Golly oh boy … it’s been quiet a long time since we provided any update on our big beast. Nevertheless, that does not mean we have not been working our tails off to get the old girl up and running. Since our last update, both drive shafts have been installed, the rear and only brakes have been all hooked up and tons of work has been done to the engine. Hoping to start the almost 100-year-old engine in a few weeks, we have been pushing hard to get it ready. The oil pan is on, which by the way, is the entire size of the engine. The water pump has been rebuilt and installed. The hoses are connected and the carburetor has been rebuilt and is ready to go on. Having only a few more steps to complete (and a couple of more mysteries to reveal), this old girl will speak again in a short time. So stay tuned … we are hoping that our next post will be of the engine running.
We knew that this old beast was going to test our knowledge and skills right from the beginning of the project. Already, we learned that manuals were scarce, only photocopies floating around. To add to that problem, parts were even more rare since many of these trucks did not survive. On top of all that, this little princess was not at her very best. She weathered many long years without a makeover and a full spa treatment was in order.
One of our first and very challenging tests was correcting the length of the frame. Prior to truck coming to us, it was used West by a mining company. During its tenure there, the truck was beefed up and the frame lengthened.
To correct everything, we removed the 3/8” steel sub frame (which was riveted on) and filled the holes … that was the easy part! The real test was correcting the foot and half lengthening of the frame. It sounds easy, but when the mining company lengthened the frame, they also moved the entire rear end of the truck back too. So it was on us to cut the rivets, relocate the springs/rear, remove the added frame part and attach everything back on. Not so bad … BUT … everything was riveted on. Now we could have taken the easy way out, but no, we already set on the path of taking no shortcuts. That means instead of using bolts to put everything on, we needed to learn how to hot rivet. Fun, Fun!
So Chris set off to learn how to hot rivet and brought the skill back to his team. After many attempts and lots of practice, we did our princess right. We took no shortcuts and hot riveted the entire rear-end. We brought back a dying art/trade and applied it to our restoration. Ultimately, as we restore this Liberty Truck, we are also learning the skills of the men that built these vehicles in the early 20th century.
by Laura Sears, Volunteer and Public Programs Coordinator
I am so excited to be the Liberty Truck Blog’s first guest blogger. As the Volunteer Coordinator for the First Division Museum, I must admit that my knowledge on all things Liberty Truck is limited. However, with Volunteer Appreciation Month going on, I thought we could take a quick break from the technical side of things and learn a little more about the volunteers behind this historic project.
Over 20 volunteers make up the Motor Pool’s volunteer crew. They meet weekly to maintain the museum’s macro collection. Their weekly tasks can be something as simple as an oil change on one of our World War II jeeps or as complex as engine work on the Liberty Truck. The levels of gearhead knowledge vary amongst the volunteers. No prior experience is necessary to become a motor pool volunteer. When I find myself down at the motor pool, on a Wednesday evening, it is not out of the ordinary to find a young high school or college aged volunteer learning basic, or advanced, mechanical skills from Chris, Alicia, or one of our more seasoned volunteers.
The volunteers are really enjoying the challenge of The Liberty Truck project. It is a complex project that requires hours of research and a lot of attention to detail. It is because of the volunteer’s hard work and dedication that we are able to bring the history of the 1st Infantry Division to life. We really couldn’t do it without them. April is National Volunteer Appreciation month, so to say thank you for all their hard work we decided to throw the volunteers a surprise pizza party!
In the upcoming months, we will be featuring more about this amazing Volunteer crew and their work on the Liberty Truck Project. You can read more about our volunteer opportunities on our website: http://firstdivisionmuseum.org/about/volunteer.aspx
Over the last couple of weeks, we have been illustrating different aspects of the Standardized B Military Truck (Liberty Truck). We have shown you the monstrous wheels of the vehicle and highlighted the engine that makes it all work. We have even shown you some great period photos and documents on the truck. Yet, we never really covered the reasoning behind the truck and its importance in today’s military.
Prior to the design of the Liberty Truck, the military used several different manufactures for their military vehicles; FWD, Packard and Pierce Arrow are just a few of them. This of course created many problems for transportation at the front. One problem in particular was the amount of spare parts needed for all the varieties of trucks used. During the war, to keep the motorized fleet of the Allied military afloat, a 12 story building housing over 2,000,000 parts and needing hundreds of clerks was required. At the same time, mechanics and operators were forced to learn different vehicles and the how to work on each one. Just imagine the learning curve that the soldier/mechanic had to deal with, all while dealing with the pressures of war and the enemy on their doorstep. Heck, mechanics today have a problem working on vehicles outside their knowledge.
Could you imagine taking a Toyota Highlander into a Chevy dealer and saying you have a problem? The mechanic would most likely look at you with crossed eyes. Yet, prior to the introduction of the Liberty Truck, the military mechanic and operator had to do such a thing.
The creation of the Liberty Truck solved many problems. Though it was not considered to be the “ultimate truck” it did cut the spare parts inventory to approximately 7,500. As an observer stated in 1917, “if the army possessed a million of them, there would still be only 7,500 kinds of parts to carry for repairs and replacements.” At the same time, it allowed the mechanic and operator to learn and become extremely familiar with one vehicle instead somewhat familiar with dozens. Lastly, the Liberty Truck brought together the best minds in the automotive industry of the time to create a machine to help win the war. In the long term however, the Standardized B Military truck set the stage for standardization of the military. From January 1, 1918 all the way up to today’s military, the United States military vehicle fleet has been and will be standardized.
When our first Liberty Truck rolled into the museum, one of the first things that caught all of our eyes was the size of the engine. This thing was massive! Cranking out a whopping 52 bhp, this 425 cubic inch engine moves the Liberty Truck at a max speed of 15mph. But what it lacks in speed, is made up in torque. Made by Waukesha. It is a four cylinder, L head engine. For the gearheads, the bore is 4 ¾ inches and it has a six-inch stroke. Yeah, the pistons are like coffee cans. What is even more impressive is the use of aluminum in the engine. The entire engine block is all aluminum and the cylinder heads and carriers are steel. The fly wheel feels like it weighs 150 pounds.
When it came time to restoring this beast, we decided to let people with the right tooling and experience bring this engine alive. Reaching out to FX Engines in Mokena, it took about two years to complete the project. With parts for this engine not really available at your local NAPA store, most of the time was finding them or having gaskets cut, repairing cracked cylinder walls and etc. Currently, the engine is in the truck but we have not cranked it over yet. We still have the water pump and original carburetor to fix… we plan on hearing this thing turn over and run by the end of the year, if not sooner. So stay tuned for that!
View more photos on our Facebook page!
When we first received our Liberty Truck and all the others, we had to make a decision on what to do with the tires … considering it does need to roll. We had such questions as, do we use steel or wood spoke wheels, where do we get new rubber for these beasts and what are the markings on tires? After doing research and staring at pictures for hours, we found that both wood and steel wheels were interchangeable in both series of vehicles (1st and 2nd series). You would see all steel, all wood or a combination of wood and steel together.
Even after looking at ordering receipts/request by the Quartermasters Corp for parts, they continued to ask for both styles (wood and steel) by the manufactures. Therefore, when we needed to decide on our route, we considered how the vehicle is going to be used and the maintenance factors. We ended up going with original steel wheels.
By the way, the steel wheels weight roughly 300 lbs for each front wheel and 600 lbs for each back.
As for the markings and where to get these monsters rerubbered, that was another hurdle to tackle. Once again, after studying the photos under magnifying glasses and looking at other resources, we discovered that there were no manufacture stamping on the military tires, other than the size of the tire (38X5 front, 40X6 back). Also, we noticed that the tires were smooth with no diamond or other tread patterns on them … they were the predecessor for the modern slick. Nevertheless, we had to find someone to take on such a job since most companies only do smaller vehicles.
After much looking around and contacting resources, we found Canton Bandag in Ohio. These guys were great. They not only knew how to tackle these beasts, but they also used original equipment and techniques to apply the solid rubber on the wheels. Take a look and you tell me what you think. In my opinion, they look grrrreat!
Since the start of this project we have been collecting photos, advertisements, manuals, drawings … pretty much anything and everything on Liberty Trucks. We have come across some very interesting items, such as 1920 US Army Quartermaster Auction flyers (which contain serial numbers of vehicles being auctioned), 1917 magazine write ups about the “New Army Truck,” to personal photos taken out of scrap books. What makes these items interesting is they are all original!
Here are some original photos taken out of various scrap books. These photos are a link to the past and help us during our research and restoration.
Nevertheless, we are always on the hunt and search every minute for that new find. Each photo, manual, news clipping or manufacture advertisement gives us a better window into the past. It allows us to accurately restore this forgotten vehicle to its best days.
When we first started the Liberty Truck project, it seemed like there was no end to this beast. Finding parts that did not exist, locating research that was non-existent and getting past the layers of rust and 100 year old grease was and still is very difficult. But we did it and we love doing it!
For over a year, we sifted through countless parts and collected other trucks from all over the country. We micro analyzed rusty bolts and foreign parts to see what useful information we could find. Some parts and bolts were so broken down and rusted, we never figured out what they were. At one point we even had six of these titans to accomplish our goal of finding parts.
Photo: Chris and driver Jim Demer pick up a semi-truck load of Liberty Trucks and parts from Kentucky.