Gear Head Tuesday – Packards for Pershing

Gear Head

Readers' car series

1918 sde view w canvas

“Packards for Pershing” – one of “Packard Truck Dave’s” fleet.

By “Packard Truck Dave”

My inspiration for this restoration was to honor U.S. service members of ‘The Great War’ – (1914-1918). The conflict gained its name initially since as it was the first war with worldwide implications. Only after World War II did ‘The Great War’ gain the name of World War I.

Having known several WW-I veterans back in the late 1950’s, my thinking continued about restoring a WW-I Packard Army truck as a tribute to these now deceased veterans – and several options opened up to me. I decided that it would make it a lot easier if the Packard could be actually owned by a 501 (c) (3) so folks could have tax deductible donations – so technically the Packard Army truck is now owned by the Citizen’s Motor Car Company, America’s Packard Museum in Dayton, Ohio – and I’d do the work & be the curator – & get others to contribute. Sounds like a really good money making proposition, eh?

(Uh, NO!) So that was the first step – then I began to seek folks willing to contribute. We needed a good frame and wheels – and a real gentleman by the name of Ron Carey, who puts his money where his mouth is, ended up donating a complete Packard truck frame and wheels – and Ron lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada – and Ron cannot receive a tax deduction as a Canadian! And – he had it delivered from Calgary to my home in York Springs, just above Gettysburg – at no charge. Initially we were to pay him $2,500 but when he learned the Packard was in honor of the long gone veterans, he refused to take any more money!

We received an engine from Don Meltz which we kept and used – and a frame with incorrect cast steel wheels which we traded off for money for work done on the Packard. The late Clyde Walters of Canton, Ohio went over the engine we received from Don Meltz – it just needed tweaking and to be cleaned up. A good neighbor who passed away in 2010 – a retired long haul truck driver by the name of Charlie Linus hauled he engine out to Clyde’s place and later retrieved it. The frame and wheels we got from Ron Carey had a foot of channel iron missing – someone apparently adapted the length of the Packard to fit their garage – so two 12-inch steel sections were donated by Woolf Steel, a steel fabricator in Middletown, PA and another buddy, Paul Kenific, an awesome welder from Fruitland, Maryland came up and made the necessary repair/addition of a foot of steel – and that repair cannot be detected. I obtained a paint match from the US Army Transportation Museum and had a custom batch of paint mixed in Harrisburg, PA. George Lupfer who owns a transmission shop in Carlisle rebuilt the Packard-built transmission. George is an ex-Packard garage mechanic and has an amazing knowledge of every type of transmissions known to man. Over time I ended up bringing three transmissions to George to make a good one George was happy with – these are cast iron brutes that take 4 men to lift. George’s son Scott remarked to me as I showed up with the 3rd transmission “Where the hell do you find these things?” Now we needed the correct body.

I had been corresponding with noted WW-I historian Tim Gosling in England and explained my dilemma of no body plans. To my utter amazement, Tim not only had at his fingertips but immediately provided me with not only the 1917 US Army War Department Class B body plans – but also had the shop drawings! Numerous suppliers built truck bodies for the US Army – the plans I used were those built by Brill of Philadelphia. Brill was the largest manufacturer of trolley cars in the USA. Tim just happens to own two fully restored American built WW-I Army trucks with Class B bodies on them. At this point, Tom Schlarb of Topton, NC agreed to custom build and donate a 12-volt electric starter (did I tell you at age 71 that I no longer hand crank these beasts?) and custom fabricated all the hardware for the rear tail gate hinge, bow pockets and stake pockets and body mount brackets.

Dave Jacoby, a custom furniture builder from Gettysburg agreed to volunteer to make the Class B body – all I had to do was buy the wood – which the money came from the sale of the frame and wheels of the Meltz Packard ….. The five bows of the Packard are made from five steam bent laminated layers each of yellow pine – and cannot be told from a solid piece of wood. Ironically, Dave had never steam bent wood before.

While at the Hershey Fall Meet, I was introduced to Tom Hovetter who owns an awning/canvas shop in Walnut Bottom, PA near Carlisle. Tom volunteered to custom make the canvas top, brought his crew of two craftsmen out, measured and custom sewed & installed the canvas top that the Packard has today. In early 2010, the Packard Army truck was complete.

By this time, I had promised my wife I would not ‘buy’ any more Packard trucks. Technically, I lived up to that promise, however I can also share a story is about my 1919 Packard truck…. (hint- it was given to me….Ha Ha Ha)

Packard Truck Dave's trucks

Two of “Packard Truck Dave’s” trucks.

Packard Army Truck in action

1915 Packard motor trucks with French Army on the World War I front.

Packard truck-Michael Snow

1918 Packard truck, photographed by Michael Snow

2 Comments

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  1. Love the pictures and this is an amazing story. THANKS.

    Liked by 1 person

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