Our country has produced over the years many forward thinking and innovative companies. In the mid-1940s another one was born, in Huntly of all places, producing imaginative designs and filling the needs of industry – Hewco. By Richard Campbell.
The Huntly Engineering and Welding Company, Hewco, was the brainchild of John ‘Jock’ Wright who founded the company in 1945 when he was just 22 years old.
A finer example of the ‘number eight wire’ mentality, partly created by our isolation from the rest of the world, would be hard to find.
It was that ‘can do’ attitude which was at the heart of Hewco and the rather diverse range of equipment that it manufactured.
Being so far away from international suppliers meant that some times, folks had to make do or improve on what they had as tariffs made buying new equipment expensive, sometimes requiring overseas funds.
All the heavy equipment suppliers of the time had to forecast what spare parts they thought they would need months in advance as parts orders were sent by sea, a journey that could take eight weeks or more.
Fast container shipping was quite a way into the future and there was no airfreight service in those days.
If something broke down, you had to hope your dealer had the necessary parts.
If not, you worked out a way to make the machine operable again or it lay idle.
Hewco filled that void to quite a large degree by repairing machinery and manufacturing new equipment using local components or adapting existing items that were in plentiful supply.
It was a very innovative company.
Many of Hewco’s creations were powered by the reliable 52 horsepower Fordson Super Major diesel agricultural tractor.
It would be hard to imagine how Hewco could have built the machines it did without this tractor which was in widespread use throughout this country and the Commonwealth.
Hewco used the Fordson in ways that the original designers would never have dreamed.
Probably the most spectacular of these creations was the ‘Twin-Six’ motor scraper.
It was extremely ingenious in its design and execution featuring a Fordson engine front and rear and a licence built Heil six cubic yard hydraulically operated bowl (that Hewco was already manufacturing). The transmissions were electro-pneumatically shifted – true Kiwi ingenuity.
Hewco built and sold nine of these machines, with one going to Australia where it was marketed by Steelweld with a view to production in Australia.
Hewco also built a single engined Fordson powered scraper prior to manufacturing the Twin-Six, however only one of these was built.
Although many of Hewco’s inventions were one-offs to fulfil a particular need, there were quite a few others that went into serial production.
Built under licence from Moore Australia was the LD3 Scoopmobile wheel loader, and a range of Moore-designed multi-tyred asphalt compaction rollers.
These were very popular with city councils which, more often than not, had limited funds, but didn’t have to go through the import licensing channels in order to get what they needed.
Home grown serial production items were the ‘Roll-Pax’ pneumatic-tyred test roller, ‘Roll-Chief’ steel wheel self-propelled road roller, a 10-ton capacity wood straddle carrier, logging trailers, dozer blades for Track Marshall crawler tractors, fertiliser spreaders (one of Hewco’s first mass-produced products), fruit pressers, conveyors ‘Load Lugger’ skip body conversions for Ford D series trucks, and the highly successful ‘Hydrapax’ series of refuse disposal bodies which could be fitted on the chassis of most trucks of the day.
In fact, Hewco’s range of products was so diverse that this article cannot do the company justice, so I have included as many photos of the interesting goodies that came out of Huntly as is possible within the space available.
Mention must also be made of Hewco’s larger parent, Clyde Engineering, which bought Hewco in 1962.
Clyde Engineering was the transmission dealer here for Euclid, Detroit Diesel and Allison, so the acquisition of Hewco seemed a logical step in its diversification.
Clyde took some pride in marketing Hewco’s products and ran the company as an engineering subsidiary.
This went well until the mid-1970s when hard times struck and the company was sold off and liquidated – a very sad ending to such a pioneering Kiwi company.
Some Hewco machines can still be found operating and a few others have been preserved for posterity, notably a ‘Twin-Six’ motor scraper that survives in the collection of the late Graeme Craw in Dargaville.
For the Model Collector
Unfortunately I know of no models ever produced of Hewco equipment.
If any do exist, I am very keen to hear about them.