COVER FEATURE - MARCH 2008
LICENSED TO THRILL
A KLOS TRUCK IS A COOL TRUCK
By Daniel J. Linss - Editor
In 1989, Kenworth embarked on a bold move to release their new W900L series in the same paint scheme as a truck that appeared in the latest James Bond movie “License to Kill” starring Timothy Dalton. Years later, when most of these limited edition trucks (and the movie) were long forgotten, one was destined to be a star again. The owners of Klos Custom Trucks in Lara Lake, Australia, Brothers Justin (31) and Turk (29) Klos, found Build #9 in a state of disrepair in Bow, New Hampshire – a mere 11,000 miles away from their home. After disassembling it, they shipped it back to Australia, spent five months rebuilding it, and then added it to their collection of other cool “Klos” rigs.
Over the past four years, the Klos Brothers and their cool custom creations have taken Australia by storm, and this unique Kenworth is no different – except that it looks nothing like the other trucks in Australia and is one of only two W900L’s in the entire country (the Klos boys own the other one, too). Starting out as chrome peddlers at the local shows and then becoming drivers in the family trucking business, the boys have once again moved on and become the premier custom truck builders in Australia. Building European-styled trucks with an American flair, the Klos trucks really stand out amongst the DAF’s, Volvos, and even the other Kenworths on the roads “down under” in Australia.
The Klos boys were born in Geelong, the second largest city in the state of Victoria, Australia, with diesel in their veins. They came from a trucking family. Their parents, John and Lorraine, ran a trucking company for 40 years. The boys loved to watch their dad rebuild his trucks and helped out where they could. When the boys were ten and twelve years old, their parents took them on a vacation to the United States and they fell in love with the American trucking scene. They could not take enough pictures!
When they got home from their overseas vacation, both of the boys sold off their motorbikes and spent the money buying chrome accessories from a store in Washington. The store manager was a little surprised when he realized that he was doing business with a couple of kids. The boys then took those American truck accessories, which were a hot item in Australia, and sold them at the local truck shows. This continued for years until Justin turned 16 and got an apprenticeship as a sign painter for Qantas Airlines. His mother had told him that he needed to at least train for a “real” career before getting into trucking, but this job only fueled the boy’s passion even more. Working for an international airline, Justin only had to pay 10% for airline tickets and freight – which made it very easy for them to travel to the United States to buy parts and then ship them home.
When Turk (actually, his name is Dale, but he has always gone by the nickname Turk) turned 16, he got an apprenticeship as an auto electrician. Years later, when the brothers began building trucks, the skills they both learned at their first jobs would be a big part of their success. After four years at Qantas, Justin left and began driving for the family business, which at the time had four trucks and hauled beer and recycled paper. But this only lasted for three months – Justin really wanted to buy his own truck.
Justin’s first truck was a 1984 A-Model Kenworth that he named “Spellbound” – and it quickly became an icon in the trucking world over there. Justin worked six days a week (seven if he could) and poured all of his extra time and money into that truck. Turk completed his apprenticeship in 1999 and then bought his first truck – a 1984 Kenworth W900B. There are only six of them in the entire country because Kenworth Australia never approved of these trucks or sold them (they built their own unique Australian Kenworths in the factory there). Just after Turk purchased this truck, the family business lost some of their main customers and the boys were forced to find work elsewhere. They applied for a run hauling produce between Melbourne and Sydney and got the job. But there was only enough work for one truck, so the boys took turns doing the interstate run while the other stayed near home and ran locally.
The brothers ran the produce haul for four years until a friend, Tommy Buckle, contacted them and asked them to build his truck – a 1989 Mack Superliner with a V8 engine (which was featured in “Readers and Their Rigs” in the February 2006 edition of 10-4). The boys were having fun trucking, but when Tommy offered to make their truck payments while they were building his Mack, they could not resist.
Today, four years later, the boys have built trucks for customers all across Australia and the huge demand for a Klos Custom Truck is almost forcing the boys to hire more help just to keep up. Justin does all of the pinstriping, designing and installing, as well as all of the business duties required to run the shop, while Turk handles the electrical, manufacturing and fabricating. The boys still travel to the United States at least once a year to buy parts for upcoming projects and to check out the latest products at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Kentucky.
In March of 2007, the boys went to Joplin, Missouri to visit Bryan Martin at 4-State Trucks and to prepare a few trucks they had purchased to ship home. One of these trucks was the James Bond inspired, 1989 “007” W900L Kenworth seen here and on the cover/centerfold this month. The truck was build #9, which means that it was the 9th W900L ever produced by Kenworth. The W900L was not officially offered by Kenworth until 1990, and these limited edition trucks were the first to debut the extended hood model that became so popular. The 250-inch long truck had a new 3406-C Cat engine and a good transmission, but the rest of it was pretty worn out. After taking the truck apart and loading it into a 40-foot shipping container, the boys went home and planned out the project, as it takes three months for a shipping container to finally reach their shores.
The truck arrived at the shop in July of 2007 and the boys, with the help of friend Barry Lewis, went right to work, stripping it down to the bare frame rails. The build proved to be a tough one, as time was getting harder and harder to come by for the Klos Brothers. Many late nights were put into building the “007” Kenworth, but it was a labor of love. There was a buzz in the local trucking community about this truck – people couldn’t wait to see what it was going to look like when it was completed. And with a shop full of custom accessories at their fingertips, they went for a “less is more” approach, staying away from the “chicken truck” style. But it didn’t really matter what style they were going for – this truck was not going to look like anything else on the roads in Australia.
The truck is powered by a 425 Cat, hooked to a 13-speed transmission and 3.73 rears, riding on an Air-Glide 100 rear suspension. The boys stretched the frame to 288 inches and installed a 12-Gauge slam kit to get the front of the truck lower and a 12-Gauge flip kit to protect the 22-inch Valley Chrome bumper from banging the ground. Then, they painted the truck in its original colors, added 7-inch Dynaflex pipes, Vortex breathers and Hogebuilt fenders. Most everything else on this rig was handmade by the boys in their shop – they even pinstriped the frame from bumper to bumper! And as a finishing touch, the brothers painted their 3-axle dry van black and redid everything on it so they could proudly pull it behind the “007” Kenworth. The boys use this trailer as their “lounge” when attending the local Australian truck shows.
Three years ago the boy’s parents sold their trucking company. Today, along with building custom trucks, Justin and Turk run two trucks of their own with a little help from their dad. Both of the boys are married with children – Justin and his wife Marney have a five-year-old daughter named Macey and a sixteen-month-old son named Jaxon, and Turk and his wife Kylie have a two-year-old daughter named Candice. Both boys live only minutes from the shop, so they are never far from home. Sundays are reserved for “family time” so the boys try very hard not to work on that day.
The boys have always believed that a truck should be accented just enough to enhance it and give it a cool, classy look – not cover it up – and this Kenworth is the epitome of that attitude and style. The build showcases first-hand the talents of Justin and Turk Klos and their ability to provide their customers with mild to wild modifications to their pride and joys. And it is further proof that a Klos truck is a cool truck. You might not need a “License to Kill” to drive this unique truck, and it might not pop wheelies like the one featured in the movie, but you’ll feel like James Bond if you ever get the chance to slip behind the wheel of this “License to Thrill” KW.
~ To see some of the other custom trucks that the Klos boys have built, visit their website at www.kloscustomtrucks.com. Because they are Australian trucks, they are definitely a little different than the average American truck. We’d like to say “thanks” to Robbie Rose for providing all of the pictures for this feature and for helping us put this article together.