Special feature: TransDiesel reaches a significant milestone

By: Ed, Photography by: David Lott/Supplied

TransDiesel, started 40 years ago with the refurbishment of a single transmission and is now a nationwide business employing more than 260 people, but where did things start and how did the business get to where it is today?

Customer demo zone of Volvo CE products

Recently, along with a couple of busloads of TransDiesel customers, I took a run out to Stevenson’s Quarry in Drury, South Auckland to take a look at some of the flagship Volvo CE products the company supplies. It was here I got talking to someone from the TransDiesel team who’s charged with preparing heavy equipment for sale.


His enthusiasm for the company and encouraging young staff to embrace the correct ways of carrying out their duties got me wondering about how did the TransDiesel story begin and what was did the timeline look like? I decided to find out more.

Early beginnings


Two Kiwi mates Dave Wooff and Alister McLaughlin started their business in a London flat. The beginnings were in 1979 and the soon-to-be founders of the behemoth that would eventually become TransDiesel were in the throes of refurbishing an Allison transmission in their Regent Park flat, no doubt figuring it would provide some start-up capital for a business venture they had been talking about. Packaging it up, the transmission was shipped home to New Zealand followed shortly thereafter by themselves.

The transmission was sold in 1980 to NZ Cement Holdings for the princely sum of $6000 excluding GST, as Goods and Services Tax was still some seven years in the future. That sale, however, gave the fledgling business the financial kick needed to get things underway, and by 1981, the duo had been joined by Dave’s brother Steve and they had rebuilt a Detroit 6V53N engine, the first under the formally established Transmissions & Diesels company name.

In the early years, the founding mates referred to themselves as pirates, as they shook up the industry putting the customer firmly front of mind, so much so that by 1985, the company had moved into the supply of aftermarket parts after securing the Korody Colyer distributorship.

Unprecedented growth


Expansion in the physical sense was needed a couple of years later when in 1987 the company moved into purpose-built premises in Edmonton Road, Christchurch. Two years later in 1989, on the back of their growing reputation, the business had secured the distributorship of Terex haulers, dump trucks, and scrapers. Not a bad score, considering the late 1980s was fraught with financial tension due to the 1987 sharemarket crash and subsequent global recession.

Delivering two rebuilt Detroit Diesels

The next big step in the history books took place in 1993 when Transmissions & Diesels took on the master dealership for Detroit Diesel, Allison Transmissions, and Perkins in New Zealand. This was followed up just one year later, when in 1994, the call for additional space got answered after the business moved into its new 5100 square metre premises in Christchurch.

Two years later, it was time to make a move on the country’s biggest city, heralded by the opening of 3065 square metre branch in South Auckland. With the arrival of 1998, the company formally entered the marine market taking on the dealership for MTU Detroit marine engines.

They showed their mettle just one year later in 1999 after successfully undertaking their biggest engine job to date with overhauls of 2 x 3000hp MTU 396 engines in the superyacht Renegade.

By the time 2004 rolled around, things were getting serious and the decision to rebrand as TransDiesel was carried out. The same year the company brought Terex crushing and screening products to New Zealand and established Terrequip SARL in New Caledonia with the Terex distributorship.

All fossil-fuel engines need oil and TransDiesel knew engines better than most, so 2008 was the year that the business took on the AGIP/eni Oils distributorship. The next big step was 2010 as Kohler Power generators were added to the inventory list, along with a Terrequipe push into Queensland with the Terex distributorship and followed on with the JCB distributorship.


With the arrival of 2011, TransDiesel had 13 branches dotted throughout the country and had taken on the distributorship of the Yanmar brand and juggernaut Volvo CE construction machinery. Volvo forestry machines were added to the list in 2014, being designed in partnership with Volvo Special Projects and local forestry contractors.

One year later in 2015 Sennebogen material handlers were on the TransDiesel sales sheet and the company celebrated by selling their 1000th Yanmar machine. It would take a little longer to sell the 1000th Volvo CE machine and 2018 was the year the company celebrated that achievement.

The year 2019 was time for a double celebration with TransDiesel being officially recognised as the number-one equipment supplier in New Zealand according to industry statistics. Additionally, the company celebrated when their team won the global Volvo Masters Games.


Last year (2020), as we all know was one preferred forgotten, but it didn’t stop TransDiesel adding Shell Oils and Lubricants New Zealand distributorship to their stable of products.
Today, TransDiesel distributes construction equipment, diesel engines, transmissions, generator sets as well as oil and filtration products.

Since those small beginnings, the business has morphed into an operation with 17 branches, helping to ensure prompt and efficient service for customers nationwide.

It’s an amazing achievement considering a mere 40-something years ago, a couple of mates were probably elbow deep in grease wondering what the heck they had gotten themselves into and hoping the landlord wasn’t going to make an unexpected appearance.

I wonder if they had any inkling of what was ahead of them. One thing’s for sure—many business owners can be thankful Dave and Alister took on the challenge and stuck with it.

For more information, visit transdiesel.com.

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