Thirty-six years ago a small New Zealand diesel service company was shoulder-tapped by Sweden’s Scania Industrial & Marine Engine Department to become its local distributor. It was a smart call – the brand’s now thoroughly established here. Story by John Macfarlane.

Our story begins in 1970 when a pair of freshlyqualified 20-year-old diesel mechanics – Ross Williamson and Hugh MacKenzie – founded Wilmac Transport Services to service the local Wellington bus and truck market. Young and keen, they quickly gained a reputation for quality service.

In 1984 – out of the blue – Scania Sweden asked the pair to distribute and service its industrial and marine engines throughout New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands. “We couldn’t believe it – it was a real honour to be asked to represent such a prestigious brand,” says Williamson.

Besides producing its range of engines, Scania was (and is) one of the world’s leading manufacturers of trucks and buses. Despite its reputation overseas, though, the brand wasn’t that well known here in 1984, especially on the marine side, and sales had been modest to say the least.

Since that humble beginning (the marine division was rebranded – South Pacific Diesel Systems) the company’s gone from strength to strength and now has well over a thousand Scania engines on its books, around half in marine applications.


By way of clarification, the Scania brand is now part of the Volkswagen Group. In New Zealand, Scania trucks and buses are distributed by a new company, Scania New Zealand, while Scania marine and industrial engines are handled by South Pacific Diesels.

Scania built its first engine in 1905, making it one of the world’s oldest engine manufacturers. In 1933 it developed a modular approach to its engines – this simplified design, manufacturing, servicing and spares. Basically, whether a Scania engine has five, six or eight cylinders, many of the engine components are identical.

The marine engines are available in three basic families of 9-, 13- or 16-litre capacities, having in-line five, in-line six and V8 configurations respectively. All have individual cylinder heads.

Within these three basic families the horsepower rating ranges from 220hp to 1,200hp. Horsepower rating is determined by application, and governs how hard (and for how long) a particular engine can produce its rated horsepower.

“We want our engines to perform to the very best of their abilities over many years,” says Williamson. “When someone calls about an engine, the first thing we do is establish the duty cycle horsepower the engine’s expected to produce, and for how long.”

Scania’s marine engines all meet IMO (International Maritime Organisation) Tier II emission standards, with many having the option to reach the tougher Tier III standards if required. New Zealand lags behind the rest of the world in this respect – marine engines sold here don’t have to meet IMO Tier II standards, let alone Tier III. For the environment’s sake, one can only hope our government upgrades the regulations.


Many commercial craft on Auckland Harbour are Scania-powered. Based in and around the bottom of Quay St there are four Fullers ferries, a Coastguard boat, two pilot boats, a Customs boat and two 360 Discovery boats – all Scania-powered.

Looking back, Williamson freely acknowledges the help he’s had from those around him:

“A lot of our crew have been with us for years and we wouldn’t be in the position we are now without them. And Scania has been fantastic – we couldn’t have asked for better support.”