States. 

Simmonds noted the early February truck show coincided with the weekend preceding Waitangi Day, like the U.S.'s July 4, this year, with set-up day for the show starting Thursday, February 1, at the Mystery Creek Events Centre after organizing work put in by Southpac Trucks, the sole Kenworth distributor in the country, Simmonds said. "Probably 100 trucks parked up by day's end," yet by 11 a.m. the next day, "another 150 trucks were in."

It turned into an absolutely massive affair over the course of the following six hours, then. 

RFH Group's Kenworth K200sPart of the reason for that, though by no means the sole reason, Simmonds noted, was the fleet whose mostly Kenworth K200 cabovers here are shown "as far as the eye can see." They're owned by log and timber products specialist RFH Group, he added. The company operates New Zealand's "largest fleet of Kenworths, around 400 but who's counting? Over 40 came to the show."Rod Simmonds

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A grand total of 756 trucks would fill available space in the events facility by the time evening rolled around, "all expertly marshaled and measured by Southpac staff," Simmonds noted. "Some 10,000 people attended the free 'public day'" the next day, Saturday, a hardcore truck fan's dream. 

1980s Kenworth SAR of Uhlenberg HaulageThis is a Kenworth Australia-designed model SAR, Simmonds said, with a look similar to the U.S. Kenworth T800. This sleeper model and the daycab in the next picture both have 40 years of work in their history, powered by Detroit 8V92s originally. The SAR model, designed for keeping under length limits, he added, was beloved by Kiwis in New Zealand. Both SARs shown are run by Uhlenberg Haulage, pulling reefers and propane tankers.Rod Simmonds

Daycab Uhlenberg Haulage Kenworth SARThe second 1980s SAR model mentioned in the prior caption. 8V92s powered many of the early models, Simmonds said. In terms of look, newer "Legend SAR" Kenworths are "now running all modern Euro6-compliant X15 Cummins" with 18-speed transmissions and Meritor differentials. All still have "the classic Australian SAR look."Rod Simmonds

Simmonds said Kenworths have been in New Zealand for more than half a century at this point, "with early models privately imported for logging operations" and "sourced from Kenworth Canada, where the specification was more similar."

Virtually all New Zealand Kenworths today are built in the company's Bayswater plant in Victoria, Australia, he added, and "tailored to suit the unique N.Z. conditions, axle loadings and weights."

New Zealand may be a small country -- little old N.Z., Simmonds called it -- yet clearly there's huge Kiwi passion for KW. 

Movin' On replica in New Zealand? You got itA Movin' On 1970s W9 replica in New Zealand? Yes, the reach of U.S. pop culture is long. Simmonds told the tale of this one this way: "Collin Walters has lovingly restored this 1980 W-Model over the past 20 years" with a "full strip-down restoration." He replaced the original 8V92 with a Series 60 and 18-speed Road Ranger, and kept the original Rockwell rear end. Walters added a "VIT Sleeper and period Movin' On paint design." Best thing about it? It "still works every day," even after "four-plus million miles on the dial."Rod Simmonds

1998 Kenworth K100EThis is another of Collin Walters' rigs, a reefer-hauling 1998 K100E imported from the U.S. and put to work as a short-wheelbase unit to accommodate longer trailers coming into Walters' operation, Simmonds said. The spec is "classic 1990s," he added. Cummins N14 at 425 hp, a 13-speed Road Ranger.Rod Simmonds

Every Kenworth model ever "sold in New Zealand was represented" at the show, ultimately, Simmonds said, "from the 1950s early imports to brand-new T909s, C509s and SARs. Wall-to-wall Kenworths, all lovingly looked after, bling-blinging like never before."

Here's a big thanks to Rod Simmonds for sharing this with us, and you. Here's hoping it takes you off to a great weekend. 

[Related: Kenworth continues 100th-anniversary celebration with truck parade

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