Why Standardization?

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.

 

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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.

The Engine

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!

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View more photos on our Facebook page!

Wheels on the Truck

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!

A link to the past

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.

The Beginning

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.