Monday, July 31, 2017

The Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, Michigan, July 31, 2017--Part 5: Light Trucks

Since 1977 the best-selling vehicle in the United States without interruption has not been a car at all but the Ford F-Series pickup truck.  The love of light trucks in America is well-documented and the Gilmore Museum opened a special exhibition in May 2017 entitled "Designed For Delivery" featuring early American trucks.  The exhibit was scheduled to run until March 2018 and had 20 different vehicles on loan.  

1907 Cadillac Light Delivery
 In 1904 Cadillac began to manufacture small delivery vans based on their Model B passenger car chassis but soon after their Model M was available exclusively in truck format.  This "C-cab" vehicle offered 45 cubic feet of cargo space and was rated at between 600 and 900 pounds.  Typical of the time, there was no windshield and lights were not offered as standard equipment until 1910.

1914 International Highwheeler (left) and 1919 Dodge Brothers Truxton Conversion "G"  Wrecker (right)
1914 International Highwheeler Model MW

A major manufacturer of farm implements, the International Harvester Company (IHC) began production of light trucks in 1907 and continued to build trucks until 1975.  Its early models were utilitarian, with high ground clearance in recognition of the poor roads of the era.  Originally powered by air-cooled 15 hp 2 cylinder engines, later versions of the Motor Truck offered a more powerful 20 hp water-cooled engine (with the "W" in the "MW" designation indicating water-cooling). With the improvement in roads, conventional trucks replaced the highwheelers by 1915.

1919 Dodge Brothers Wrecker (left) and 1919 Duplex (right)

1919 Duplex
The Duplex Truck Company of Lansing, Michigan, produced trucks from 1916 until 1955, and this four wheel drive truck with solid rubber tires is typical of the kind of vehicle required by the US Army for its logistics in World War I.  Similar trucks were made by Nash and Liberty.  Pierce-Arrow and Packard actually built more trucks than cars during the war.  Duplex, originally based in Charlotte, Michigan, just southwest of Lansing, was noted for its pioneering four wheel drive trucks.  While the company's records are in the Michigan State University archives, very little has been written about the company.

1926 Ford Model T Delivery Truck
Although Ford offered a commercial vehicle in 1905, it was discontinued the following year and subsequently anyone wanting a Ford truck had to build it themselves, using a Ford chassis and engine and a specialized custom body.  Ford began production of a complete truck only in 1924, although the heavier Model TT chassis had been introduced in 1917.  This Model T is a recreation, based on old photos, of the trucks that the Kellogg's cereal company used for deliveries in the late 1920 and early 1930s.  The body is a replica of a Martin-Parry steel side body, produced by a company located in Indianapolis whose factory was eventually bought by General Motors and turned into the Chevrolet Body Division in 1930.

1927 Ford Model TT Delivery Truck
The Model TT was a slightly heavier version of the Model T chassis and was outfitted with various bodies by outside companies, including a specialized version for the carriage of cases of soft drinks.  Coca-Cola was sold by independent distributors although the company recommended particular colours for the trucks.  This example could carry 72 cases of bottles.  The TT was liked because of its low price and durability, although with a suggested top speed of 15 mph it was probably a bit frustrating to drive.

1924 GMC KC116G 1 Ton Truck
The General Motors Truck Company of the General Motors Company (GMC) was founded in 1911, combining two GM subsidiaries that made commercial vehicles starting when GM began in 1902.  This truck was purchased new for agricultural duties in Posen, Michigan, a potato-growing area, and was discovered surprisingly intact in 2000.  It subsequently received a full restoration.  It is powered by a 32 hp 4 cylinder engine and would have cost $1,295 when new.

1919 Dodge Brother Screen Side Business Car
Starting in 1917, Dodge Brothers made these screen side trucks for commercial purposes and this particular vehicle, with right-hand drive, was used in Oxford, England, at the Morris Garages (MG) facility.

1935 Dodge KCL Panel Truck

1936 Mack Jr 1/2 Ton Pickup Truck
Mack is a famous name in big trucks but in the 1930s the company briefly tried to enter the light truck market with the Mack Jr (no period or use of "Junior"), which was actually produced in Lansing, Michigan by the REO Motor Car Company to Mack specifications.  Introduced in 1936, the Jr sold fairly well that year but it was not price-competitive with offerings from manufacturers such as Ford and GM and the experiment ended in 1938 after a production run of about 5,000 trucks in eight different body styles.  Today it is believed that fewer than 20 still exist.

1947 Hudson Coupe Express 3/4 Ton Pickup Truck
Hudson, noted for its mid-market cars, was also a producer of light trucks for two decades.  This final model, introduced at the end of 1946, featured a cavernous cargo box offering 48 cu. ft. of storage space.  By using a car as a basis for a pickup, Hudson was ahead of Ford's 1957 Ranchero and the 1959 El Camino from Chevrolet.

1937 Studebaker Coupe Express
An even earlier melding of car and truck was this combination of Studebaker's popular Dictator passenger car body with a pickup truck box.  Studebaker considered it to be an extension of its car lineup rather than a commercial vehicle and it offered the plush interior fittings of the car.  3,125 were produced, selling for $695.

1959 Chevrolet El Camino
Released as a competitor to Ford's full-sized Ranchero, the wildly-styled El Camino was the first Chevrolet pickup truck to feature a metal box floor rather than wood.  It took its styling cues from the controversial line of 1959 Chevrolets and offered all the trim levels and options of those cars, including the top-of-the-line Impala. 22,246 were sold in 1959, easily overtaking the Ranchero production of 14,169 that year.  Those fins! So cool...

1963 Chevrolet Corvair 95 Rampside Pickup
Included in the revolutionary line of Corvair cars from General Motors, this light truck used the same air-cooled rear engine layout as the passenger cars albeit with a shorter wheelbase.  As the name implies, the Rampside offered an unusual point of access on the side of the vehicle to facilitate loading.  The practicality of the truck must have been limited by the box floor, which was not flat in order to accommodate the drivetrain but that ramp was brilliant.  In any event, GM's attempt to beat Volkswagen--even by offering the Corvair as a sedan, coupe, convertible, station wagon, two pickups and a van--did not succeed.  Introduced in 1960, the last Corvairs rolled off the line in 1969, although the Rampside was already gone by 1965.

1928 Ford Model AA Fire Truck
The Boyer Fire Apparatus Company in Indiana built its fire truck units on common truck chassis for reliability and this example used Ford Model AA underpinnings.  This fire truck served in Indiana for many years before coming into the hands of collectors, and the current owner had it restored in Nevada to its red and gold glory.

Continue to Part 6 of the Gilmore Auto Museum visit here.

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