Living estate of trucking industry pioneer to be auctioned

1911 Ford Model T, red, beautifully restored, with 28,900 miles on the odometer since the restoration.

(Overland Park, Kan.) – The living estate of trucking industry pioneer Jim Graves – one of the founders of Graves Truck Line, Inc., known throughout the Midwest for its big rigs with the bright red cabs – will be auctioned this Saturday, May 2. Mayo Auction & Realty will conduct the sale beginning at 10 a.m. on Merriam Lane in Overland Park near Kansas City.

“Mr. Graves is a legend in the true sense of the word,” said Robert Mayo of Mayo Auction & Realty. “He helped build a hugely successful trucking company from the ground up, and was a dedicated collector of vintage cars and trucks. He owned and operated a vintage cars and trucks museum in Kansas City, while his brother Bill also operated a vintage cars museum in Salina, Kansas.” 

The brothers sold the museums in 1989, but not all of Jim’s vehicles were included in the deal. Two from his earlier museum that will be sold include a 1911 Model T, red, beautifully restored, with 28,900 miles on the odometer since the restoration, a Bosch magneto, engine #51877; and a 1930 Model A roadster, tan, fully restored, with just 1,121 miles on the odometer since the restoration, complete with rumble seat.

1926 Ford Model T touring sedan, green, fully restored, with 10,698 miles on the odometer since the restoration.

Also offered will be a 1926 Model T touring sedan, green, fully restored, with 10,698 miles on the odometer since the restoration. The original engine was replaced with a rebuilt 1926 Ford engine in 1998 (#14876416). That vehicle was not from the museum and was acquired later on. Many of the museum cars were purchased by Graves from the Jerry Smith Collection. Smith was an area auto dealer and legendary vintage car collector.

Also to be sold will be a 1926 Ford Model T, converted for use as a tractor (a common practice at the time); a 1955 Howe Defender fire truck, with an original, older Waukesha engine and a Chevy chassis and flat-bed for a rear; a Model T engine and drive train; and other items, to include tools, a parade trailer; die-cast collectibles, Graves Truck Line signage and memorabilia; and Model T and Model A parts.

Newer vehicles will also cross the block. These include a 1979 Chevy Silverado Big 10 truck; a 1988 GMC 3500 SLE Sierra truck; and a 1995 Ford Bronco. Restoration information, special features, vehicle histories and modifications are available by calling Mayo Auction & Realty, at (816) 699-9883 or visit their Web site at www.AuctionByMayo.com. Bidders will be able to participate live and in real time while the sale is underway.

Mr. Graves today is 90 years old, retired and living in Prairie Village, Kan. It was in 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, that Jim (then a teenager), his father, William Preston Graves (who had just lost the family farm) and Jim’s three brothers (Bill, Dwight and John) formed Graves Truck Service, which hauled crops, vegetables, livestock and coal in the Salina area. Their lone asset: one 1933 Dodge truck.

A couple of years later, they doubled their fleet — buying a second truck — and the seeds of a regional trucking giant were sown. The firm grew into a multi-state colossus, with an operating territory that stretched from Sioux City south to Dallas and from Kansas City west to Denver. Sadly, Jim’s father died in 1939, well before the empire had been built, but the company was left in his sons’ capable hands.

In 1978, the brothers sold Graves Truck Line, Inc., to American Natural Resources, based in Detroit. At the time, the firm was providing direct service to over 600 communities, was operating 40 terminals, had over 2,600 rigs and employed over 1,500 people. Eventually, American Natural Resources’ truck line division was acquired by the Coastal Corporation, and soon Graves trucks disappeared from the nation’s highways. Remarkably, to this day, former employees of the company still gather to reminisce about their jobs, their co-workers and the company they loved.

For 43 years (1935-1978), Graves Truck Line, Inc., dotted the nation’s midsection with its big trucks. And its co-founder and executive vice president, Jim Graves, was as colorful as the vehicles he presided over. His love for cars and trucks ran deeper than just a desire to make money. When his museum was sold, it was Kruse International, the high-end auction house that won the consignment.

Jim is the last of the four Graves brothers still alive today. John passed away in 1976, Dwight in 1980 and Bill in 2005. Three of the brothers served in World War II (Dwight stayed home and took care of the family business). Jim was in the Army infantry and was shot in the leg during combat on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands. Bill was recently inducted into the Salina Business Hall of Fame (posthumously). Bill’s son (also named Bill) was Governor of Kansas for eight years (1995-2003). Before that, he was Kansas’ Secretary of State. He is now the president and CEO of the American Trucking Association.

Graves trucks were known throughout the Midwest for their big rigs with the bright red cabs.

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