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.




One thought on “Liberty Truck Paint and Markings PART 1: You guessed it- LEAD

  1. Oh Ian,
    Though your write up about paint is good, it is obvious that you are a researcher and not a worker or restorer (which is fine). The reason I say that is because if you mix that 1916 paint receipt up, it does not give you a greenish mixture or OD, it gives you tan. How do I know that, because I have personally mixed it. I even went so far to use pure white lead and raw umber from the region that the United States, at that time (1918) would have imported it from (since raw umber comes from all over the world). Furthermore, the gloss looks comes from the linseed oil that was used in paints back then, not the Japanese dyer. Lastly, BAPS or you did not do the research for the green you got for your truck. A gentleman named Mark Ounan is the man behind it. He is the one that collected sample after sample of original greens from WWI vehicles and matched the color. BAPS just mixed it. That is why it’s called Dodge#6. Mark is known well in the community of WWI vehicle restoration and his Dodge is very well done. He deserves the credit not you.

    All the best,


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