Great American Trucks: The GMC Crackerbox - Equipment

Nice American Vans: The GMC Crackerbox – Tools



The GMC F-Collection, a Class 8, tilted-cabover design, was greatest generally known as the “Crackerbox” by truck drivers.

Supply: Jim Park/Canva


Formally, it was referred to as the GMC F-Collection, a Class 8, tilted-cabover design. However virtually instantly it was dubbed the “Crackerbox” by American truckers — a nod to its uncanny resemblance to a steel cracker can stood on its finish.

However, as a lot as every other truck, the Crackerbox got here to outline American trucking within the Nineteen Sixties throughout its manufacturing run from 1959 to 1968.

Sleek, refined, elegant, agile and nimble have been all phrases that had nothing to do with the GMC Crackerbox. It was an odd-looking truck, to place it mildly. It was designed from the bottom as much as be as light-weight, maneuverable and environment friendly as attainable.


This 1961 GMC 8000 Series "Crackerbox" started life as a showroom queen and featured advanced options like power steering and four-wheel independent air suspension.  -  Photo: Jim Park

This 1961 GMC 8000 Collection “Crackerbox” began life as a showroom queen and featured superior choices like energy steering and four-wheel unbiased air suspension.

Picture: Jim Park


GMC’s engineering employees took these tips significantly. The light-weight aluminum cab was all of 48 inches lengthy from nostril to tail, though you would spec a 24-inch-wide sleeper berth behind the seats when you needed one for long-haul routes. The wheelbase on the F-Collection was a measly 108 inches, though there was an extended, 130-inch choice.

The outcome was a slim, top-heavy stance that seemed prefer it was at all times on the verge of toppling over. A slab-faced entrance finish, set off by an oblong grille and squared-off bumper, made the truck look one thing like a bewildered jack-o-lantern.

Driver consolation options, sound insulation and something approaching the security requirements or options we all know as we speak have been principally nonexistent.

An Superior Design — For a Time

GMC supposed for its F-Collection vehicles to be essentially the most superior Class 8 industrial car on this planet on the time. Consequently, the design featured some fascinating specs for the time, together with an unbiased entrance suspension, air experience, energy steering, and a posh body that was 50% lighter than GMC’s earlier “Cannonball” era of Class 8 vehicles.

Different light-weight touches included fiberglass fenders and entrance grille. In accordance with press releases from the time, GMC claimed the super-lightweight F-Collection design might haul as much as a ton greater than its predecessor.

Many of those superior options would fade away as upkeep calls for and the need for extra primary, stripped-down designs took root within the commerical car market of the time. GMC responded by providing a extra primary model of the truck with fewer choices that ultimately turned the most well-liked model of the sequence.

GMC supplied single- or tandem-axle configurations for the vehicles. You possibly can spec a 702 cubic-inch GMC V112 gasoline engine, or your selection of Detroit Diesel 6V71 and 8V71 engines. Caterpillar and Cummins choices turned obtainable in a while within the truck’s manufacturing run. The usual transmission was a five-speed Spicer handbook “synchromesh overdrive” gearbox teamed with a two-speed Eaton rear axle.


The tilt-forward cab reveals this Crackerbox's 6V-71 naturally aspirated Detroit Diesel engine.  -  Photo: Jim Park

The lean-forward cab reveals this Crackerbox’s 6V-71 naturally aspirated Detroit Diesel engine.

Picture: Jim Park


GMC Crackerbox vehicles weren’t fairly. They weren’t comfy. They usually weren’t quiet. The experience was one thing akin to a pogo stick. However they have been powerful. They have been sturdy and straightforward to restore.

They usually might haul.

As famous, GMC adverts touted the vehicles’ skill to haul as much as an additional ton of payload per journey — a feat that might earn fleets and owner-operators an additional $2,000 in revenue a 12 months, the OEM boasted. By all accounts, Crackerboxes have been as highly effective and quick as any truck on the street in the course of the Nineteen Sixties.

And that was good – as a result of issues weren’t so nice for the motive force, shaking and rattling together with large quantities of engine noise and warmth blasting upward by way of the skinny aluminum pores and skin into the cab.

A Backward-Operating Engine

HDT Senior Editor Jim Park truly drove one in all these vehicles early in his profession as a driver. (Try his weblog, “Have been These Outdated Vans Actually as Good as We Bear in mind?”) And it’s not an expertise he appears to be like again on fondly:

These vehicles weren’t enjoyable to drive. I first bumped into one in 1978 or ’79 as my profession was simply getting began. Being the junior man at this explicit firm, I had my selection of the vehicles parked within the again row of the lot. I picked a 6×2 axle mannequin, with an air-lift pusher axle. No AC, no energy steering, and all of the noise and warmth you would deal with developing by way of the ground.

The truck had a 238-hp 6-cylinder two-stroke Detroit 6V-71 diesel engine. Being a two-cycle engine, it had one distinctive attribute: When backing beneath a trailer to hook up, you needed to hit it fairly laborious generally to make sure you bought beneath it on the primary shot. I realized the laborious manner that if the trailer pushed the tractor out as you have been attempting to select it up, it will spin the engine backwards, and the darned factor saved operating — however backwards, sucking air in by way of the exhaust stack and exhausting by way of the air cleaner. It was fairly unusual placing the transmission in first gear and taking off within the flawed path!


The interior on the GMC Crackerbox was about as spartan as you can get. Driver comfort simply wasn't an important consideration at the time.   -  Photo: Jim Park

The inside on the GMC Crackerbox was about as spartan as you may get. Driver consolation merely wasn’t an vital consideration on the time. 

Picture: Jim Park


It could have been ugly. And uncomfortable. However the GMC Crackerbox was a troublesome workhorse that match the trucking business completely in the course of the freewheeling sixties. It was a truck made for a time during which all the things was secondary to getting a load to its vacation spot on time. And it stuffed that position splendidly, till time and extra fashionable designs lastly caught up with it on the finish of the last decade.



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