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!
First Division Musuem staff and volunteers at the SAE Comvec in Rosemont in September 2018
Our set up as part of the SAE’s ‘Mobility History Committee’ who sponsored our movement to and from the convention
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!
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!
Throughout my time writing for this blog and generally working on/with the Liberty truck, I have often been asked ‘Who made the truck’? This is a tricky question because the answer isn’t that simple and really causes me to go down a deep hole of research and information and rattle on and on about war production etc etc. The truth is, well, complicated.
To begin with, the Class-B Standardized military truck was a joint effort from day one: designed by engineers from multiple companies and societies, parts made by over 150 companies, and assembled from those parts by several different factories. This was all intentional of course- although convoluted and complex, the system for producing parts and assembling the trucks was intended to allow for multiple factories to be disrupted or sabotaged and still have several sources for one or more parts. The engines just to name one example, were built by 4 different companies- the batteries were made by seven, the cargo bodies were made by 5, and so on. An October 1917 article in the New York Times titled ‘New Army Truck Mechanical Marvel’ outlines the cooperation in making the engine saying: “…the crank case is Continental, the cylinders Waukesha, the oiling system a combination of Wisconsin and Buda, the pistons Hercules, the timing gear system a combination of Buda, Wisconsin, and Continental. The governor is a combination of Kelly-Springfield and Waukesha. The camshaft is a composite design…What has been said of the engine can be said of the transmission, the axles, and other parts”.
Naturally, a question I often get in regards to the Liberty truck is “Who made them”? In reality, everybody and their brother contributed parts or design features to the truck but it is often attributed to the Quartermaster Corps or Society of Automotive Engineers who actually created the designs for the truck. Because of this, the truck is often listed in reference material as just ‘Liberty’ or ‘Class-B military truck’ with no maker mentioned. The best way to interpret who made the truck, I find, is to list the more recognizable civilian company names that assembled them. Much like cars today, the maker is often considered to be the person who assembles the trucks final components but doesn’t necessarily make all those components themselves. While the trucks were also assembled by Quartermaster soldiers on the factory floor, civilians at 15 different companies- some well known, others long gone- assembled the Liberty trucks in their factories primarily in the Midwest.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks and Commercial Vehicles by Albert Mroz claims a total of 9,364 trucks assembled by 15 companies in total between 1917 and 1918. The breakdown of assemblers and production is as follows:
Bethlehem Motor Truck Corporation of Allentown, PA- 675
Brockway Motor Company of Cortland, NY- 589
Diamond T Motor Car Company of Chicago, IL- 63
Garford Motor Truck Co. of Lima, OH- 978
Gramm-Bernstein Company of Lima, OH- 1,000
Indiana Motor and Vehicle Co. of Indianapolis, IN- 475
Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company of Springfield, OH- 301
Packard of Detroit, MI- 5
Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company of Buffalo, NY- 975
Republic Motor Truck Company of Alma, MI- 967
Selden Motor Vehicle Company of Rochester, NY- 1,000
Service Motor truck Company of Wabash, IN- 337
Sterling Motor Truck Company of Milwaukee, WI- 479
United States Motor Truck Company of Covington, KY- 490
Velie Motors Corporation of Moline, IL- 455
On every Liberty produced there was a data plate- located to the left of the dash- which outlines the basic vehicle information: Serial number (also stamped into the frame and firewall), max load, speed, etc. While the trucks did not list the name of the particular factory that assembled it, they did provide a number corresponding to individual assemblers. This was no doubt done in an attempt to protect the strategic locations of US manufacturing. While it has yet to be officially proven, it is thought within the Liberty Truck community that the assembler number corresponds to the factories within the alphabetical list. For example: assembler number 9 would be the ninth assembler down the alphabetical list, in this case Pierce-Arrow. I would like to remind the reader that this has NOT been officially proven with documentation, but like many things related to the truck, we are missing lots of supporting government documents or have yet to discover them, so this appears to be the current assumption.
While these official numbers are the only ones I have (and am still digging to find Albert Mroz’s source on them), I have also found mention in contemporary documents from after the armistice claiming that trucks would continue to be produced from ‘existing parts’. There is no official number of trucks that I have yet found that outline the amount made after November 11th, nor an official last date of production, but we tend to guess there were somewhere around 2,000-3,000 more trucks produced following November 1918 when additional contracts for around 43,000 trucks were immediately halted. Production more than likely ended completely in early 1919.
But this is just scratching the surface! The Class-B Standardized Liberty truck was a truly all-American marvel of engineering which encompassed parts made by over 150 companies, and we’ve only covered the assemblers so far. Come back soon and we will have even more info on the companies that made this truck possible!
So we talked a little while ago about electric lighting on the truck- sure, it wasn’t like today’s bulbs but electric lighting was the latest and greatest form of automobile lighting during WW1. So naturally an improved second-series truck would have the best and BRIGHTEST (get it?) features…right?
Instead, the second-series Liberty Truck introduced very late in the war would have not electric, but gas and oil lighting systems in their place.
The oil lamps were simple enough- a standard Kerosene oil lamp similar to any other of the time period using a threaded wick. They would need to be lit by hand in the event of use, but could be very easily extinguished (on their own more often than not) and cleaned and disassembled in the field. It is a safe assumption that generally, your run-of-the-mill rural-born US doughboy would have been more familiar with the care and maintenance of an oil lamp than an electric light which was an added benefit to this system. Kerosene would have also been readily available anywhere the truck might be whether it be Europe or the US.
But the oil lamps weren’t the only illumination- the main source of light on the second series of trucks was an acetylene gas-powered search light, mounted on the center of the dash and typically controlled by the co-driver. This was not the pressurized acetylene we are familiar with today: the searchlight was powered by lump or powder calcium-carbide which would interact with water by way of a filter reservoir and slow drip system (the gas ‘generator’). This interaction would in turn create acetylene gas which would travel up a brass or rubber hose through the dash to the search light which could be ignited by the operator in the cab. This gas system is a larger version of what was commonly encountered on the lamps of miner’s hats and helmets of the period and was also quite common on commercial automobiles such as early model-T’s.
A ‘Solar’ brand gas generator was initially issued with trucks. With a brass housing, the Solar generator was typically painted drab to match the vehicle and obscure the shiny brass. Photos have been found of some trucks in use with the Army which have had the generator replaced with other models of gas generator or pressurized tank, the reason for which is unknown.
The question after all this that begs an answer is really, well, why not just stick with the electric system? In my extensive research and combing documents I have found little written during or after the war as to why or when they made the switch officially. One theory could be that the removal of the wiring system contributed to an overall simpler truck; easier to assemble, less parts to fix, less parts to supply, and a simplified standardization process which was at the core of the trucks design.
Another theory could have been field maintenance. Oil lamps and carbide gas generators are far easier to clean, replace and fix in a field environment than electrical components and would have required far less invasive maintenance than an elaborate wiring system. Familiarization with oil and carbide lamps amongst generally un-educated and often illiterate soldiers is another factor, where electrical wiring would have required someone with more advanced technical training or knowledge to fix. Keep in mind that for many in America, electric lighting was still quite new and some may have had their first experience with it in the Army. While the official documented reasons are still shrouded in mystery, these theories are simply some of my own from observations interaction with both lighting systems and considering common social and educational limitations of the time period.
Illumination: a basic desire of anyone working at night or with terrible vision, or both! The Liberty was driven by people who found themselves in both those situations frequently- hopefully more of one than the other. Of course, lights for the trucks were a necessity and the Quartermaster Department saw to it that that the standardized Class-B truck had the best that could be offered at the time…at first.
To begin with we should state that there were two different lighting systems utilized by the Liberty Truck- electric for the First-series truck which was followed by what some would consider a step backwards in the form of Carbide gas and oil lamp lighting on the Second-series. The electric lighting system was a simple one attached to an acid battery which would require periodic recharging and distilled water refills. The electrical system is a hallmark of the first series of trucks. The wiring harness associated with the lighting system added a layer of complexity to the complete truck which may have influenced its removal in later series, but its usefulness was evident.
The system consisted of 2 adjustable-focus head lamps, 2 tail lamps, 2 small side lamps mounted near the front bumper support, and a single dash-mounted ‘trouble light’ which could be plugged-in to a socket to turn it on in case of emergency. The headlights were mounted to brackets on the exterior of the upper firewall above the engine housing. Each lamp could be adjusted to allow a more focused beam of light. We have little information on the output of the lights as far as brightness in actual practice, but given the technology of the day and standard 6V bulb brightness it was probably not the greatest…but at least it was better than candles. In fact, the 1918 ‘Standardized Military Truck Class-B Instruction Book’ lists the head lamps as containing ’21-candlepower bulbs’ when focused correctly at about 20 feet away. For comparison, your average 60W vehicle headlight nowadays is around 7,000 candlepower (abbreviated ‘cp’) measured at a distance of around 30 feet.
For obvious reasons of detection and ‘tactical environments’ the tail, side and dash lights were all much less powerful than the head lamps containing 6V, 2cp bulbs. This would have provided enough illumination to aid close vision but remain hard to detect at a distance. The rear tail lights were circular and smaller in diameter to the headlights and mounted to brackets on the left and right of the rear bumper mounts. This was long before the time of blackout lights, so they just had to hope they were dim enough to avoid distant enemy detection…or just remove them outright.
The light assemblies were produced by four different companies, all of which were located in the Midwest-much like the rest of the truck’s components. These included the C.M.Hall Lamp Co. of Kenosha WI, the Indiana Lamp Co., Connersville IN, Edmunds and Jones Corp., Detroit MI, and the Guide Motor Lamp Manufacturing Co., Cleveland OH. Many of these companies would continue to produce for military vehicles and become household names during and after WW2.
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!
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’.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
More exciting news from the First Division Museum’s Liberty truck! Some amazing progress has been made in just the last 3 months. Some very important parts have finally been tracked down and/or fabricated to include a set of rear bumper brackets, and the magneto coupling bracket. We’ve still got a few items to find that I have been chasing down for many months. Strange that no one seems to hold on to Acetylene Gas light generators over a century after they were a viable lighting source…a fuel transfer pump has also continued to elude us as very few of the existing Liberty trucks have them intact. The ones that we have managed to find that have the pumps tend to be behind glass or out of our reach- a fact that the National Museum of the Marine Corps made abundantly clear to our restorer Tom Bailey in Virginia back in January. In the meantime, we are growing increasingly excited about finally having our truck back!
The mysterious steel cargo body: The Class-B Standardized 3-ton ‘Liberty Truck’ was assembled by several factories throughout the Midwestern United States, and built from parts made by well-over 150 companies. Some of those companies made the cargo body for the truck, and fewer made a steel-sided version. But with little to no photos showing them on the truck the question that begs to be asked is, well, what happened?
To begin with, we know very little about the steel Class-B cargo bodies; we know they existed and were manufactured in mass quantities along side the wooden standard body, but little more is known as to their purpose or use. Many of the photos found in the National Archives state the bodies as being produced for ‘Class-B standardized trucks’, so the assumption is that they were intended for use with the Liberty as well as other 3-5-ton trucks. The exact introduction date of steel-sided cargo bodies is unknown at this time. They are believed to have been introduced early in 1918 following the beginning of full-scale Standard-B production. They were more than likely introduced after the wooden body and remained the lesser produced of the two body types given the need for steel in other areas of industry.
Seeing the use of other trucks like the Four Wheel Drive (FWD) and Nash Quads, we know that steel cargo bodies were preferred within the Army for the transport of munitions and other heavy but sensitive items so it is possible that this was the intended purpose which would’ve made the Class-B Liberty more versatile. No examples of the steel body remain in existence today so far as we have been able to tell. E.G. Budd Manufacturing Co., and J.G. Brill & Co. (both from Philadelphia) produced the steel bodies beginning in mid-1918 to the end of production in 1919. Budd is known to have produced both what appears to be a rigid non-folding style of body (fig.1) as well as a ‘collapsible’ all-steel design to aid in break-down for shipment of the trucks overseas (fig.3).
At this time we know little about the steel cargo body- we know they were made, and we know they were intended for Class-B standardized use. If any made it onto Liberties or to Europe is unknown, but I felt it was an interesting tidbit of info related to the liberty that I felt compelled to share. Having been produced alongside the wooden body at the same time the intent is clear. The implementation however, is far less certain.
Edit as of 12 July, 2018:
The LeMay/Marymount Family Automobile Collection reached out to us following the release of this post and has been very helpful in providing us photos of their own unrestored Liberty truck (one of two non-running examples within the collection) with an entirely intact E.G.Budd manufactured steel cargo body. To my knowledge this is one of the only surviving examples of an E.G.Budd body much less one which is still attached to a Liberty truck specifically. While it was most likely a post-war modification, it is wonderful evidence of use of the steel cargo bed with the truck. However, we have still yet to discover any evidence of trucks leaving the factory with steel bodies attached making the Steel Cargo body still a bit of an enigma and certainly nowhere near as prevalent as the standard wooden body. We would like to thank Dave Gaddis for providing Photos Courtesy of the LeMay Family Collection near Tacoma, WA.
One of the most important parts about a truck of any type is its ability to carry things. Presumably, in a large type of box or carrying contraption attached to the vehicle somewhere. The Standard B ‘Liberty’ was nothing special in this regard, but for those of us at the First Division Museum, finding out the details of something presumed to be so simple was far from it!
Wooden Cargo Bodies
Loosely based on dimensions of previously produced horse-drawn escort wagons of the late 1800s, the cargo bed or ‘body’ of the truck as it is frequently referred to in source documents, came in two variations: wood and steel. The wooden body was the first and most prevalent style used and approved by the government design board for the Quartermaster Corps in 1917. It was used on most Type 1 Liberty Trucks produced during the war and built at the International Harvester Corporation’s Deering Plant in Chicago, IL. So far as my research has yielded two other companies, JG Brill&Co. of Philadelphia, PA and Kundtz & Co. of Cleveland, OH produced the wooden cargo body.
The floor of the wooden cargo bed had two large removable panels which allowed for maintenance access to the drive train and rear drive transfer case avoiding the removal of the bed entirely from the frame in the event of work needing to be done. After some in-depth observation and study from multiple surviving wooden cargo bed examples, our own restoration team discovered that all wood used in the cargo body was tongue and groove which made for a much better fit and longer lasting body. This allowed many originals to keep warping to a minimum for far longer. This small but important detail is one often missing from other restored trucks as most originals having rotted away are rebuilt, often to simplified modern specs and with modern materials. The 1917 specs mentioned specifically the types of wood to be used and where on the body:
“The sides, head, and tail board and floor to be of best quality yellow pine, poplar, cottonwood or gum. The side stakes, bolsters, sills, top bows, and ridge pole may be made of best quality white oak, ash, rock elm, or hickory.”
All fasteners and hardware for the bodies were made of cast iron produced by the Eberhard Manufacturing Co. in Cleveland, Ohio. Paint was also applied to the beds, depending on the manufacturer, by a large dipping-vat method of chaining-up whole completed sections of the body and submerging them in paint. (see upcoming posts on paint for the Liberty truck for more info on that front!)
In making our own truck body, Tom Bailey of Firebrand LLC in Woodstock, GA has been working hard to assemble and complete a cargo body with new wood and original hardware (fig.3). Our type 2 Liberty truck now has a wooden cargo body using components from two partially surviving cargo bodies which have been restored or partially reproduced to ensure the most historically accurate truck possible. Tom has taken great pains to ensure the wood used is the proper type recommended by the War Department, as well as being tongue-and-groove boards which interlock allowing the cargo bed to keep from warping less than many restorations done with standard treated 2x4s. The wood used throughout the truck on our type 2 is majority poplar with white oak interspersed for structural purposes as outlined by the War Department in 1917.
This, to the best of our knowledge, is one of the most accurately re-built cargo bodies yet done on a surviving Liberty Truck. As of April 2018 the body has been affixed to the frame (see fig.4) along with the seat box bringing the truck one step closer to completion as well as finally looking more like a truck!