Monday, June 9, 2014

Built Like a Mack AB Flatbed Truck

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Back in 2009 we purchased three vehicles at auction from the LeMay Collection in Washington state. The 1905 Advance steam traction engine and a 1918 Duplex flatbed truck have been on display outside the museum for some time, but the 1917 Mack AB flatbed truck was put into storage.

Recently, we moved the Mack into our carpentry shop to get it ready for display. It won't be a driver, but will make a nice addition to our outdoor exhibits. The AB, introduced in 1914 as a replacement for the Mack Junior, was Mack's first standardized, high-volume model series. It was offered in 1-, 1 1/2- and 2-ton forms. Over 51,600 ABs were produced between 1914 and 1936.

The AB was powered by a 30-HP, 4-cylinder engine with pair-cast cylinders. It originally came with a three-speed transmission and had a worm-driven rear axle; in 1915 chain drive was offered as an alternative. Top speed was around 15 MPH.

John William Frame Photograph Collection P228-64;
Alaska State Library
Unbeknownst to us when we purchased this truck, Mack ABs played an important role in developing Alaska's Richardson Highway. As you can see in the photo at right, though, it wasn't easy! In 1905, the Alaska Road Commission (ARC) was created to oversee improvements to pack trails, mainly the Valdez-Eagle wagon trail (and soon after a spur trail to Fairbanks). Although the ARC declared in 1914 that it made "no pretense of having built roads adapted for automobile travel," motorized traffic began taking over the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail in the late teens. During that time the ARC expended great effort into widening the Trail, bridging small streams with culverts and larger ones with wooden structures, and laying down corduroy over permafrost sections. Their workhorse was the Mack AB truck, and the John William Frame Collection in the archives of the Alaska State Library has a great series of photos of the ARC's Mack ABs taken in 1919.

Except for their soft tops and dump beds, the ARC trucks look identical to ours. Once again, we have a great old vehicle to help us tell the story of Alaska's automotive history! Watch for the Mack to be put on display later this summer.

Coming to Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and other area attractions? Support the museum by staying right here at Wedgewood Resort. All guests receive half-price admission to the museum!


  1. July 9, 2014,

    Hi Nancy,

    My name is (Mr.) Stacey Bindman and I write about old and antique toys on my blog:

    I'm going to be writing a mini-series on very old Mack truck toys, and was searching for the "real" equivalent. I just came across your museum, and would like permission to use your of the green Mack truck. I always add a watermark over each photo,and a copyright notice at the bottom of the photo. I also like to use photo-editing software to improve the image (colour-balance, contrast). I also have been placing items against white, but I think in this case your trucks appear best in an "as is placed" location.

    I'd like to return and use more of your old car photos, and write a post about your museum. I can do that soon, and for this post, I would invite you to write your own narrative (otherwise I usually gather material from the site).

    Please feel free to ask me any questions that you might have.

    Thanking you in advance,

    Stacey Bindman


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