That's me getting to bring...
That's me getting to bring back many fond childhood memories and my local milk wagon. Special thanks to Kenny Campbell of Albuquerque, NM, who let us enjoy his daily ride. Freelancer Ken Gross had the envious opportunity to drive the milk truck, making one of his lifelong dreams come true.
The quest is over. I have found the perfect street rod. Well, with a few minor exceptions--it has fenders and a hardtop, but other than that, it fulfills all of my expectations.
For starters, it can carry everyone who will ride with me (generally less than two), all of our gear, and a weekend's worth of food. What more could I ask for? Let me give you some basics before revealing the piece de resistance: It is a 1951 (Model 11)--although the family of vehicles was made from 1926-1986--and it has a 100.25-inch wheelbase, weighs 4,500 lbs, and has a gross weight of 7,500 lbs (clearly not intended to meet CAFE regulations!). It has all the obligatory mods, such as the engine swap from its 47-horse Continental banger to a '54 Ford Flathead with Chevy 409 water pump, Merc intake, a Chevy Rochester carb, and PerTronix electronic ignition now with an output of 120 horses. The tranny has been swapped from the original four-speed (non-synchro) to a modern five-speed OD manual. The rearend gears have been downplayed from the factory 6.16 ratio to more highway-friendly 5.14s. Top speed originally was 36 mph at 2,600 rpm, while nowadays a freeway-legal 60 at 2,800 rpm can be easily achieved. Oh yes, and it has four-wheel disc brakes, power steering, tilt column, and the obligatory Deuce headlights. What could this perfect piece of rodding material be? One last hint--it can carry 57 milk cases, along with driver and lunch box!
Yep, it's a Divco (Detroit Industrial Vehicle Company) and this company (and others) manufactured the little hauler in some fashion from 1926 until 1986. The official description of a Divco is a "multi-stop delivery truck," and only the Volkswagen Beetle stayed in production for a longer run with the same basic model. I remember my milkman and Helm's Bakery man driving them, and these trucks always brought out the kid in me (wait, I was a kid!). I associated only good things with the Divco and have always had a fondness for these multi-stop trucks.
The original Divco milk truck derived from an electric prototype built by George Bacon, chief engineer of Detroit Electric Car Co., with four positions for the driver (front, rear, and both sides). Some three years later, a separate company was formed to produce the Divco with a gasoline engine.
Divcos, through the never-ending grind of a declining marketplace, were last produced and sold in January 1986 via a bankruptcy sale. Eventually, dealerships began to close, and, one by one, a legend in the making was no more. The last dealership in the U.S. was Tri-City Divco Sales in Rock Island, Illinois. (Editor's Note: If you find yourself interested in learning more about the Divco, check out Tri-City's Web site, where the catchy jingle will also entertain you: www.divco.org.)
All of us over time will own any number of cars (and trucks) of which we are fond, and I may very well never own a Divco, but it will not be for a lack of interest. It may not be practical (since when is a street rod practical?), it certainly will not be the height of ergonomics (ditto), and there are any number of other reasons why I will not or should not own a multi-stop delivery truck. Having said all of that, fondness for the li'l bull-nosed beauty will not be one of those reasons. It's just a shame we cannot own all of the cars to which we find ourselves drawn, but, maybe, just maybe, a Divco will find itself into my garage over time!