Dan Morley's 1958 Mack B-75 on display in Issaquah, Washington. Power comes via this rig's original Mack Thermodyne 205 in-line 6 cylinder diesel engine; linked to a triplex transmission. The bulldog sculpture that presaged the iconic hood ornament, was created back in 1932, by then-chief engineer, A.F. Masury. (Photo by Terry Parkhurst)
A good case could be made for the belief that the truck, especially the pickup truck, did as much to transform America in the 20th century, as did the Conestoga wagon in the 19th century. One family-based company – Studebaker - made so many wagons, it later transitioned to making trucks. Two brothers with the last name of Mack, also started out making wagons, and transitioned first to buses, and then trucks. Trucks become a part of people's lives, oftentimes because their livelihoods were connected to them; sometimes it was on farms, or other times, it was on highways or even combat zones.
A group of people who understand the value of a good truck, and the history behind them, assembled along with those interested in buses and station wagons, at a drive-in, just off of the I90 freeway, in Issaquah, Washington on July third, just before America's birthday. The venue was the XXX Drive-in, which is so named, not because it indulges in adult fare, but because it started out as a XXX root-beer stand. It still serves food that a self-mocking sign posted by the front door, admits is not what your doctor might wish you to eat; but the burgers and burritos are so popular, that a variety of auto clubs stage events there, from March through September.
Sometimes, collecting vintage trucks runs in families. Dan Morley of Gig Harbor, Washington bought a 1958 Mack B75 from his cousin, Bob Brown; who used to run a wrecking yard on Pacific Highway 99, right on the line between Washington's King and Pierce counties. That yard was for vintage trucks and its specialty was the Mack.
“Bob's 77 now and this was his last truck,” explained Morley of the venerable machine on display. “I bought it to keep it in the family. The triplex transmission has 15 speeds; a three speed auxiliary with a 5 speed main - each of the main gears are split. The diesel has a limited range. 1,500 to 2,100 rpm is about where you want to keep it."
Morley is also the president of the Northwest SAAB owners club. He credits his cousin with getting him interested in trucks.
“I've always liked antique things and Bob certainly played a role,” said Morley. It was 11 years ago, that he purchased a 1951 Chevrolet 1-and-half ton flatbed truck. Now, he's affiliated with the Northwest chapter of the American Truck Historical Society; which brought trucks for the show.
Michelle and Bill Wallace brought a 1928 Ford Model AA truck, painted the correct Ross Moss Green, up from Graham, Washington. It was fitted with the same in-line four cylinder engine you'd find in a Model A Ford automobile, capable of just 40 horsepower at 2,200 rpm. As such, Michelle said, “We trailered it up or we'd still be driving it.”
It had been equipped with a rear platform from the factory. Somewhere in its lifetime, there'd been the addition of a pickup bed and a dumping mechanism – perhaps a dealer made modification. Like all Model AA trucks, the chassis was similar to that of its automotive counterpart, but was substantially larger and heavier to accommodate heavy hauling.
Other unique features of the Model AA truck were an updraft carburetor on the engine, a 6-volt generator, a two-blade fan for the engine, mechanical water and oil pump, a four-row radiator and an electric starter; however, the engine could be hand-cranked to start, if need be. The transmission was a four-speed manual.
Keith Klosterman's “Green Machine,” a 1942 Dodge WC-53, one of just 8,402 built for military use, made people stop and stare. With few remaining, most people had never seen one of these SUV-like Carryall enclosed cab rigs. When set-up for military use, they were equipped with a radio for communications and meant to serve as an officer's portable command vehicle during the Second World War.
The original engine was a 92 brake horsepower, 230.2 cubic-inch flathead, in-line 6 cylinder; but the “Green Machine” had been retrofitted with a Chevrolet V8 of indeterminate displacement. The engine was left in the frame and made operational again; the frame the body sets on is original. The transmission is a SM 420 unit, fitted with a PTO (power take-off unit).
This truck was reportedly purchased for restoration in 1993. It had been setting out in Seattle rain for 8 years, previously. Like most military vehicles, it had been “run hard and put away wet,” as the saying goes. Most of the sheet metal was all right; however, there were reportedly stress fractures everywhere and the electrical system had been gutted.
Restoration started in 1995. Klosterman replaced all missing body panels himself, he said, with OEM (original equipment manufactured) pieces; or he fabricated them. The interior was restored with all original sheet metal. The instruments were replaced, but all dash lights and knobs, as well as dash plates, are original. The seats were replaced, but the floors and trim are original.
While the “Green Machine” was deemed roadworthy in 2001, Klosterman said, “As with all restorations, fine tuning is always going on.”
On an adjacent part of the parking lot was Rod Parkinson's bright red 1950 Chevrolet series 3100 pickup truck. With the hood up, you could see in the immaculate engine bay a “Stovebolt Six,” a 235 cubic inch, in-line 6 cylinder engine; modified with a finned and chromed valve cover and two,c chrome side-draft carburetors.
To some it might be just a truck. But to those assembled for this Sunday, it was a four-wheeled paean to what made America the country it is. – Terry Parkhurst
For information on the American Truck Historical Society, look at: www.aths.org
or write them at: P.O. Box 901611; Kansas City, Missouri 64190-1611
For information on Pfahl Mack truck restorations, in Connecticutt, look at: http://www.macktruckrestorations.com