After spending some time immersing myself in vintage car carriers, Convoy quickly became my favorite company. Based in Portland, OR, they had that typical free-thinking West Coast attitude about making their carriers ever more efficient and productive. I’ve shown you a number of them, including the very long 105′ rigs they ran under a special use permit. Convoy not only built their own trailers, but also built some unique trucks too, like this one. It’s a Ford cab, but other than that, it’s quite unique. It has a mid mounted flat (“pancake”) engine, and uses the space where the engine might usually reside for a “basement” sleeper bunk, the only one I’ve ever seen with such an arrangement.
Full color picture and more details:
It was built in 1953, and is seen hauling a colorful load of ’53 Fords here. The one main source says it used a flat “pancake” Cummins 220, as used in so many Crown school buses. But I’m quite sure I read somewhere that initially it used a flat gasoline 12, which would undoubtedly have been a White engine, one that was written up at CC by Jim Brophy. That engine was famous for its thirst, so if it was used, I’m not surprised Convoy settled on the Cummins.
This low forward cab was so ideal for car carriers, Freightliner eventually built a low cab forward truck, and Convoy bought a number of them, as in this one hauling Volvos. Other companies favored this cab style too.
Convoy also built a tall version, which I showed you here before, hauling these ’55 T-Birds. Its engine was under the cab, in more typical COE format. But it can only carry six cars, unlike the seven in the other rig.
“The relief driver sleeps in recessed bunk between the seats”.
This sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to me.
Yes, I can’t imagine too many drivers wanting to sleep in a ready made coffin!
Actually, it reminds me of a certain scene from Pulp Fiction.
And this was before the invention of noise-cancelling earphones, though these guys probably didn’t bother with hearing protection. But it’s certainly out of the box thinking. I think however, that the passenger would have been more comfortable sleeping in one of those Nashes … didn’t they have reclining seats?
It wouldn’t have been any louder than in a regular sleeper. Quieter, most likely, because the engine was well back of the cab, down in the frame.
These cars certainly did have the reclining seats – our 1952 Statesman was so equipped. However, the form-fitting air mattress – ours was yellow with red Nash script – was supplied by the dealer (my Dad worked for one around this time). You also could buy dealer-supplied screens for the windows.
Our family used the sleeping option in our ’54 Statesman (parents in the car, kids in the tent).
It was an impressive system – front bench seat moved fully forward, front seat backs fully reclined, rear seat cushion removed and reversed. It could only work of course with the absolutely flat bench seats and backs common to the period. The result was a flat, cushioned service that looked like a small room, to a kid at least, but it must have been at least 6 feet long.
Never saw the dealer-supplied bug screens. We shut a piece of cheesecloth in the front door to provide screening. 🙂
Interesting place for the sleeper, MC Macks were used here by Car Haulaways due to the low cab configuration and there were other specials built to get an extra car aboard thjough those ideas have been shelved and standard cab trucks are in use now with cleverer trailers being towed.
The perfect hauler for Nashes!
Was long-haul transport of new cars (necessitating the sleeper cab) ever really a thing? I always thought rail was mostly used for long-distance car transport.
Only in limited applications. In this case, Convoy used this rig to haul between CA and the PNW, which is definitely not a one shift run. I’m not sure why they hauled some of these loads that far, as typically cars built in CA were shipped up to Portland or Seattle via coastal freighters, and then Convoy hauled them regionally. Maybe this was an experiment to see if a two man crewed truck could do it as cheaply as using the freighter. Quicker, undoubtedly.
I see Teslas being hauled up here from CA on trucks all the time, so now it’s commonplace. But then I-5 has made that faster.
In the early days of the auto industry pretty much everything was shipped by rail. The developed ways to put 4 autos in a ’50 boxcar, but it required special racks, dollys, and loading/unloading was quite labor intensive.
As highways got better more and more of the new cars were shipped by truck. Also more assembly plants were built outside of the Midwest and it was easier to ship components by rail than finished cars.
By the early ’50s almost all cars were shipped by truck. The railroads came back about 1960 with the creation of the modern autorack car. By using ’89 long flatcars with 2 or 3 level structures added on top 10-15 autos could be loaded by simply driving into the railcar. This allowed most of the long haul shipping to return to the rails with trucks used to move the cars from regional distribution centers to the dealers.
I can”t imagine that the sleeping arrangement was very safe but then it was from a different time…kinda like when we rode bicycles without helmets and child car safety seats did’nt exist and yet somehow we survived though…
Only those of us that survived actually survived 🙂
“kinda like when we rode bicycles without helmets and child car safety seats did’nt exist and yet somehow we survived though…”
The very definition of survivorship bias. Those that didn’t survive aren’t around to talk about it.
I gotta find a YouTube video showing a driver manipulating all those ramps to load or unload.
Fascinating stuff…especially for 1953.
Oh not really, torture goes back way before 1953. I mean, they’d already invented the Ford Popular by then, for example.
“…the diesel engine is located low in the frame, as is the standard-fitment emergency spare driver” *
* Buyers are advised that the spare driver must be replaced every 7 days or upon noticeable putrescence, whichever comes first. Replacements not included. See manual for procedure. If time exceeded, see criminal lawyer for procedure.
All I can think of is that that sleeper area looks like the perfect location for smuggling whatever was being smuggled then. I for one would not think to look there.
“Only six,” but when those six cars are all two-seat T-birds all is forgiven.
I take a long bridge over the top of the Cincinnati rail yards to go get my monthly blood test, and these days it is full of idled auto carriers. Not much call for moving new cars right now.
Fascinating information. I would not want to sleep in that sleeper space. One head-on collision and it would be all over for the man – a permanent nap.
You think it would be any better for someone in a regular sleeper cab?
Nothing like sleeping in a crumple zone. Don’t / didn’t some freight engines have sleep zones forward of the cab?
How about the Mexico or Central American busses with the sleeper berth in the belly, a few inches above the roadway?
Don’t worry about the rocks, that aluminum is 12 gauge. And down here, now it’s only 1,195 feet to the bottom of the ravine.