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Autocar, the first commercial truck in the U.S.

Autocar® is the oldest vehicle nameplate in the United States, and continues to represent the spirit of pioneering innovation in the North American transportation industry.

The nameplate’s history dates back to 1897 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when two brothers by the names of Louis and John Clarke established the truck company by launching two major products, a motorized tricycle and a small car called the Pittsburgher. In 1899, the plant was moved to Ardmore, PA and Autocar produced a light delivery truck. This was the first commercial truck built in the United States, and marks the real beginning of Autocar trucks.

Little wonder that the brand was commonly referred to as the “world’s finest” — and that people who have grown up in the United States and know heavy-duty trucks are familiar with the Autocar name and reputation in addition to the signature Autocar long-nose hood, the radiator cap and the Autocar bowtie emblem mounted on the trademark grille.

1901 Autocar, with James Osmond on ground and founders John & Louis Clarke

Inside the Ardmore, PA, factory around 1900

The first Autocar motor truck pictured in 1899

Autocar developed one of the first cab-over-engine trucks in the United States.

In the early 1900’s, Autocar produced both automobiles and early versions of commercial trucks. In 1911, however, Autocar began producing only commercial trucks, starting with a 97-inch wheelbase, 1.5-ton, 2-cylinder engine truck that sold over 30,000 units. In 1920, a 2- and a 5-ton 4-cylinder engine model replaced the 1.5-ton truck.

In the 1920s, Autocar began offering a variety of wheel bases and offered both a conventional truck and a cab-over-engine truck. In the late 1920s, the company focused on production of conventional models and launched many new product features, such as: the “Blue Streak” 6 – cylinder engine, proprietary axles and transmissions, enclosed cabs and a four-wheel drive system, all targeting the more severe-service vocational markets. In the 1930’s, in response to certain state truck and trailer length restrictions, Autocar developed one of the first cab-over-engine trucks in the United Stated, called the Model “U” truck. (U-90-T Model).

Type XXVII from the 1920’s

U-90-T Model U series, introduced in 1935

WWII fleet of Army trucks

WorldWar II and beyond

During World War II, Autocar concentrated primarily on supplying vehicles to the United States military, manufacturing armored half-trucks, all wheel drive prime movers and standard production models for military use. Autocar vehicles proved to be instrumental to the Allied Forces’ efforts in many campaigns building even more so Autocar’s reputation for “Tough Trucks”. After the war, Autocar refocused on commercial severe-service markets.

In 1950, the company introduced the all-metal Driver Cab, replacing the previous wood-and-metal cab design. White Motor Company purchased Autocar in 1953, as the industry was at a downturn in the business cycle, and moved Autocar’s production to a new site in Exton, Pennsylvania. During this period, Autocar was known for its custom engineering, designing each vehicle to its customers’ specific application requirements. Autocar expanded its severe-service product lineup in 1957 to higher gross-vehicle-weight (GVW) trucks with payloads of up to 40 tons, and introduced the AP series for on- and off-road construction, mining, logging and oil fields. With its Amodel, Autocar also focused on weight reduction by incorporating aluminum truck frames and cabs in the late 1950’s.

The 1980’s, another transition

In 1980, White Motors moved Autocar’s production from Pennsylvania to Ogden, Utah. In 1981, Volvo of Sweden announced its acquisition of White Motor Corporation’s assets, including the facility in Ogden and the Autocar brand name, and formed Volvo White Truck Corporation. In 1986, Volvo White acquired the heavy-truck business from General Motors and became Volvo GM Heavy Truck Corporation. The last Autocar to use the Autocar Driver Cab, first introduced in 1950, completed assembly at Ogden on December 18, 1987. The “new” Autocar shared a common cab with all Volvo GM Heavy Truck products. In 1988, the new generation of White GMC Autocar trucks had the original Autocar bowtie on the side of the hood and a WHITE GMC logo on the grille. The Autocar bowtie later returned to the top of the grille as well as remaining on the side of the hood.

The DC-10064

Early 70’s S64B Dump Truck

Autocar DS 66 concrete mixer

2001 Volvo Autocar

Continuing a legacy of excellence

In 2001, GVW Group LLC purchased Autocar and the Xpeditor truck from Volvo Trucks North America and formed Autocar, LLC, which has been on a mission ever since to create the highest performing severe-service niche truck company with a focus on custom engineering to customer needs. Located in Hagerstown, Indiana since 2003, Autocar is a North American leader in engineering, assembling, marketing and servicing Class 8 severe-service trucks. After gaining a commanding position in the refuse market, Autocar has expanded its focus to include a growing range of custom-engineered vocational trucks , including mobile cranes, concrete vehicles, paint stripers, specialty natural gas vehicles, and now yard tractors.

True to it’s heritage of engineering excellence, Autocar has in recent years introduced a series of industry-leading innovations including improved ergonomic cabs, integrated controls and an unsurpassed body-chassis interface. Autocar has also developed the new E3 hybrid-drive Class 8 refuse truck, which is designed to significantly reduce fuel consumption in frequent start-and-stop applications. The improved Xpeditor ACX cab is the industry’s roomiest and most durable, the only low-cab-forward model on the market manufactured entirely of fully welded, two-sided galvanized steel. Autocar Xpeditor ACX cabs offer an unmatched range of safety, convenience, and ease-of-use features. All Autocar vehicles are still proudly distinguished by the Autocar bowtie logo on the grille.

Severe-service ACX refuse truck

Severe-service ACX mobile crane truck

Severe-service ACX concrete pump truck

Autocar Xspotter Yard Tractor

In recent years, Autocar® has expanded it’s focus to include a growing range of custom-engineered vocational trucks and yard tractors.