Thinking of a Mack as anything but a heavy-duty truck isn’t easy. Although not everything Mack has built over the years is a monster, the company has rarely produced a vehicle that could be considered less than serious.
Mack started when two brothers, John and Gus Mack, bought out a Brooklyn, N.Y., carriage-building company in 1893. Ten years later, what had become The Mack Brothers Co. was now advertising its first self-propelled vehicle, a “15 – passenger car, built expressly for public and private use.” It was, in fact, a sightseeing bus, and the company’s early successes were enough to suggest the need for expansion. By 1905 — with the addition of brothers Joseph and William Mack — The Mack Brothers Motor Car Co. was incorporated in Pennsylvania and establishing itself in Allentown.
Things went well for the company and in 1916, Mack introduced its most famous Model, the AC. A chain-drive truck whose radiator was mounted behind the engine, it used a Renault-style hood to create a distinctive appearance that resulted in its famous nickname, the Bulldog Mack. The AC was not alone, though, as other models with similar front-end styling gradually appeared. First on the scene was the 1927 AK, followed by the AP two years later.
The ACs and the other Bulldog-type Macks were substantial vehicles — 1-1/2-ton models were the lightweights — but despite their ongoing improvements, their basic concept was tied to the early days of trucking. Simply stated, they were rugged, powerful and probably just a little overbuilt. As admirable as those qualities are, things were changing in the 1930s; modern designs were needed so that trucks would be better suited to the different jobs. There was still plenty of work that didn’t require over-the-road travel, but off-highway trucks were seldom the right match for medium- and long-distance runs.
By 1938, the last of the Bulldogs were built as the heavy F-series trucks and various other successors entered production. As the AC was winding down, Mack had also begun exploring a return to the market for light trucks. Its first effort in those years was a thinly disguised Reo that became the Mack Jr. A revival of a name last used on a light-duty Mack in 1916, it was available with a load rating as low as a half-ton, but as the product of two truck builders that believed in offering choices, the Mack Jr. could also be a three-quarter-ton or heavier model. The different wheelbases and the option of a four or a six broadened its appeal in that a customer could fine-tune it to meet the demands of the work it would handle, but as a Mack, the most interesting feature was that it really was a light-duty truck.
The Mack Jr. was built only during 1936 and 1937. Like its Reo parent, it’s certainly a nicely styled truck, and with the Mack grille and other minor changes, it’s equally attractive, so appearance didn’t hurt sales and its production amounted to 4,974 trucks over the two years. That seems like a small number and thus needs to be put into perspective: Mack and other truck builders often produced models that sold in comparable numbers or less, but just as important is that small trucks weren’t really Mack’s focus, and expectations of immediately huge numbers would have been unrealistic.
The company had no reason to be embarrassed by the sales figures for the Mack Jr.; if it had, it most likely would’ve quietly walked away from small trucks instead of introducing its E series.
The E appeared in 1936 with two cab-over-engine models, the EB and EC. At 2-1/2 to four tons and 1-1/2 to three tons, respectively, they were actually medium-trucks, as was the conventional EH introduced that year. Unlike the Mack Jr., the EB, EC and EH had no connection to any other manufacturer beyond the Continental engine. In general, E models — more than a dozen, running from the EB to the ETX — were good sellers, and Mack kept several of them in production into the very early 1950s.
Allowing that “small” is a relative term when discussing trucks, the smallest of the E series is the ED that Mack brought out in 1938. A pickup that was available with wheelbases of 120-1/2 or 136-1/2 inches, the ED was rated at a 1-1/2-ton or two-ton capacity; in effect, it was a heavy truck in every aspect but size, and although even a quick look could identify it as more than a half-ton pickup, its styling makes it an attractive vehicle.
The fact that it’s a Mack is clear from its family resemblance to the larger models, even if the pickup’s rear fenders do hint at those of a contemporary Ford, and the bulldog standing atop the grille is all but impossible to miss. A well-dressed truck when suitably optioned, it wears five three-piece sets of horizontal chrome trim spaced through the grille and another set on each side of the hood, where the center bars are broken by “Mack” badges. Add in the general roundness, a slight suggestion of streamlining, and vertical “Mack ED” lettering on the chrome center strip running from the bottom of the grille to the rear of the hood, and the truck has an art deco look. Any business that owned one must have made a good impression with it, something that’s a nice bonus on a truck that was actually meant to work.
Unfortunately, not enough businesses saw the possibilities, and when the ED’s run ended in 1944, Mack had sold just 2,686 examples. It was not a good showing when compared to that of the Mack Jr., but such a comparison is somewhat unfair, because of World War II’s impact. Whatever the cause, the ED did not return after the war and Mack has not built anything like it since.
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