Labour of love
Located nine miles south of Ayr and a ten minute drive from the Scottish west coast, the burgh of Maybole boasts a population of just under 5,000 souls. This is the home of McGawn Bros, the operator whose distinctive red, white and green trucks regularly travel the length and breadth of the UK, but a quick check into the history books reveals a rich and distinguished heritage of which every Scot would surely be proud.
First of all, buried in its churchyard are the real life people who inspired some of Robert Burns' most famous creations, including Tam o'Shanter, the bonnet-wearing hero of the epic drinking poem bearing his name. Many leading lights of the Kennedy Clan – famous supporters of Robert the Bruce during the Wars of Scottish Independence – resided in the area. Then there's the castles: Maybole's own near the junction of the A77 with the B7023, and Culzean, (built by a Kennedy, it's the castle on the back of Royal Bank of Scotland fivers), which lies four or so miles to the west. Maybole was, after all, the capital of the ancient district of Carrick, so it's only fitting that there should be some grand designs locally to mark its importance.
Two more local heroes are David and James McGawn, who back in 1964 took the plunge and went into business on their own. Trading as McGawn Bros., the pair started out by making wrought iron gates in a garden shed in Ayr. Their move to Maybole came a year later, and in 1968 they decided to have a go at haulage as well.
Their first customer was a local sawmill, which the firm still works for today. As time went by, David and James steadily developed their reputation and the business flourished. By the mid-1970s, the firm was operating six vehicles and was heavily involved in general haulage. Now, and with more than 44,000 square feet of warehousing added to its portfolio, the firm runs ten trucks, seven of which are Scanias.
"Scania has been part of our story since 1971, when we took our first LB80 artics," explains Paul McGawn, the company's Transport Manager. "We run throughout Scotland, England and Wales and we like them for their reliability and power – and that's especially true of the V8."
"...it's an amazing vehicle. There's definitely a special attraction in the V8 in general – for us it's been a good reliable solution – but looking after this particular one is definitely a labour of love."
Many operators and drivers will tell you the Scania 3-series was one of the best trucks, if not the best truck, ever made (although we suspect Scania might beg to differ with its latest generation vehicles..!), with his beautifully restored 1995 N-reg R143M, Paul McGawn is definitely one of those 3-series aficionados:
"Best truck ever made without a doubt," he confirms. "And I've got five of them to prove it! Two of them are 113s, the others all 143s. Two of the 143s work all year round, but the one– the one pictured – just goes out between April and September. It's a 4x2 tractor with the 450 horsepower V8 engine and I use it for shows mostly."
A check of McGawn Bros website shows that the firm is indeed a keen show-goer – the 'Awards Gallery' section of the site contains no less than 80 separate entries, covering trophies and commendations won at shows as far afield as Ingliston and Barnard's Castle in the north all the way down to Santa Pod and Shepton Mallet in the south.
But while Paul shows many of his trucks, (one of his 113s has recently been renovated for showing, and the second is now being restored), the R143 holds a special place in his affections:
"We bought it second hand in 2006, and have worked it, on and off, ever since. It's an unusual truck in that it has a high roof conversion by Mayhills of Norfolk. It came with more than two million miles on the clock, and despite the fact it's 24-years-old, we've never had to do anything major to it, just bits and pieces. The engine is all-original and the gearbox and diff are both fine; it's an amazing vehicle. There's definitely a special attraction in the V8 in general – for us it's been a good reliable solution – but looking after this particular one is definitely a labour of love."
One reason McGawn traditionally favoured the big vee is the geographic location of its home town. For while Maybole may have made an ideal bolthole for the lairds of old, it's not exactly on any of the UK's great trading routes.
"One of the problems we face is that we're 100 miles from the nearest motorway," explains Paul. "The roads around here aren't the best for trucks either, with lots of curves and rises. So we need the power to keep our journey times down. And, of course, the Scania V8 gives you all the power you need, and more. It sounds great too!"
"Nowadays we use the 143s on day work – Penrith is about as far as they go – but back in the day they ran on long haul. Our drivers loved them. With less powerful trucks you'd have to leave home on a Sunday to get down the road, but with the extra power of the V8, they could leave early on Monday instead. And as any driver will tell you, that's a big bonus."