Part of America’s identity is associated with the truck. The media is filled with images of the wondrously rugged vehicle hauling endless cargo, serving its intended purpose and showing off its horsepower. This multi-functional vehicle has critical application in all sorts of industry and commerce and has come a long way since its first referenced incarnation in 1611, when the actual word “truck” was used for wheel carriages on ship cannons. The overall etymology behind “truck” is disputed by scholars, but the word began to be associated with carrying heavy cargo in 1771 – a much closer association to the truck we know today.
Early American fire engines were called trucks. Much like their ship cannon predecessors, these trucks were water pump rigs on wheels that were pulled to the emergency location by humans. This proved to be an ineffective means of transporting water to the fire, and in the mid-1800s the fire trucks were redesigned to be pulled by horses. In 1841, New York built the first steam-powered fire engine, but firefighters were wary of the stability of the steam-propelled vehicle and didn’t like using it. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that fire trucks became motorized, with a majority of their advancement in technology occurring in the twentieth century.
Society for the Preservation & Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America – Old fire trucks are a great part of American history and this society has a whole site dedicated to maintaining old fire trucks.
Buzman’s Antique Fire Trucks – A site filled with information and pictures of antique fire trucks; the site is dedicated to the Preservation of Fire Service in the U.S.
Box 8 Club – Another club dedicated to the appreciate of old fire trucks.
American Truck Historical Society – A site dedicated to classic trucks; has a variety of information, pictures and links on all things trucks.
The first motorized truck was a pickup and was designed and built by Gottlieb Daimler in 1896. This mechanical marvel operated in two forward speeds and one reverse, all powered by a belt-driven four horsepower engine. Henry Ford built his first truck in 1900, which was the third vehicle he built. In 1917, Ford built the first chassis for a pickup, the Model-T One-Ton truck chassis. Some early commercial uses of the first Ford pickups included ice cream trucks, depot hacks and converted snowmobiles.
Despite these industrial advances, Henry Ford didn’t bring the pickup truck to the American masses until 1925, when the Ford Motor Company assembly lines produced a variation of the Model T. Ford lovingly called his pickup truck the “Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body,” and consumers paid $281 to own one of the 34,000 trucks built that year, which supported cargo boxes, four tie downs and adjustable tailgates on heavy-duty rear springs. These trucks proved invaluable to farmers and others who required a vehicle for hauling loads or pulling tractors.
Ford built the Model A pickup in 1928 and gave Americans their first enclosed cab. The Model A was driven by a 40 horsepower, four-cylinder L-head engine with a three-speed transmission. Other amenities included protective glass on the windshield and side windows drivers could roll up. Compared to the rear backing cameras and GPS systems trucks boast today, these simple pleasures might seem trivial. But to drivers in the 1920s, the amenities were pure luxury.
Commercial trucks in America, or big rigs as they are affectionately called, were a vision of John Mack, who, along with his brothers Gus and William, formed the Mack Brothers Company in 1902. The brothers venture began prior to their company’s formation, when they experimented with steam-powered engine and electric motor cars in 1894. By 1900, the Mack brothers were manufacturing buses, which were first used for sightseeing tours. In 1907, John Mack realized his dreamed and manufactured his first truck; by 1909 Mack introduced the first 1 1/2 ton truck.
The Mack brothers’ trucks quickly became officially known as “Mack Trucks,” and the brothers’ truck building extended into fire trucks, including America’s first motorized hook and ladder rig in 1910 – Morristown, New Jersey was the lucky recipient of this firefighting tool. The U.S. Army enlisted Mack trucks in 1919 to study America’s need for a national highway system. Mack trucks were critical in hauling materials and used in building operations during major U.S. construction projects, including the Hoover Dam. Today, “Big Macks” are used by the trucking industry for all types of heavy-duty and long-distance transport.
Mack Truck – 1900-present – A brief history on the Mack brothers and how their trucks evolved over time.
Hanks Truck Pictures – Some artwork of old trucks as well as pictures of old Mack trucks from the 1940’s to late 1990’s.
St. Louis Dump Trucks – This site is dedicated to all things trucks, they even have a page dedicated to old Mack trucks.
Mack F-series (1962-1979) – TrucksPlanet.com has made a page with information and pictures of Mack trucks from this era.
Old Macks – A company that is about all things Mack, especially when it comes to the restoration of old trucks.
Trucks, both personal and commercial, have evolved into amazing machines today. Design and fuel technology have given personal and professional drivers safety features, comfort, luxury and sustainability that truck designers and manufacturers could never have dreamt of in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Antique truck collectors know however, that nothing compares to the charm these original vehicles possess. A modern-day Ford truck is a thing of beauty, no doubt, but a 1925 Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body has the charisma and magic of a vehicle that changed time, which it most certainly did.
Please enjoy learning more about the antique trucks that make America great by clicking on the following links:
Purdue University College of Engineering – Browse through the photo collections of the restorations of various antique trucks and tractors presented by Purdue University’s Engineering School.
University of Southern California – USC students focus on classic trucks of the 1940’s in this informative pictorial with an emphasis on Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge models.
STL TIKN Machinery – Early 20th century vehicles are featured in this pictorial, including the 1916 Yuba Ball Tread Tractor, the 1926 Rehberger Tow Truck and various antique Caterpillars.
Hammer Down Classic Trucks – Taken from various antique and truck appreciation shows, this Hammer Down photo collection includes classic pickup and big rig trucks.
Hays Antique Truck Museum – Per its website, the Hays Antique Truck Museum boasts one of the largest collections of antique trucks in America. Take a look at some of the trucks here.
University of North Texas – UNT’s Portal to Texas History houses a classic photograph of firefighters and their antique truck taken at what was Dallas Fire Department Station #15 at the time the photo was snapped.
Antique Truck Club of America – This club established in 1971 has a list of links that are great for any truck or auto enthusiast.
Iowa 80 Trucking Museum – Fun facts on trucks from how much they weigh, to cost, to even the longest interstate in the U.S.
All American Truck Company – Established in 1947 this site is not only about toy model trucks but it lists sites on truckings, truck museums, photo collections and finding a job in trucking.
Willys Jeep Trucks – I real lover on antique trucks, all his life Willy has preserved and maintained his 1976 Datsun pickup and talks about his passion for trucks on his website.
How to Buy an Old Truck – An article on shopping around for old trucks with advice on knowing what to look for, what not to look for and price.
OldTruckPictures.com – A site dedicated to remembering and capturing trucks throughout American history.
1960classiccars.com – A site dedicated to one of the most influencing eras in American history; the 1960s also had quite a collection of cars and trucks.
Brad’s Classic Trucks – A lover of trucks since he was a kid, Brad has made a whole website dedicated to classic trucks; he talks about his knowledge and history with trucks.
Roadsters.com – A site dedicated to old and classic cars and trucks lists parts and resources for trucks.
Fourth Street Garage – The author talks about a family garage that began in the 1930s and list several links to all several classic car resources.
Old Time Trucks – A list of organizations, museums, company histories and general interest in classic trucks.