Top to bottom: American Trucks of the 1950s, by Norm Mort; British Lorries of the 1950s, by Malcolm Bobbitt; British Lorries of the 1960s, by Malcolm Bobbitt. Click image to enlarge
By Russell Purcell
Dorchester, England is the home to Veloce Publishing, an innovative company that focuses its efforts on the production of automotive books. Many of its most popular titles are part of its, “Those were the days” series of historical fact books. These diminutive tomes offer a concise look at the development of automotive subjects over a set time period, and are excellent research materials for those individuals looking to learn a little more about sometimes obscure and often over-looked subject matter.
Norm Mort is a Canadian automotive writer and historian whose passion for automobiles and trucks comes through in his writing making for an enjoyable read. In his latest effort, American Trucks of the 1950s, he focuses on those vehicles that helped rebuild the economic and industrial strength of North America following the tumultuous period of World War 2.
Trucks and trailers had been subject to rationing during the war effort, so businesses, farm operators, and even civilian customers were in need of new trucks in a big way when the hostilities came to an end.
New regulations permitted trucks to be larger and longer, and many advances in both production methods and design emerged while manufacturers produced vehicles for military applications. “Increased driver comfort, convenience and safety were evident in the newest designs,” while further upgrades improved on “load capacity, and efficiency in time and expense,” he notes.
During this period we see the birth of the semi-trailer, as well as the use of radio dispatch, and manufacturers even begin to offer warranties. There was also a drive by the manufacturers to make parts and service more readily available for their dedicated customers.
“While the 1950s saw more and more trucks built to meet the demands of the North American market, the number of trucking companies decreased as competition became fiercer,” says Mort.
Significant advances included tubeless truck tires and the 10-speed transmission. A comfortable driver could work for longer periods and travel further distances, so the arrival of the comfort, air-sprung driver’s seat and integral sleeper cabs were popular with the long haul crowd. Diesel power was starting to attract attention, although by 1950, it “still represented only 1.3 per cent of total truck production (in North America).”
While many of the truck companies profiled have names that will be immediately recognizable (e.g. Ford, Freightliner and Kenworth), the reader will no doubt relish learning about a host of lesser known (and often short-lived) brands. It was neat to see that even my hometown had a history when it came to building trucks, as Hayes, a builder of logging and dock work trucks had its roots in Vancouver, before being gobbled up by Mack.
This book is a must read for fans of heavy trucks, and the history lesson is made much more informative by the addition of a huge archive of illustrations, brochures and photos (many of the latter snapped by the author’s talented son Andrew).
Automotive historian and author Malcolm Bobbitt’s latest works feature the heavy haulers (referred to as Lorries) that helped rebuild Great Britain after World War 2.
I must admit that many of the trucks featured between the covers of Bobbitt’s books were new to me. This is due to the fact that very few of these brands were exported to North America, as the transportation industry on this side of the Atlantic had very different demands than those of Great Britain or Europe.
The trucks in Britain tend to be smaller than their North American counterparts due to the narrower roadways and relatively tight confines of historical city environments, but the variety of cab and body designs (used for specialized cargo) is impressive, as are the multitude of chassis combinations displayed in these two books.
These books do an excellent job of showcasing the incredible versatility of work trucks, and the assembled photographs, examples of classic sales literature, colourful illustrations and artist renderings introduce the reader to some very unique vehicles.
There is no question that heavy transport trucks are responsible for the delivery of the majority of our goods and represent the lifeblood of the economy in most industrialized nations, but it was during the two-decade period covered by these three books that truck transport established itself as the economic engine it is today.
All three of these titles are available directly from the publisher, VeloceBooks.com or through their North American distributor, MotorBooks.com.
Those were the days…American Trucks of the 1950s by Norm Mort
Those were the days…British Lorries of the 1950s by Malcolm Bobbitt
Those were the days…British Lorries of the 1960s by Malcolm Bobbitt