Trucking giant, Kenworth, has turned 100 years old.
Although founded in Seattle, Washington in 1912, the company was officially incorporated by its two major shareholders, Harry Kent and Edgar Worthinton, on 22 January, 1923.
Trucks and passenger vehicles had been built prior to this, commencing in 1914, but not under the Kenworth brand.
Kent, who had ascended to President by 1927, paved the way for the opening of a new factory in Seattle where it had increased its manufacturing capacity to around 80 trucks a year.
By the time of the Second World War, the company had become a wholly owned subsidiary of Pacific Car and Foundry under the guidance of Paul Pigott.
A delegation from the Australian Hauliers Federation, a party that included Ed Cameron and George Blomfield, visited the USA in 1955 having seen the potential for American custom-built trucks in Australia.
By 1962 the first Kenworths had been brought into the country by Blomfield, who had ordered three trucks, and Cameron who had invested in four.
As long haul trucking continued to grow in prominence during the 1960s in Australia, PACCAR saw an opportunity to grab a foothold in the industry establishing a manufacturing plant for Kenworth at Bayswater in Melbourne’s southeast.
The first truck rolled off this local production line on 2 March, 1971.
By 1972 the facility was exporting fully built trucks overseas to New Zealand, Zambia and other right-hand drive markets.
The performance of the cabover K125CR “Grey Ghost” running overnight linehaul between Melbourne and Sydney and Melbourne and Adelaide helped to solidify Kenworth’s reputation for reliability leading to the factory doubling its size by 1978.
Today more than 60 models and well over 70,000 trucks have passed through PACCAR Australia’s manufacturing facility, which has recently undergone a $40 million site expansion and now includes production of DAF commercial vehicles.
“Each Kenworth is still specifically application engineered for its intended task and the desire to build the world’s best trucks still inspires and unites us,” said PACCAR Australia Managing Director, Andrew Hadjikakou, at an event in 2021 celebrating its 50 year anniversary in Australia.
Last year Kenworth launched the K220, which marked the next step in the evolution of the K200, a truck at the forefront of Australian highway transport for the past decade.
“Happy 100. An amazing product and an amazing story of success,” said Glen Cameron, Founder of Glen Cameron Group and Ed Cameron’s son.
“Congratulations Kenworth for building a tremendous product that has remained relevant for 100 years and has set a benchmark for others to follow,” he said in an online post.
Anthony Kittel, REDARC Owner and Managing Director, echoed Cameron’s sentiments.
“Congratulations to the Kenworth Team on this magnificent achievement and manufacturing in Australia. We are proud [at] REDARC Electronics to be a long term supplier to both the Kenworth & DAF brands.”