IT’S ALIVE!

 

At 1:30pm Eastern Standard time after over 10 years of blood sweat and tears from the combined efforts of three different Cantigny Park historic motor pool managers, a team of volunteers and professional restoration specialists, our Second series Class-B Standardized Military ‘Liberty’ Truck is ALIVE!!! The engine cranked right over and after a few small throttle and magneto adjustments ran smooth as silk and was shortly thereafter driven around the property of Firebrand LLC in Woodstock, GA. the truck drives flawlessly in forward and reverse gears and shifts perfectly and stops completely. The First Division Museum staff are extremely excited to finally see this decades-long project come to an end and bring the sights, sounds and smells of a war now 100 years past to life. A VERY special thanks to Tom Bailey at Firebrand for all his work in the last few months bringing our truck’s restoration to completion. We will be flying out to his shop at the end of the week to inspect, drive, and film the truck before its triumphant return to Cantigny Park!

A Tale of Two Trucks: The First and Second-series Liberty Trucks

Hello and welcome back to another post from Libertytruck.org! Today we are addressing a long overdue review of an important subject- types of Liberty Trucks! While there are many variations and civilian adaptations after the war (which we will follow up on in the future), you may have noticed in certain photos that there are some small differences between trucks: handle bar size, lighting systems, and wheels to name a few. That’s why right now we are going to address the most obvious differences between the first and second series of class-B Standardized military truck or ‘Liberty Truck’.

3-ton Standard Truck showing skid chains
A ‘pure’ first series Liberty truck showing the features of the first production trucks- Electric lights, wooden wheels, screw-top radiator cap and smaller cab handles are clearly visible as well as the elongated front fenders in this 1918 photo. Note the rear tire chains.

1st Series 
The first production Liberties to roll off the assembly line in January and February of 1918 were of course, the first series. These had many of the features of the prototypes tested in late 1917. The 1917 liberty truck and first prototypes are easily identified in photos by their single-bolt bumper beams. This was later changed to 4-bolts per side for production models and remained the standard for both types of truck. The rest of the features of the prototype would become hallmarks of the first series truck:

-Electric lighting system; a 6V battery located beneath the driver-side seat powering the head, tail, and side lamps, as well as a dash-mounted plug-in ‘trouble light’.

-Screw-top removable radiator cap

-Small style cab side handles

-Angled leaf spring oil cups

-10 Front leaf springs and 17 in the rear

Wooden spoke single 36×5 front and wooden spoke 40×6 dual rear wheels were also very commonly encountered on first series trucks, but are not exclusive to either series. Some first series trucks have left the factory with steel and some with wood. Steel cast wheels became the standard over time and are more commonly encountered on the second series however. I hesitate to make them clear features of one or the other, but felt it necessary to mention at the very least.

Type 2 Liberty Truck Flagged
Close-up of a second-series truck with many of its features-the 2nd type radiator cap is partially obscured, but the new Carbide gas Searchlight and its generator are clearly visible along with the second type oil headlights. Also notice the steel cast wheels and larger cab handles as compared to the first series.

2nd Series

Introduced very late in the war, the second-series of trucks were given a host of new design features and parts and omitted several features of the first. Photo evidence and records suggest none of these trucks managed to make it overseas to Europe. They would become some of the more commonly encountered trucks that survive today despite being the lesser-produced of the two series. The second series was the final iteration of production Liberty Trucks and are easily identified by oil head lamps, a dash-mounted search light and steel wheels. The most distinguishing features of this truck were:

-Oil Lamp lighting for head and tail lamps (battery electrical system was omitted from under the seat as well as dash ‘trouble light’ and front bumper-mounted side lamps)

-Carbide Gas searchlight mounted on center dash and gas generator to power it (mounted on left front of cab/firewall)

-Manual fuel transfer pump to help transfer fuel between main and reserve fuel tanks on the right-hand side of the cab.

-Cab side handles enlarged

-Lower profile spring-clasp non-removable Radiator cap

-Shortened front wheel fenders

-Improved starting crank catch bracket

-Bosch Magneto used in place of previous models (Eisemann, Berling and Dixie types used initially)

-Vertical leaf spring oil cups

-Leaf spring improvement: 12 in the front, 20 in the rear

-‘Spicer’ model propeller shaft

These are not the only differences between the First and Second series Liberty Trucks, but they are some of the most noticeable and obvious when searching photos and researching the truck itself. Naturally many trucks were outfitted from existing stock which meant you would frequently get a truck in use by the Army or post-war organization with a mix of first and second series parts. A mixture of wheels is one of the most commonly encountered.

First Division Liberty Truck, unknown year
One of very few photos of clearly identified 1st Division soldiers using a Liberty which in this case is a second-series. Although undated, the banner’s advertisement for vocational training is an indicator of this photo being taken somewhere between 1920-22 while the Division was briefly located in Kentucky. The passenger-side brass fuel transfer pump added on the second series truck is somewhat visible above the bag hanging on the side of the cab.
Series-2 in use 1918
A second series truck with wooden wheels in use post-war. Note what appears to be a non-standard replacement searchlight design and no acetylene generator in its mount. See upcoming posts for more details on the lighting system used on the trucks.
France, June 6, 1919
A 160-acre lot full of primarily Liberty Trucks in Europe, all of the First-series variety. Many of these trucks likely saw little use other than being driven to the site. The photo’s original caption states these were trucks of the “Advance section, and First and Second Armies. Bourg, Haute Marne, France. June 6, 1919.”

 

 

Liberty Truck Paint and Markings PART 1: You guessed it- LEAD

Army trucks- historically just a big green mass of metal of a generally dull shade that doesn’t immediately stick out of a natural environment. The concept hasn’t strayed too far in over a century and continues in the same respect today. With some slight variations in camouflage patterns, trucks in the US Military have generally remained painted in ‘drab’ colors since their inception and it all started before we even had trucks.
Prior to the official adoption of the Class B Standardized ‘Liberty’ in 1917, the Army of course had many of its own carts, wagons, and caissons which followed some of the same rules that had permeated for decades prior: paint the iron hardware black, and everything else green-ish. The Liberty Truck was no different according to page 116 of the ‘Manual of the Motor Transport Corps’ ca.1919 which stated:

Paint and Insignia- Page 116, 'Manual of the Motor Transport Corps, 1919

Page 598 of the 1916 Manual for the Quartermaster Corps outlines specifically the paint mixture to be used when painting “Army and escort wagons” using the term ‘Olive Drab’ in reference to the color of paint. Though this manual was produced before the standardized truck was introduced, the already established shade for wagons was applied. The shade, when reproduced, resembles the natural color of olives (excluding pimento and black) far more than the greener generic OD#2 and OD#7 we have come to know and love from the days of WW2. It also has a slight ‘semi-gloss’ appearance which dulls over time and hard use. The mixture is as follows:

• 6 Pounds white lead ground in raw linseed oil
• 1 Pound raw umber
• 1 Pint turpentine
• 1 Pint Japan dryer
• 1 Quart raw linseed oil

Paint dipping process- 1 CROPPED
A Class-B truck body floor being submitted to paint-dipping, the primary means for painting parts at the factory. Unknown Manufacturer, 1918.

Naturally, some of these ingredients are more difficult to use now that we know the hazards associated with using them. And despite the US not being a signatory to the 1921 White Lead Convention (look it up), white lead is now largely impossible to obtain without certain licensing and paperwork in amounts larger than 150mL, making the reproduction of this recipe a tad difficult. Having the correct paint was extremely important to us given the length of this project as well as our desire for attention to detail. While we had seen various other examples of the Standard B as static pieces on display for comparison, few appear to have correctly matched the paint recipe as listed in 1916. We initially attempted to reproduce this in small scale several years ago and were successful, but to have enough of the paint to cover our truck was going to require far more paint than we could ever hope to produce.

Thanks to tireless research, and the help of BAPS Auto Paint and Supply in York, PA, we were able to correctly match our original paint using computer software to bring our project even closer to completion. We were fortunate to find some original samples for comparison underneath the data plate of one of our many parts trucks as well as samples of our lead small-batch. As the project has progressed we have actually run out of paint (again) and are at present considering an oil-based machinery enamel which very closely resembles the semi-gloss finish of original paint seen in photos.

 

Troop seats installed- 11JUL2018
A shot of the completed and dried paint mix applied to the troop seats of our truck restoration at Firebrand in Woodstock, GA. Though a bit dusty, the semi-gloss of the bolt heads is apparent. This was the result of our custom paint batch matched by BAPS paint of York, PA.