Like most restoration experts, Matt Pfahl can spout production numbers and model designations without looking up from his workbench. He knows all the collectors in his specialty, has a calendar full of show dates, and owns a shop papered with old photos and vintage sales brochures. His dog’s name is Diesel, which is your first indication that Pfahl’s restoration world isn’t based on racing Hemis or high-revving V-12s. Think bigger.
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I was a heavy equipment damage appraiser in the 80's and 90's. One of the reasons that all truck manufacturers, not just Mack, keep a line set ticket for every truck is that there's really no such thing as a "standard" model. There were such a bewildering amount of options and changes available that you had to have the ticket to know what the truck came with. The old ones were a kick - you might have a modern 13 speed, or you might have a 4 speed transmission with an auxiliary 3 speed "Brownie Box" and a 2 speed rear axle, Hendrickson rocking beam suspension, no suspension, airbag suspension installed 20 years after the truck was built, and two feet of frame welded on to the rear to turn your dump truck into a logging truck. Not to mention the Jake Brake and the Luberfiner. The one piece of equipment that almost never still worked was the speedometer - "I just drive by the tach." Good times.
My club has a couple of old chain drive Macks that we are not quite sure about the date of manufacture. (We think 1920s) one of the trucks used to have a crane on the back.
I can get pictures but, we haven’t been gathering due to the (censored) virus.
If the truck is that old the serial number is probably stamped in small and nearly invisible letters on the firewall. Sometimes it's stamped somewhere on the frame rail. Try the left side near the front axle for a start. Also common at one time for it to be on the floorboard just below the dash. Or on the left door lock pillar, or buried on the hinge pillar where you can hardly see it. If the truck has a glove compartment the inside of the glovebox door is a popular spot for all kinds of info. If you can find the serial number, no matter how old the truck is Mack (or Peterbilt, Kenworth, etc.) probably has a record of it. The only company that keeps better records is Caterpillar.
If the trucks are 1920's vintage, the chassis number should be stamped on the top flange at the front of the left frame rail. An AB model would be on the curved top flange forward of the radiator and the AC model would be just aft of where the front crossmember bolts in place. Each of these vehicles would have been built with a Vehicle Identification tag that is mounted on the front of the seat base on the right side of the truck.
When you locate the chassis number, you can contact the Mack Trucks Historical Museum via their website and enter your request through the "contact us" link. The museum is closed due to this virus but, requests are still being entered into our queue.
I was staying at a Red Lion in Portland, Oregon back in the early 1990's. I woke up to find the huge parking lot next to the Columbia river filled with old, restored trucks. From 1918 through about 1970. The restorations were beautiful, and what struck me was the scale and the simplicity. Nuts and bolts were huge. Wiring harnesses consisted of about 10 wires. Everything was accessible, but you definitely needed big tools and big storage to do the job. It definitely made me want to find and early 60's 5 yard dump truck or a 1966 Ford cab-over fuel or flatbed truck. Convert the flat bed into a car hauler!
Great article, please do more like this. I spent my professional life working on nearly every aspect of truck tractor and earthmoving heavy equipment. You become an engineer at times because your customer wants what?? You make it happen. The men who taught me , the men I have taught are some of the most dedicated professionals I have known. Our laws now concerning air quality standards In California , CARB have put so many good trucks with many more years of service left on them , out to pasture, along with the guy or gal who was making a good living with it. Try putting $25 k into a exhaust retrofit that by law will only last for until your next registration. CARB at that point has forced you off the road. Too bad the rules are so unforgiving.