The 1935 Mack BM truck owned by Garry Mack spent its early hard-working years hauling gasoline to Toronto service stations for the British American Oil Co., and was then employed by Canadian Pacific Railways in Western Canada. It was saved from a likely fate on the scrapheap by one truck enthusiast, then reconceived and immaculately reborn in the hands of another.
It's always amazed me how the minds of old-vehicle enthusiasts function. It's hard to imagine how their mind's eye can take the reality of something like the derelict old Mack workhorse that was found decaying in a CP warehouse that was being torn down in Calgary and envision it becoming a fully restored reminder of a bygone era.
In the case of the Mack, the Listowel, Ont.-area transport driver who purchased it in Calgary and shipped it home on a railway flatcar didn't realize his dream, but after a dozen years of effort, Garry Mack of Odessa, Ont., who bought it from him, has.
I ran into Mack, who lives just outside Odessa, at the annual car show held recently in the community near Kingston. There his namesake, the pale blue-over-dark-blue Mack MB was parked in solitary splendour, a rare representative of the working side of life from our automotive past.
As he describes it, "a friend, Bob McBride, got me into this mess" by planting a seed of enthusiasm for old cars that somehow blossomed into a full-blown passion for old trucks, particularly Macks, of course, while visiting the old-vehicle show in Hershey, Penn.
"It was very, very rough," he recalls, after seeing his Mack for the first time. Among other things, the rail ride had virtually shaken its cab's rotted ash wood substructure to bits. "The cab was just about gone," he says, and in fact most of the key salvageable bits could be fitted into a cardboard carton.
But with those easy-to-conjure visions of future perfection already forming in his mind, he purchased it 12 years ago and spent the next 10 restoring it. During the last two he applied the final finicky touches that have seen it become an award winner at recent shows.
In the early 1900s, while the likes of Henry Ford were starting the process of motorizing the common man, the three Mack brothers (no relation to Garry), who owned a carriage-and-wagon works, were pioneering the commercial vehicle business. Their first vehicle was a bus in 1900, which was followed by a line of rugged, heavy-duty trucks marketed under the Manhattan name. With business booming, they opened a plant in Allentown, Penn.
The Manhattan name was dropped in 1910 in favour of the Mack nameplate, but a year later the brothers sold out to the International Motor Co., which continued to build trucks, buses, fire equipment and railcars.
The First World War proved a commercial boon, particularly boosting sales of the company's AC line of chain-driven trucks. They were tough enough to merit the nickname "bulldogs" by the British soldiers who drove them - a name that stuck.
The bulldog was adopted as the company symbol in 1922, by which time it was making even-more advanced vehicles and building an even stronger reputation in the burgeoning road transport industry. It introduced the first of its B-series trucks - designed to meet the heavier-hauling, higher-speed demands of that industry - in 1927.
The bulldog mascot that still tops the radiators of Mack trucks was created in 1932 by the company's chief engineer Alfred Masury who, while recuperating from an illness in hospital, carved the likeness, some say from a bar of soap.
Bulldog-breed Mack trucks played a key transportation role in North America and around the world for the rest of the 20th century and still do after the company's acquisition by Volvo AB in 2001. Mack trucks were built in Oakville, Ont., from 1966 to 1993.
Mack's Mack BM started life as a tractor unit towing a fuel trailer around the streets of Toronto for British American Oil and some time later was converted into a flat-decked cargo truck by extending the wheelbase and adding a frame section behind the rear axle. When Mack acquired it, it still had the CP Cartage logo on the cab door.
The BM model first appeared in 1932, and a total of 3,032 were produced by 1941. Garry Mack's is powered by a 110-hp, 415-cubic-inch (6.8-litre) inline-six-cylinder, flathead gasoline engine, with a five-speed manual gearbox and a dual reduction drive differential.
Its drum brakes are mechanically, not hydraulically actuated - "there are rods all over the place" - but have a unique vacuum boost system. Mack says when the brakes are applied the rears engage first and then the booster engages the fronts.
Contemplating the daunting job of bringing the truck back to life, Mack decided against returning it to its original tractor configuration and rebuilt it as a construction industry "rigger" truck. Its deck, created from $5,000 worth of red oak, tilts down at the rear into a ramp and a capstan winch is fitted behind the cab for hauling loads into place.
The cab was rebuilt from scratch, based on extensive research and using what few original parts were still usable. "I actually had the cab apart 14 times to get the wood and the metal fitted correctly," he says.
Mack did virtually all the work on the truck himself, with a little help here and there from friends McBride and Milt Fredsburgh. The paint was donated by DuPont, which Mack had spent 35 years working for before retiring seven years ago.
As trucks were usually painted in company livery, originality didn't matter and this Mack's colour scheme was chosen to make it unique. Mack says on visits to truck shows he'd overlook the field from a high point and soon determined most were painted red, black, grey or green. "I wanted something that would make it stand out," he says.
And the two-tone blue Mack certainly does, but not just for its paint scheme or even Mack's painstaking restoration efforts - its one of only about a dozen survivors of its type and one of only three in Canada.