(first posted 12/17/2016) Last week we looked at the Bedford VAL Twin Steer coach, and the week before that, the Fageol Super Freighter Van – and it posed an interesting question in my mind – has there ever been a conveyance that combined the attributes of both these two distinctly different vehicles? Turns out the answer is yes…
It was made by a company that shares its name (at least phonetically) with our 34th President and former Supreme Commander Allied Forces – the Eisenhauer Manufacturing Company of Van Wert Ohio. The company formed during the war years (WW II) and produced various machined components, such as tank bogie wheels, as part of the defense build-up. After the war, they transitioned to automobile parts, but in 1946, hit upon an idea for a large, heavy-duty (20 ton) truck that would be more economical to operate than other large tractor-trailer combinations then in use.
The key to its allegedly less expensive operating cost was its twin-engine design. In place of either a large gas engine, such as one from Hall Scott, or a big diesel like one from Cummins, the Freighter used two independent Chevrolet 235 cu in “Stovebolt” six cylinder gas engines. The goal was for trips where the truck was lightly loaded, only one engine would operate, saving gas – both engines would fire up for heavier loads. The engines were mounted separately, and other than throttle linkages, weren’t connected – the front engine was in a typical conventional layout, with the second one behind and above it, right under the driver’s seat. The truck had three rear axles; the front engine drove the forward axle and the rearward engine the rear axle – the middle axle spun freely. What was also interesting was that the rear axle was steerable.
One lone demonstrator was built but found little enthusiasm from commercial carriers, and no orders resulted.
The company gave up on production but didn’t give up on the design – approximately 10 years later, they gave it another go with the X2 model. Somewhat similar to the earlier design, it differed by having two GMC 302 cu in six cylinders laid side-by-side; one connected to the forward rear axle and the other to the rearward, routed through separate Hydramatic transmissions. Five demonstrators were built and provided to the US Army for test and evaluation. The Army concluded they were overly complex and prone to break-downs – and passed on any orders.
So the company swung twice and missed both times, but avoided a third strike and an “out.” They remain in business today, still in Van Wert Ohio, manufacturing electrical and automotive components.
That load-equalizing suspension is fascinating to think about, especially the three-axle in the rear. “A1A” in railroad parlance, indicating the idler axle in the middle.
Was the “Chevrolet” badge part of the contract for supplying engines, running gear and sheet metal?
I couldn’t find that in any of my research G – but that sounds like a logical assumption. Jim.
If self-funded, a company that takes two big empty swings like that is lucky to survive. Just the fact that it survived today, after so many years alone, is quite praiseworthy.
Man, I would NOT want to be the alignment
tech assigned that truck! lolol
Twin steer is quite a common layout I drive one similar to this, alignments are done periodically at a regular truck align shop as part of servicing should abnormal tyre wear appear
Fascinating. I’ve read about another twin engine truck built in the 1930s, but it didn’t have twin front axles. Its engines were side by side under a wide hood. It too was a flop, as it was just too big and expensive during the Depression.
You’re referring to the Relay twin-engined truck.
That’s the one! You spared me a walk upstairs to go look it up. 🙂
Henschel W36H Bimotor. Two 6 cyl. 125 hp gasoline engines side by side. As you’ve said, not huge success, but they, like Eisenhauer returned to the concept in the early 50s and again not many were made.
Yes, I remember reading about these too. They were all convinced that bigger was better, but they were a bit ahead of their time, like with so many other ideas.
… and Henschel’s competition in Germany, Büssing-NAG also tried with the Büssing-NAG 80 N F Do which had 320 hp from its two engines, almost science fiction back then. Again, not many were built. Synchronizing twin engines like this was not really feasible before electronic FI. More about it here: http://www.baumaschinenbilder.de/forum/thread.php?postid=699661#post699661
A design like this creates as many problems as it solves. Twice the initial cost for engines and axles and twice the cost for engine maintainence and tires in an Era of cheap fuel would have been a deal breaker for me.
It’s always interesting to see how heavy haul trucks were designed in the era before off-the-shelf 600 bhp engines and the required driveline components were available. In this case I have to wonder why the twin engines if only 185 bhp was the result. As noted in the text there were several commercially available engines of sufficient power at the time.
Not too hard to see why this one didn’t attract customers, though it’s ancestors are quite common in ready-mix applications today.
What an impressive machine, certainly for that era. Not only because of the twin engine, but also thanks to the axle-setup with the front twin steer axles and the 5th steerable axle with dual wheels. Never heard of this beast before, so thank you !
I saw the first straight truck with 5 axles in the late seventies, quite a Wow!-moment back then. It was an FTF 10×4 dump truck, just like the one below, owned by a nearby hauling company. FTFs had an all-American powertrain (engine, transmission, axles).
In the past decades straight trucks with 5 axles have become widely used, simply because these can reach the legal maximum GVM of 50 metric ton, so no trailer or semi-trailer needed. The crème de la crème has hydropneumatic suspension (like Citroën), 4 drive axles (the first 2 and the last 2) and 4 steerable axles (the first 3 and the last one). I believe straight trucks with 5 axles are common in Scandinavia too, I don’t think other Euro-countries use them.
Logically a chassis with 5 axles also makes a great heavy-haulage tractor.
Thanks Johannes – those are tough, impressive looking trucks. Jim.
Here’s a neat short “fast forward” video of the assembly of a chassis with 5 axles:
Twin engines were not unheard of when a lot of power was required. At the start of WWII, US tanks were designed around radial aircraft engines. Demand for aircraft was such that Wright and Continental had no capacity to spare to produce tank engines.
The M5 Stuart and M24 used two flathead Cadillac engines, and Hydramatic transmissions, to generate sufficient power.
One of the solutions to the lack of Wright radials for the Sherman was Chrysler’s lashup up 5 flathead sixes, geared to a common output shaft.
The twin engines is an interesting concept though overly complicated it looks cost driven rather than anything else the walking rear suspension seems to be a development of the GMC/Studebaker 6×6 WW2 era trucks, steerable rear axle isnt unusual now but these days its a tag axle rather than driven self steering four axle semi trailers are a joy to tow on a twisting road the trailer follows the tractor unit extremely well with almost no cutting in on tight corners.
Speaking of steerable rear axles, Boeing uses an interesting rig to get wing spars to it’s plants around Seattle. The windmill blades I saw rolling down the freeway a couple years ago probably had a similar setup.
I was just passed by one of these the other night. I’d hate to be the guy in the back doing it in the dark, especially with the lead driver in the fast lane passing cars like crazy.
I saw a couple of brand new highway coaches in Foz do Iquaçu, Brazil that have four axles. I did some digging and found the name: Marcopolo Paradiso 1800 DD. This particular coach can be ordered with three or four axles.
A tangential thing from the local-ish paper (June 1947):
12/10/45 announcement (Lima, OH–also close to Van Wert):
The rest of the 1945 article:
For me, the best part from the article is the claim that “Power steering is not needed” 🙂
Perhaps not, if the Terminator T800 is behind the steering wheel…
What a fascinating vehicle. Two engines? Well they tried it in the Scenicruiser with its dual 4-71s, though that was 10+ years later. Did anything else on the road in any significant number actually use two? Also the idea that it would only use one under no/light load, and both under heavy load, sounds remarkably like modern cylinder deactivation. Though, considering they weren’t connected, I suppose that had to be done manually…and, with all that going on, not only dual front axles but a steerable rear. That’s actually *very* high tech for 1942, given the scarcity of FWD setups at the time and therefore the relative dearth of experience with steering a powered axle.
I’d still like to know if dual steerable axles were outlawed in the USA at some point, or if they’re simply not seen because they’re not needed for maneuverability?
Hello Chris. Steerable, tandem front axles are permitted in most states – modern cement mixers and some other heavy duty models use them. There was a good discussion on the Sultana TM 40 bus post on tandem front wheels. The primary reason they are used is for axle loading reasons – heavier vehicles need them to meet max axle loading laws. Some earlier vehicles used them to lower the height and floor using smaller diameter wheels – as in the Bedford VAL. Maneuverability is not typically a rationale but there are some trucks here in Japan that use smaller and thinner tandem wheels that more easily clear suspension components and articulate farther shortening the turning circle.
There’s another post coming up on Sat that looks at a more modern vehicle with twin steerable front axles – hope you enjoy that one too. Jim.
Twin steer heavy trucks and tractor units are the go to configuration in New Zealand and available from all manufacturers we have Macks Freightliners Sterlings Mercedes and a UD all 8 wheelers in our yard as tankers.