Truck enthusiast John turns detective to find and collect unusual vintage Scania 141 truck.
For many people, retirement is a time for a well-deserved rest after all the stresses and strains of a working life. But for avid Scania truck enthusiast John Thompson, retiring from his job as owner of an Irish transport company eight years ago meant he finally had time to turn detective: to indulge his hobby of tracking down, then buying and restoring Scania 141 vintage trucks.
John’s enthusiasm for Scania 141s goes back to the start of his career, when he was working as a factory-trained mechanic at a Scania dealership near his home in Larne, Northern Ireland.
“I was about 20 or 21 years old, and it was an impressionable time for me,” he recalls. “The Scania 141 was the flagship vehicle for Scania back then, and I really enjoyed working on them in the workshop. The memory stayed with me, and I’m nowadays a member of a vintage 141s club based in Ireland.”
Tracking down a rare truck
Over the years John has collected Scania 141 tippers and other trucks in the range, but there was one particular vintage truck that caught his eye.
“I started to do some research, and I found out that in the early 1980s Scania had exported right-hand drive 6x4s to New Zealand where they were fitted with a second steer axle, giving them four axles overall. They did that because New Zealand had a low axle weight allowance, so most vehicles had four axles.”
Fewer than ten of these specially-adapted machines were ever built, as they proved too expensive and heavy to compete against the other brands on the New Zealand market. Three decades later, it took John seven years of detective work to find a rare vintage Scania 141 in New Zealand with the required specifications. He was so excited that he bought it over the phone without seeing anything more than a photo and the seller’s description. But that was only the start of the process.
Transporting a vintage Scania across the world
“I thought to myself ‘How am I ever going to get this home?!’”, says John, which was no mean question, considering the size of the truck and the 18,000 kilometres that separate New Zealand from Northern Ireland.
In the end, he found a shipping transporter going to Japan, with the truck being dropped off at Singapore along the way. Then another transporter took the Scania 141 to the English port of Bristol, with the shipping of such a long and rigid vehicle costing him over 10,000 GBP. From there it was picked up and driven back to Larne. It was all worth it, though.
“When we got it to the depot and I saw it for the first time, I wasn’t disappointed,” says John.
However, the detective work has not stopped there. John found a photo of the 141 truck when it was brand-new, and repainted it in the original colours and coach lines, even restoring the ‘Sundowner’ name that was applied to the vehicle by its first owner (Sundowner means drifter in New Zealand slang).
Wowing the crowds at truck shows
After a little work, the Scania 141 has passed its British MOT test, so it is being driven to truck shows up and down Britain and Ireland, including the Convoy in the Park festival held in England in July.
“It gives me great satisfaction to take the truck to the shows, lock it up and leave a card that explains the truck’s history, then go for a walk round the site and come back to see folk walking around it and taking photos,” says John.
Our truck detective is now on the lookout for the remaining New Zealand Scania 141s. He even got a bit of help from Scania recently, when the company provided him with a sales record of the original shipments. If he can track down more of them, it’ll certainly make the other guys in the 141 owners club envious!