Mack Trucks was one of the largest employers in the Lehigh Valley throughout most of the 20th century. Many of these thousands of workers lived and retired to Carbon County and still have a warm spot in their hearts for the company that made the Bulldog insignia famous.
Anyone who loves cars will surely love America On Wheels where, in addition to two fully loaded immense floors brimming with over 75 exhibits. A new exhibit features four full-size restored classic Mack trucks.
First in the Mack exhibit is a whimsical 1916 Mack "Paddy Wagon," originally produced as a fire truck for the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company.
After it was retired, in 1976 it was salvaged and restored by truck collector Bob Theimer, and later converted into a Prohibition-era Paddy Wagon by Gary Mahan.
"With the passing of the 18th Amendment, the selling of liquor became illegal, and gangsters recognized the opportunity to furnished speakeasies with all the bootlegged booze they could sell," said Sheryl Hawk, director of development at America On Wheels. "It took a fleet of mobile jail cells, known as Paddy Wagons, to bring the bad guys and girls to jail."
The Paddy Wagon is a Mack Trucks model AB with a four-cylinder 25.6 HP gasoline engine, a three speed transmission, with a maximum speed of 16 mph. In 2003, a team converted the vehicle to a police paddy wagon by adding a jail cell, gun rack, and a lock display.
Next is a 1926 Mack Trucks model AC, modified and rebuilt as a hauling truck. In its class of vehicle, 40,299 of these "Bull Dogs" were built between 1916 and 1938. Their ruggedness made them famous on the WWI battlefields of Europe, and the British soldiers named them "bull dogs" because the vehicles reminded them of their national symbol, the English Bull Dog. The Bulldog soon became the Mack corporate symbol.
The third Mack, a 1959 Model B61T tractor, was delivered to Cohenno, Inc., a 110-year-old New England lumber company that relied on Mack Trucks for nearly a century. Andrew Cohenno restored the 10 forward, 2 reverse gear 170 HP lumber truck that had a rated speed of 57 mph. The B Series, with Mack's Thermodyne diesel engine with direct fuel injection, continues to be a favorite of antique truck restorers and collectors.
A fourth Mack in the collection, one that has been at the AOW museum since its opening in 2008, is a 1911 Mack Junior built for the Arbogast & Bastian Meatpacking Company that was formerly along the Lehigh River in 1877. Since the America On Wheels museum is located on a property that was formerly part of the A&B complex, this truck helps to ground AOW in its community. "It's a marriage of the past with the present and future," said Hawk.
Additional Mack trucks - such as a UPS delivery truck, a 1918 fire truck, and a 1919 farm truck - are scattered throughout the collection. The Scranton-area-born Mack brothers began a company of motorized buses in Brooklyn in 1900, and in 1905 moved their business to Allentown where they began manufacturing trucks.
Along with the Mack truck exhibit, the museum has exhibits ranging from automobiles to trucks to bicycles to motorcycles - even a Segway. There is a current exhibit of lovingly restored children's peddle cars from the 1950s and 60s, and another displaying Woodies - wood-sided vehicles dating from 1914.
AOW has exhibits on the history of UPS, a learning center on the restoration of automobiles, a theater for the viewing of automotive-related movies, a simulation Mack truck, a Long-Haul automotive-related art gallery room, and a 1950s era Hubcap Café soda fountain - serving soda shop favorites Thursdays through Sundays.
In the 1960's, Mack CEO Zenon Hansen raised seed money for a national truck museum in the Allentown area. In 1989, the idea of a transportation museum at the A&B site in Allentown was planned; the site of the museum was to be known as Lehigh Landing.
After three separate groundbreakings - 2001, 2004 and 2005 - the 43,000 square foot $17 million museum opened to the public on April 12, 2008.
America On Wheels is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. The museum is located at 5 North Front Street in Allentown, Pa. 610-432-4200, www.americaonwheels.org.