Does this ’54 Chevy car carrier hauling ’56 Oldsmobiles look like it’s maybe moving a bit leisurely? Well, it does have all of 112 hp under its tall hood, in the form of a 235 Chevy six (or maybe the optional 135 hp 261 six). But that was the way it mostly was with trucks back in the day: they were slow. 45 mph—maybe even 50—was a good clip, on a level road. If that. Never mind the hills or mountains.
But then folks were generally not in such a hurry back then.
Here’s over 1,000 hp of six cylinder GM power:
Seventeen GMC trucks hauling Buicks. These might have had a bit more power under the hoods, depending on which size GMC six. 120 hp with the 270.
Only 112 h.p. needed to haul that load? Impressive. Shows what the right gearing can accomplish.
The Buicks in the bottom photo look like ‘52 or ‘53’s. Note that the Roadmasters and Supers had different bodies than the Special. They look like they are ready for sale. No protective coatings, etc., with the wheel covers already in place.
‘Dealer Prep’ done while they’re still on the trailer – isn’t that a bit unusual?
I suspect this is a posed publicity shot and maybe only the closest cars to the camera were fully primped for it.
I need to research how many of these antique car carrier trailers and big rigs survived to the present day. I’m guessing the survival rate is quite low.
I feel like Europe used this approach to trucking longer than we did. I lived in Western Europe in 1984, and even the Autobahns generally had a right lane full of trucks and VW Type 2s that could only maintain 90 km/h. In the US, truck speeds weren’t even limited by an near-identical speed limit. Given room, they were doing 130 km/h up and down I81 and I95. I recall reading an article about the variations between the US produce trucks used out west to cover ground when time is money having two to four times as much power as the tractors used to pull the heaviest loads in other parts of the developed world.
Most of the world Europe and here has a 90kmh speed limit for heavy vehicles and they are designed to operate efficiently at that speed, Big horsepower American trucks are here theres no shortage of them but theey cant do tight turns any faster than anything else we dont have freeways just two lane blacktop and those are governed at 90-93 kmh too.
Those old trucks were geared to use the maximum torque of the engines thats what does the work not hp and they are only pulling 7 or 8 tons not big loads cars are light frieght.
Maximum speed in Europe is 80 km/h, but, 88 is accepted.
Fines are huge as are overloads, in some countries these are seen as an economic crime. But horsepower wise, we’re there, where 250 horses made you the man in the sixties and seventies (volvo F89) today 460 is the standard but 500 is ready available from the shelf, only European trucks are now limited electronically to 88-90 km/h.
Most are automatic and hills pose no problems anymore.
The max-hp-timeline in Europe for heavy truck diesels:
Sixties: 200 plus hp
Seventies: 300 plus hp
Eighties: 400 plus hp
Nineties: 500 plus hp
Most common engine displacement these days in that segment: 10 to 13 liter from an inline-6. Only MAN, Benz, Volvo and Scania go way beyond 13 liter/500 hp. DAF, Iveco and Renault don’t.
So the 55mph (=90kph) speed limit didn’t apply to trucks in the 80s?
Nope, i remember my cousin going 130 kph in his truck back in the days …. event though only 90 was permitted.
Truckers used radar detectors to locate speed traps and CB radios to update one another as to the locations of police officers. The 55 mph speed limit was one of the most destructive laws ever made in terms of how it turned the majority of Americans into criminals, perhaps even more dramatically than prohibition. Now we have laws about everything, and every American probably breaks at least half a dozen laws a day without trying.
No kidding I got a 60 mph in a 55 mph on a Los Angeles freeway, by a motorcycle officer, during 1973, in a 1971 VW Squareback with auto. If my friend, Ron, hadn’t been sitting on the passenger side where the officer came up on I might have jumped across the seats and gotten up close and personal.
In Australia they can do the same 100km/h as anything else. Many are governed to not exceed that speed, but it sure happens.
The one difference I’ve noticed is that on the main highway from Geelong to Melbourne, trucks are banned from the right lane, so cars can get past. That’s so you don’t have wall-to-wall trucks doing the same speed, or one doing 101 passing another doing 99, passing another doing 98, passing another one with a heavy load that drops down to 97 uphill. Or whatever. Of course if they’re doing the maximum, well that’s your maximum too and you shouldn’t be wanting to get past, but…. 🙂
Trucks in Europe are running 90km/h speed limiters today so they’re not going any faster flat out.
And I’m still driving a vw type 2 🙂
If I was driving that truck on that hill, with 112 BHP, I’d be thinking more about the B than the HP. Hydraulic brakes were dubious back then.
According to the 1954 Chevy truck brochure, these had 15×4 inch dual cylinder rear brakes (375 sq in total lining area) and hydrovac boost. With a GVWR of 16,000 lb that seems adequate. In the US, air brakes are used above 20,000lb. What I dont know is how trailer brakes worked without air.
GMC had gas inline 6 cylinders up to the 500 CI range. Still probably a pretty slow ride.
But not in this series of trucks, which were not the really heavy duty “Bullet Nose” GMC trucks.
Yes especially not in the Chev version. That size GMC probably would have been a 273 or 302.
Those are 1950 Buicks. They’ve got the drooling grilles.
My uncle had a 1951 Ford F6, 239 Flathead V8, 4 speed with a two speed rear end. Acceleration was leisurely. Top speed was about 45mph. Manual brakes, manual steering on bias ply tires. 45mph was about as fast as you’d want to go. It never went on the Interstate for obvious reasons.
I’m old enough to remember seeing these – and their straining, groaning six-cylinders…
It seemed the drivers had them constantly floored…
I’m impressed how accurate the colour is on this photo. If it hasn’t been colour corrected, the colours are remarkably accurate for a late 50s image. Love that throwback rock wall ‘sidewalk’.
There was a time–middle-to-late fifties–later than these photos, I guess, when B-O-P shared V-8s with the bigger GM trucks (Chevy and GMC).
Chevy used Buick V-8s, and GMC got Olds or Pontiac V-8s.
There was some game-playing with bores and strokes, and with “advertised” CID, so that the truck engines weren’t always “recognizable” from the stated displacements.
I’m surprised that a car carrier truck like the ones in the article had to suffer with the weak-azz six popper. I guess that got rectified later.