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Hard at Work: Commercial Cars and Trucks Earning Their Keep

Images of trucks and commercial vehicles have a fairly good survival rate because most of them were taken by professional photographers for use in advertisements and then filed away. This set of photos gives you a view of a wide variety of these vehicles outfitted with the equipment necessary for deliveries or tradesman. In the pre-war years, it was common to convert older luxury cars into low-priced trucks and an example of one is included here. The images were all taken in the Lexington, Kentucky area.

The lead photo shows a very distinctive aerodynamically shaped late-1930s International cab-over-engine chassis equipped with a beverage delivery body. Unlike the present day closed-in bodies of this type, this Epping’s truck is fitted with sign boards on the cab and the center of the body for advertising. A 1936 Ford three-window coupe that might have been a company salesman’s car is on the far-right.

Let us know if you can date any of these vehicles or add more details about them. The photos are courtesy of the KY Virtual Library.

Jess Harp Plumber

  • This Chevrolet roadster pickup plumbers truck belonging to Jess Harp should get an award for clever advertising slogans. The wooden supplies box in the bed of the truck has a carefully arranged sink trap display on the inside of an open door.

Nucoa Reo Speedwagon

  • This pair of Reo “Speedwagon” panel trucks is outfitted with an interesting form early 1930s-style bodies built by a truck body maker. The three-toned side panels and the distinctively shaped roof gave the “Nucoa” brand plenty of room to get its massage out to the public during routine deliveries.

Carlsbad Water Co. Cadillac

  • This Mineral Water Co. truck is a converted late-1920s Cadillac sedan this is ironically from the town of  Dry Ridge, KY. The imitation load in the truck and trailer adds a bit of charm to the photo.

Model A Sedan Delivery

  • Lexington Utilities Company outfitted this late Model “A” Ford panel service truck with all the necessities to help both service residential and farm customers.

Indiana Truck A&P

  • The A&P Company ran a nationwide chain of grocery stores for over 150 years. J.C. Fisel used this Indiana truck and trailer for restocking stores in the area.

Bruck's Beers GMC truck

  • This General Motors Truck beer truck is quite stylish looking in part due to a pair large headlight visors. Note that the box on the back is skinned with a very simple sheet metal covering.

16 responses to “Hard at Work: Commercial Cars and Trucks Earning Their Keep

  1. Being an old trucker ( well, not this old) images of commercial vehicles always peak my interest. These guys ( sorry ladies, not many women truckers back then) had a heck of a job. EVERYTHING was hand loaded (and unloaded). You don’t see many overweight individuals in these photos. The 1st pic is my favorite. It was all about image. Uniforms, fancy trucks ( when was the last time you saw a truck with fender skirts) and advertising was king. The 30’s trucks, I feel, were some of the most beautiful trucks ever. Jess Harp, the “good” plumber. Says it all right there. Reo’s, such beautiful trucks. To have one like that today. The water truck must be for display, as you’d never load a truck like that. The trailer has quite a lean to it, so I’m sure those boxes are full. The guy in the truck doesn’t look too happy. The utility truck. “Electricity aids the farmer”. We have to remember, up until WW2, electricity was unheard of in rural areas. I saw a PBS documentary of an older man that grew up on a farm in central Wis. and he said, there was no juice until after the war. When it did come in, in the early 50’s, he said everything changed. Dramatically. A&P food stores were pretty big in the Mid-west. My mom shopped there exclusively in the 60’s. I even delivered product to the A&P warehouse in Green Bay, Wis. in the mid-80’s, and hauled one of the last loads there before they closed. While the Indiana truck is clearly from the 30’s, ( small plate says 1934) most images I’ve seen of Indiana trucks had a vertical bar running down the grill . Anybody? Also note, the interesting brake setup on the trailer. It looks like air pressure actuated a series of rods that went back to the rear wheels, and the little wheels on the front of the trailer, I believe, were for hooking up (no dolly cranks back then) Cummins 1st diesel was with an Indiana truck. GMC (GMT?) truck again, all about image. Thanks David for this view into our transportation history. Not sure it has been shown here, but a movie called “Singing Wheels” made in 1941, shows the importance of trucks in our lives just before the war. Great viewing.

  2. I agree about the water. I’d bet you couldn’t go around the first turn without one-half the boxes falling out.

    Also, who’s the “sad sack” in that truck? There’s no driver. Why is he in the picture?

    And, the Lexington utilities truck looks as though it should read “Lexington Utility and Funeral Home”.

  3. I think Howard, in the first line of his post, meant to say his interest was ‘piqued’. If it was peaked it would soon fade away.

  4. I always enjoy these photos of those days. I thought it interesting there were three eateries right next to each other in that first photo, and the sign above was pre-modern — note the Schlitz “on draught,” not “draft.”

  5. In the first photo, that ’36 Ford coupe is a good looking car. I wouldn’t mind owning it. I know we’re talking about trucks here , but I couldn’t resist commenting about the Ford.

  6. Really hate to be a “know it all” but the A Model Ford Delivery is a Sedan Delivery (one rear door) The same Vintage Panel Delivery (truck) had two rear doors.
    Forgive me for pointing this out. This is one of “My Favorite” Web-sites and I look forward to the Mail every Saturday……….. Thanks, Jeff

    • The vehicle shown above is not a “Sedan Delivery.” Almost every reference I found indicates that there was no such catalog model during the years 1930-31.

      Previously, in late 1928 and in 1929, the Ford Deluxe Delivery, Type 130-A, which used the Ford Tudor body shell with blanked out rear quarter windows, two seats, and the single rear door, was referred to informally as a “sedan delivery.” Literally, a “sedan delivery” is a passenger car converted for use as a light commercial car, usually with side panels in place of the rear windows.

      The Model A Ford shown above is a 1930-1931 Deluxe Delivery Car, Type 130-B, not a Ford “Sedan Delivery” or even the informal “sedan delivery.” The Type 130B was a purpose-built light commercial truck which was based on the passenger car chassis, and it used some features of the Ford passenger cars such as the cowl molding, headlights, and the stainless steel radiator shell; however, most significantly it did not use the Ford Tudor body shell, but instead used a unique Budd built body. This model had a one piece rear door as shown in the photo above.

      In 1932 Ford did produce the “Sedan Delivery Car” that used the Ford Deluxe Tudor Sedan body shell as its basis. This model took over the Type 130-B designation.

      Using references such as Crestline’s 90 Years of Ford and Ford Trucks Since 1905, as well as the Mac’s Antique Auto Parts list of Ford Commercial Vehicle body styles for 1929 – 1931, there is not a “Sedan Delivery” shown in 1930-1931. Most every reference, including Ford club websites, all refer to the Type 130-B as a Deluxe Delivery. There are some exceptions that incorrectly list the model as a “Sedan Delivery.” There are also many photo captions that informally, and incorrectly, use the term “sedan delivery” for these trucks.”

      Finally, notice the lower case “panel service” truck in the photo caption above. This was only indicating a type of vehicle and not a formal designation – the side panel behind the driver and passenger doors as well as it being a service vehicle. There was a Ford Type 79-B Panel Body truck, but that had a very pronounced square shape to the cargo body, and it is definitely not what is shown in the photo.

  7. Well- IF that A Ford Panel Delivery was used by a funeral home then I would say that it could ONLY be a HEARSE for a very small “dearly departed”, OR: A very small funeral FLOWER CAR!!! YES it looks a bit “hearse like” but hearses typically like to display a coffin , and flower cars like to display the flowers, Coffins are huge — and flower displays are typically mounted on a pedestal & “cornucopia” style Flower basket, VERY TALL!!!

    NOT TO WORRY!!!: The 1930 & 1931 Ford Models “AA” included up to 157″ wheel base “Panel Deliveries” were ideal for being made for funerary duties , including elegant side windows for viewing of the dearly departed’s CASKET, and, AS A FLOWER CAR, More than ideal , for not crushing the tops of the flower arrangements!!! The Ford Motor Company recognized that their LATER 30 -31 Model AA’s could do this service — provided that Dual SIDE MOUNT Spare Tires , & 4 Road Tires ALL WHITEWALLS, ( Stainless Steel Running Lamps, Stainless Steel Gas Tank “Surround” , Dual Plated mirrors , Stainless Steel Radiator Shroud , Brught plated Tail -Stop Lamps,Flower Vases , Rear View Mirro r WITH Clock and electric wndshield wipers Most all in the AA Ford Parts Catalog , the only special hardware being Casket Retention Brackets , and in some states, a Red Light and Siren , as in MANY smaller communites , — the Ambulance AND the Hearse WERE the SAME vehicle !!! NOT only THAT, — the Model AA Ford was ONLY a FRACTION of the cost of a Henny Packard Hearse ! The Model “A” Panel Delivery had plenty of jobs without having to cram the “Dearly Departed” (WITHOUT ROOM for a COFFIN) into it ! The AA was versatile ! Edwin

  8. Did you notice the sign in window of the “?” Cafe for Bruck’s beer? Seems all these photos were taken in or around the Louisville vacinity.

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