Truck Racing: Malcolm Little

By: Lyndsay Whittle, Photography by: Lyndsay Whittle


DOW heads to Wellington to catch up with long-time truck racer Malcolm Little and finds out the story behind his trucks that are built from scratch in his workshop

While covering the NZ Super Truck racing series for DOW back in April this year at the Pukekohe Raceway, I got chatting with multi trophy winner Malcolm Little, and I was more than a bit impressed by the fact that he told me that his son, Alex, and he had built both their race trucks from scratch.

Although it sounded impressive, he went on to say that they’d even formed the chassis rails—a clever feat indeed.

Being interested in engineering as well as being a bit of a truck nut, my first thoughts were that I had to somehow or another convince the Ed that I needed to take a trip south to Wellington to find out how such a massive feat was performed.

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It turned out that I didn’t have to wait long for the boss’ approval to come through when some other stories in the lower part of the North Island presented themselves, allowing me to kill several birds with one stone—a terrible cliché, I know. In any event, a few weeks ago, I made my way to Wellington and found myself knocking on Malcolm’s door bright and early (well it might have been early but it certainly wasn’t bright) on a cold winter’s morning.

Driving into the Little’s yard, I was confronted with at least 20 buses of varying brands, sizes, and ages, which gave me an idea of one of the first questions I’d been asking, namely how does someone in the coach services business transition into truck racing?

I had to wait a little to find the answer, as Malcolm was on the phone for some time dealing with the ever-present problem business owners have these days—of finding a replacement for a driver who had just phoned in sick.

At that moment, I made a note to self—never to be too envious of people who have
a large staff component in their business, as with the benefits of owning a large company, there are also a few disadvantages. Anyway, back to the story.

Years of racing

When I finally got to ask Malcolm what it was that made him want to race trucks, he told me that he’s a qualified diesel mechanic and he simply loves getting the best performance out of an engine, be it in a bus, truck, or whatever.

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Malcolm says he always got a buzz from the smiles on customers’ faces when they came to him after he’d repaired their truck’s engine and told him that their vehicle had never gone better. And that’s how the idea of racing trucks came to him.

"What better way of honing my expertise with diesel engines than to put those skills to work on the race track?" he says.

Malcolm Little is one of those extremely lucky people whose work is also his hobby, and it’s clear to see with all that machinery gathered around him that he certainly has
plenty of opportunities to indulge himself
in his ‘hobby’.

Although, one does have to be a bit careful about saying Malcolm is lucky, as it’s clear to see that he works hard at creating that ‘luck’. At first, I wasn’t sure if Malcolm’s company was a bus and coach travel business or if it merely repaired that type
of vehicle.

I soon found out that NZ Coach Services not only operates around 40 buses and coaches but it’s also a coach building and repair business all wrapped up in one.

The youngest truck racer

As told earlier in the story, I’d met Malcolm and his 17-year-old son, Alex, at the Super Trucks Racing series and I couldn’t wait to get down to Wellington to catch up with
the boys on their home turf.

As is often the case with the best-laid plans, on the day I arrived in the capital city, which was a Monday, I was hoping to have a chat with Alex about the day he beat his dad hands down at the truck racing.

The problem was, when I arrived at the Little’s Hutt Valley depot, there was no Alex to be seen. Upon asking his father where he was, the stout reply was, "He’s at school." My first thought was: "I bet he had fun touting his truck racing trophy about at school after the winning weekend!" 

A few months ago, this young guy was tooling a five-tonne machine around the
track at Pukekohe at speeds of up to a 100mph. Not only that but he also took home the second place trophy and now he was at school. There had to be something wrong with this picture.

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Malcolm says that it did take a bit of work to be able to get a young bloke who’s still too young to get a heavy truck licence to be allowed to drive a truck on a race track, but then I guess, it speaks volumes for the principle of having a goal and not letting go until you’ve achieved it.

Kiwi ingenuity

Another thing that sent my head into a tailspin on the day of my visit to Wellington was the fact that I was expecting to see at least one of the race trucks sitting up on some fancy jig, having wonderful feats of engineering being performed on it.
Likewise, I was hoping to see the test track on which unfathomable aerodynamic tests were being carried out.

I asked if I could take a look at what stage the race trucks were currently at. Although I did see Malcolm’s truck parked in a complete state on its trailer, all I could see of Alex’s
ride was one big pile sitting on the floor, looking forlorn.

The pile consisted of what looked to be a Renault front axle, an automatic gearbox (it’s actually an Allison 4060 six-speed), and a light-duty Rockwell diff.

In another part of the workshop, there was the chassis, and sitting on a pallet was the truck’s C12 1500hp-capable Cat engine.

Well, it appears that things are never quite as glamorous as they seem, as there was no test track or fancy set of jigs.

It seems that all there is behind the success of the Little family’s racing achievements is good old Kiwi ingenuity and know-how.

Rebuilding the rig Malcolm explains that the plan was to rebuild Alex’s truck by forming new chassis rails in the same way they had done with Malcolm’s C15 2000hp truck.
The idea is to form the new chassis rails from 700-grade high tensile steel and to relocate the running gear, along with fuel tank, batteries, etc., a little further back in the chassis.

The chassis rails are formed by Hutt Valley firm Real Steel on their 8.2m press brake, which is the largest press brake in the country. Malcolm says that Alex’s truck is currently running 380kg above its minimum weight requirements for the 12-litre racing class, so to be able to put the truck on a ‘diet’ by shedding some of that extra weight from the chassis will be well worth the time and effort involved.

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It’s hard to imagine where Malcolm finds the time to research all the facts and figures involved in making vehicles that were originally designed for work and not for fun
or to go faster. Perhaps he never sleeps.

Fast and furious

Malcolm’s proud of the fact that New Zealand racing trucks (not just his trucks but all of the competitive New Zealand racing trucks) are the fastest in the world, which is a pretty bold statement indeed.

However, he qualifies that comment by saying that all racing trucks worldwide are limited to 100mph (160km/h) and by saying New Zealand trucks are the fastest, what he is saying is that they are capable of getting up to the regulated speed limit in the quickest time.
We’ll have to wait until next season to see how soon the father and son team reach the 100mph mark. 

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