Historic Truck Brands
The first Autocar was Louis Semple Clarke’s tricycle motor car, powered by a single-cylinder petrol engine, in 1897. That makes Autocar the longest-surviving nameplate in the USA.
The company’s first truck came two years later and was the first motor truck in the USA. It was powered by a choice of 5hp and 8hp under-seat engines and had a payload of 300kg.
Promotional material at time boasted that the driver could: “operate it with more safety than he could drive a horse”.
In 1907 Autocar launched the Model XVIII that boasted many US-market firsts: left-hand-drive; shaft drive instead of chains; a double-reduction axle; porcelain-insulated spark plugs (manufacturing rights sold later to Champion) and the first circulating oil system.
The Autocar ‘bowtie’ badge appeared in 1919, on a new range of trucks, with payloads between 1.5 tons and six tons and in bonneted and cab-over-engine configurations.
There was also a period of electric truck manufacture, between 1920 and 1926, but that ended when the ‘Blue Streak’, six-cylinder engine was introduced. In 1933 the Model ‘U’ was released, with an under-seat engine, for refuse collection work.
In 1939 Autocar became an early adopter of diesel engines, offering the Cummins HB-600 as an option.
Autocar produced nearly as many trucks for the World War Two effort as it had done in all the years prior.
Principal products were half-tracks and 4×4 prime movers.
Post-War Autocar saw a new steel cab introduced in 1950, but the company became part of the White Trucks stable in 1953.
Thereafter, Autocar became the heavy and vocational ends of the White model line-up. Autocar also moved into off-road construction vehicles and, in 1957, produced the AP40, then the heaviest-payload truck in the market.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Autocar was the go-to brand for custom-specification heavy haulage trucks. The pinnacle was the AP19T that had V-12 Cummins power, 14-ton-capacity front axle and 90-ton tandem.
In 1981, AB Volvo acquired the troubled White Motor Company and the new Volvo White Truck Corporation continued to promote the Autocar brand as its custom-truck specialist.
The ageing Autocar cab was discontinued in 1987 and replaced by the White cab.
Volvo ended production of Autocars in 2000, but a few months later, GVW Group purchased Autocar and the vocational White Xpeditor models from Volvo.
GVW concentrated on the Expeditor for the next few years, but in 2019 re-launched the DC conventional truck range, for severe-service applications.