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More than just a bus

Remembering the AFKX-352 ordnance shop van
The GMC AFKX-352 small-arms repair truck, registration number W-002642 and chassis number 1779, exhibits its snub-nosed, truncated-body, school-bus appearance. It featured doors on each side of the cab and on the rear of the body. Bodies were manufactured and installed by Heil. The windows in the shop-van body were protected by screens. The fuel filler was recessed in the right side of the body.

The GMC AFKX-352 small-arms repair truck, registration number W-002642 and chassis number 1779, exhibits its snub-nosed, truncated-body, school-bus appearance. It featured doors on each side of the cab and on the rear of the body. Bodies were manufactured and installed by Heil. The windows in the shop-van body were protected by screens. The fuel filler was recessed in the right side of the body.

Making available mobile maintenance assets to armies operating in the field Is not a new development. Farriers long traveled with armies, fitting and applying shoes to horses, for example. As the U.S. Army became increasingly mechanized, field forces improvised various mobile shop equipment, until finally in October 1939 the Ordnance Field Service School began an effort to standardize this type of equipment. The school at that time designed and procured a set of three styles trucks for this purpose which were mounted on the 1 ½-3 ton, Cab-over-engine GMC AFKX-352 chassis. These included the tan Artillery Repair Truck, which consisted of a set of tools and equipment mounted in a standard cargo truck body. The second style was used on an Automotive Repair Truck, Machine Shop Truck and a Welding Truck. These used a low-silhouette body which roof could be raised by a hydraulic system, with canvas curtains enclosing the sides of the truck. The final style of truck procured was the type featured here, the small arms repair truck. For this vehicle, the tools and equipment are carried in a school bus type body.

All three types of this original group of trucks were designed with the intent that the personnel of the Ordnance Maintenance Companies receiving the trucks would mount the tools in equipment in the trucks upon receipt. That is, the trucks and the equipment would be shipped separately to the units. It was found that due to delays in delivery of both instructions and equipment this was not a satisfactory arrangement, thus it was decided that moving forward these mobile shop trucks would be furnished complete.

The Quartermaster Corps issued Contract W-398-qm-7413 to Yellow Truck and Coach (GMC) for 276 of these vehicles. Three pilot models were to be available for inspection on 4 December 1939. The was subsequently moved to late in the month. However, GM would later advise the Army that. “Due to our inability to secure certain materials to meet the delivery promise of December 21st or December 22nd for the subject pilot models, it has been necessary to revise delivery promise to Saturday, January 6th, 1940.”

The Quartermaster Corps tested the vehicles at Fort Holabird, after which the government requested 40 changes.

Incorporating these changes, production began in March at the rate of 20 per day, with 221 being completed in March and 52 in April. The chassis were then delivered to Heil, who built and installed the bodies, with the completed trucks accepted by the Army in April 1940. They were assigned registration numbers 00640 through 00915. The trucks would be powered by 248-cubic inch displacement 6-cylinder engines.

By late 1940 initial field testing had shown that while the bus-type body was the most practical, a different style of bus-type body would be preferred. The body design of Wayne Works of Richmond, Ind. was selected. Directives were issued to Raritan Arsenal, Metuchen, N.J. to develop layouts for various shop configurations in bus-style bodies, albeit bodies less streamlined than those of the initial trials. The types of shops Raritan was directed to develop were:

  • Artillery Repair, M2 SNL-G-82
  • Automotive Repair, M2 SNL-G-83
  • Instrument Repair, M1 SNL-G-92
  • Machine Shop Load “A”, M4 SNL-G-57
  • Machine Shop Load “B”, M4 SNL-G-57
  • Machine Shop Load “C”, M4 SNL-G-57
  • Small Arms Repair, M1 SNL-G-72
  • Small Arms Repair (Signal Corps), M1 SNL-G-72
  • Spare Parts, M2 SNL-G-84
  • Tank Maintenance, M1 SNL-G-91
  • Tool and Bench, M2 SNL-G-58
  • Welding, M3 SNL-G-59

Contract W-398-QM-8797 was issued in October 1940 for 976 of the trucks, which Yellow Truck and Coach referred to internally as “small arms jobs.” Two pilots of the reconfigured vehicles were delivered in January 1941. These were followed by 974 production vehicles with deliveries broken down as 112 in June, 384 in July, 356 August and 120 in September 1941. These trucks were assigned registration numbers as follows:

AFKX-by-the-numbers

An additional contract, 398-QM-10858, was issued August 1941 for a further 478 of the vehicles. These trucks were to be delivered on wheels, and were assigned registration numbers 006318 through 006665

This order was followed by a further order the next month. The September order, DAW-398-QM-65, was as indicated by the contract number for Defense Aid. These vehicles, registration numbers 007519 through 007537; and 0022584 through 0022798, were to be boxed.

A GMC AFKX-352 1 1/2-3-ton 4x4 cab-over-engine chassis for a small-arms repair truck is seen from the front left, showing the shape of the brush guard, the location of the spare tire and its carrier, and the presence of dual rear wheels. A strut on each side of the central part of the brush guard was attached to the clip, to the outer sides of the radiator louvers. The rear of the left strut is next to the left service headlight. A blackout lamp, in a small, bullet-shaped housing, was on the outboard side of each service-headlight assembly

A GMC AFKX-352 1 1/2-3-ton 4x4 cab-over-engine chassis for a small-arms repair truck is seen from the front left, showing the shape of the brush guard, the location of the spare tire and its carrier, and the presence of dual rear wheels. A strut on each side of the central part of the brush guard was attached to the clip, to the outer sides of the radiator louvers. The rear of the left strut is next to the left service headlight. A blackout lamp, in a small, bullet-shaped housing, was on the outboard side of each service-headlight assembly

The Yellow Truck and Coach plant manager wrote on 3 October 1941 concerning these orders, “In addition we are also attaching a copy of weekly schedule on the 938 Small Arms Chassis which are now on order. The first lot of 478 trucks are not to be boxed, but the second lot of 460 will be boxed here after the bodies have been mounted at the body supplier’s plant and the vehicles returned here. The schedule shown is for the building and shipping of the chassis to the body builder. “

In a left side view of the same chassis depicted in the preceding photo, the muffler is under the frame to the front and side of the spare tire, and the tailpipe is to the rear of the spare tire. The steering wheel and column, dashboard with military instrument panel, engine tunnel, and control levers are installed.

In a left side view of the same chassis depicted in the preceding photo, the muffler is under the frame to the front and side of the spare tire, and the tailpipe is to the rear of the spare tire. The steering wheel and column, dashboard with military instrument panel, engine tunnel, and control levers are installed.

Production of these vehicles began in January 1942 with 144 examples, followed by 355 in February, 372 in March and the final 67 in April.

As promising as these trucks seemed, their use in the various maneuvers of 1941 showed that these trucks did not have what was needed to stand up to the rigors of mobile warfare. By the fall of that year, the decision had been made that future procurement of mobile shop trucks would consist of units mounted on the standard long-wheelbase CCKW 6x6 chassis.

Two bumperettes and no tow pintle are on the rear of the chassis frame. Under the rear of the chassis frame is a toolbox, the door of which is on the right side. The fuel filler neck is long and angled to position the filler cap a foot or so from the bottom of the body. The 30-gallon fuel tank rests in a pan, with two metal straps to secure it in place.

Two bumperettes and no tow pintle are on the rear of the chassis frame. Under the rear of the chassis frame is a toolbox, the door of which is on the right side. The fuel filler neck is long and angled to position the filler cap a foot or so from the bottom of the body. The 30-gallon fuel tank rests in a pan, with two metal straps to secure it in place.

This AFKX-352 small-arms repair truck was one of 976 produced under contract W-398-QM-8797. All three crew doors were hung on piano hinges. A small step, fashioned from diamond-tread plate, was provided below each cab door. On the clip above the service headlight is an access door with a knob on the front side.

This AFKX-352 small-arms repair truck was one of 976 produced under contract W-398-QM-8797. All three crew doors were hung on piano hinges. A small step, fashioned from diamond-tread plate, was provided below each cab door. On the clip above the service headlight is an access door with a knob on the front side.

The same truck is seen from the opposite side, showing the bottom of the fuel tank, the recessed fuel-filler cap on the body above the tank, and a panel with three columns of louvers to the lower rear of the cab door.

The same truck is seen from the opposite side, showing the bottom of the fuel tank, the recessed fuel-filler cap on the body above the tank, and a panel with three columns of louvers to the lower rear of the cab door.

The registration number of the same AFKX-352 seen in the two preceding photos is revealed as W-002784; this was chassis number 1984. A bracket for inserting a manual engine-starter crank is at the bottom center of the brush guard. Two tow hooks are on the top of the bumper. The front axle was the Timken F-30-B-28-H-X-21.

The registration number of the same AFKX-352 seen in the two preceding photos is revealed as W-002784; this was chassis number 1984. A bracket for inserting a manual engine-starter crank is at the bottom center of the brush guard. Two tow hooks are on the top of the bumper. The front axle was the Timken F-30-B-28-H-X-21.

 The cab is viewed through the open right door. The door has a vent window in addition to a roll-down window. On the center column of the windshield is a four-bladed fan, part of a windshield defroster.

 The cab is viewed through the open right door. The door has a vent window in addition to a roll-down window. On the center column of the windshield is a four-bladed fan, part of a windshield defroster.

On the rear of the vehicle are a crew door with a piano hinge on the right side and a window and a latch handle, below which is a chromed or bright metal door lock. Two taillights and two reflectors are to the sides of the bottom of the door. The bumperettes have beveled lower corners.

On the rear of the vehicle are a crew door with a piano hinge on the right side and a window and a latch handle, below which is a chromed or bright metal door lock. Two taillights and two reflectors are to the sides of the bottom of the door. The bumperettes have beveled lower corners.

The rear door of an AFKX-352 is open, revealing a white upper half and a dark (Olive Drab?) lower half. This paint scheme was in keeping with the colors of the interior of the shop body, as will be seen in the next photo. The door latch handle is in the dark area of paint near the outer edge of the door. Inside the body, the top several inches of the right rear wheel well is visible above the floor.

The rear door of an AFKX-352 is open, revealing a white upper half and a dark (Olive Drab?) lower half. This paint scheme was in keeping with the colors of the interior of the shop body, as will be seen in the next photo. The door latch handle is in the dark area of paint near the outer edge of the door. Inside the body, the top several inches of the right rear wheel well is visible above the floor.

The interior of the small-arms-repair body of an AFKX-352 is viewed from the front, with the window of the rear door at the center. The interior paint is glossy. Just above the floor to each side of the door is a box enclosing a taillight and its electrical wire. No ordnance shop equipment has been installed inside yet.

The interior of the small-arms-repair body of an AFKX-352 is viewed from the front, with the window of the rear door at the center. The interior paint is glossy. Just above the floor to each side of the door is a box enclosing a taillight and its electrical wire. No ordnance shop equipment has been installed inside yet.

 The interior of the body and the cab of an AFKX-352 with small-arms-repair body are seen from the rear of the body. The two seats in the cab were mounted on pentagonal plates that were hinged at the front, and they are tilted forward in this view. The wedge-shaped object between the left rear wheel well and the right cab door is an enclosure for the fuel filler neck.

 The interior of the body and the cab of an AFKX-352 with small-arms-repair body are seen from the rear of the body. The two seats in the cab were mounted on pentagonal plates that were hinged at the front, and they are tilted forward in this view. The wedge-shaped object between the left rear wheel well and the right cab door is an enclosure for the fuel filler neck.

The interior of the cab of an AFKX-352 is on view; the same photograph was used as an illustration in the maintenance manual for this series of trucks, TM 10-1401. On the dash are data plates (left), instruments (center), and package compartment (or glove compartment; right), below which is a fire extinguisher. Flanking the steering column are the clutch (left) and brake (right) pedals, with the small pedal for the accelerator on a long lever to the left of the tunnel. At the lower center is the transmission shift lever, to the front of which are the transfer-case speed shift lever (left) and the front-axle declutching lever (right).

The interior of the cab of an AFKX-352 is on view; the same photograph was used as an illustration in the maintenance manual for this series of trucks, TM 10-1401. On the dash are data plates (left), instruments (center), and package compartment (or glove compartment; right), below which is a fire extinguisher. Flanking the steering column are the clutch (left) and brake (right) pedals, with the small pedal for the accelerator on a long lever to the left of the tunnel. At the lower center is the transmission shift lever, to the front of which are the transfer-case speed shift lever (left) and the front-axle declutching lever (right).

An AFKX-352 with shop body is depicted in a photo dated October 31, 1941. The box alongside the cowl was mounted on some of these vehicles and contained two electrical circuit breakers. Information on these boxes is lacking, but it is thought that they were part of a system for conducting electrical power from an external source, either a generator or municipal electricity, into the vehicle, to power tools and perhaps other systems

An AFKX-352 with shop body is depicted in a photo dated October 31, 1941. The box alongside the cowl was mounted on some of these vehicles and contained two electrical circuit breakers. Information on these boxes is lacking, but it is thought that they were part of a system for conducting electrical power from an external source, either a generator or municipal electricity, into the vehicle, to power tools and perhaps other systems

A rare example of a GMC AFKX-352 small-arms repair truck displays replica markings for Headquarters Company, 123rd Armored Ordnance Maintenance Battalion, 1st Armored Division, on the bumper and registration number 002024 in Blue Drab paint on the hood. A replica data stencil is on the body to the rear of the cab door.

A rare example of a GMC AFKX-352 small-arms repair truck displays replica markings for Headquarters Company, 123rd Armored Ordnance Maintenance Battalion, 1st Armored Division, on the bumper and registration number 002024 in Blue Drab paint on the hood. A replica data stencil is on the body to the rear of the cab door.

A GMC AFKX-352 small-arms repair truck, registration number 006591, is being prepared for service in a shop at the U.S. Army Ordnance depot at Ashchurch, England, on 5 October 1942. An electrical box is mounted on the left side of the cowl. “Check tires” is chalked above the radiator brush guard, while “6296 B” is stenciled in white and also marked in chalk on both cab doors. What appears to be “Liverpool” is chalked near the bottom of the right door

A GMC AFKX-352 small-arms repair truck, registration number 006591, is being prepared for service in a shop at the U.S. Army Ordnance depot at Ashchurch, England, on 5 October 1942. An electrical box is mounted on the left side of the cowl. “Check tires” is chalked above the radiator brush guard, while “6296 B” is stenciled in white and also marked in chalk on both cab doors. What appears to be “Liverpool” is chalked near the bottom of the right door

The windows in the preceding vintage black-and-white photos of AFKX-352s show square windows in the rear doors, whereas this surviving vehicle has two windows forming a dome shape. A grab handle is below the right window. On the right side of the door is the lock apparatus, with a latch at the top and one at the bottom, connected by rods to the central lock mechanism.

The windows in the preceding vintage black-and-white photos of AFKX-352s show square windows in the rear doors, whereas this surviving vehicle has two windows forming a dome shape. A grab handle is below the right window. On the right side of the door is the lock apparatus, with a latch at the top and one at the bottom, connected by rods to the central lock mechanism.

On the right side of the interior of the shop body is a wooden work bench, below which are drawers, shelves, and compartments for parts and tools, all of which are numbered to allow standard storage  of items. On the ceiling are electrical conduits, electrical receptacles, and lights.

On the right side of the interior of the shop body is a wooden work bench, below which are drawers, shelves, and compartments for parts and tools, all of which are numbered to allow standard storage
of items. On the ceiling are electrical conduits, electrical receptacles, and lights.

In a view of the cab, between the seats are, left to right, the hand-brake lever, the power takeoff control, and the transmission shift lever. To the left of the steering wheel is a Square D multi-breaker, with an electrical cable running from below it forward to the electrical box on the exterior of the left side of the cowl, and a conduit passing from the top of the box up to the ceiling, providing power for the electrical lights and receptacles.

In a view of the cab, between the seats are, left to right, the hand-brake lever, the power takeoff control, and the transmission shift lever. To the left of the steering wheel is a Square D multi-breaker, with an electrical cable running from below it forward to the electrical box on the exterior of the left side of the cowl, and a conduit passing from the top of the box up to the ceiling, providing power for the electrical lights and receptacles.

Both workbenches are viewed from behind the cab seats. The floor appears to be Masonite.

Both workbenches are viewed from behind the cab seats. The floor appears to be Masonite.

The work bench and storage facilities in the left side of the body are viewed from next to the driver’s seat (right). 

The work bench and storage facilities in the left side of the body are viewed from next to the driver’s seat (right). 

On the left side of the body is a similar arrangement of a wooden bench top and storage drawers, shelves, and compartments. A vise is bolted to the bench.

On the left side of the body is a similar arrangement of a wooden bench top and storage drawers, shelves, and compartments. A vise is bolted to the bench.

A Square D multi-breaker, with an electrical cable running from below it forward to the electrical box on the exterior of the left side of the cowl, and a conduit passing from the top of the box up to the ceiling, providing power for the electrical lights and receptacles. Visible is the steering wheel, the bracket for the steering column, and data plates with instructions on draining the cooling system and maximum possible road speeds in different transmission and transfer-case gear positions.

A Square D multi-breaker, with an electrical cable running from below it forward to the electrical box on the exterior of the left side of the cowl, and a conduit passing from the top of the box up to the ceiling, providing power for the electrical lights and receptacles. Visible is the steering wheel, the bracket for the steering column, and data plates with instructions on draining the cooling system and maximum possible road speeds in different transmission and transfer-case gear positions.

Inside the right cab door is a vertical grab bar. There is a passway between the door and the right seat, into the shop body. To the rear of the step below the door is a panel with three columns of seven louvers each. The recommended tire pressure, 55 p.s.i., is stenciled in white above the tires on the fender and the shop body.

Inside the right cab door is a vertical grab bar. There is a passway between the door and the right seat, into the shop body. To the rear of the step below the door is a panel with three columns of seven louvers each. The recommended tire pressure, 55 p.s.i., is stenciled in white above the tires on the fender and the shop body.

The sheet-metal panel with a total of 21 louvers is viewed close-up. Next to it is the step, made of diamond-plate steel.

The sheet-metal panel with a total of 21 louvers is viewed close-up. Next to it is the step, made of diamond-plate steel.

The sheet-steel pan that supports the fuel tank is viewed from the right side of the vehicle. The pan rests on two hat-channel supports, to which are attached the steel straps that secure the fuel tank in place. 

The sheet-steel pan that supports the fuel tank is viewed from the right side of the vehicle. The pan rests on two hat-channel supports, to which are attached the steel straps that secure the fuel tank in place. 

The underside of the AFKX-352 is observed from the rear of the right front tire, including the front axle, the Timken F-30-B-28-H-X-21; the tie rod; the forward drive shaft; the leaf springs; and parts of the engine and the exhaust lines.

The underside of the AFKX-352 is observed from the rear of the right front tire, including the front axle, the Timken F-30-B-28-H-X-21; the tie rod; the forward drive shaft; the leaf springs; and parts of the engine and the exhaust lines.

Details of the right rear outer tire, wheel, and hub are provided. The tires for the AFKX-352 were size 7.50-20.  

Details of the right rear outer tire, wheel, and hub are provided. The tires for the AFKX-352 were size 7.50-20.  

An overall view of the left side of the AFKX-352 provides an idea of the relative positions of the electrical breaker box, the spare tire, and the tool box. The cab doors were curved on the lower front corners, to clear the fenders. On the shop body, below the windows are three horizontal stiffeners, each stiffener having two raised elements with a recess between them. 

An overall view of the left side of the AFKX-352 provides an idea of the relative positions of the electrical breaker box, the spare tire, and the tool box. The cab doors were curved on the lower front corners, to clear the fenders. On the shop body, below the windows are three horizontal stiffeners, each stiffener having two raised elements with a recess between them. 

The door on the toolbox is on the right side, with a spring clip on a retainer chain to secure the door in the closed position. At the bottom of the door is a piano hinge. 

The door on the toolbox is on the right side, with a spring clip on a retainer chain to secure the door in the closed position. At the bottom of the door is a piano hinge. 

As seen from under the left side of the chassis, to the left is the muffler, and to the right is the spare tire and its carrier. The carrier features triangular end pieces with two steel channels welded to their bottoms. The rear axle in the background is the Timken Model 53624-NX2, with a split-type housing and a differential gear ratio of 6.6:1.

As seen from under the left side of the chassis, to the left is the muffler, and to the right is the spare tire and its carrier. The carrier features triangular end pieces with two steel channels welded to their bottoms. The rear axle in the background is the Timken Model 53624-NX2, with a split-type housing and a differential gear ratio of 6.6:1.

The door of the electrical box is open, showing the two breakers, wiring, and electrical sockets inside. The bottom of the box has hinge pins at the rear, so it could be lowered to provide access to the electrical sockets on the shelf above.

The door of the electrical box is open, showing the two breakers, wiring, and electrical sockets inside. The bottom of the box has hinge pins at the rear, so it could be lowered to provide access to the electrical sockets on the shelf above.

The electrical box on the left side of the cowl has a door on the front with a knob on the bottom and hinge pins on the top.

The electrical box on the left side of the cowl has a door on the front with a knob on the bottom and hinge pins on the top.

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