Every now and then the opportunity to write about something really special comes along, this time it’s NTI’s Mean Green Fund-Raising Machine. Diesel Workshop has the story of the full restoration of a 1946 International K5 by National Transport Insurance (NTI). The truck was subsequently raffled as a fundraiser for research into Motor Neurone Disease.
Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a cruel and crippling neurological disorder that affects more than 2000 Australians, or one in every 11,434. People with MND progressively and terminally lose the use of their limbs and the ability to speak, swallow and breathe, while their mind and senses usually remain intact. Each day in Australia, two people are diagnosed and two people die from the disease. At this stage there is no known cure and no effective treatment. The total cost of MND in Australia in 2015 was $2.37 billion, equating to $1.1 million per person afflicted.
It is something that is extremely close to the heart of specialised road transport insurance company National Transport Insurance (NTI), which has seen first-hand the devastating effects of the disease as it slowly incapacitates one of its own – former CEO, Wayne Patterson.
“Wayne joined NTI about 18 years ago and he brought with him a set of values for the organisation to operate by,” says Tony Clark, current CEO of NTI. “He had a great influence on a lot of people who still remain at NTI.
“When I got the call from Wayne about two years ago to tell me he’d been diagnosed with MND I was absolutely stunned, and we just wanted to be there with him all the way. So we went to our people, told the story about Wayne and they agreed that the MND and Me Foundation would become the organisation’s primary charity.
“Obviously with our DNA and background in transport, we felt that the restoration of an old truck would be a great way of doing that and our aim was to let people follow the journey and enjoy the various stages, then raffle the truck for a great cause, which is to help people living with MND.”
The so-called Green Diamond project began in early 2017, with NTI employees Don Geer and Peeter Liiv charged with the task of initially finding a suitable truck then overseeing its transformation into ‘better-than-new’ condition. Don and Peeter are trained mechanics so for both men this was always going to be very much a ‘hands-on’ exercise.
The journey took them west from Brisbane to Prices Spare Parts in Dalby, one of the largest truck and tractor wreckers in the country. Here, amongst a throng of ancient Dodges, Leylands, Bedfords, Commers and Inters, they spied the ‘green diamond in the rough’ they were looking for. The 1946 International K5, sporting a ‘Green Diamond’ 233 cubic-inch side-valve six-cylinder petrol engine, was originally owned by H & L Hamilton at Miles – coincidentally, distant relations of Peeter’s wife.
“From our research, we discovered the truck had been parked in a shed in 1973 and hadn’t moved or done anything since,” Peeter explains.
The duo was determined to see if the old girl would fire up, despite it having sat idle for nearly 45 years. Sure enough, after connecting a battery and feeding some petrol into the carby – and with Peeter manning the crank handle at the front – half a dozen turns later, the old donk burst into life and settled into a reasonably smooth idle.
“What a pisser!” Don adds as he revs the engine a couple of times while slapping the mudguard. “It’s running like a top – what a beauty! I’m absolutely stunned that it ran. I mean there’s water pouring out of the engine block because the welch plugs are rusted away, but the points work and it’s obviously got a camshaft hooked up to where it’s supposed to be.”
Despite the early enthusiasm, the pair was under no illusions that this would be an easy restoration. On the contrary, they expected to encounter many challenges with the project and as time would show, they were right on the money.