History of Brockway Trucks
By Andy Hill
William N. Brockway founded the Brockway Carriage Works in Homer, New York and incorporated the business in 1875. His son, George A. Brockway, assumed full control of the business in 1889. During the next twenty years it became apparent to George Brockway that mechanical power would have to replace the horse if the business was to prosper. In September1909, W.N. Brockway Carriage Works decided to manufacture, as a sideline and an experiment, 30 auto delivery wagons. With the help of the Chase Motor Truck Company of Syracuse, New York, George was able to build their first successful motor truck in 1910. A 15-horse power, 3-cylinder, 2-cycle air-cooled engine powered this 1910 motor truck. This first truck looked a lot (if not exactly) like a Chase motor truck. Brockway would ship 6 large delivery motor wagons (or motor trucks) to California in January 1910. By February 1910, George Brockway became associated with the Chase Motor Truck Company as an officer and a managing head. Chase would continue to manufacture some parts for Brockway. Brockway would build three styles of trucks, but with different cab styles such as an open wagon, a duck top, and a panel top. These initial designs didn't change throughout 1911 and it is uncertain how many trucks were built in Homer before Brockway was incorporated as a truck manufacturer in 1912.
Brockway trucks would continue to be sold as far away as Los Angeles, California during 1911. One dealer in Los Angeles was the Pioneer Auto Company, who sold Reliance Motor Trucks (later to be GMC) and Brockway Delivery Wagons. In 1912, G.A. Brockway and F.R. Thompson leased a building that was previously owned by The Ellis Omnibus and Cab Company in Cortland, New York. Brockway's beginning is widely recognized as the 1912 incorporation of the Brockway Motor Truck Company of Cortland, New York. The company that began production of what would be known later as the "most rugged truck in the world" was incorporated with $100,000.00 of initial capital. All stockholders were members of the Brockway family. The officers of the company were G.A. Brockway as president, C.S. Pomeroy as vice-president, F.R. Thompson as treasurer and general manager, and R.S. Reed as chief engineer and superintendent. R.S. Reed had formerly worked for Chase Motor Truck Company. Brockway would build 95 trucks between 1912 and 1913. The first Brockway to roll out of the new Cortland factory was a model A, built for the Miller Corset Company of Cortland, New York.
Brockway would specialize in building quality trucks from 1912 to their end in May 1977. Although not mass-produced, Brockway built a large quantity of light-duty and heavy-duty trucks throughout the years, including the Great Depression and both World Wars, under the leadership of various company presidents. G. A. Brockway was obviously the first president up until 1928 when they would look to purchase other truck manufacturers to expand their market. Brockway would purchase the Indiana Truck Corporation in February 1928. Martin A. O'Mara, former vice-president in charge of eastern sales for White Motor Company, was elected president of Brockway Motor Truck Corporation. G.A. Brockway would be elected chairman of the board and would continue in complete charge of the company's finances along with supervising operations at the Cortland, New York plant. J.W. Stephenson, formerly president of the Indiana Truck Corporation, would be director and vice-president of Brockway Corporation. Mr. Stephenson would continue in charge of the Marion, Indiana plant where they built Indiana Trucks. Now a single company retaining the Brockway name, their combined assets exceeded $9,000,000.00. and the total sales would be in excess of $15,000,000.00.
Brockway models would gradually replace those of Indiana's, though a few models were retained. In 1929, Brockway looked to also merge with one of the oldest truck manufacturers in the country, the Autocar Company of Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Brockway affiliations bought large blocks of stock in the Autocar Company. With the stock market crash in October 1929, no merger with Autocar ever came about. Due to the failing, Brockway's stock would fall to an all time low and their sales at the Indiana plant became very poor. Brockway's president, Martin A. O'Mara resigned as president after being brought in front of the New York Supreme Court on charges of conspiring to manipulate Brockway's stock prices for his own personal gain. The resignation seemed to be an honest attempt to help the Brockway Truck Corp. Robert F. Black would succeed O'Mara in November 1930. Mr Black was formerly vice-president of Mack International. By 1931, Brockway-Indiana production had dipped badly. The Cortland plant managed to stay open but the Marion plant's operation was sporadic. Brockway saw no other choice but to cut their losses by selling the Marion, Indiana division to the White Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio in early 1932. White would shut down the Marion plant and transferred everything to their Cleveland plant.White continued to sell Brockway-designed Indiana trucks until they had their own design in late 1932.
August 1932, Brockway would reorganize under the provisions of Section 77B of the National Bankruptcy Act. The Brockway Motor Co. was organized to acquire such assets and to carry on the business formerly conducted by the Brockway Motor Truck Corporation. Operations continued by the new company without any interruptions in production, sales and service. Brockway Motor Company, Inc. would assume all current debts, contingent liabilities and policy obligations to their customers.
By 1933, Brockway would introduce their new line of electric trucks along with their new V-1200 model. The "Electric Truck Division" was located in New York City. Their new V-1200 model was a heavy tractor powered by a 240 hp American-LaFrance 12 cylinder gas engine. The V-1200 was the largest motor truck built in American at the time. These new additions to the Brockway family would accompany other Brockway models in their 1934 Brockway Motorcade. Brockway's Motorcade would consist of 21 different models displayed during their winter tour to 11 major eastern cities.
Brockway would introduce 11 new models in 1935. The general styling was retained until the 1950's. These new units were largely the handiwork of George S. Piroumoff who succeeded R.F. Black as chief engineer and vice-president. Piroumoff succeeded R.F. Black as president of Brockway in April 1935. R.F. Black resigned after accepting the presidency of the White Motor Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. White's presidency had been vacant for some time. In November 1937, in Syracuse, United States Judge Bryant authorized the preferred stockholders to submit a new plan of reorganization of the Brockway Motor Truck Corporation and also to elect a new board of directors. The Brockway Motor Truck Corporation (the debtor in bankruptcy) and the Brockway Motor Company, Inc. (the operating company) would be succeeded by one company, and be referred to as the "New Company". All assets of the debtor and the operating company would be owned by the "New Company". All debentures and inter-corporate obligations between the debtor and the operating company would be eliminated and cancelled. Under Piroumoff's reign, Brockway would introduce their Metropolitan cab in 1939. The Metropolitan was a cab forward design, rather than an outright C.O.E. The idea was to move the cab ahead to allow more chassis space but not to mount it higher as in the case of the C.O.E. designs. The Metropolitan was later modified to crew cab status allowing room for 4 to 5 passengers to accommodate utility and power companies.
With the United States entering WWII, Brockway would again come under contract with the government to produce trucks for the military, as they did in WWI. The Army Corp of Engineers cooperated with Brockway to build a 6x6 2 1/2 ton truck for hauling pontoons and treadways to build combat bridges. Production of the model C-666 began in early 1942. This truck was also built as a general load carrier, a crane and airfield fire truck. Brockway turned its manufacturing of trucks 100% towards the war effort. Only those civilians with government contracts could order a new truck. In 1945, Brockway would introduce the model 260 tractor. The 260 series would be one of Brockway's most popular trucks in its history. A sleeper cab for the 260 was available in 1946. Brockway would build 4,212 trucks in 1946. In 1948 their production would drop to 2,919 due to a saturated market.
During the Korean War period of 1950 to 1952, the vital need for motor trucks had been reaffirmed. Brockway would introduce 20 new models in the early 1950's. These new models all used Continental gasoline engines, Fuller transmissions and Timken axles. With the end of the Korean War, the United States economy was in a recession and this was felt by all truck manufacturers. Brockway's sales would continue to amount to a 0.2% of the overall truck market. George Piroumoff would resign for health reasons and H.O. King would be elected president of the Brockway Motor Co., Inc. in January 1954. During the 1950's a number of mergers took place in the truck manufacturing industry in order to combat the problem of low production and low profitability. The White Motor Company was the main merging partner at this time. White absorbed Sterling Motors in 1951, the Autocar Company in 1953, Reo Motors in 1957 and Diamond T trucks in 1958. In November 1954, the H&B American Machine Co. made a purchase agreement with Brockway Motor Co., Inc. in that H&B Company would lease Brockway for five years with an option to buy. By December 1954, the H&B Company would withdraw its proposal to purchase Brockway as they encountered difficulty in providing funds for a cash payment of $5,500,000 as agreed in the contract. Brockway would continue business as usual under the old management. 1955 would mark the first year Brockway offered diesel motors in their trucks. These new trucks were powered by Continental Diesel engines. Brockway employees would join the United Auto Workers union in Spring of 1955. White Motor Company expressed interest in purchasing Brockway in early 1955. Negotiations between Brockway and White were terminated in July 1955. Continental Motors Corp., who happened to be Brockway's major engine supplier, also expressed interest in purchasing Brockway. Negotiations between these two companies broke off in August 1955.
While Brockway was negotiating with various industrial companies, Mack Trucks, Inc. was enduring their own headaches. Mack spent a significant amount of research and development money to design a new cab for the 1950's that would later be know as the B model cab, introduced in 1953. A group of financial men involved with the Northeast Capital Corporation purchased large blocks of stock of Mack Trucks, Inc. In April 1954, four directors of the Northeast were elected to the Mack board of directors. Before taking over active management, the Northeast group indicated an interest in seeing a continuation and expansion of Mack operations, rather than its liquidation. Uncertain of Mack's future, the company continued to carry out talks with the White Motor Company during the summer of 1954, before a definite course of expansion and diversification was launched for Mack in 1955. The first major change in operation of Mack Trucks, Inc. was the election of Peter O. Peterson as president. In August 1956, an agreement was signed which eventually led to Mack's acquisition of the Brockway Motor Company through the form of a lease-purchase agreement. Mack would pay between 2 and 3 million for Brockway's inventory and lease the company for four years with the option to buy. The purchase of Brockway Motor Company further expanded Mack's production range.
Brockway trucks were manufactured on an as-ordered basis that allowed them to maintain less operating overhead than Mack, who mass-produced trucks on an assembly line. Brockway Motor Trucks was operated as an autonomous division of Mack, retaining their same basic personnel and organization. When J.E. Cambria became vice-president and general manager of Brockway, earnings for Mack Trucks, Inc. rose 55% in 1956 on a sales gain of 31%, the company's all-time high.
1957 would begin a historic advertising campaign for Brockway. Mack, whose identity is incorporated with the Bulldog as an advertising logo, pushed for Brockway to come up with a logo of their own. Brockway would hire an advertising firm from Syracuse, New York to come up with a dog logo that would fit the Brockway name. Bill Duncan, a Brockway employee, went home one night and discussed with his family how the advertising firm wasn't coming up with any good ideas. It was Bill's son Jim Duncan who came up with the idea of using a Huskie for Brockway's mascot. Apparently young Jim was watching "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon" on TV when he saw a Huskie sled dog on the show and brought it to his father's attention. Bill Duncan brought the idea of a Huskie sled dog as a mascot to the attention of Brockway. The company accepted the idea and began advertising the Huskie name and logo on their trucks in 1958. In the fall of 1958, five Mack Truck plants, including Brockway's Cortland plant, were shut down. Local unions of the United Auto Workers went on strike after their contracts expired. The strike ended in early December of 1958. Mack would purchase the Cortland plant and branch facilities of the Brockway Motor Division for $12,000,000 in late January of 1959. J. E. Cambria announced on May 15, 1959 that Brockway was introducing a new "Huskie" line of motor trucks. These new trucks would each have a chrome Huskie dog placed on top of their radiator shell. By the end of the summer of 1959, Brockway would build 94 of these new trucks for the U.S. Air Force under an $800,000 contract.
The 1960's brought great things for Brockway. Brockway Motor Trucks would celebrate their 50th Anniversary in 1962. To commemorate this historic date, Brockway would receive a million dollar government contract to build a fleet of trucks for the U.S. Navy and Air Force. Brockway would introduce their first true C.O.E. in 1963. This C.O.E. was a modified F model Mack cab. In 1965, the first models in the new 300 series line were introduced by Brockway. They were the 358 and 359 models, both designed with a short BBC dimension of 90 inches, better engine accessibility and interchangeable parts. Brockway Motor Trucks would show an incredible sales increase of 25.39 percent in 1966 over the last year. This was the biggest increase in the truck manufacturing industry at that time. Brockway's parent company, Mack Trucks, Inc. with its three manufacturing facilities, would only show an increase of 15.92 percent, while White Consolidated Industries (former White Motor Co.) was trailing behind with 12.09 percent. Mack was plagued with the chronic shortage of working capital, which caused the board of directors to defer cash dividends and issue only stock dividends since 1964. Mack's relative prosperity of its reorganized operation was in itself a major cause in the continuing tightness of ready funds. Mack was building more trucks that the previous year, which in turn meant more money had to be tied up in spare parts and enlarged facilities to service these trucks. White Consolidated Industries would actively seek out a merger with Mack in March 1967. Mack's board of directors would turn down White's bid citing their earnings were similar to Mack's, although on a lower sales volume, along with other factors that stood in the way. After a series of fruitless talks with various firms, Mack would merge with a Los Angeles based firm, the "Signal Oil and Gas Company" on August 18, 1967. According to the merger agreement, Mack would retain complete autonomy and no other truck producer would be taken into the merger at a future date. Mack Trucks, Inc. would again reorganize its board of directors keeping J.R Hanson president of Mack. Robert Mathews would be elected vice-president of Mack and the general manager of the Brockway Division.
Brockway introduced two new conventional 300 series model at the American Truck Association convention in Chicago in 1967. The 360 model had a front axle located forward and the 361 model had a set back front axle. Both trucks continued all the basic features of the Uni-matched design of the 300 series line. Brockway would introduce Huskidrive in 1968. This was a combination of a two-speed rear axle, five speed transmission, and a high-torque-rise diesel engine. The rear axle shift was controlled by a dash mounted switch which allowed the driver to start in Power and then switch to Cruise position after only shifting through five gears. A trucking industry trade magazine called "Overdrive" visited Brockway's Cortland plant in early 1968. Impressed with what they witnessed at Brockway's plant, they featured Brockway in their May 1968 issue, calling Brockway "The Most Rugged Truck in the World!"
In 1970 Brockway began to offer Caterpillar Diesel engines. Once again Brockway would lead the truck manufacturing industry in sales for 1970 with a 22.1 percent sales gain over the last year. Mack was next with an increase of 15.4%. In 1971 Brockway truck cabs were custom padded for noise reduction as well as impact protection. They would also develop an air brake system in which the air brake was separate from other accessory uses. It had a constant 60 psi, despite failure of any other accessory. In May of 1971 Brockway introduced the Huskiteer 527 model, a low profile cab-forward model easily maneuverable through city traffic.
The energy crisis of 1973 and 1974 would be a major blow to the truck manufacturing business and Brockway was no exception. Truck manufacturers, including Brockway, would be faced with a critical shortage of components that hampered them. When Brockway could sell and deliver all the trucks they could make, they were hamstrung by the unavailability of parts. High interest rates, added to the cost, made truck buyers reluctant to buy. The recession and or depression with its tight money flow forced purchasers with trucks on order to forestall delivery in hundreds of cases; new truck orders virtually ceased to flow. A Federal proclamation, that had disastrous effects on the truck building industry, was the Department of Transportation's brake standard MVSS121 which mandated highly sophisticated automatic anti-skid brake installations on all new heavy-duty highway trucks by March 1, 1975. This MVSS121 law became a major obstacle for Brockway.
While other truck manufacturers were still encased in gloom, Brockway was able to put 68 percent of its factory work force back to work with the announcement of a backlog of orders totaling 1,500 trucks. By July 1975, 85 percent of Brockway's work force was back to work after the announcement of an order for 575 Brockway trucks to be shipped to Iran.
The estimated value of this order was $22.6 million. In March 1976 Brockway would close its Cortland plant for 5 days claiming they wanted to re-adjust inventories and allow an order to build up. In April Brockway would make a clever move by entering the glider kit field as a way to deal with the shortage of engines and continuous problems with the MCSS121 anti-skid braking system. The glider kit models included a frame, cab, hood, front fenders, radiator, front axle and brakes. In July 1976 Brockway would introduce the 776 (Bicentennial) model. The New York State D.O.T. ordered a large number of these 776 model plow trucks for their highway departments. Brockway would underbid Mack on the Iran and NY State contracts since they could build a better and more powerful truck for less money. As a result, Mack and Brockway suffered problems between the two companies. During the summer of 1976 Mack management and the U.A.W. local #68 began labor talks. Brockway's labor union president, Geno Patriarco, would lose re-election for his 7th term. Labor talks stalled between Brockway's U.A.W. #68 and Mack management after Geno Patriarco wasn't elected. A wild cat strike erupted after lunch on a Monday at the Cortland plant early in 1977. Brockway employees had been working without a contract for the better part of a year. Oddly, the strike was called by Brockway's new labor union president without a vote from the union! The strike utterly complicated an orderly sale or shutdown of the Brockway plant. After threatening to close the doors forever if they went on strike, Mack made numerous pleas with the labor union to go back to work without a contract for one year and they would work things out plus they would pay any retroactive wages owed to the employees. Meanwhile Mack was discussing the sale of Brockway with several interested parties. The strike was finally terminated April 29th, only after a New York City attorney had a purchase agreement almost concluded with Mack. On May 2nd a Mack spokesman announced that the sale had not taken place and therefore Brockway would be liquidated. A service parts warehouse was immediately set up in Pennsylvania.
Since Brockway was under contract to finish an order with Iran, all the parts needed were shipped down to a warehouse in Miami, Florida to be assembled. These would be the last 45 Brockway trucks built. The trucks were U762TL models powered by 12V71 Detroit Diesel engines joined by 15 speed Road Rangers with 55,000 pound rears.
They finished the last Brockway at 1:00 p.m. on June 8, 1977.