Wheels on the Truck

When we first received our Liberty Truck and all the others, we had to make a decision on what to do with the tires … considering it does need to roll. We had such questions as, do we use steel or wood spoke wheels, where do we get new rubber for these beasts and what are the markings on tires? After doing research and staring at pictures for hours, we found that both wood and steel wheels were interchangeable in both series of vehicles (1st and 2nd series). You would see all steel, all wood or a combination of wood and steel together.

Even after looking at ordering receipts/request by the Quartermasters Corp for parts, they continued to ask for both styles (wood and steel) by the manufactures. Therefore, when we needed to decide on our route, we considered how the vehicle is going to be used and the maintenance factors. We ended up going with original steel wheels.

By the way, the steel wheels weight roughly 300 lbs for each front wheel and 600 lbs for each back.

As for the markings and where to get these monsters rerubbered, that was another hurdle to tackle. Once again, after studying the photos under magnifying glasses and looking at other resources, we discovered that there were no manufacture stamping on the military tires, other than the size of the tire (38X5 front, 40X6 back). Also, we noticed that the tires were smooth with no diamond or other tread patterns on them … they were the predecessor for the modern slick. Nevertheless, we had to find someone to take on such a job since most companies only do smaller vehicles.

After much looking around and contacting resources, we found Canton Bandag in Ohio. These guys were great. They not only knew how to tackle these beasts, but they also used original equipment and techniques to apply the solid rubber on the wheels. Take a look and you tell me what you think. In my opinion, they look grrrreat!

7 thoughts on “Wheels on the Truck

    • The wheels were painted first before the tires were pressed on. It made it easier for the company, Canton Bandag to complete the process.


  1. What type of paint are you using for the truck? Multi-layer Lacquer or “varnish” applied by hand with a brush? Modern day single stage urethane? There were no spray guns in 1917 [they were invented in the 1930’s].


    • As for the paint, we are using a two stage process, however, it is not a Home Depot mixture or a guess with the color. When we finally established the exact color we needed, we had a company grind the paint to match it actually. We are extremely confidant it matches the original green used by the military during WWI. Prior to that, we used original Army formulas of the time and mixed it to exact specifications … to include using white lead in the paint. However, we decide not to use the lead version due to safety reasons.

      As for applying the paint, the initial coat has been sprayed on to prevent any rusting or damage to the metal … while we continue the rest of the work. Nevertheless, I do agree with you that earlier painting was either brushed on or dipped. At the same time, the spray guns was actually invented right around the 1900s, with the first industrial use in the teens. They started to use spray guns on vehicles in the early 1920s.


    • Just want to follow up on this post. I recently discovered some new information that the McCormick Works (International Harvester) were using spray technology in the 1916/1917 time frame. Most likely a fairly new technique in painting, the company evaluated/compared the spray guns approach to the traditional dipping and hand painting approach.

      To add to this, International Harvester had a contract with the Army to build wood beds for the Liberty Truck. They were contracted to build 10,000 beds, however, that was cut short because of the wars end.

      I hope this helps John, let me know if you have any other question.


  2. The Liberty truck at the US Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis has treads on the rear tires and a line bisecting the front tire [i.e. a channel for liquid to disperse in].
    Did you speak with them to see why they put treads on their tires? From the pictures you shared of the wheels you have, they are worn so much, how could you be sure they did not have treads on them? You also refer to the tires as akin to a modern slick. The purpose of the modern “slick” is to provide 100% traction on a controlled, dry surface [such as a race track] for quick speed.


  3. We did not talk to the Transportation Museum regarding this specific aspect, nevertheless we did our research. Looking at more than 50 different photos of Liberty Trucks during World War I and the interwar period, we found that all had smooth tires …. both the front and rear. On the other had, the rear tires were bisected, actually they are really two separate tires on the wheel. I could say with great confidence that I have never seen a war time Liberty Truck with a front tire bisected. I am not aware of why the Transportation Museum used that specific configuration. It could have been what the vehicle had on it when the museum acquired it or other unknown reasons. We would never go off a worn tire without doing our research. Plus, how would we, or you, or anyone know if those tires were replaced after the war. The Army used these vehicles into the 1930s, ultimately switching to pneumatic tires. Yet many were auctioned off to the public and used in many different roles. Tires wear out and they get replace to meet the demands of the owner.

    As for the “slick” comment, it was not intended to be taken literally … on a technical or performance basis. It was referring to the appearance of the tire. Used as a joke, to keep things light. I apologize if you misunderstood its purpose.


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