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Moving the Metal – Part IV

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  • GM photo of 1954 GMC’s and Fleet Carrier’s GMC COE tractor and trailer

All the trucks in our photos today share one common feature: they all would have been gasoline powered. More fuel efficient diesels might have been finding increased favor amongst common carriers in the nineteen-fifties, but the big car hauling fleet operators would stick with the less expensive gas powerplants for a few years yet.

These all used inline sixes except for the 1956 Ford C800 “Big Job” hauling the Edsels, below, which would have employed a 332 cubic inch, 212 horsepower version of the Lincoln Y-block V-8. The 1954 GMC at the top likely had either a 270 or 302 cubic inch OHV under the driver’s feet. The 270 was introduced in 1941 and a version of it remained in production until 1962.

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  • Nu Car 1953 Dodge  – Nu Car 1956 C800 Ford – K.A.T. International low cab

The 1953 Dodge B-4-HA-128 two-ton in the first thumbnail photo used a DeSoto-derived 251 cubic inch flathead six to deliver its load of 1954 Plymouth sedans. Three car trucks like this were used for local deliveries in Detroit and the suburbs. The International hauling the 1955 Nashes on the right above appears to be an L-180, although it is difficult to pinpoint the precise year and model. Either a Black Diamond 282 or Red Diamond 372 OHV six was probably used in the truck seen here.

Finally, the 1954 Chevrolet below carrying a load of the maker’s 1955 cars would have been running a 261 cubic inch OHV six. While horsepower only ran between 118 and 165 on these low revving engines, it was their torque and the driver’s skill with the clutch and shifter that delivered the goods. You can find the first three parts of this series here. Photos courtesy of Dick Copello.

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  • W.R. Arthur & Co. Chevrolet tractor and trailer Janesville, WI, 1955

9 responses to “Moving the Metal – Part IV

  1. During one summer in the 1970’s, I worked for a repair shop that worked on auto transports. The tractors were mid-60’s Fords and they were powered by a huge 534 cu. ” gasoline engine with a huge 4 barrel carburetor. They were governed to 45 mph. & the fuel mileage fully loaded was about 3 mpg. Most of them had Clark 5 speed transmissions with 2 speed differentials.

  2. Thank you for more “old metal movers”. It must have been hard work. To my knowledge non of these early rigs had hydraulics, the ramps and such were all done manually. Bet the drivers slept good at night.

  3. Just a side note, in 1955 Arthur ordered some new ’55 Chevy 6100’s (2-tons w/short wheel bases) with the new 265 cu. in V-8’s. They didn’t work out because the speed limit in those days was 45 mph. That was too slow for a V-8 in 4th gear with the 2-speed axle in High Range, and it was too fast for 4th gear in low range. This was simply a bad combination for gas mileage as well as engine life. So those new ’55 Chevy tractors were refitted with the old familiar 261 cu. in Jobmaster SIX known affectionately as “The Big Six” which made its debut in 1954. At 45 MPH, the Big Six would be turning about 2,300 RPM’s at 45 MPH or right in the middle of its torque range, whereas the V-8’s ideal torque range was 3,000 RPM’s and that would put the semi right at 51 MPH. Anything bringing it under 2,500 RPM drops the power range off sharply. Running the truck in 4th gear low range at 45 MPH turns the engine at 4,000 RPM, right at the governor limit set for the ’57 283’s a year later which is what my Dad had in his milk trucks.

  4. The photo at the top shows Advanced Design, but pre-’54, as in ’54 the New “Bull-nosed” grill was introduced. These have the vent side windows (introduced in ’51), and also the push-button door handles (introduced in ’52), so these are ’52-’53. Same goes for the COE — the grill identifies it as pre-’54. I have owned several Chevy/GMC trucks/panels/suburbans from 1935-1953.

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