Early Electric: 1928 Walker Truck

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Have you ever seen or heard of Walker Trucks? I do not recall ever seeing a Walker before this really great looking example for sale here on craigslist in sunny Palm Springs, California caught my attention. Presumably this was a local delivery truck of some kind. It’s got a cool look, both inside and out. Love the positioning of those headlamps too.

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It turns out that Walker manufactured electric trucks for 35 years, starting in 1907. In the very early years of the twentieth century, electric vehicles were actually viable competitors to the internal combustion engine, especially in cities. It was mainly the rudimentary state of battery technology that prevented electric cars and trucks from competing favorably with gas and diesel powered vehicles.

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According to Jay Christ’s Collection of Antique Delivery Trucks and Classic Cars in Manchester, Pennsylvania, which has restored two Walker Electric Trucks: “Walker manufactured many different models of trucks and these trucks were sold all across the USA and even to Britain and New Zealand. These trucks had a 3.5 HP electric motor that was powered by many batteries to produce 66 to 80 volts and a maximum of 40 amps. The driving range of these trucks was about 50 miles and the maximum speed was 10 to 12 MPH. The trucks were plugged into a charging station in the evening after the daily deliveries were completed … The first companies to use this style of delivery were dairies, bakeries, US Mail, retail store and freight companies. Marshall Field and Company had a fleet of 276 electric Walker Trucks in 1925.” If you want to know a bit more about the history of electric trucks, there is a good article at Hemmings online here.

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The seller of this 1928 model says that the truck is a barn find and “is unrestored and currently runs/drives/stops.” A video of the truck in operation is available on request.

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The $40,000 asking price is certainly steep compared to what we usually see on this site, and for such an unusual and rare vehicle, establishing value is very, very difficult. As we often hear, it will be worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

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Interestingly, while researching Walker trucks, I discovered a classified ad for a 1928 Walker Electric that ran in the Palm Springs newspaper in 1977 – this has to be the same truck – and the asking price then was $9,500. In the ad, the truck was claimed to be the “only survivor left.”

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Unfortunately, I could not find anything about a company in the Palm Springs area called Gentile Brothers, but perhaps a resident of the area will recognize the name or know something about this truck’s original history and use. This is surely an interesting and unique piece of vehicle history, and I hope it ends up somewhere people can see this beautiful example of American engineering in operation.

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Comments

  1. ydnar

    Another new one on me as well. Thanks for the history lesson!

  2. Clay Bryant

    I’ve sold a lot of namesake items in my life and if the price was a little lower he should approach Walker Muffler. They always have a booth at the National Truck show in Louisville every year and what a great backdrop. I have the most mint 100 year old Mercedes sewing machine, Tri-star and all that I bought several years ago I’m getting ready to sell. In black and gold with ultra nickel plating. I may post up on here before it goes. The UK Sewing Machine Museum said they have only seen two of them in their life. If you knew what I’m like, one of the things I wanted to do was take it to a Mercedes show and stick it between some cars…………….(I’m here in the U.S.)

  3. van

    This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen here
    Because it is so rare I’d probably have to restore this in spite of the great patina
    But how cool would it be to make it go 50 so you could drive to Home Depot
    I don’t think the cops in Georgia would let you drive at 10 mph
    No it must be original
    Wonder if Jay Leno would sponsor a restoration

  4. Charles

    Very Cool!

  5. JW

    I’m very impressed as to how nice this truck has survived. I’m also thankful for the history lesson as well because I’ve never heard or seen a electric truck of this age before. Excellent find and I wish I could afford to buy it.

  6. Dairymen

    DO NOT RESTORE IT. They’re only original once! I guess I can’t say it enough. What an absolute cool find. I’m not sure if I wanted to go faster than 10-12 mph, because of all the batteries it won’t be light, and stopping it in time might be a chore even at only 25 mph! The price might be on the high end, but on the contrary where do you find another one?

  7. DRV

    To echo, the he best find I have seen in a long while.
    The sight gets better and better.
    I wonder if you could use Gentile Bros. now for a trucking company?

  8. racer99

    Paging Jay Leno!

  9. RON

    absolutely fascinating. my first guess looking at the front sheet metal was an early french renault. you would not want it to be a beer hauler on a wet stormy day uness the driver was well insulated and grounded!!!!

  10. fred

    Maybe the truck wasn’t from Palm Springs? I found the following online:

    Gentile Bros. Co., one of the country’s oldest active produce companies, which until recently was The Blue Book’s oldest Trading Member, has gone out of business.

    Founded in 1881, Gentile was a repacker and distributor that served retail, foodservice and processing customers throughout the Midwest.

    Attempts to contact the Cincinnati-based company Oct. 11 were unsuccessful. Gentile’s website was also inactive.

    • JW454

      Gentile Bros. Co. also operated a produce distribution outlet in downtown Dayton Ohio. Just 60 miles north of Cincinnati, they were in business for many years. As youngster, I recall seeing their trucks scurrying about on the streets of Dayton and the surrounding area. If this is a relic of their past, it has certainly traveled quite a ways to now be in California.

    • Cybill Reese

      Hello,
      I just stumbled across the Bill of sale for this truck! It belonged to my Uncle, Frank Gentile:). I can’t believe it still exists!!!

  11. Howard A Member

    This is a pretty incredible find. Apparently, Walker used a concept of a “gas/electric” truck. It used a gas motor to turn a generator ( sound familiar?) but, not until the 30’s. The Walkers I’ve found were the big square box type vehicles, with a big battery area under the truck. I can’t find any info on this particular model, however, and don’t see where the batteries were kept. One site claims there are only 10 Walkers remaining, making the price somewhat justified. In the 80’s, I picked up paper at paper mills in Wisconsin,( most are gone now) and they still used electric trucks to move big rolls of paper around the plant. I wonder if this was a gas/electric? ( although, I don’t see any controls for a gas engine on the dash)

  12. MF

    Thats what I love about this site, you get a history lesson every now and than. Never heard of this company Very cool, would be great as a parade truck.

  13. TLouisJ

    Well, the common result of such an old find is for some one to buy it and pull out the original drive train and stuff in a SBC 350/350. But in this case you’d want to use the
    mechanics from a wrecked Prius ???? Haw Haw Terry J

  14. VetteDude

    Is anyone a member of some type of “Antique Electric Vehicle Club”?
    I wonder if antique electric vehicles wil be worth a lot in the future, when most cars will be some type of electric?
    Would an early Tesla be collectible/valuable?

  15. George

    For Christian delivery in Jewish neighborhoods? :-) Hotrod it with Tesla mechanicals? Restore and keep original but preserve the advertising.

  16. K. C.

    Is this a marriage of two different vehicles? The fenders on the truck do not match the fender marks on the pickup bed, and the fenders are not centered in the fender openings on the bed.

    I’d love to have this, even with the marriage, but way out of my price range. I might change the gear ratios so that it would go 25, but keep all of the original parts. A max of 10 mph doesn’t seem safe. Orange triangle mandatory?

    • Dave Wright

      Trucks of this vintage were supplied without cabs or bodies. Everything was added by another builder to customer specific requirements. My 1920 Packard was shipped to SFO with only a wood box for a seat, no cab or body. The hood and front were built at the factory but that is all.

      • K.C.

        I understand about the chassis and body/cabs being supplied separately. Even so, the original pickup body would have been centered correctly over the fenders. I believe the pickup bed was transferred from another truck of similar vintage that probably had higher fenders than what is shown here along with a slightly different length from the back of the cab to the axle center line.

      • Dave Wright

        I agree……..it was from another truck, but probably still shop built.

  17. jim s

    i too learned something new today. as rare as this is i would think the truck would do better at a highline auction. great find.

  18. van

    I would keep this thing original but
    I want to drive what I own
    At 10 mph I would go nuts before I left my driveway

    • JW

      Heck Van I think my 2 granddaughters power wheels go faster than this thing.

  19. Clay Bryant

    Van, I’ll take it after they commit ya’. At ten miles an hour in America, there’s no body coming from behind you that can run a sustained ten MPH to stop you let alone all the lard asses here now(of which I’m a half one.)

  20. van

    Built Son A power Wheels Jeep With Wheels And motors from a power lamborghini
    Lambo jeep
    Four year olds aren’t impressed.

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