Sunday, August 21, 2011

GMC Electric Trucks

During my daily scroll through Jesse's Just a Car Guy blog, I came across this image that he'd hoovered up from The Old Motor site:

The lads at the American Truck Historical Society (which I belonged to for most of the '80s) had pegged it as a 1913-14 GMC Electric. I first became aware of GMC Electrics from Gini Rice's 1971 Relics of the Road series, Volume One, GMC Gems, 1900-1950, although she only had one picture and scant information:
From Hemmings blog.

John M. Lansden co-founded the Lansden Company in New Jersey in early 1904 with financial help from Thomas Edison. Edison acquired control of the company in 1908 and sold it 1912. The company declared bankruptcy in 1913 and was absorbed by the Mack Truck Company. During its eight year tenure, the Lansden Company built some 2,000 electric trucks and delivery wagons, along with an unknown number of a two-seat electric roadster, the Electrette:
1906 Lansden Electrette. From Just a Car Guy blog.

Lansden left his namesake company in 1911 - shortly before Edison sold it - to start up and manage the electric truck and bus section the newly formed General Motors Truck Company. The whole Lansden Company story will be told in another post another day.

GMC Truck Historian Donald E. Meyer contends that the GMC owned Rapid Motor Vehicle Company (fully acquired in 1909) offered the new electric trucks first, followed by GMC proper, but to date no pictures of a Rapid Electric of this vintage have surfaced.

GMC Electric truck production lasted from 1912 to 1917, with nine standard capacities being offered ranging between half-ton and six-ton. A January 23, 1913 New York Times ad claimed 42 GMC models - 25 Electric and 17 gasoline. At the 1913 New York Truck Show, the GMC Electric Truck display was at the Grand Central Palace, while the Gasoline Truck display was at Madison Square Garden. 1,200 to 1,300 Electrics were built over the five year period. Compare that with the output of just one of GMC's competitors, the General Vehicle Company (GeVeCo) - by 1915 New York City alone had 2,000 of GeVeCo's GV Electric trucks, and that represented more than 25% of all trucks of all types working daily in the city:
While GMC Electric was bragging about the Ebling Brewery using two of their product, rival brewer Jacob Ruppert had 112 GV Electrics in operation. From the June 26, 1913 issue of The New York Times.

More on the General Vehicle Company later - for now see the post here.

In 1914, GMC Electrics represented just over 22% of GMC truck and bus production. By the next year that figure was cut by more than half, and by 1916 it was down to just over 3%. Only one GMC Electric left the assembly line the final year of production.

GMC Electric used by City Board of Health. From the December, 1916 issue of Municipal Engineering journal.

1912 GMC Electric street flusher. From the GM Heritage Center.

1913 GMC Electric transfer van. From the GM Heritage Center.

Taken August 1, 1916. GMC Electric truck delivering six C-3 Hughes Electric Ranges to the Wertenbaker Apartments in Charlottesville. From the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.

Calgary Water Work's 1914 GMC Electric truck replaces at least eight draft horses. From the American Truck Historical Society website.

1912 2-ton GMC Electric truck used on the farm of Boston's Edison Light and Power. Original caption:"Truck on Electric Farm - On the Electric Farm of the Boston, Mass., Edison Company electricity does everything. It cuts the fodder, milks the cows, washes the dishes, pumps the water, churns the butter and finally takes the products of the farm to the city in a G.M.C. truck." From the June 20, 1912 issue of The Automobile magazine.

Same 1912 2-ton GMC Electric truck as above, with a quarter-ton Walker Vehicle Company electric truck (also owned by the farm) behind it. From the October, 1912 issue of the General Electric Review.

1912 GMC Electric Model 2-E in Philadelphia (?). Body possibly made by Bethlehem Steel. From the

In 1912 GMC Electric had entered an already saturated market and simply could not catch up. By 1917 they had wisely chosen to concentrate on the ultimately dominate gasoline truck.

These are all of the GMC Electric photos I could find. If you know of any others, please let me know where to find them.

1 comment: said...

These photos of electric trucks are really amazing! At the beginning of the twentieth century the car industry was dominated by electric models. However, soon the economic interests related to oil led to the end of electric mobility and the disappearance of the companies that were interested in the production of these vehicles such as the GMC.