Truck Restoration Projects
Volvo’s first Australian electronic 16-litre
This important vehicle has been found and restored, twice, thanks to the dedication of, firstly, Mick Debenham and latterly Eddie Quadara, with the generous support of Volvo and CMV.
Back in 1988, Volvo launched its 16-litre six in Australia, to challenge the domination of Cummins and Caterpillar in the road train business and the growing nationwide B-Double market.
The Swedish Volvo 16-litre engine program was given the code name Project 3006 and the first test engines started hauling wood chip trailers at 60 tonnes back in 1981. The production 16-litre was launched in Europe in 1987 and made its way Down Under a little later.
The TD162F had mechanical fuel injection and was rated at 465bhp at 1860rpm, with peak torque of 2015Nm and 1250Nm at 600rpm and 1950Nm at 1250rpm. It had a high-mounted camshaft in the block and pushrod operation of four valves per cylinder.
The transmission was Volvo’s in-house SR2000, 14-speed, with 12 synchronised ratios and two crawl gears.
In 1989 came a more powerful TD162FL variant, with 485bhp at the same 1860rpm point, but with 160Nm at 1100rpm. However, the future direction of diesel engines had been set by Detroit Diesel, in late 1988, with the launch of the electronically-injected Series 60 – the first engine specifically designed around computer-controlled injection.
Volvo responded in 1992, with the release of its electronic TD163ES 16-litre. It boasted 500bhp and 2160Nm. The Australian launch truck was a maroon F16 with roof spoiler, bearing ‘500’ artwork on the doors and airfoil.
Allan Whiting remembers driving this truck as part of the press launch, hauling a tri-tandem, E A Rocke B-Double set, loaded to 59 tonnes, up the New England Highway, from Sydney to Brisbane.
He found the cab somewhat behind the latest efforts from DAF and Scania in terms of ergonomics – the ground-breaking Volvo FH cab was still two years away – but engine performance was excellent.
The only characteristic lacking was accelerator-free, lift-off that the unit-injected US engines had. However, the F16 had an all-synchro transmission, compared with the Yank trucks’ non-synchro Eatons.
The big Volvo rode much better than its North American competitors, thanks to parabolic leaves front and rear, and it also boasted ABZ anti-lock brakes and three rear-axle diff locks.
Volvo, like Scania, adopted a weird three-position shift pattern for its gearbox, but you’d think the two Swedes could have agreed on the same pattern, but they didn’t. Drivers in mixed fleets had all sorts of fun getting used to the shifting differences.
Journos are spoilt when it comes to truck testing: we make our notes, take our photos and retire to some pub for a feed and a quiet beer or two. Meanwhile, this test truck went on a strange working odyssey that featured good times and bad.
The F16 saga
Volvo’s launch F16 was factory test ‘mule’ that was originally powered by the previous generation engine and then repowered with a test electronic engine. It was painted in patriotic maroon, to reflect the location of Volvo Australia’s truck plant in Brisbane.
After the press test drive and evaluation by some fleets, the truck was then sold by South Eastern Trucks Warragul to Venturoni Bros, of Traralgon, Victoria and used as log/float truck.
Its next owner was Mick Debenham, who had it rebuilt and repainted, to pull milk tankers. He took off the unnecessary airfoil.
Mick Debenham eventually sold the truck to a farmer who later had some issues with the truck and simply parked it in a paddock, as cockies are wont to do. That’s where current owner, Eddie Quadara of QCFM (Quality Control Freight Management) came into the F16 picture.
Eddie Quadara was brought up in a trucking family and has been a Volvo ‘tragic’ since he was around 13 years old. He remembers falling in love with a family friend’s blue Volvo F16 quad-tank truck that was kept in pristine condition and wasn’t even driven in the rain!
The years went by and Eddie had driven all brands of trucks, but still had nostalgic feelings for the old F16. As luck would have it, he saw a photo in a magazine of this sad old landmark truck, parked desolately in a paddock.
Using a magnifying glass, he made out the original fleet telephone number on the truck door and rang Rhonda Debenham (Mick’s Mum), who passed on Mick’s number. Eddie then rang Mick and after lengthy discussion about the truck, explaining that he understood the truck was in very poor condition and probably beyond repair, he passed on the farmer’s phone number to Eddie.
Eddie rang the farmer and started negotiations, eventually settling on a sale price of twenty grand. The truck wouldn’t start, so the farmer had it floated into CMV’s workshop, for evaluation, where it was discovered the engine had seized. QCFM buys plenty of Volvos for its fleet, so Eddie probably got parking rights without too much difficulty.
That’s where Eddie struck it lucky, because there was customer function one evening at CMV, attended by some Volvo Australian and Swedish top brass. Eddie dragged them out into the yard to see the first Australian-market Volvo F16 electronic-engined truck and they were hooked on the QCFM restoration project. (I wish I could get Toyota Australia as keen to help with restoring my old 75 Series LandCruiser!)
The complete teardown began at CMV and three years later, after some interference from Covid-19, the F16 is resplendent once more, in white paint that will soon be adorned with appropriate sign writing.
Eddie hasn’t gone overboard with the restoration, preserving some of the cab interior wear and tear, as evidence of its hard life. And prominent is that bloody three-speed-pattern gear lever…