The boys from “down under” have done it again! Brothers Justin Klos (35) and Turk Klos (33) of Klos Custom Trucks in Lara Lake, Australia have once again built a cool Kenworth that is sure to turn heads wherever it goes. Over the last few years, the boys have expanded both their trucking company and their custom truck building business, and become world-renowned for their incredible talents. Their latest full build, seen here, looks like a normal W900L Kenworth, but it took a lot more work than you’d think to get this rig to the point where it could be registered and worked in Australia. This truck is actually two different trucks merged into one, which makes for a pretty interesting story.
The last time we featured a truck built by the Klos brothers was back in March of 2008 after they completed a full restoration job on a limited edition 1989 “007” Kenworth W900L (which they still own). Back then, the boys were just getting started building custom trucks, but since then they have expanded their business and now do modifications and customizing to brand new Kenworths straight from the dealers. Entering into a special business arrangement with Kenworth in Australia, 80% of their work now comes directly from PACCAR. Making most of their own accessories, Klos Custom Trucks customizes new Kenworths for people looking to spruce up their brand new ride – a lot or just a little – and it’s all factory-approved and included in their purchase price. This arrangement has kept the boys very busy in the shop, and even forced them to hire a few guys to help.
In addition to their expanded custom truck building and customization business, Klos has also expanded their trucking company, Klos Brothers Trucking, from just two trucks to eight. Their import/export business, Klos Truck Parts, is booming, too. The guys travel to the United States regularly to find trucks, sleepers, parts, and even classic cars and hot rods, which they load into containers and send home to sell or use on one of their builds. Fortunately for the Klos brothers, the economy in Australia did not fall as hard as it did here in the US, and then it bounced back even quicker, so times are pretty good “down under” right now.
Their latest full build, seen here, was done for Mark Materia of Warrnambool, Australia. His family’s company, Materia Bros., hauls produce from the markets in Melbourne back to their home town for distribution. They do not have a fleet of trucks – just one other one – and it looks a lot like this one, only not as cool! But to build an American Kenworth truck that is legal to
register and work in Australia is no easy task, so this is where the story gets interesting.
In order to protect the Kenworth dealers in Australia, the government passed strict laws that do not allow people to import American KW trucks into the country to be registered and worked. Several years ago, a guy in Australia found a loophole and began importing new Kenworth T800 “glider kits” into the country as “parts” trucks. After they arrived, he would drop a drivetrain into them and register them as new Kenworths. After a couple years, the Australian government cracked down on this practice and stopped allowing these trucks to be registered as Kenworths – they now get registered as an Amtruck (which is short for American truck). For an Amtruck to be registered, it must first be converted into a right-hand-drive configuration, which is very costly, so not many of them were ever built. In fact, there are probably only 15-20 Amtrucks in the entire country.
Wanting to build an American Kenworth that was legal to work in Australia, the Klos boys were lucky enough to find and then merge a wrecked 1998 T800 Amtruck with a 2000 Kenworth W900L they found in Colorado – the Amtruck provided the “legal” right-hand-drive chassis, cab and some of the drivetrain, while the American W900L provided the hood and sleeper, as well as most of the interior parts and exterior accessories. After tearing both of the trucks completely apart, the restoration and reconstruction of the Amtruck began.
The project began by stretching the frame rails of the T800 as long as they could legally go – from 230 inches to 260 inches. Except for the hangers and springs, which came from the W900L to get the truck lower, most of the T800’s front end was used. Wanting the back of the truck to look like an old 1930’s hot rod coupe, the boys spent two days cutting, welding and modifying the rear end, giving it a unique curved shape. While the chassis was being worked on, the boys sent the cab, sleeper and hood out to Litz Transcolor to be painted IH Red (the guys would normally have done this themselves but they just did not have the time). After block sanding the rails and prepping the rest of the chassis, the boys painted it all red to match the rest of the truck. Once the cab, hood and sleeper came back from the paint shop, the boys added all of the custom stripes and then put everything back together.
After dropping in a freshly-rebuilt and painted Detroit Diesel DD4, a new 18-speed transmission and a new radiator, the rest of the truck was assembled. The boys polished-out and then installed the two American-style step boxes from the W900L in front of the fuel tanks, and then built two more just like it to place behind the painted tanks (you can’t get boxes like that in Australia so they had to make them). The rig was also outfitted with a 20-inch bumper, new wheels and tires, a 12 Ga. air-ride kit for the front axle, Vortox air cleaners, seven-inch pipes and custom stainless steel rear fenders. The truck also got a new grille, a new mid-drop polished visor, a turbo wing, new roof lights, stainless steel cab and sleeper extensions, tank fairings, a custom rear light bar, painted to match (and striped) deck plates, and tons of new LED lights.
The interior of both the cab and sleeper was all redone in Crimson red and black, and all of the electrical was moved from the W900L into the Amtruck. Jason “Fingers” Patrick, one of the guys who help out in the shop, was in charge of the electrical swap, which was a big job. The cab also got new Bostrom Wide-Ride seats, a new radio, and all of the wood-grain dash panels from the W900L. The interior was not overly done, but it looks great and is very functional (remember, this truck was built to work). When everything was said and done back in December of 2011, the truck was registered as a 1998 Amtruck. Mark did not waste any time – he immediately picked the truck up. He plans to take it to several shows in Australia, and to work it, as well.
Before the truck got picked up, our friend Robbie “Dingo” Rose drove it to an abandoned warehouse in the historic city of Ballarat and got some great pictures. This old warehouse was built in 1863, and was very dirty and dusty – not to mention the pooping pigeons flying around inside! Robbie has been taking great pictures of trucks for years as an amateur, but he plans to retire from trucking (after 23 years at the same company) and go full time as a professional photographer in the not-so-distant future. Being single with no kids at home, Robbie figures this is the perfect time to give this photography thing a go! We wish him all of the luck, and look forward to seeing his awesome work – and, we thank him for providing us with all of the great pictures for this feature, the cover and the centerfold.
Justin and Turk wanted to thank Jason Patrick and Jaden Meade for all their help in the shop, as well as their families, for putting up with all of the 20-hour work days. The guys recently let a welder and polisher go, and are actively seeking replacements. Their next big project is a Mack Superliner that they are just getting started on for a customer, who happens to own one of the largest Mack collections in the world.
To see some of the cool trucks Justin and Turk Klos have built over the years, check out their website at www.kloscustomtrucks.com. To read more about how the Klos boys got started, be sure to go back in our archives online and read their cover feature story from March 2008. We always have a great time when he hang out with these guys because they are “real” people – and, they are always looking for fun (just like us). If you ever get “down under” to Australia, be sure to look these guys up and give them a visit. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next!