HORNS!- Truck Parts update and brief history

Welcome back to the blog and Happy Halloween! I am very excited to announce that I finally located and purchased two of the 3 missing parts for our truck which have kept me awake at night since the truck arrived at the Museum- a Carbide gas generator and Klaxon horn! I’ll be covering the horn in detail in this post.

Now, I know what many of you brass-era enthusiasts might be thinking: ‘Ian, that’s a motor cycle horn and not a car horn’. Well, you would be right. Except, that its also the type of horn used on the Liberty trucks and differs slightly from electric motorcycle horns of the time period that closely resemble it. In the many  photos I have scanned through as well as surviving examples, there are two types of horn used- the short bell, rear-push ‘Hand Klaxonet’ style horn appears to be the most common which is also the style that the trucks left the factory with. There was also a long-bell version which looks more like the standard truck horns of the era and is also outlined in a government contract photo from the National Archives as a ‘Class-B truck horn’. This however appears to be in the minority.

The rear-push short bell ‘Hand Klaxonet’ style is the more common of the two and I managed to find one in (very loud) working condition on eBay a month or so ago for around $250. All that remains now is to clean it up a little and paint it to match the truck as was commonly done. I have also noticed that there appears to be a small screen placed inside the bell on some horns in museums. I have not been able to verify if these screens were ever on issued horns at the time, but at the moment it appears to be a post-war feature as most photos show no screen. Our Klaxonet is an original body and mechanism with a reproduction bell. The reproduction bell was actually a large factor in buying is as I felt it was in very nice shape and also helped to reduce the cost slightly from others I had come across. It appears to also be missing several of its 6 retaining screws which affix the bell to the body. These can be easily replaced with new flathead screws and nuts. These screws are also integral to mounting the horn to its bracket.

front view
A very clear photo of a short-bell Hand-Klaxonet style horn mounted on an early production First-series truck.

And there in lies our next hiccup: we have a horn, but no mount. A mounting bracket was one of the few items we were never able to find in all the parts trucks we accumulated over the last decade. We have been carefully studying period photos, as well as photos we have taken of surviving examples such as the truck at the Fort Eustis Transportation Museum and US Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, VA. While we are unsure if these brackets are original, they appear to be so and are also some of the few photos we were able to get close enough to potentially replicate as most original photos are nearly impossible to get a complete walk-around view of. A small pixelated scan of an original manual shows a similar mount but only from the side- this would appear to indicate that this style was in fact original. It appears to be stamped steel and bent after stamping, making it easy to replicate.

Horn mount on MCM
The Hand-Klaxonet-style horn and mount used on the Marine Corps Museum’s second-series truck. Note the contact points where it is mounted.

There is also a mount outlined in the contract photo of the long-bell horn made for ‘Class-B trucks’ under contract for the government. This mount however would not fit the holes already present in the firewall of our truck which remain from a previous horn mount. At this time our money is on the mount style encountered at the Fort Eustis Museum simply because it is of a style which would better perform given the rear-push style of Klaxon horn used and brace the horn best from rear-applied force.

Horn mount from Manual
Horn and mount as outlined by the 1918 Liberty Truck manual (Photo courtesy of Adrian Winget)

I want to thank Will ‘Adrian’ Winget for providing some very helpful information regarding horns and bracket images for this post. Stay tuned for more posts in the future and coverage of the other new part we finally tracked down that our truck was missing- a Carbide gas generator!

Update: October 2018- ‘Nancy’s’ Brakes, Conventions, and Driving!

Hello everyone! Its been a little bit since our last post, so I figured I would update you all on our truck. We have been VERY busy since the Liberty, now officially named ‘Nancy’ in honor of our museum director’s late wife, arrived at our location in late August. She has been driven weekly at minimum and in many cases, daily. Giving me time to get use to the ins and outs of operating the truck and also get it ‘worked in’ so to speak. When the truck came to us, it was tight- crank starting the engine has gotten easier as engine was essentially brand new and completely restored using close to 99% original parts (aside from hoses, a few clamps, seals, and the magneto flexible coupling which we had to have manufactured). Since receiving the truck, it has been officially revealed to the public both at our park and outside it. In fact, the truck’s first public appearance was at this year’s Society of Automotive Engineers ‘Comvec’ national convention in Rosemont, IL. We were personally contacted by Navistar, the convention’s corporate sponsor this year who saw the significance in the truck’s development and now 100-year-old production history. All-around, it was a very fun experience to talk with so many engineers who appreciated the truck for its history and connection to the SAE!

Since Comvec we have continued to run the truck and bring it out for various events throughout the park and around the museum to include the Cantigny Car show which was the weekend following the SAE conference. Over 3,000 people attended and the truck truly stole the show away from our several WW2 vehicles also in attendance. Maintenance and parts hunting have continued to plague us just as any other antique vehicle owner- in particular getting the foot brake working and properly adjusted (breaking an original spring in the process…). This has been a time-consuming affair taking up several of our motor pool volunteer nights over the last month or so. However, I am happy to announce that we finally have the foot pedal not only adjusted but very responsive. With a vehicle of this age and lack of other examples, learning anything mechanically on it is very much a hands-on and flying blind process. In this case, the only documentation we had to go from were small, low quality photocopies of the brake disc system from an original manual from 1919. We are now very familiar with the brake linkages and system on the truck- something I plan to detail in future posts, so stay tuned!

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That’s all for now. Pop back in soon for more updates and some upcoming posts on further history surrounding the truck’s service and parts!