Industry at a Glance: Mack Trucks in the US
In this segment of Industry at a Glance, we will highlight an American classic, Mack Trucks. This OEM is the epitome of industrial strength in the United States. Born at a time of innovation in the early 1900s manufacturing wagons, Mack Trucks has grown to a company that produces one of the top commercial vehicles on the road.
The Beginning of Mack Trucks
After spending years testing designs for a motorized wagon, the Mack brothers opened a bus manufacturing plant in 1900. Their first product — the Mack Bus — was a 40-horsepower, 20-passenger vehicle. The Mack bus, built for sightseeing concessionaire Isaac Harris, operated in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for eight years before being converted into a truck.
Dubbed “Old No. 9”, the bus propelled the trucking industry into development and solidified Mack Trucks as a company that produced durable, high-quality vehicles. It didn’t take long for Mack, then Manhattan, Trucks to revolutionize the industry. In 1905, the company was one of the first manufacturers to move the cab on top of the engine, to increase visibility and mobility on crowded roads. In addition to the new cab-over design, the company patents many features to protect and expedite the shifting of gears.
In 1909, Mack Trucks released the Junior model, a light-weight 1 ½ ton truck. By 1911, the Mack brothers sold the company and, under new leadership, Mack continued as part of the International Motor Company and merged with Saurer Motor Company.
In 1914, under the name Mack Motor Truck Company, the first standard, high volume model series was developed coined the Mack AB. The first ABs were equipped with a chain, or worm, drive. The model was produced until 1937, evolving and updating to keep up with innovations of the time and sold over 55,000 units in its lifetime.
Mack Trucks in WWI
While the AB was finding commercial success for its medium size, Mack Trucks created the AC model. Unlike the AB model, the AC had a chain drive rear axle. Known for its reliability and endurance, the AC was used in World War I by the U.S. and Great Britain. This vehicle helped give Mack their Bulldog identity. The vehicle was strong and tenacious, with a blunt hood that tapered down and resembled an English bulldog. British soldiers made the connection between dog and truck and started referring to the AC model as the Bulldog Mack. The name stuck.
Military use helped successfully position the brand as durable and dependable causing Mack to achieve international fame unforeseen by any other motor truck.
From 1918 – 1921 Mack continued their innovative manufacturing by including air cleaners and oil filters, power brakes, and rubber isolators as cushions in mounting chassis components in their designs. This caused the company to outpace competitors in innovation and lowered fuel and maintenance costs for customers.
By this time, increased state regulations and growing use of trucking as a primary transportation option required the company to make new designs. While no Mack models were as widely known as the AC, the company began creating the “B Series” in 1927. These models answered the demand for larger trucks that could move at faster speeds.
From 1929 to 1944, Mack Trucks produced 2,601 full or semi-trailers. There were both non-reversible and reversible full trailers. Non-reversible trailers were equipped with a fastened rear axle that had a drawbar at the front, allowing the trailer to be pulled in one direction. Reversible trailers have the same axle qualities, but they’re on both ends, allowing either end to be considered the “front”.
In 1936, the Mack E Series, a streamlined, medium-duty truck with gross vehicle weight ratings ranging up to 23K lbs, was introduced. Available in both conventional and cab-over configurations, the E Series was one of the most versatile products ever offered by the company, with over 78,000 units produced through 1951.
Mack Trucks in WWII
To increase safety and breaking speed, Mack Trucks developed four-wheel brakes for heavy-duty trucks. In 1938, the OEM became the first truck manufacturer to design and build its own heavy-duty diesel engine, establishing the tradition of “balanced design” (in which the integration of the powertrain and vehicle design maximize performance) that continues to this day.
During World War II, Mack supported the Allies with 35,000 heavy-duty trucks and vehicles ranging from personnel carriers to transporters for tanks.
Mack continued to progress and prove to be an industry leader following the war. The 1950s brought the G, H and B models. The G series had a cab made of aluminum making its lightweight frame perfect for West Coast hauls. Coined the “Cherry Pickers,” the H series had tall cabs that were short making it easy to haul long trailers. The B series was extremely popular and one of the most successful models created by Mack. Its round look and variations set a new aesthetic standard for trucks. The same year the B models were developed, 1953, marked the year Mack introduced the Thermodyne open chamber, a direct-injection diesel engine.
Mack went on to introduce the Maxidyne diesel engine and the Maxitorque transmission. The Maxidyne engine was able to use maximum horsepower on a larger speed range. This helped boost fuel efficiency by cutting downshifting, allowing transmissions with fewer speeds to be used on the road. The Maxitorque transmission was the first triple countershaft. This design was two-thirds the length of multi-speed transmissions, creating a lighter engine that was enticing for manufacturers concerned about overall vehicle weight.
The 70’s marked the production of the Cruise-Liner, Super-Liner and the MC/MR series. The Cruise-Liner featured a new cab-over design. The Super-Liner was created for heavy hauling providing comfort and ease for drivers. The MC/MR Series were the most advanced low-cab-forward truck on the market thus far.
Mack in the Modern Day
In 1982, the industry’s first ever only fiberglass, metal cage cab was developed and called the MH Ultra-Liner model. The unique design helped push the industry to reduce the weight of cabs and safeguard against corrosion.
By 1990, Mack Trucks becomes one of the largest North American manufacturers for heavy-duty diesel trucks. The V-MAC Electronic Engine Control System was introduced this same year, allowing customers unprecedented levels of control in tailoring performance options to specific requirements. The V-MAC system has led the industry with such innovations as cruise auto-resume and dual-PTO capability.
Also in 1990, Mack goes on to patent a variable-injection timing system, making it restricted for their E7 engines only. Not only does this improve fuel costs, but it helps to reduce emissions. One year later, the company develops the High Swirl/Moderately High Injection Pressure Combustion System that enhances the combination of air and diesel in the E7 and E9 engines. The result was improved mileage per gallon, lower emissions, and longer time in between oil changes.
In 2000, a revolutionary acquisition occurred when Mack Trucks was bought by Volvo Trucks. With the oncoming environmental regulations, this acquisition led to technological advancements that allowed Mack Trucks to improve and exceed the new legislation requirements.
In 2011, Mack introduced the Mack Granite Medium Heavy Duty (MHD) model, built to deliver the durability you expect from a Mack truck, but configured for shorter runs and lighter-duty cycles to fit customers’ businesses.
In 2013, the Mack GuardDog Connect was released to help increase communication between the truck, driver, customer, and dealer. The most recent addition to the Mack Trucks lineup is the Mack Anthem. A powerhouse of innovation and technology, the Anthem challenges the expectations of aerodynamic design that dramatically saves on fuel and reduces maintenance costs while maximizing uptime and your bottom line.
Founder John Mack and his brothers had a vision “to produce the most durable and powerful heavy-duty trucks and engines in the world”, something that resonates in their design to this day. Even over a century later, Mack Trucks is still a leading innovator within the trucking industry. For more information on Mack Trucks, or to find a service center for your current Mack trucks, contact one of Nextran Trucks Centers 16 locations. We’ll ensure your Mack trucks stay looking their best, and running smoothly. Our centers in Georgia, Florida and Alabama sell and service multiple OEMs to keep you moving forward.