Kenworth T408SAR truck

By: Dave Cox, Photography by: Dave Cox


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We test the Kenworth T408SAR, and are blown away by its style

Kenworth T408SAR truck
Kenworth T408SAR truck
  • The bumper is designed to give under-run protection from smaller vehicles in the case of a head-on crash
  • The cab is easy to get in and out of
  • Grab handles are mounted in the cab in good positions
  • Good seat adjustment
  • 20918 18-speed rather than the usual 18918
  • Good vision out of the front windscreen
  • Flat, heated and electrically adjustable rear vision mirrors give an excellent unimpaired view, with spotter mirrors below

I went to Jilesen Contractors’ yard at Taumaranui in the King Country to see the Kenworth T408SAR, one of the jewels in the Jilesen crown.

Owners Martien (Marty) and Tony Jilesen are true Cat fans. They like the Acerts in the area of emission control and the fact that Cat runs two turbos, which means considerably less stress on the turbo. They also run slower, giving them a longer life and reliability while putting out more boost than the single run turbos.

When I first saw the Kenworth T408SAR and the way it has been specced out, I couldn’t help but appreciate the fact that Jilesens has had to be visionary to come up with such a stylish truck.

They asked for the front steering axle to be slightly further forward than normal. This has made it another 375mm closer to the front bumper while still keeping with the standard wheelbase.

The truck looks great with a set forward axle, which, it’s fair to say, gives the Kenworth a very good ride as well.

The whole set-up on this truck looks fantastic; from its nice big chrome bumper to its dual chrome exhaust stacks. The shiny bumper has a real practical application – it has been designed to give under-run protection from smaller vehicles in the case of a head-on crash.

It has strong reinforcment and a couple of large struts coming on an angle from the chassis to the bottom inside of the bumper. It has polished stainless steel air cleaners and twin fuel tanks mounted either side under the steps. Marty says that to keep the look simple but stylish they decided to partition the driver’s side fuel tank almost in half and incorporate the hydraulic tank in the fuel tank. It actually has polished chrome and stainless steel everywhere, which makes this such an impressive looking vehicle.

Climbing in and out of the cab is very easy and the steps and grab handles are mounted in good positions. The seat has good adjustment and can be put back far enough for comfortable driving. I am told that the seating space in the new cabs is 100mm longer in the new models.

Jilesens has stuck with the tried and true manual gearlever as it felt the work it does was better suited to a manual. Jilesens has gone with a nice meaty 20918 18-speed rather than the usual 18918; this gearbox handles the higher torque rating that is put out from the Canadian Heavy Haul specification, giving them 1850lbft torque @ 1200rpm.

The vision out the front is excellent with the one-piece curved windscreen and the SAR slopping bonnet. The gauges all have gold bezels and the interior trim is a red ox blood heavy-duty diamond pleat vinyl.

The rear vision mirrors are flat, heated and electric adjustable, with spotter mirrors below and give an excellent unimpaired view of what’s behind.

As we headed along the road I was really impressed at its smooth ride, which I suspect might have something to do with the set forward front axle. Now this Cat simply purrs with its 490hp and wide range torque band that comes with the Canadian Spec. All controls are set very nicely and easily accessible, with the jake brake on a little stalk that comes from the back of the steering column.

This looks rather fragile but I have been assured by the Kenworth agents that it is robust. It has all the usual crosslocks and difflocks required for this sort of application, as this beauty is not always on the blacktop. The retardation comes in the form of a jake brake and on this high compression Cat will give 600bhp.

The rims on the steerers are in fact 9"wide; this too could be attributed to the smooth ride that comes from the T408 along with the eight-bag air suspension.

To read in-depth truck reviews, see the latest issue of Deals On Wheels magazine, on sale now.

See Kenworth trucks for sale here.

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