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.”

 

 

4 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Trucks: The First and Second-series Liberty Trucks

  1. My Great Grandmother Mary Payton Sibley Britigan drove a Liberty Truck and this is the first time I have seen them mentioned. I will have to find where I put her information. She was a Captain and received a medal for her service. The ribbon are falling apart. Hopefully you may be able to give me guidance in where I can find this information. Thank you so much!

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    • Hello Joyce and thanks for taking a look at our blog! I’m glad we can be a connection for you to your family’s past. Do you have an idea of when/where exactly your great grandmother drove? If we know at least a year and potentially location in Europe or the US that is a good place to start and we can help you from there!

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  2. 1st series had reserve tank under passenger seat almost identical to the 2nd series, but you had a single “dump” ball valve to fill a fuel can and manually transfer fuel to the dash mounted fuel tank VS Type II using a pump to transfer the fluid. The battery area on the Type II became additional storage from what I have found (or not found)
    V/R W Winget Virginia
    PS: nice articles.

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    • Thanks Adrian! I had been back and forth over the reserve tank issue from reading items and seeing surviving trucks and had always believed it was only a second series thing- I guess the transfer pump was just an improvement over actually draining the reserve and filling the primary in the first series!

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