Mafia Secrets
Ghosts of nameplates past

By Bryan Martin, contributing writer

My, how things change, eh?
Looking back at many past decades, not only has the technology, comfort and reliability of trucks changed immensely, but it’s interesting to look at the nameplates that have faded into the sunset for one reason or another.
Let’s recap just a few manufacturers who used to be major players in the trucking sector, but who no longer exist in the marketplace.

This brand goes clear back to 1897, and through the years, they’ve built one heck of a lot of trucks. The Autocars could really go toe-to-toe with some of the rugged Mack trucks, or just about any of the trucks on the road. Autocar built some bold and sharp-looking owner-operator trucks in the ’80s as well.

Then, they hooked up with Volvo White and everything changed. Slowly all the conventional models disappeared and they became known for the tilt-cab expediter model that was very common in the trash and refuse world.

These reliable old work trucks came into existence way back in 1912 and were going strong up to 1956 when they were bought by Mack. That’s when they all sort of started looking very similar to the Macks. In the mid-1970s Mack stopped production of the Brockway line.

Diamond Reo
Many don’t know that Diamond Reo was an offshoot of Oldsmobile. Yep, Oldsmobile indeed used to build trucks. They went from Oldsmobile Truck, to REO Speedwagon, to Diamond Reo. They were constantly in a state of change, became known as Diamond T, and then finally bit the dust in 1975.

Marmon was always well known as being one of the last hand-built trucks in the USA. They built an impressive truck up thru the mid-1990s. A lot of us are familiar with the last Marmon ever built, which was produced at their factory in Texas and bought by OOIDA Life Member Ken Matuszak. Still today, Ken takes it to various trucking events across the country.

Does anyone but me recall the look of the old Marmon cabovers? Talk about non-aerodynamic. Geeze. Those things were truly square. The entire front of the cab, including the windshield, went straight up-and-down, no “rake” of the windshield at all. But, what they lacked in style, they made up for in heavy-duty construction and long-life durability.

Formerly the old Ford Heavy Truck division, Ford sold the Sterling to Freightliner, who kept it alive for a number of years. Freightliner made a huge footprint with larger fleet linehaul operations at dozens of big operations like ABF, Conway, YRC and more. Freightliner eventually made a decision to quit the manufacture of Sterling trucks which was a great setback to many trucking companies and dealerships that had surrounded themselves with these popular work trucks.

Now this is a brand with a bunch of history. Talk about evolution; check this out:

They started building big trucks in the ’20s and over the years have owned or controlled Sterling, Autocar, Diamond T, Diamond Reo, and were even steering the Freightliner ship until 1975 or so. In the ’70s, they started Western Star and never could get all their ducks in a row. So, in the ’80s they sold to Volvo, forming what used to be known as Volvo White, which is today’s super huge Volvo Trucks.

Today we’ve talked about trucks of the last 50 to 75 years, and it makes one wonder what the next 50 years will bring or take away. In 2064, what will truck junkies say about the makes and models of the early 2000s?

As for me, I dig the old iron. It has a ton of character and personality compared to the late models. And even though parts for them are getting tougher to locate all the time, they sure are user friendly when it comes to mechanic’ing and working on them. Make mine a 1970s to 1980s and we will “get along just fine.” LL