The origin of the Heavy Wrecking Truck can be traced back to three vehicles built by the Corbitt Truck Company prior to 1939. These vehicles in turn had been derived from a similar vehicle built by Marmon-Herrington. With these vehicles evaluated, in 1940 an invitation for bids was sent to the major American truck manufacturers. The Ward LaFrance Truck Company of Elmira, New York was the successful bidder, and in 1941 began deliveries of the Truck, Wrecking, Heavy, M1, known to Ward La France as the Model 1000.
The M1 was designed to be capable of recovery and maintenance of Ordnance equipment. It was equipped with a pto-driven winch mounted behind the front bumper, and single-boom heavy duty crane mounted behind the cab. A plethora of tools, repair and recovery equipment was carried on each vehicle.
To augment Ward LaFrance’s production capacity, an additional contract was awarded to Kenworth. The contract specified that the Kenworth vehicles were to use identical essential serviceable parts, although the sheet metal work of the cab was different, as were the tool boxes and other minor components. Through the course of the vehicles’ production, no less than eight major versions were built, resulting in a series of trucks with sometimes subtle, and sometimes dramatic, differences.
A Continental Model 22R engine powered the trucks by both builders, with the earliest production having the dual ignition system (two spark plugs per cylinder) characteristic of fire apparatus, Ward La France’s primary business. Kenworth delivered their first M1 wrecker mid 1942. The G-116 series were to be the standard Heavy Wrecker of the US military throughout WWII and into the 1950s.
Regardless of who built the chassis, the recovery equipment was built by Gar Wood Industries, and included a crane with 180 degree traverse. In their final form, the Series 5 Ward La France and the model 573 Kenworth, parts were completely interchangeable.
The M1 and M1A1 known at various points in their careers as 6 ton or ten ton wreckers, were the Army’s standard wrecker until the 1950s when the adoption of the M62 caused these to be reclassified as limited standard, before finally being phased out of service.
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