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.