Fit for a Legend
Story: Dave McLeod | Photos: Gerald Shacklock - Video: Trevor Woolston
Once upon a time (well, three to seven years ago, to be more precise) New Zealand had Cat logtrucks.
Then, in 2017 the Cat headed off towards extinction, with no new progeny to be produced.
The short-lived Caterpillar experiment in selling its own brand of trucks – running re-purposed, re-engineered Cat C15 engines – was over.
Now though the first of a new breed of Cat lookalikes is being seen in the forests of New Zealand’s East Coast/Poverty Bay. Similar…but not the same.
This new beast answers to a different name: It’s an International ProStar R8 HD 8x4 logger – the first of its kind in the world, in fact. It has a red engine (a Cummins X15), rather than the Caterpillar yellow donk, and a lot of improvements, refinements.
But other than that, this is the same truck…because the Cats were, of course, rebadged ProStars – built for Caterpillar by International owner Navistar, using its ProStar cab, chassis….everything really, except the engines. Oh yeah…and the badges.
Kiwi International importer and local assembler Intertruck Distributors wasn’t allowed to sell the ProStar here during the Cat era – to avoid the siblings competing head to head.
But finally, with Caterpillar gone from the on-highway trucks scene (the last of them was registered here in 2017), two and a half years ago Intertruck was able to give the ProStar its long-delayed NZ launch.
And so here we are with what Intertruck MD Comer Board points out is “the first conventional logger that we’ve released into the market for as long as we’ve been an importer – 20 years.”
Gisborne-based operator Shane Bunning reckons that signing up for this world’s first twin-steer ProStar R8 logger did carry an element of risk: “It was a bit of a gamble, I must admit – but I think it’s gonna pay off.” But he says it with a big smile – tongue firmly in cheek.
Because not only was the ProStar a Cat logger in a previous life…its chassis is also well-proven in Kiwi logtrucks – despite this being Intertruck’s first-ever bonneted International logger.
That’s because Kiwi-assembled International 9870 cabovers share the same chassis as the ProStar! And there have been plenty of ‘em built here.
Says Intertruck’s Board: “As far as what the differences are between the cabover and the conventional…in our build process – there’s virtually nothing.
“Because, for 10-odd years, the 9870 has been based off the ProStar chassis, as it just seemed to work better for us.
“So essentially, when we moved the actual true ProStar into the logging industry, we already knew that it was a proven chassis design. We had no real issues with anything in the redevelopment of the critical areas.”
As Board explains, the bonneted ProStar became a viable proposition as a logger in June, when the NZ Transport Agency released a new proforma high productivity motor vehicle (HPMV) design, comprising an 8x4 truck and five-axle trailer at overall lengths of up to 23.5 metres.
It has, he adds, “alleviated some of the concerns for conventional owners. The key thing is to get the weight proportions forward onto the twin-steer for the bolsters and then to take these big five-axle trailers on top of them.”.....
We’re back in Gisborne again, testing another logger – this one the first of its kind in the world.
It’s really not that surprising that Shane Bunning’s International ProStar eight wheeler, fitted with Mills-Tui bolsters and towing a five-axle Mills-Tui trailer, is the first 8x4 ProStar logger….
Given that our use of eight-wheeler conventionals here in New Zealand is more common than probably anywhere else in the world.
In Gisborne, the ProStar stands out – with almost every other logger you see either a Kenworth, a Freightliner, or even a Western Star.
I jump into the ProStar’s cab at the metal stockpile just before the end of Paritu Road – where it joins State Highway 2/Wharerata Road, on the Bartletts Hill, for a run back to the Gisborne port.
We’re sitting right on 50 tonnes according to our SI Lodec scales, so the run down Bartletts will be a great test for the retarder.
Entry into the cab is great, with a couple of good steps and well-positioned grabhandles both sides of the door.
Once inside it’s a familiar dash layout, as I drove a tipper spec ProStar last November – the only major difference being that this is a manual, as opposed to the automated manual in the Bulk Lines tipper.
In front is a nice tidy dash, with all major gauges easily seen through the steering wheel, and then a full switch panel in the centre of the cab within easy reach of the driver. The steering wheel itself has full cruise control on it.
There’s no problem getting comfortable in the cab, with a nice leather air suspension seat and a fully-adjustable steering column.
There is a nice stainless steel footrest to the left of the clutch pedal which allows you to stretch out your left leg when not using the clutch...
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