A Light in the Darkness: Liberty Truck Lighting systems PART 1- Electric

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.

Battery assembly components manufactured by Vesta Accumulator Co., Chicago. October 31, 1918
The Battery used in the 1st-Series Class-B Standardized Truck with insulated wooden housing. Some battery components were manufactured and assembled at the Vesta Accumulator Company in Chicago, IL. This was one of 7 reported producers of batteries for the Class-B.

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.

Electric Headlamps- page 41
Illustration of the first-series truck electric head lamp from page 41 of the ‘Motor Transport Corps Instruction Book, Class B Standardized Military Truck’ from 1919. This very rare instruction manual was released after WW1 and details many of the mechanical and cosmetic differences between first and second-series trucks. (photo courtesy of William ‘Adrian’ Winget digital collection)

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.

Electirc system in use
Quartermaster Corps soldiers assemble a first-series truck and lower the firewall onto the frame at the Diamond-T Motor Car Co.,Chicago, IL. April 30, 1918. Note the head lamps and wiring harness prior to being installed. (photo courtesy of the National Archives)

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.

Test Vehicle, December 10th, 1917. 4
A good shot of the electric head lamps on a Class-B test truck in December, 1917. Note the prototype single-bolt bumper style which was replaced with a 4-bolt-per-side bumper on production first-series trucks.

 

IT’S ALIVE!

 

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!

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.”

 

 

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.

 

 

 

More updates! June-July 2018

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 Truck Body Part 2: Steel Boogaloo

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?

EDIT. Cargo bed bodies for 'Class B 2 M' being packed for shipment, E.G. Budd Mfg. Co., Philadelphia, PA. October 5th, 1918
Fig.1- Rigid steel cargo bodies being finished at the Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Co., Philadelphia on October 5th, 1918. Note the wooden floors of the bodies. (photo courtesy of the national archives)

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.

Steel and Wood bodies side by side produced by J.G. Brill Co., Philadelphia- CROPPED
Side by side comparison of steel (Left) and standard wooden cargo bodies produced by J.G.Brill & Co. of Philadelphia ca.1918 There are some small differences in Brill’s steel body as opposed to the E.G. Budd body. The one shown above seems to copy the form and design of the wooden body much closer. The tool boxes are also steel.

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).

Cargo bed all steel collapsing model completed on non-military truck, E.G. Budd Mfg. Co., Philadelphia, PA. May 29, 1918- CROPPED
Fig.3- E.G. Budd collapsing model cargo body pictured on a test vehicle. Intended for the Liberty and other types of 3-ton capacity trucks, this body differed from the standard non-collapsible steel-sided wood floor model also produced by Budd and others. The photograph states this is a “new design of all-steel collapsible class-B truck body. This body has been made so that the sides can be folded down to make it easier for overseas shipment. In this manner the truck will take up less space, and it is an easy matter to set the sides up, thus forming a strong steel body.” (photo courtesy of National Archives)

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.

 

 

The Truck Body Part 1- an Odyssey in Wood!

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!

 

Liberty carrying Escort Wagon, War Bond Drive
A Type 1 Liberty truck carrying a Model 1901 Escort Wagon-the Army’s primary mode of transportation prior to the advent of motorized vehicles. The difference in carry capacity is obvious, but the escort wagon continued to see widespread use in the US and Europe during and after the war.

 

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.”

War Department Specifications for Class-B Truck Body
Fig.1- Dimensions of the cargo body as stipulated by the War Department in 1917. The drawing was later made public in an April 1918 issue of The Automobile, a civilian motoring magazine which featured many articles and advertisements referencing the exciting new development of the standardized military truck. (photo Courtesy of McCormick Research Library)

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!)

McCormick Works June 1918
Fig.2- A completed and assembled wooden Class-B body outside the McCormick-Deering Plant in Chicago, IL in June, 1918. In general design and shape, it’s not unlike horse-drawn wagons of the Civil War Era- just a bit wider. (Photo Courtesy of Navistar Corporate Historian)

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.

 

Completed bed before paint 1
Fig.4- Our class-B wooden cargo body prior to painting and fixture to the vehicle. The body was built by Tom Bailey at Firebrand LLC using proper tongue-and-groove boards. A handful of the steel hardware items had to be reproduced but were otherwise all original, restored and  primed.

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!

 

We’re Back Folks!

 

April 27th, 2018
April 27, 2018- Partially Assembled truck at Firebrand, LLC in Woodstock, GA.

 

Well folks, it’s been quite some time since our last update on the truck- nearly a year by our calculations. I’m here to tell you that we haven’t forgotten about you, our adoring public, or the massive endeavor that is the restoration of the Liberty truck. In fact, we are in the final stretch! 2018 will make a full decade since the beginning of this adventure, and we are planning at this time to see our Liberty back and functioning by late summer this year. Just in time for many of America’s WW1 centenaries.
At the moment, our Liberty is having its finishing touches done down in Atlanta, Georgia by an expert who has worked with some of the other few Liberties still out there. As of late April 2018, the truck is beginning to look like a recognizable piece of military equipment. When all is said and done, we will have one of just 4 operating Liberty models in existence and we are extremely excited to get the truck out to the public for our many events planned for the 2018 season and beyond, and I am equally excited to finally get a shot at driving it!

We look forward to having an active online presence again and bringing you updates, photos, and research sources to help you with all your liberty truck questions!

Shafts + brakes + oil + water

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.

Hot Rivet

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.