Driving Mr TK

By: Lyndsay Whittle, Photography by: Lyndsay Whittle


Driving Mr TK Driving Mr TK
Driving Mr TK Driving Mr TK
Driving Mr TK Driving Mr TK
Driving Mr TK Driving Mr TK
Driving Mr TK Driving Mr TK
Driving Mr TK Driving Mr TK
Driving Mr TK Driving Mr TK
Driving Mr TK Driving Mr TK

While it may not have the same ring to it as ‘Driving Miss Daisy’, it was still a very nice trip down memory lane for one very old magazine contributor, who at one time had tooled an old Bedford just like the one in this story on the Auckland-Hamilton route.

Driving Mr TK
Driving Mr TK

When our esteemed Editor wanted a point of difference for the Deals on Wheels stand at the 2013 Transport and Heavy Equipment Expo at Mystery Creek, his thoughts immediately turned to a very nicely preserved 1976 TK Bedford owned by Greg Biggs of Biggspecs fame.\

The trouble was, although Biggs was very happy for us to have the truck for a few days, he was tied up on another job and so was unable to drive the truck to the event.

Anyway, knowing he had the original Bedford nut on his team of contributors, it didn't take the Ed very long to decide the lucky person to be 'in the frame' to drive the old Beddy to the show.

Now, you have to understand, this isn't just any old truck that's been done up for the sole purpose of being displayed at shows and going on the occasional rally. This is Greg Biggs's every day commuter vehicle that he also uses for collecting and delivering products for his big-rig customising business.So it was only fair and right that if he was going to entrust his pride and joy to some old codger he'd never met before, he should give the old bugger a few riding instructions before setting him loose on the trip to the Waikato.

Well, I have to admit to having a feeling of trepidation when our Ed phoned to tell me of his cunning plan and told me to go out to BiggSpecs' factory to give the truck the once over.

Upon lifting the hatch behind the driver's door I could see the machine was powered by an original 330-cubic-inch diesel engine. Given most TKs (to be pedantic, this one's a KDLC5) on 16-inch wheels were powered by the 300-cubic-inch petrol version, I naturally expected this truck was going to be no different from the norm.

Seeing the diesel donk under the hood heightened my earlier reservations, as I still have vivid memories of way back in 1978 when I started a general freight run down to Hamilton in a ten-year-old TK, six tonnes (its actual designation was a KELC5) on 20-inch wheels.

I used to put in 12-hour days in this old rattler and although it was pretty worn out when I bought it, it gave me little trouble during the two years I used it regularly on the run and a further three or four years as a spare truck.

The trouble with the TK was it had a painfully slow top speed (around 68km/h). I remember it as if it was yesterday, the frustration of looking to the end of one particular straight stretch of road and wondering when I was going to reach the end of it.

It was with this thought still 'fresh' in my mind that I was starting to have second thoughts about the commitment I'd made earlier to the Ed and now was making to Greg.

The reason I was hoping the truck was petrol powered was, although the diesel versions (at least the smaller ones not fitted with two-speed diffs) were slow, the higher-revving petrol variants were good for close to 100km.

In any event, I needn't have worried my ugly old face, because I soon found myself behind the wheel, travelling down the Southern Motorway with the tacho sitting comfortably on 2400rpm and doing a cool 90km/h.

What was even more surprising was when my cell phone rang and I pushed the button on my Bluetooth sitting up there on the sun visor, I could hear the caller clearly and I didn't have to raise my voice very much to make myself understood.

This was a real treat, as I can remember fitting a radio to my old truck and immediately lamenting the fact I'd spent a couple of hundred bucks for an apparatus I couldn't hear, even at near-to-full volume.

Greg later told me he had fitted a Clark-Turner five-speed bus gearbox to his truck, giving it the ability to get along at such a good clip. I was left wondering why I hadn't thought of doing the same thing with my old girl all those years ago.

The trip to Hamilton came to an end far too quickly for my liking and I soon had this marvellous old truck parked up at the hotel. The next morning it was a quick trip out to Mystery Creek and thus my adventure had come to an abrupt end.

What I hadn't banked on was the interest shown by visitors to the Deals on Wheels stand. I was running late getting to the show and I'd hoped to get a bite of breakfast after I'd parked the truck on the stand soon after eight o'clock. I finally dragged my sore feet into the coffeehouse at about one pm.

It's quite surprising the number of blokes in their thirties not only saying they'd got their licence on a TK but also knowing which model has got which engine, along with many anecdotes telling of the idiosyncrasies of the Bedford brand.

I reckon it's not bad for a brand of truck not in regular use on New Zealand roads for nigh on thirty years.

Bedfords have most certainly earned their place in New Zealand trucking folklore!

Our Editor had the pleasure of driving the truck back to Auckland, but that's his story to tell on another day.

For the latest reviews, subscribe to our Deals On Wheels magazine here.

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Dealsonwheels' free newsletter or liking us on Facebook