Cover story: Jamieson Recovery

By: Vivienne Haldane, Photography by: Vivienne Haldane

Deals on Wheels checks out a Mack V8 Super-Liner recovery truck that's a well-known sight around Taranaki

The sight of a big bright orange truck is something you can hardly miss.

It stands out, which is what Bruce Jamieson says he wanted.

For the past 43 years, Bruce has been running Midhirst Service Station and Jamieson Recovery near Stratford, and the one thing that been a constant is his passion for Mack trucks. A through and through Mack man, when his ‘R’ series needed to be replaced, he went in search of another one.

"I’m a V8 Mack man; I’ve always run V8 Macks from day dot. There’s something about the torque and their power, but to be honest, they are a terrible truck to drive. There’s no room in them; they’re rough but that’s what they are. We’ve had KWs and other ​​stuff, but they don’t come close."

The Mack Super-Liner ready for its next assignment
The Mack Super-Liner ready for its next assignment

For Scott, who, alongside his brother Daniel, works in the family business as a mechanic, adds, "The V8 makes the right noise."

It took them three years to find the Super-Liner. It’s an ex- logger from the central North Island and was in reasonably good shape.

"We test drove a couple and one was tidy, but it had carted fertiliser. Things always rust on fertiliser trucks, so that was out. When this came up, we grabbed it. The paint was a bit tatty, but it was still tidy for its age."


The Mack needed an overall tidy up and a few alterations to fit it for its new purpose.
"We sent it down to Motor Trucks who shortened the chassis because it was a full-length truck and too long for what we needed, so we had a section taken out but lengthened the towing gear. We also added an extra locker to store equipment," says Scott.

"They transferred parts of the chassis and towing gear from the old truck—an under-lift towing system in our workshop, which, although 38 years old and notably the first one in New Zealand, is still in good condition. It’s getting outdated, but it will still do good stuff against some of the modern gear. It has a bark when it’s loaded."

The motor was rebuilt by Colin Hooper in Taupo, who also made it go faster.

The motor had done 1.5 million kilometres and the bottom end had never been rebuilt.

"With the big horsepower gear, if they don’t blow up, they wear, and everything moves," says Bruce.

The Mack’s rear lifting system was one of the first in NZ
The Mack’s rear lifting system was one of the first in NZ

"The crankshaft moves in the block, the main bearing caps sweat a bit so when they are rebuilt at high kilometres, it costs moonbeams. You’ve got to plain the head surface and line-bore them. In the end, the cost of restoring the motor was double what we paid for the truck, but it gave it a new lease of life.

"And someone says, ‘You can put a Cummins in for 25k’, but it’s just not the same. All the first Super-Liners had Cats in them but most of them are V8. Ours is a V8 E9525."

The hydraulics were upgraded too along with a couple of the indicators on the guards that were worn. The air scoops and stays on air filters were cleaned as well. The interior was pretty good, apart from needing a few new switches and the gauges checked. To top it off, a bit of shiny bling and a paint job (carried out in New Plymouth) and the Mack was ready to lead its next best life as part of the recovery truck. Jamieson also runs a Toyota slide deck and a Mazda truck for other work.


On any one day, the team at Jamieson’s will have a smorgasbord of work on the go. Apart from recovery and First Assist and AA for breakdowns and accidents, they do WOFs, custom fabrication, vehicle certification plus servicing, and repairs on cars, trucks, bikes, trailers, and horse floats. Nowadays, service stations in less populated areas are rare. "There are not many service stations that are still running in the country. We are one of the few. But if you have good mechanics and a good client base, it works. We’ve got customers here who’ve been coming here for 40 years. They are very loyal," says Bruce.

Scott and Bruce Jamieson
Scott and Bruce Jamieson

He adds, "The service station was already established when I arrived, but for the business to succeed, you have to be diverse. There isn’t much we haven’t done, including plane recovery for an air ambulance that forgot to let the wheels down and another one that overshot the runway at Hawera. We’ve even towed a yacht from the water at the marina in New Plymouth"

Changes in the towing business

The bulk of work for Jamieson Recovery is First Assist, as AA Contractors for breakdowns and towing heavy to small vehicles. Nothing stays the same in the towing business says Bruce.

"You’ve got to follow the trends and do what people want. It could be anything from cars to horse trucks and motorhomes. If the towing is quiet in some areas, you just adapt.

"The later model trucks are getting harder to tow because there’s nothing substantial in the front. They have a light tare and a greater gross weight, so they are all getting up to 50- to 70-tonne weight. That’s probably why the roads are falling to bits. The roading is not what it used to be; tar seal used to have black tar in it, but now it’s all synthetic, spray-type, watered down with kerosene, I reckon."

The interior was in a reasonable condition
The interior was in a reasonable condition

Jamieson Recovery might be in a rural area but the road past the service station at Midhirst is always busy.

"The loggers go non-stop to the port, plus you have all milk tankers. You used to be able to pull out of here any time you liked, to get into town. Now it’s a busy stretch of road and you have to wait," says Scott.

And in the workshop, the guys are hard at it and the big orange Mack is always at the ready for its next callout.

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