Steve Grahame’s relationship with Cummins technology

Steve Graham Cummins technology road transport X15 euro 3 engine
Steve Grahame, had the greatest respect for the KTA600 in his 1994 Kenworth C501 Brute, a road-train prime mover he has owned since 1999 and recently repowered with a new Cummins X15 Euro 3 engine.

Read time: 3 mins

Steve Graham’s Story

In this era of electronic engines, the big banger Cummins K19 is hardly a masterpiece of technology.

Yet this was the reason some of Australia’s best known roadtrain operators preached the value of trucking’s biggest cubic capacity engine. Indeed, brute strength and simplicity of the 18.9-litre Cummins were considered its greatest assets.

Steve Grahame, a star of the popular television show Outback Truckers, had the greatest respect for the KTA600 in his 1994 Kenworth C501 Brute, a roadtrain prime mover he has owned since 1999 and recently repowered with a new Cummins X15 Euro 3 engine.

The Brute had clocked up 1.7 million kilometres when Steve bought it, most of those being hard kilometres hauling cattle for Alice Springs-based Tanami Transport.

Today, Perth-based Steve estimates his 30-year-old Kenworth has done close to 4 million kilometres and he talks with a definite tone of pride about the condition of the truck – testimony to the rugged strength of the C501 and the way he looks after it.

With the KTA600 no longer sitting out in front, the focus is on the X15 which was slotted into the C501 chassis in a repower project in 2023.

“The KTA600 needed a rebuild due to a dropped valve and it was going to be costly, so when I looked at the economics I decided the X15 was the way to go,” he confides.

“You could say I was dragged kicking and screaming into the current generation with the X15 Cummins.”

Impressive at 600 hp

Steve put the repowered C501 into service in September 2023, with the X15 Euro 3 engine initially rated at 550 hp and peak torque of 1850 lb ft.

“Pulling three trailers, the X15 wasn’t quite there compared with the KTA600,” he states. “The KTA had less torque than the X15 (1650 versus 1850 lb ft) but its big lungs and long stroke gave it a better feel.

“However, with the X15 now uprated to 600 horsepower and 2050 lb ft of torque, it’s very impressive,” he says.

“I like the improvement in fuel consumption, too,” he adds enthusiastically. “I’m consistently saving between 100 and 150 litres per 1500 kilometres.”

The X15 Euro 3 engine is becoming a popular repower option. It shares the same base engine hardware as the X15 Euro 6 powerhouse but without SCR aftertreatment; it can only be installed in pre-2008 registered on-highway trucks.

52 years in trucking

Steve Grahame – “I’m 73 this year” – has been on the road for 52 years and is a celebrity in his own right, having starred in every season of Outback Truckers since 2012, taking viewers into some of the most remote areas of Australia.

He reckons the show has done an amazing job of putting Australia on the map. “When I first started on the show, I was embarrassed and felt like an idiot, but I did it for my grandkids,” he says.

Steve’s phone number is on the door of his truck and thanks to the show’s global success – it has been aired in over 120 countries – he has received many calls from people overseas. “The number of phone calls I get from all over the world is amazing so I’m proud to be part of the show,” he confides.

The construction industry is a big part of his business, his work extending from the Pitjantjatjara land in northern South Australia, up through the Northern Territory and across the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

He carts a lot of building supplies and equipment for indigenous communities and refers to his work as “old-fashioned, old-school trucking” which takes him into the remote parts of the outback – areas that give remoteness its true meaning.

Since the days he left school to become a field hand for mine exploration and drilling crews – jobs that required a truck licence – to then carting livestock as he forged a place in the transport industry, Steve Grahame has been on an incredible journey.

With so many years of trucking and millions of kilometres now under his belt, is retirement on his mind? “I think I’ve got another few years left… I’ve got no desire to retire,” he says candidly.

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