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2020 / 2021 Edition

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G&B Finch mark 50 years with bespoke IVECO truck

IVECO Strator X-WAY tractor unit

Company commissions heavy-haulage bonneted IVECO Strator X-WAY for 50th anniversary

ESSEX-based earthmoving, aggregates, ready-mixed concrete and recycling experts G&B Finch are celebrating their 50th year in business with a bespoke bonneted 150-tonne GVW IVECO Strator X-WAY heavy-haulage tractor unit. The family-run company is a prolific IVECO customer, currently running 38 trucks in an IVECO fleet that stretching from the quarry-focused off-road Trakker to X-WAY tippers, Super Loader cement mixers and Stralis tractor units.

Starting life as a low-roof sleeper cab Stralis X-WAY AS440X57T/Z ON+ 6x4 dual-drive tractor unit, this particular example has undergone a complete transformation to become a high-spec, high- power and highly distinctive bull-nosed articulated heavy-hauler. The vehicle, believed to be one of only two in the UK and the only one based upon the Stralis X-WAY, has been a labour of love, with the Finch family working closely with supplying dealer Northern Commercials in Tonbridge.

A special request was that the vehicle be delivered from the factory in Madrid to Charles Feijts Group (CFG), long-standing IVECO specialists in Born, the Netherlands. CFG have worked with the brand since 1993 and in 2007 launched their Strator conversion for the European market, taking inspiration from IVECO’s Australian developed and built Powerstar prime mover.

The conversion was labour intensive, carefully combining original IVECO parts with bespoke components. The cab was removed, to allow for a chassis extension, then re-mounted 1,700mm further back, behind the engine block, on imported Powerstar cab air suspension. This necessitated some slight modification to the front opening of the cab to fit around the end of the cylinder head.

As a result of the cab now sitting in the middle of the chassis, rather than at the front, the fuel tanks and exhaust system were also re-routed. The front suspension was shifted 190mm forward using heavy-duty parabolic units from the off-road focused Trakker, whilst the wheelbase was stretched to 4,390mm (from axles one to two), up from 2,800mm. Post-conversion, the whole truck now measures 7,785mm.

New aluminium side-skirts were then fitted to streamline the new side profile, incorporating redesigned steps up to the cab doors. To finish the look, a vast but sleek new horizontal bonnet was fabricated and fitted on front-facing hinges over the now-exposed engine block, coming to rest neatly underneath the windscreen. The original headlight units have been incorporated within the design, flanked by additional OEM indicator pods with the foglamp units integrated in to the new Strator-specific front bumper.

To account for the extra length and the elongated nose, CFG reprogrammed the parameters for both the adaptive cruise control and active emergency braking system sensors, and ensured that the lane-departure warning system camera now looks slightly further ahead than it used to. Moreover, an Orlaco front-sight camera system is fitted in the lower front grille with two further ‘eyes’, one on each side of the cab, feeding back to a 3-in-1 monitor on the dashboard.

The epic undertaking did not stop there, however. Once in the UK, the truck was fitted with a heavy-duty sliding fifth wheel by Northern Commercials’ special vehicle operations (SVO) team at their Dunstable site. SB Components then mounted a bespoke chassis infill catwalk, suzie A-frame, stainless steel bumper protection bars and LED hazard beacons.

Barnsley’s LA Spray Shop ensured that the truck looked the part in a bright, metallic silver and grey finish, with colour-coding of the mirrors, sun-visor, grilles and door handles. Scott Airbrushwork were commissioned to turn the Strator into a detailed mural depicting the entire history of G&B Finch.

Almost every inch of the body, highlighted in the corporate green, features historic vehicles, equipment and company branding, with a portrait across the bonnet of the three generations of Finch’s at the helm. Founder Gerald Finch is joined by his son and current managing director, Steve Finch, as well as his son Lee, their sales, technical and transport manager.

However, the Strator is not just a highly polished showpiece. Following its conversion and toughened additional kit, the vehicle was put through an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) in order to be uprated from the standard 44-tonne gross vehicle weight. Now plated for 150 tonnes GVW, it is legally permitted to carry Category 3 STGO (Special Types General Order) abnormal loads, such as a quarry crusher, on a Nooteboom quad-steering-axle low-loader trailer.

The cab itself is the widest AS sleeper cab but maintains a low-roof and is built upon the mid-height ON+ chassis. This keeps the on-road homologation but features a higher approach angle, ground clearance and improved bumper protection for its intended use in muddy off-road situations. To assist in such situations, the lightweight Alcoa Dura-bright alloy wheels are shod in Michelin XZY3 on/off-road tyres whilst the mechanical semi-elliptical steel rear suspension with 4.67:1-ratio hub reduction rear axles ensure smooth, steady progress over rough terrain.

Elsewhere the truck is equipped with Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights, additional driving lights and adjustable roof and side spoilers. The IVECONNECT 7in infotainment system with truck-specific navigation was also ordered, along with the Driving Comfort Pack, comprising a hi-comfort heated and cooled air-sprung leather driver’s seat with executive air passenger seat, fridge, leather steering wheel and heated windscreen.

Power is provided by a 12.9-litre inline six-cylinder Cursor 13 engine with 570hp and 2,500Nm of torque on tap. The IVECO-exclusive Hi-SCR exhaust after-treatment system eliminates the need for active and/or parked particulate filter regeneration.

A 16-speed Hi-Tronic automatic gearbox manages the power, whilst an optional retarder keeps inertia under control. IVECO Hi-Cruise GPS-adaptive cruise control has also been specified, ensuring a safe distance is always kept from the vehicle in front, whilst mapping data keeps the most topographically suitable gear ratios in play.

‘We’re a family business that now spans three generations. It’s something we’re very proud of and we knew we wanted to do something really special for our fiftieth year in business,’ said manging director Steve Finch. ‘We also happened to need something extremely strong and capable for our heavy work and it basically escalated to this. Our work can be arduous and in tough conditions, so we know the vehicles are good. From salesman to general manager, Andrew Smith at Northern Commercials has maintained a good relationship with us and as such we’ve kept returning for more over the last 22 or so years.’

IVECO heavy business-line director Gareth Lumsdaine added: ‘A truck isn’t just a tool, it’s often the face of a business, and in some cases a canvas upon which to showcase it. G&B Finch and Northern Commercials have taken this thought and absolutely run with it, commissioning CFG and some incredibly talented artists to turn the already brilliant Stralis X-WAY into a true masterpiece of engineering, design and individuality.’

The IVECO Stralis X-WAY is the Stralis’ heavy-duty stablemate, bridging the gap between off-road durability and on-road driveability. Designed from the outset as a mission-oriented truck, the X-WAY range stretches from two-axle tractor units to Tridem rigids and includes the lightweight Super Loader mixer, which is said to offer the best payload in its class.

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