Creemore Valley Classics VIP Stories #44
The Bureau of Reclamation is an agency under the US Department of the Interior and oversees water resource management, specifically as it applies to the oversight and operation of numerous water diversion, delivery, storage and hydroelectric power generation projects it has built throughout the western US.
The Bureau of Reclamation was responsible for the Colorado-Big Thompson project which spreads over approximately 250 miles in the State of Colorado. This very large project was designed to store, regulate, and divert water from the Colorado River on the western slope of the Continental Divide to the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains providing supplemental water for irrigation to approximately 720,000 acres of land, for municipal and industrial use, hydroelectric power and water-oriented recreation opportunities including several man-made lakes.
This government Mack truck was serviced at the Bureau of Reclamation’s Loveland Garage every 500 miles and had a complete service and maintenance check every 5000 miles or 90 days, whichever came first until it was put up for sale around 1997.
On June 20, 1997, the truck was sold to Gene Marlin of Marlin Crane Inc. of Indianapolis, IN. Gene had seen the truck parked outside the Loloff yard with a “for sale” sign on it and since he had driven a truck just like this when he was a young man, Gene decided to purchase the truck from the Loloff company and have it hauled to Indianapolis where he started a general restoration. The truck was painted in a dull military gray with no markings when Gene purchased the truck. He sandblasted the entire truck with charcoal since this was used in the aircraft industry and was a technique that Gene was familiar. The uniform size of the particles does little outward damage to metal surfaces unlike sand with its wide range of particle sizes. Since Gene always wanted a red and green truck, he hired a summer student to paint the entire frame and winch a kind of forest green. The truck was then taken to the local Freightliner dealership for some restoration work on the inside of the cab and to paint the outside of the cab a bright red (attempted to match Mack Red). Much of the restoration work was done from February 2, 1999 to January 12, 2001. The truck was kept in Gene’s aircraft hanger for several years when he decided to sell the truck in 2008.
The truck was purchased and hauled back to the Pfahl restoration shop in Bethlehem, CT. Some engine repairs were completed immediately after arrival (blown head gasket between cylinders 5 and 6) but serious restoration could not be started until the fall of 2010. The single disk injector pump was particularly troublesome and had to be removed and repaired 3 times before finally getting it to function correctly. During the operation of the truck in the mountains of Colorado, no adjustments were made to the fuel system to accommodate for the increase in elevation since the fuel system would have been set at the factory for operation at sea level. The exhaust likely smoked because the engine would have been starved for air at the 5000 ft. elevation.
In general, our restoration work involved mostly cleaning, grinding, sanding, repainting and detailing the interior and exterior to get it close to its original color and condition. Tires were replaced but much of the mechanical details of the truck were in very good condition. The channel type front bumper had too many bends and dents in it to be economically straightened so an exact duplicate of the front bumper was made. The original bumper was saved as a pattern for future restoration work. The pintle hook on the rear of the truck had been badly bent some time in the past. It appears as though a cable was lashed to the hook and the truck was pulled sideways. It has been left in its present configuration for posterity.
Attempting to obtain historical information from a large government department is both time consuming and frustrating, but with luck and persistence, some information was found. The main problem was not a lack of photos; but rather, very few photos of the construction equipment and trucks used to complete the Colorado-Big Thompson project. Even the resident historian was unable to help. One can only assume that there are likely no photos of the truck or the people that drove and serviced the vehicle while in government service. It is also likely that the people that were associated with the vehicle and the Bureau of Reclamation during the time frame described have long since passed away. Finally, the Loveland Garage also no longer exists. Its fate remains unknown. All that remains is this 1950 Mack LJSW-D that is a testament to an interesting piece of Colorado history and of course, antique truck history.
Check out the complete story with figures and diagrams.
Owner: John MacFarlane