50th Anniversary presents don’t come bigger than this! Family-run, Braintree-based haulage firm G&B Finch specialise in large-scale earth-moving, aggregates, ready-mix concrete and recycling, so it’s clear that heavy-duty features strongly in their vocabulary.
The company are a prolific IVECO customer, currently running 38 trucks, all of which are IVECO. With a fleet stretching from the quarry-focussed off-road Trakker to X-WAY tippers, Super Loader cement mixers and Stralis tractor units, their new arrival is certain to be kept in good company.
Starting life as a low-roof sleeper cab Stralis X-WAY AS440X57T/Z ON+ 6×4 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 Stralis X-WAY, has been a real labour of love, with the Finch family working closely with supplying dealer, Northern Commercials in Tonbridge. A special request was applied with the order that it be delivered from the factory in Madrid to a long-standing IVECO specialist in Born, the Netherlands. Charles Feijts Group (CFG) have been working with the brand since 1993 and in 2007 launched its Strator conversion for the European market, taking inspiration from IVECO’s Australian-developed and built Powerstar prime mover.
The conversion is labour intensive, carefully combining original IVECO parts with bespoke components. The cab is removed in order to allow for a chassis extension to house the cab, re-mounted 1,700mm further back, behind the engine block on imported Powerstar cab air suspension. This necessitates some mild 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 are re-routed as well.
The front suspension is shifted 190mm forward using heavy-duty parabolic units from the off-road focussed Trakker while the wheelbase is stretched to 4,390mm (from axles one to two), up from 2,800mm. Post-conversion, the whole truck measures in at an imposing 7,785mm.
New aluminium side-skirts are then fitted to streamline the new side profile, incorporating redesigned steps up to the cab doors. Finishing the look, an enormous but sleek new horizontal bonnet is fabricated and fitted on front-facing hinges over the now exposed engine block, coming to rest neatly underneath the windscreen. The original headlight units are 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 then reprogrammed the parameters for both the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Active Emergency Braking System (AEBS) sensors as well as ensuring that the Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) camera is now looking slightly further ahead than it was previously used to. Furthermore, 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 though. Once it arrived in the UK, the truck was fitted with a Heavy-Duty sliding 5th 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.
The piece-de-resistance though is the paintwork. 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 an incredibly 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 & Transport Manager. The bonnet is then finished off with an ornamental Finch, wings spread into the wind.
While the Strator is sure to stand out among the crowd, it 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 a substantial 150-tonne GVW, it is now legally suitable to carry Category 3 STGO (Special Types General Order) abnormal loads, such as the menacing quarry crusher atop a quad-steering axle Nooteboom lowloader 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 it here, the lightweight Alcoa Dura-bright alloy wheels are shod in robust Michelin XZY3 on/off-road tyres and it features mechanical semi-elliptical steel rear suspension with 4.67:1 ratio hub reduction rear axles for smooth, steady progress over rough terrain.
Elsewhere the truck is equipped with Xenon headlamps with LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), additional driving lights and adjustable roof and side spoilers. IVECONNECT 7″ Infotainment system with truck-specific Navigation was also ordered along with the Driving Comfort Pack, comprising HI-COMFORT heated & cooled air-sprung leather driver’s seat with executive air passenger seat, fridge, leather steering wheel and a heated windscreen.
Power is provided by the venerable 12.9-litre inline-six cylinder CURSOR 13 with 570-horsepower and 2,500-Newton meters of torque on tap. The clever and IVECO-exclusive HI-SCR exhaust after treatment system does away with the need for active and/or parked particulate filter regeneration, saving valuable time on time-critical jobs.
The class-leading 16-speed HI-TRONIX automatic gearbox takes care of managing the power while an optional retarder makes light work of keeping 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, and 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 50th year in business,” commented G&B Finch MD, 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-odd years.”
“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,” added IVECO Heavy Business-line Director, Gareth Lumsdaine.
“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. Something that leaves no doubt as to the nature of their business and shows real pride in their work. On behalf of IVECO, I wish them a very happy 50th Anniversary, long may they continue work so closely with our brand, and long live the Strator.”
IVECO Stralis X-WAY is Stralis’ heavy-duty sibling, with a focus on perfectly crossing that bridge between off-road durability and on-road driveability. X-WAY is designed from the out-set as a mission-oriented truck, tailored to match an operator’s needs exactly. The range stretches from two-axle tractor units to Tridem rigids and includes the light-weight Super Loader mixer which crucially offers the best payload in its class.