The Airport's First ‘BIG MACK’

Early American aviators filled their fuel tanks by pumping gas and oil into cans, then pouring it through a funnel lined with a chamois to collect contaminants. Some small aircraft owners and back country fliers still do. Specialized tankers commonly...


Vintage Macks enjoy a pampered after-life in parades, special events and museums. Mack truck expert Dennis Meehan owns OLDMACKS, a company which trades worldwide in Macks built between 1900 and 1970. From him I learned about the development of proper manhole seals, tanks divided to carry kerosene, farm gas and oil, and baffles to keep liquid loads balanced en route. “Specialized airport fuel trucks evolved from taking what worked on hearses, tractors, fire trucks and wagons,” says Meehan. Some were major changes to non-ferrous materials and some were small, like adding a windshield. Don Schumaker is the curator of the The Mack Museum in Michigan and custodian of the original design specs of a Mack sold to Texaco in 1910. The tank was 46 inches in diameter and 12 feet long. Held to the truck chassis by four strap irons, the tank was divided into three sections, each with a raised “manhole dome.”

Manufactured in Pennsylvania, “This might be the first complete fuel tank truck delivered by Mack,” writes Schumaker. The solid, reliable 1910 truck already painted with the Texaco star (but no bulldog logo) was fitted with “regular” front and back truck lights, steering wheel, fender and tires.

Street legal or not, the noble Mack fuel truck traveled to its first job in Massachusetts by train.

About the AUTHOR: Giacinta Bradley Koontz is an aviation historian, former museum director and archaeologist. She is the 2008 recipient of the DAR History Medal and nationally recognized expert on the life of Harriet Quimby, America’s first licensed female pilot (1911). Learn more about her various aviation history projects at: www.harrietquimby.org.

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