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Pre World War II Automobile Transport Trucks

After an automobile was built, it needed to be shipped to the distributor or dealer that was going to handle selling it; in the first three decades of the 1900s, long-distances shipments were handled mainly by train and factory drive aways. Maxwell used a flatbed truck as early as 1906 to move a car, and Packard soon followed with its new heavy duty chain drive truck that apparently was first introduced in 1909. The automaker’s New York City branch soon started using the Packard truck pictured here to move cars in the New York City area.

The truck was not used regularly to move cars long distances until later in twenties when it had been further developed, and pneumatic truck tires and good roads followed suit. A pair of late twenties truck and semi-trailer photos below show examples of two different types of four and five-car trailers of the time.

An earlier feature series “Moving the Metal” shows a number of interesting post-1940 auto transport rigs in action from the time when delivering automobiles by truck became commonplace. The images are courtesy of the National Auto History Collection at the Detroit Public Library.

Circa 1910 Packard Being Delivered On A Packard Truck I

  • Circa 1910 Packard truck moving a Packard limousine in New York City.

1928 Buick's Leaving Manufacturing Plant

  • A five car truck and trailer unit photographed at a Buick Assembly Plant in 1928.

1929 Auburn Sedan's Being Delivered

  • A four-car truck and flatbed trailer delivering a load of 1928-’29 sedans from the Auburn factory in Auburn, Indiana to Cleveland, Ohio. Can anyone identify the truck’s maker and the model?


17 responses to “Pre World War II Automobile Transport Trucks

  1. The location of the lead photo is W. 25th St and 5th Avenue. It can be identified because the building on the right edge (225 5th Ave) still exists on the north east corner of that intersection. It’s rather amazing that it has survived over 100 years in pristine condition, especially in a city where so much is constantly torn down and rebuilt.

  2. Oh to have any one of those cars today. The building in the lead photo that David cites looks relatively modern compared to those across the street which look to be built in the 1870s-80s. It would be great to know who was the lucky recipient of that Packard limousine. Note the ladies’ hats and the elaborate street signs. The second photo appears to be an action scene. Very cool for that era.

    • According to one site, 225 5th St. was built in 1906 so it would have been almost new in that photo. Originally it was the Brunswick Hotel, today it is apartments known as the Grand Madison.

  3. The mystery truck looks a bit like an Indiana/Brockway with it’s horizontal hood louvres but the script on the radiator looks like six letters, flat across the bottom and arched across the top which looks like neither or Autocar.

    • Hi EHDUB, I believe you are correct. That would make sense, Indiana trucks hauling Auburn cars. If so, it has to be one of the last ones, as Brockway sold Indiana to White in 1932.

  4. In the first picture, wonder if that could be the chauffeur of the new Packard limo, with his boss, the owner riding in the soon to be disused carriage.

  5. My vote is for Brockway / Indiana… c. 1928-30.

    Looks like it’s outfitted with those thick-lensed ILCO-Ryan headlamps that were used on some Auburns ?

  6. I suspect that it is an Indiana, since they did use horizontal louvers like that — obviously one of their heavier models, since there are two sets of louvers. Definitely not an Autocar.

    • That Virginia plow truck is intriguing – going by the cab design and the “French” Roof Visor, I would guestimate it being ’26-’28, yet it is outfitted with a Presto-Lite tank, and gas headlights like a WW-I era truck. Looks like a 1930 plate on the front ?

    • The radiator script on the semi looks more like the mystery truck. There’s a picture on the web of a later Biederman split cab wrecker where the unreadable radiator script appears remarkably similar. Unfortunately early Biederman pictures seem very rare but some later ones do have similar hood louvres (Indiana examples appear coarser)

  7. I SEE NO evidence of a Diesel STACK to keep BLACK CARBON DIESEL combustion by- products OFF and possible Burning Embers of the New SOFT-TOPPED SEDANS! MY (“W.A.”) GUESS IS that it Might be a FAGEOL or an Early PETERBUILT from Newark. California . (???) WHY? A HALL-SCOTT Huge Cubic Inch SOHC INLINE SIX GASOLINE MIGHT be powering it with standard head-pipe, muffler & tail pipe UNDERNEATH to NOT light car tops A-FIRE or cause CLEAN UP ISSUES after transport. (PERHAPS this is WHY CAR CARRIER truck/ semi combos have ALWAYS been GAS-HOG Gasoline engines — for DECADES!!! in 1937, MOST sedans had hard tops (Metal) but convertibles and Phaetons still had soft tops !!!) Edwin W.

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