The Gersix Motor Company continued manufacturing trucks until 1922, creating 53 trucks in their factory on Fairview Avenue at Valley Street. The company soon moved to Mercer Street and continued assembling trucks and motor coaches in individual bays instead of conventional assembly lines. Kent and Worthington eventually renamed the business as the Kenworth Motor Truck Company in 1923, using a combination of their last names. They ventured into bus manufacturing in 1926 and became the first American company to release trucks with diesel engines from their assembly lines. In 1945, Kenworth was eventually bought by the Pacific Car and Foundry Company, or PACCAR as it is known today, and continued its legacy as a top-notch manufacturer of trucks, diesel engines, and truck spare parts.
Kenworth’s Bus Legacy
Kenworth once found a lucrative business in the bus making industry and buses became the company’s mainstay product in its early years. During the company’s heyday as the Gerlinger Motor Car Works, they made school buses based on the Gersix truck chassis. Kenworth developed the BU model in 1926, a chassis specifically built for school and transit buses. The new chassis sported a wheelbase of 212 inches, allowed the installation of a six-cylinder Buda engine, and could hold 21 to 29 passengers. Kenworth’s buses became very popular in the Pacific Northwest that production steadily rose up to 230 units by 1930. By that time, Kenworth’s chassis model became a prime component in school buses for districts around the Seattle and Puget Sound area of the Washington state.
Kenworth’s role in the school bus industry has largely been forgotten as the company concentrated more on the production of heavy-duty semi-trucks. Nevertheless, the American Truck Historical Society recognized Kenworth’s huge contribution by preserving the Gilig Transit Coach and the Kenworth-Pacific School coach. Both historical coaches were dedicated to Kenworth in the 11th Annual Truck Show held at the Mason County Fairgrounds in Shelton, Washington in 2006.
Kenworth also holds their headquarters in Bayswater, Victoria, Australia where all the Australian-based models are assembled. The first Kenworth Australian model was the KWS925 which was first imported in 1982. The Australian models were eventually imported as knock-down kits and first assembled in Preston, Victoria.
By 2008, Kenworth Australia started building a new range of trucks which they hailed the “08 series”. From the smallest to the largest, these included the T358/A, T408SAR, T408, T608, T658, T908 and C508. Other popular models from Kenworth Australia include the T600, T601, T604, T608, T609, T610, T610SAR, T650, W925, T900, T904, T908, T909, T950, T350, T359, T400/T401/404S/T404ST/404SAR, K124, K100E, K100G, K104G, K104B, K200 (COE) and C500, C501, C508, C509, C510 and C540. The T range includes the conventional bonneted models while the C models were built for heavy-duty use such as mining, road train use, and off-road travel. The K range covers the cabover models, including the K108 which garnered popularity among the B-Double market segment due to its shorter length. Throughout the end of the 20th century, Kenworth Australia also produced “Twin Steer” models, including the notable K100E Twin Steer.