Profile: Peter Lewis' truck collection

By: Lyndsay Whittle, Photography by: Lyndsay Whittle, Video by: Lyndsay Whittle

A Commer, Peterbilt, and International. Peter Lewis’ collection of working trucks is worth a look. Deals on Wheels heads to Pukekohe to find out more.

Commer isn’t a word you hear mentioned much these days when you’re talking about operational money-making trucks, so when we found out that there was a ’67 Maxiload still doing the odd bit of work out in Pukekohe, we had to go and have a look for ourselves.

What a line-up

Peter Lewis operates his grain and silage business out of his 150-acre farm and has an eclectic collection of trucks that would have been serious contenders in the horsepower stakes back in the days when they were new.

Aside from the Commer, Peter also has a 1986 International and a 1996 Peterbilt 362, along with a weird-looking 1951 International runabout that must be the first double cab ute ever built.

The 1967 Commer Maxiload

Peter Lewis with his old faithful

Blair Transport in Napier, the original owners of the truck, had Clyde Engineering perform some serious modifications before the truck went on the road.

They must have had rather lofty expectations of the amount of work the truck was going to carry out, as the original TS3 engine and its four-speed manual gearbox were whipped out and promptly replaced with the more powerful 6V53 Detroit engine, which was coupled to an Allison automatic transmission.

While the red knob of an electric Eaton two-speed switch is still visibly attached to the side of the automatic shift lever housing, Peter says he’s never ever tried to use it, given the fact that the truck has never been required to tow a trailer or carry more than 10 tonnes at any given time while in his ownership.

A quick check on the internet tells us that the Maxiload variant of the Commer of this era was generally fitted with a 132bhp TS3 engine, as opposed to the lesser-powered engines of earlier TS3 models.

The Commer looks like it would carry more than 10 tonnes

By replacing the TS3 with the 6V53 Detroit, the truck would gain approximately an extra 80bhp.

Another modification made to the truck by its original owners was the fitting of a lazy axle to give the truck a greater carrying capacity. It was also fitted with towing gear, which has since been removed.

The Maxiload is fitted with a three-stage twin ram underbody hoist and two-piece removable sides, all of which make for an easy day in Peter’s type of work.

An important feature of the Maxiload is that it had a full-air braking system rather than the air-over hydraulic set-up commonly found of similar-sized trucks of its era, including TS3-powered Commers.

Peter says he’s owned the truck for about 20 years and that it hardly notices a 10-tonne load, even on steep hills—"it just nestles down and keeps on pulling," he says.

This mostly rust-free Commer cab is for sale

Although the truck has performed well over the years, Peter says it doesn’t get an awful lot of use these days, as it’s only used to cart ‘overflow work’. So it’s now up for sale, having been largely replaced by the 1977 International 3070, which Peter says originally served its time at a potato grower’s operation in Palmerston North.

Peter has a spare almost rust-free Commer cab that can be sold either as a part of the Maxiload package as a separate item. Interested parties can contact him on 027 478 0586.

The 1977 3070 International

A sharp-looking truck even at 42 years of age

The Inter has been in the Lewis fleet for about 10 years now and is powered by 903 V8 Cummins engine connected to a 15-speed Roadranger.

Peter says that it’s proven to be a reliable workhorse, and like the Commer Maxiload, he uses it for many applications, including carting tractors, grain, fertilizer, hay and silage.

He thinks that perhaps it will take over the secondary role currently performed by the Maxiload once he’s been able to source a deck with removable drop sides to fit to his newest truck—the 1996 Peterbilt 362.

1996 Peterbilt 362

Imagine seeing that in your rear-view mirror

Having a liking for American trucks, for a long time Peter had set his sights on owning a Peterbilt rig. When asked why a Peterbilt rather than one of the other famous American brands, Peter says he likes the relative rarity of the marque in New Zealand and, of course, the fact that they’re well-known for their rugged build quality.

So, when an ex McDowall Road Freight Peterbilt came up, Peter snapped it up before someone else got their hands on it.

On a side note, as is the case with many early motoring innovators, Peterbilt’s founder TA Peterman was a lumber merchant in the 1930s who was having trouble getting his product to market by barges, which were the main means of transport of the time, so he started modifying existing trucks to suit his needs and eventually wound up manufacturing a brand of his own. An interesting read for trucking enthusiasts.

The Peterbilt 362—a mean machine

Coming back to Peter’s truck, the 362 is powered by a C12 Cat with a 13-speed Roadranger box, giving him more power than he needs in his application, however, the truck isn’t quite ready to take over the entire roles of the Commer Maxiload and the 3070 International.
With a mere 8.5-tonne tare weight due to its lightweight chassis, the truck is lighter than the Commer and is capable of carrying 26 tonnes.

Although its aluminium bin looks nice sitting on the truck, it doesn’t have removable sides, making its application for farm work somewhat limited.

While the bin is ideal for carting grain, aggregate, and the like, there are times when a load of hay or silage needs to be side-loaded—an impossible task to perform with fixed sides.
Peter says he’s been looking out for a suitable replacement deck but has been unsuccessful so far.

He already has a buyer for the bin, so is in a position to make the swap as soon as he can find a suitable deck, preferably with two-piece removable sides. If anyone has a deck that may suit his needs, then he’d surely be pleased to hear from you.

International AR110

 A real piece of 1950’s art

While the AR110 doesn’t form a part of the Lewis’ working fleet, the vehicle is nonetheless worthy of mention, as it’s perhaps one of the first examples of double-cab utes still around in New Zealand.

This vehicle is quite a bit different from other AR110s in that it has a rear seat as opposed to other trucks of the same make that only have a storage area situated behind the front seat.

Peter says he saw the vehicle in the South Island about 23 years ago and that he simply had to own it.

Perhaps the original  form of a double-cab ute

The most unusual feature of the beast is that it has a small door on the driver’s side, which is ideal for letting the dog in the back—a handy feature indeed!

The AR110 is still in its original condition, making it a pleasant change from seeing vehicles that have been restored to make them look like they were when new. 

Watch our interview with Peter Lewis 


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