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Here's a question for you:  What do Kylie Minogue, Johnny Cash, Blondie, Olivia Newton-John and Dolly Parton all have in common, apart from being popular music icons of one sort or another? The answer is that they've all adorned vehicles operated by Ian Roberts MOTs Limited, a company which does rather more than the name on the can suggests – for while MOTs still do form an important part of the business, Ian Roberts today is also one of the highest profile transport operators on Scotland's east coast.

Complementing the firm's striking red, silver and blue livery, Ian's trucks feature illustrations by local airbrush artist Bob Falconer. "It's become something of a tradition for us," Ian explains. "Bob is really talented and his work attracts a lot of attention wherever we go."

That's understandable as Bob's images are excellently crafted and bear uncanny likenesses to those they portray, but what's perhaps a little less fathomable are the two subjects of Bob's latest creation. For sitting on the front quarters and sideskirts of Ian Roberts' S 730 Scania V8 are two Scottish legends from the world of entertainment, one fictional, the other very much real.

Rab C. Nesbitt, the self-proclaimed alcoholic-and-proud-of-it character brought to life by actor Gregor Fisher in the late 1980s, is the fictional one, and comic superstar Billy Connolly the other. We put it to Ian that the two make surprising bedfellows on a flagship truck such as his.

"Well, Rab C. Nesbitt was a long-running Scottish folk hero [ten six-episode series were produced between 1988 and 2011] but he's now been pensioned off. And Billy Connolly, unfortunately, is not so well these days  So we felt we'd pay tribute to the two of them on this truck. And I'm absolutely delighted with the outcome – they look great."

They certainly do, as does everything else about this stunning new generation Scania. It's 730 horsepower V8 engine is top of the range, the paintwork throughout – not just Bob's illustrations – is outstanding, and the attention to detail spectacular. Polished alloys, perimeter lights, a six-spot light bar and a sun visor specially imported from Holland; this truck has it all. Inside, the story continues: leather seats, microwave, fridge, coffee maker – who said life on the road was tough?!

In running with an ultra-high specification, Ian Roberts is carrying on a long-standing Scottish tradition, perhaps best summed up as a love affair with the Scania V8. It's a story which goes back half a century to the earliest days of the V8, when the ups and downs and twists and turns of the Scottish roads made power not just a luxury but an essential pre-requisite if journey times were to be kept to a minimum. The same held true in Northern Ireland, which together with Scotland remain two key V8 markets for Scania in the UK to this day.

"He just couldn't believe the way I'd come up that hill fully laden, so I opened up the back doors there and then and showed him. He was gobsmacked – and that's why the big V8 is the truck for me!"

Ian Roberts

Ian Roberts Transport

"When I began the business, back in 1991, the Scania 143 was the truck to have," remembers Ian, whose route into transport operation was unconventional to say the least: "Although I'd been a driver and a mechanic for Duncan & Cameron of Muirdrum, which is where I learnt my trade, all I could afford when going out on my own was the rent for an MOT station, so that was that – trucks weren't part of the mix for me at that time, I was just doing vehicle repairs and MOTs.

"But I had a young lad helping me out and one day he said he was going to do his Class 1, which he paid for himself – he just wanted to be a truck driver. I was impressed by his commitment, and didn't want to lose him. I also knew there was some haulage work in the offing, so I thought let's give it a go. 

"The job was carrying potatoes, so I would need a tractor unit with a bulk tipping trailer. As the work would involve some hilly terrain, I decided the truck would have to be a Scania 143. But they're not easy to get hold of. I went all the way to Bristol to see one, but that was a 4x2, which was no use to me as I wanted to run at 44-tonnes. There was a second one at Silverstone, which I then went to view, but that was also a four-wheeler. While I was driving home I got a call from Dick Campbell of A. Campbell of Carstairs. He'd heard I was looking for a truck and said he had one I could have. It turned out that Dick had a new 143 on order, but he was prepared to let me have his old one if I had the money. 

"The spec was good – it was an R143 6x2 midlift with tipping gear – so I went for it, and P535 JSD became my first truck. The only problem was that it was plated at 41-tonnes, but Vosa said that if I put catalytic converters into the exhaust, they grant me a 44-tonne certificate. A trip to Eminox later, the truck had vertical stacks with the cats Vosa had asked for – and I got my plate."

That truck certainly set things running for Ian Roberts, and today the company's 12-strong fleet is the pride of Carnoustie. Hauling potatoes is still the mainstay of the business, and the firm's S 730 can be regularly spotted heading south as far as Northamptonshire with a tipping trailer full of tatties.

The truck has a dedicated driver, Jordan, who's young to be driving a flagship such as this – he's only in his early twenties (some drivers just strike it lucky, eh?). 

"Jordan's a good laddie," says Ian. "He started off on 7.5-tonners, passed his HGV test himself and then drove a scaffolding truck. Then he came to us and he's doing really well.  What I like is that he appreciates the truck, looks after it and keeps it spotless. He's a credit, both to himself and us.

"We took the truck to Truckfest Peterborough last year and my wife Laurie and I joined him – what a show that was. I'd only ever been to Ingliston before, so Peterborough was a real eye-opener for me. I remember having a pint, watching a band, and thinking, 'This is the life!'"

As a former driver, Ian very much likes to keep his hand in behind the wheel, although he only ventures as far south as the border to do a changeover these days. Nonetheless he has some great tales which explain precisely why the big V8 is the truck for him:

"I'll tell you just two of them," he says obligingly. "Firstly, I was driving the S 730 on the M74 a while back and was catching this boy on the hill at Candermill. As I came alongside, I looked at the sideskirt on his truck and I couldn't believe what I saw – for painted on it were the words, "I like your mum, but f**k your Scania" He was in a Volvo.  I looked at him and gave him a smile as I sailed by. Then I just left him behind, no bother!

"The second one was on another hill on the same stretch of road, a bit further south near Johnstonebridge. I passed a Merc 450 with his lift-axle up, then carried on driving for a while before pulling in to fuel up. I'd filled the tank, paid for the diesel and was just getting into the cab when the Merc pulled in behind me. The driver jumped out and asked me what I had on. '44-tonnes of tatties,' I told him. 'I've only got five-and-a-half tonnes on' he replied.

"He just couldn't believe the way I'd come up that hill fully laden, so I opened up the back doors there and then and showed him. He was gobsmacked – and that's why the big V8 is the truck for me!"