From investing $600 in a dream, to running a multi-national 4WD parts company: the Don Kyatt story is an inspirational one

Brent (left) and Frank Hutchinson (right) with Bill King from AAT Kings.

More than five decades ago, Frank Hutchinson and Don Kyatt were both working at genuine parts supplier GV Clarks when they decided to take a huge risk and leave the company to go into business for themselves, each investing $300 in 1969 to set up Don Kyatt Spare Parts.
Each morning Frank would leave early for work and visit all of the workshops asking what parts they needed. He would then visit GV Clarks, where he and Don had arranged an account with a 30 percent discount, and purchase all the required parts, returning to the workshops with those parts and on-selling them with a 10 percent discount.
This saw Don Kyatt Spare Parts operating on a 20 percent margin in a win-win arrangement for everyone.
“Don and Frank didn’t have much money. Both of them had jobs after hours. Don was a cleaner, and Frank used to pull beers at the local pub,” explains Frank’s son Brent Hutchinson, who is now General Manager of Don Kyatt Group.
“They started with only $600, but they had a massive catalogue of GV Clark stock.”
One of Don Kyatt Spare Parts’ early customers was Bill King, who owned bus touring company AAT Kings.
Bill converted Bedford 4WDs into mini buses with which he would take customers deep into the Australian outback, visiting famous landmarks such as Uluru.
Bill’s buses needed to be reliable and often the standard components couldn’t handle the extreme Australian outback conditions he subjected them to.
Don Kyatt Spare Parts began strengthening and modifying suspension parts for Bill’s buses and that’s how the company found its niche in developing and supplying 4WD components under the Terrain Tamer brand.
“Bill would break things on his way, which can be very dangerous, and so he would then bring the broken part back to Frank and it was Frank’s job to source a stronger part from overseas or to modify a part here in Melbourne,” Brent explains.
“Often Frank would use his network of mechanics in Melbourne to modify gears, modify suspension…even working on small things like developing a protective area for the radiators that would otherwise harvest grass which would block the radiators.
“It becomes so important when it is life and death if you get stuck out there with a 4WD full of people. Suddenly making sure it is reliable becomes very important.”

Don Kyatt Group’s Tottenham Head Office

Today Don Kyatt Spare Parts has branches in Australia, New Zealand, France, Fiji, PNG, South Africa, and Chile.
Brent says it is the innovation and customer service that Frank and Don were famous for when they set the company up that remains its biggest asset 55 years later.
While Don sold his shares to the Hutchinson family in 1991 and passed away a short time later, Frank still works full time in the company.
“It is very rare to have the Founder, the same Managing Director working five or six days a week, 55 years later. It is that buildup of knowledge and consistency of service that continues to stand us in good stead to this day,” Brent said.
In 1995 Don Kyatt Spare Parts purchased the FlashLube brand from Wolfgang Kluenner.
“It is all bottled and blended here. But you could drive down an Autobahn in Germany and see FlashLube in the service stations. So, it is a proud export. I know at one stage, we were the biggest exporter of anything between Australia and Croatia,” Brent says.
Brent is very clear when it comes to who Don Kyatt Spare Parts’ customers are.
“Certainly the mechanic needs to fit what we make,” he explains.
“We are not an accessory company. We don’t do bull bars and canopies that could be fitted by most people; reconditioning a diff, changing wheel bearings and brake pads for instance needs to be done by a mechanic.
“Everything we do strategically is about how we get to mechanics and the easiest way to provide them with the world’s best product and the world’s best customer service.”
In fact, Brent describes Don Kyatt Spare Parts’ competitive advantage as being able to service and reach the market quickly through its extensive network of branches both nationally and internationally.
“Locally we can get almost anywhere overnight, which is really crucial to our promise of service. And then export wise, we’ve got eight international branches,” Brent says.
He also believes being a well-resourced private family company as opposed to a big conglomerate that has to answer to shareholders means they are small enough to be agile, while having the funds to remain innovative.
Brent gave the example of a recent radiator development where a 40,000 US dollar outlay was required for tooling alone. He also pointed out that it would be a five-year investment before that product line is likely to break even.
“We’re thinking five, 10, 15, 20 years ahead. Some of our competitors are thinking three months ahead about their next dividend,” Brent says.
“It is no use having all these great ideas and not being able to fund them. We are not a billion-dollar business, but we are not a tiny business either. We are a medium sized business, but it is just that perfect sweet spot for being able to do we want to do.”

Flashlube’s popular Valve Saver Fluid and Pre Filters.

According to Brent, the big decision that made the company what it is today was the decision to push into the international market, starting with New Zealand.
“Forty years ago we went into New Zealand, and it was like the first man coming out of the cave. It was a huge, huge financial investment for a company which at the time didn’t have much money. But what happened is we got confidence and did it again, and then we got confidence and did it again.
“The decision in the seventies for a guy with a briefcase to travel to Japan, travel to Thailand and so on when he had a young family with no mobile phone and no internet was massive for the company.
“And I say the company, but when you’re a family-owned business, it is your family home that’s on the line if everything goes bad.”
Brent says that developing the Terrain Tamer brand early on was also a critical decision.
“It has taken 50 years to get it to where we always wanted it to be with such a complete range,” Brent says.
“We do our own design, which is our promise to the market – nothing hits that branded box or packaging without our design and our testing.
“The Terrain Tamer brand has more than 60,000 lines now, so even if someone tried to copy it, and many have with a lot of big cheque books, it would take them 50 years to get to where we are today.”
Brent says a current challenge for Don Kyatt Spare Parts is developing IT systems that can help it match companies like Amazon for online ordering and distribution. This includes translating all product descriptions into no less than 16 different languages.
Speaking of challenges, while all the talk in the industry is about the impact EVs will have on the aftermarket, Brent believes Don Kyatt Spare Parts is in a good position to meet that particular challenge head on.

Heavy Duty Bearing Kit and the Terrain Tamer famous parabolic leaf spring.

“Suspension, brakes, bearings, all those moving parts are all still required,” Brent says.
“They also need radiators to keep batteries cool. So, there’s a whole bunch of things that we need to develop.”
He also believes that many EV components will need to be re-engineered to survive Australian conditions.
“A lot of the EV technology is being developed in America and China miles away from outback Australia. That is where we as an industry in Australia have always been strong,” he said.
“This is the best testing ground for a 4WD application, which is the reason you see so many Australian brands at the international shows in the 4WD niche because we’ve got the world’s best playground.
“So, once it gets here, we as an aftermarket industry will be able to capitalise on that. It is like, ‘okay the EV of 2030 has arrived, but is it going to be able to travel across the Simpson Desert and what weaknesses will it have and how do we improve that?’ And then we all get to work.”
When asked if there’s any desire to move away from the private family business structure, Brent just smiles and says, “no, we’re having too much fun. We’re not a money-orientated company. One secret is that everything gets reinvested back into the company.
“Frank drove the company’s delivery vehicle home for the first 40 years because if you’re going to buy new cars, you can’t then buy the gearboxes to sell.
“Plus we’ve got close to 200 people now to look after, including a lot who have been in this company for a long time.”
Brent believes the family business philosophy and the story behind the business is why Don Kyatt Spare Parts has developed such a loyal customer base, and the company consciously uses its story to market its products.
“Customers don’t need to know the ins and outs of every single product. They just need to know our story and then they can trust us because they know where we’re coming from. If they know us as people, then they know what’s standing behind the brand.” Brent concludes.

To learn more about the Don Kyatt Group, visit