Historic Truck Brands

Maple Leaf

The original Canadian Mapleleaf trucks were Montreal-licence-built 1-1/2-ton to five-ton models that were originally developed by Menard Motor Truck Company of Ontario. They were produced between 1919 and 1922.

The better-known Maple Leaf models were built at General Motors’ Oshawa plant in Canada, from 1930 until 1948. 

General Motors’ involvement in Canada goes back to the early 1900s, when the McLaughlin Motor Car Company was founded in 1907. Samuel McLaughlin and William C Durant, then the biggest carriage builders in Canada and the United States, respectively, arranged for Durant to supply McLaughlin with Buick power trains for 15 years.

In 1908 Durant and McLaughlin started General Motors Holding Company, after McLaughlin exchanged his Buick stock for General Motors stock and in 1910 was invited to be on the board of General Motors in Detroit.

In 1915 McLaughlin acquired the Chevrolet Car Company of Canada, which built Chevrolets in Oshawa with Chevrolet motors and McLaughlin bodies. 

In 1918 he merged his company with it under the name General Motors of Canada Limited that included the Chevrolet Truck Company of Canada, which assembled different GM car and truck models for the Canadian and some export markets.

General Motors employed the ‘Holden’ name in Australia from 1931, to build the idea of a local brand and the Canadian GM arm did exactly the same. Canadian-assembled heavy-duty Chevrolet and GMC trucks were branded ‘Maple Leaf’ from 1930, but light-duty models remained ‘Chevrolet’.

Another advantage for GM in sending Maple Leaf trucks rather than US-made Chevrolet and GMC brands was the discretionary import tariff for Commonwealth countries.

Maple Leaf trucks used parts from Chevrolet and GMC trucks. The original HR rode on a 131inch wheel base, with GMC five-bolt pattern, five spoke wheels. 

The HT in 1932 added a 157-inch wheelbase. In 1933 came the HU; in 1934, the HW; in 1935, the HX and wheelbases increased to 141-inch and 165-inch. The HY came in 1936, with a heavier 2-1/2-ton chassis and two-speed rear axle option. Early models had open drivelines and later ones, torque tubes.

Post-1935 Maple Leafs had the first hydraulic brakes fitted to Chevrolet-designed trucks. 

Generally speaking, if a pre-1936 Canadian-built truck was rated for over 1.5 tons payload, it was a Maple Leaf.

Later models are more difficult to classify, particularly after the later-generation Chevrolet Advance Design cab was introduced in 1947.

In Australia many Maple Leaf and Chevrolet trucks served with the armed forces and there is confusion in distinguishing between the two brands.


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