The mysterious steel cargo body: The Class-B Standardized 3-ton ‘Liberty Truck’ was assembled by several factories throughout the Midwestern United States, and built from parts made by well-over 150 companies. Some of those companies made the cargo body for the truck, and fewer made a steel-sided version. But with little to no photos showing them on the truck the question that begs to be asked is, well, what happened?
To begin with, we know very little about the steel Class-B cargo bodies; we know they existed and were manufactured in mass quantities along side the wooden standard body, but little more is known as to their purpose or use. Many of the photos found in the National Archives state the bodies as being produced for ‘Class-B standardized trucks’, so the assumption is that they were intended for use with the Liberty as well as other 3-5-ton trucks. The exact introduction date of steel-sided cargo bodies is unknown at this time. They are believed to have been introduced early in 1918 following the beginning of full-scale Standard-B production. They were more than likely introduced after the wooden body and remained the lesser produced of the two body types given the need for steel in other areas of industry.
Seeing the use of other trucks like the Four Wheel Drive (FWD) and Nash Quads, we know that steel cargo bodies were preferred within the Army for the transport of munitions and other heavy but sensitive items so it is possible that this was the intended purpose which would’ve made the Class-B Liberty more versatile. No examples of the steel body remain in existence today so far as we have been able to tell. E.G. Budd Manufacturing Co., and J.G. Brill & Co. (both from Philadelphia) produced the steel bodies beginning in mid-1918 to the end of production in 1919. Budd is known to have produced both what appears to be a rigid non-folding style of body (fig.1) as well as a ‘collapsible’ all-steel design to aid in break-down for shipment of the trucks overseas (fig.3).
At this time we know little about the steel cargo body- we know they were made, and we know they were intended for Class-B standardized use. If any made it onto Liberties or to Europe is unknown, but I felt it was an interesting tidbit of info related to the liberty that I felt compelled to share. Having been produced alongside the wooden body at the same time the intent is clear. The implementation however, is far less certain.
Edit as of 12 July, 2018:
The LeMay/Marymount Family Automobile Collection reached out to us following the release of this post and has been very helpful in providing us photos of their own unrestored Liberty truck (one of two non-running examples within the collection) with an entirely intact E.G.Budd manufactured steel cargo body. To my knowledge this is one of the only surviving examples of an E.G.Budd body much less one which is still attached to a Liberty truck specifically. While it was most likely a post-war modification, it is wonderful evidence of use of the steel cargo bed with the truck. However, we have still yet to discover any evidence of trucks leaving the factory with steel bodies attached making the Steel Cargo body still a bit of an enigma and certainly nowhere near as prevalent as the standard wooden body. We would like to thank Dave Gaddis for providing Photos Courtesy of the LeMay Family Collection near Tacoma, WA.