Milk Runner: 1956 Divco 374

If you haven’t been to a major car show lately, many people are now fixing up former commercial vehicles.  Milk trucks are especially hot right now.  What’s a milk truck you ask?  Well, if you are under 45 years old, you probably never witnessed the practice of milk being delivered to homes every morning.  I am in my mid forties, and I vaguely remember the local dairy delivering milk to my grandparent’s house and placing it in an insulated box on the porch every other morning.  If you feel you’ve missed out on something special (you have), or if you want to have a very different ride at the local cruise in, you are in luck. This 1956 Divco for sale here on eBay out of Eustis, Florida with a low BIN price may be just the ticket!

Before we go a step further, we have to address the elephant in the room.  This truck is red.  Really, really red.  I don’t know why it was painted red instead of the standard milk truck white.  Maybe it was to cover up surface rust, or someone had a devilish sense of humor.  Whatever the reason, fixing the rust in all of the panel edges will most certainly demand a re-paint.  I am a traditionalist.  If it were me, it would be re-sprayed a cream color with maroon wheels and trim.  Maybe some white wall tires, if I could find some in this size.

The real question is, what direction would you go with this truck?  You have to consider how you will be driving this truck when you finish it.  Milk trucks usually never left the city limits of the town they delivered milk in.  They were geared to move from house to house and neighborhood to neighborhood efficiently.  Highway speeds were often impossible.  If you tried, the motor would be screaming at less than sixty miles per hour.  So, you have to decide if the original engine, seen above, would stay or go.  If you planned on driving it anywhere other than very local events, then a power plant swap would be in order.  If in town or trailering is your thing, then the original engine looks complete.  However, I’d bet you’d need to at least refresh it inside with new rings, bearings, and oil seals.  You may have a problem finding these components, as I don’t recognize the flat head inline six sitting there.  Maybe it is a Continental?  Also, what is that pump looking device bolted to the inner fender?

Inside, we see the standard upright driving position that make these trucks so unique.  Near the floorboard looks to be an additional pedal.  A lot of milk trucks had a pedal or pedals on the floor, so the driver could move from house to house without sitting down each time.  They would stage the milk to the right on the floorboard, swing the seat out of the way, and use the floor pedal or pedals to move the truck short distances.  Pretty efficient, but OSHA would likely have a stroke at the sight of a dairy using one this way today!

The cargo area seems to be in fair condition, although sand blasting this area would surely be a very unpleasant experience.  I am guessing that the caged area to the right housed some kind of refrigeration unit, and that was likely fed by the mystery part on the inner fender.  Given that the deliveries were often made early in the morning, and that the truck didn’t hold all that much milk, the refrigeration unit probably didn’t have to be that powerful.  Maybe it could be restored and repurposed into an air conditioning system for the driver to enjoy.

All and all, this is a pretty nifty piece of rolling history.  The truck is complete, and the rust problems are pretty easy to fix.  No mater whether you made it into a wild hot rod or you restored it to original, it would start a lot of conversations.  It represents a small but pleasant part of American life that has left us.  Interestingly, with Amazon talking about getting into the grocery business, home delivery of milk may be making a comeback in the future.  The sad thing is that cool old milk trucks will undoubtedly be replaced by drones.  Do you think anyone will be restoring drones 60 years from now?


  1. Scott

    Always wanted to turn one of these into a camper.

    • Dave Wright

      Jeff coped to the problem with these……..probably 60 hp low reving engine shared with forklifts trying to move a heavy brick down the road. They are happy at about 35 mph. The gears have to be something like 7.0 to 1 just so it has enough power to move it. So, unless you never need to get it out of the neighborhood, a complete new drivetrain will be nessisary. They are an interesting part of Americana and automotive history but entire fleets of them were melted down when they became obsolete…….just because there wasn’t much to do with them.

    • King Al

      Neat to restore or repurpose.


    I’m thinking that may be a brake booster and master cylinder?

    • Moxman

      Yup…it’s an add-on brake booster. Lots of early cars had these; most notably the 55-57 Ford Thunderbirds. Very cool truck. I saw one at the SEMA Show in Vegas with a blown, big block Chevy it!

    • Bill McPherson

      I have a 1966 IHC 3/4 4 wheel drive truck with a similar fender mounted device. You are looking at the power brake booster. The rear differential gears might be 5.57 to 1, as that is what my dump truck has, also a 1966 IHC. I hope that helps.

  3. Bernie

    It is definetly a brake booster.

  4. LAB3

    As mentioned, not a road trip vehicle without some powertrain mods but it certainly would make an impressive rolling billboard for a local business.

  5. Ed P

    I like red cars, but……….. Paint this like a milk truck and do it now!

  6. John T

    I am old enough to remember seeing these trucks on the road making house to house milk deliveries early in the morning with the milkman driving the truck while standing and manually shifting gears. I can picture these trucks if they were restored as future delivery vehicles for independent newspaper distributors or even Amazon!

  7. Steven Dunn

    I was once the proud 1/2 owner of a used ’51 Divco Orowheat bread truck. Same make and configuration of a milk truck except that the bread truck was half again as big. It had a Continental Red Seal engine in it. Gearing was very, very low. Transmission was 3 speed non-synchro. Double clutching was a must. I think this was standard for all Divco’s. Ours was a party truck; interior was all orange, walls and ceiling, with multicolored shag carpeting, a large couch, 2 chairs , a coffee table and one end table. All donated.

    • Dave Wright

      It looks like it would be awkward operating the brake, throttle and clutch standing up. I have driven step vans and they are fine but you still driving them from the seat. Yours was a horse compared with this one…….the IHC engine might have had twice the power.

  8. Jay

    Unique was the combination brake / clutch pedal. Half way depressed clutch. All the depressed engaged brakes. First time shifting would put your face in the windshield if pressed too far down!

    • Dave Wright

      There is the answer……

  9. Bill Waltrers

    I used to deliver newspapers on Sundays with a friend of mine and we worked for one of the owners that was the driver. He drove standing up- there was no drivers seat- and the throttle was part of the gear shift handle. We had no heat in the dead of winter and had about 500 deliveries. when we did the last delivery we could close the ‘bifold’ doors for the ride home. It had a hercules 4 cylinder engine and we never did more than 25 all morning. At that time ( 1969) it was about 25 years old already and who knows how many miles were on it.

  10. Steve

    Have a good friend whose Dad delivered milk & ice cream in the Philly area. Had a Divco and talked about how slow they went, only needing to go from house to house. Have seen a few hot rodded. A missing piece of Americana.

  11. Clay Byant

    Have to share this milkman joke….. “Mom,can I give dad his Fathers Day card?” Mom…..”No, wait until Thursday morning when he delivers the milk.”

  12. Jeff

    Refrigeration unit? No. These trucks carried block-ice to keep the milk and such cold.

    • Johnny Mailman B

      Yup Jeff is correct, my father was a milkman when there was home delivery of milk, I remember going with him on Saturdays to “help” him, day started early like 4am, had to shovel shaved ice on to the wooden milk crates which held glass bottles of milk, which we loaded all the way up to the mid line of the truck, as the day progressed the ice melted, that wire mesh area held butter, sour cream, heavy cream, butter milk and the like. This one doesn’t have a tray in the passenger seat area which held the bottle carrier, bill tablet, order sheets etc. The constantly wet/water in the inside causes the rust,hard to find a Divco that is rust free that was used for milk delivery…ahh the memories when I see one of these trucks

  13. Jim Marston

    The engine in the photo of the Divco milk truck is a Hercules

  14. Graywolf

    Painted with a drape and rubbed out with a brick! Sale on red paint!!

  15. MikeH

    I remember when they still delivered ice. There were only 2 houses on our block that still had an icebox rather that a refrigerator. The truck came ever other day. I would imagine the iceman had more luck with the stay at home moms of the day because he got to go inside the house–delivery included placing the block of ice inside the icebox. I don’t remember if they used a special truck.

  16. Anthony Rosanda

    I miss milk being in milk bottles.
    Not in favor of plastic or carton containers.

  17. rob j Member
  18. Steven Dunn

    In Manhattan Beach CA, where multi million $$$$ homes now stand, we waited for the ice truck to stop somewhere on our block, so that we could beg him for a chunk of ice. Tony, the vegetable guy, would cruise the streets along with the ice truck, the milkman, the bakery (Helms) and best of all, the ice cream man. The current residents of Manhattan Beach would faint in horror if they saw what used to be…

  19. John Member

    Yup, had a 67 W/duel rear wheels, had a full frig unit in it that was removed before I got it. Removed all the panels and the roof to about the side doors. Then media blast it, replced all the panels(flat, riveted) Divco called them “Quick panels” and the roof side had to formed on a break, 3/4″ at a time, It had a Ford 240 6, and later I replced it W/300 6 and changed it’s trans. W/C-6 auto. Had to replace the rear end, W/highest I could get a 4;10 as it had a 6;?? in it. Great truck, couldn’t break it. Used it in my business for 6+ yrs, sold it to a builder in the outer banks, he still has it.

  20. Ben T. Spanner

    The insulated boxes placed on the porches were just folded galvanized tin with pressed paper and sawdust insulation board on the inside. We used them for beer coolers when we went to the run what you brung drag races in the early 1960’s Most families in the fifties had one car and at least a couple of kids. The neighborhood stores sold milk, but carrying the groceries and a half gallon of milk was hard work.

    The milk was not homoganized, and the cream floated on the top. In the Winter, out on the porch, it would freeze and push the paper cap up forming a column. My old tom cat would go door to door licking the frozen cream and leaving a missing setion of the column. I never told the other kids why that was, I just let them drink their milk.

  21. Randy V from the Northern/Lower

    I sure do Remember them coming down the street. Mom would place the tickets for the milk in the box the night before. If she placed a green ticket out there l knew l must have been a good kid that week mowing the yard with a push mower,
    (with no motor young ones) and brining out the trash (in the city) to the burning barrrow, and start the fire. Green ticket would be for a Qt of chocolate milk. They were always milkmen back then. If you were real lucky to mow the grass at someone else house. And got five cents you could run up to this little building, hooked to the bigger where they loaded trucks full of milk at the other things. Watch out all the trucks coming back in, each guy had to wash his truck. And at that little building two cents for a cone and one cent for Each Scoop of ice cream. We called that guy the Dairy Queen. The Milkmen would say Don’t turn Your Back On Him Ever,,,, he’s one of them,,,, and they would Laugh & laugh & laugh and say Run little Man Run, He’s Crazy and we would RUN and would loose our top Scoop Every Time,, good old days the late 1950’s. Where did they Go,? and where the kid to mow your front yard for five cents. (Real silver nickel & dimes)never made a quarter mowing but were silver to)

  22. Wayne

    We had milk delivered by a Divco truck. My dogs loved it! We lived out in the country and had a long driveway. The dogs would lie in wait for the milk man. And jump into the truck as he came down the drive. There they received a mike bone! An American tradition Built in Canada I believe.
    Saw one at Hot August Nights a couple of years ago. Single rear wheel with a slant six.
    It was cool!

  23. Greg Yancey

    My father was a “Milkman’ for Carnation Dairies out of the Oakland, Ca branch during the late 40’s and early 50’s. His route was near our house so when I was young, he would stop by the house for lunch and he would take me for a short ride sometimes in the truck…Carnation trucks were Red and White. This brought back some good memories. Thanks.

  24. RS

    My dad was a home delivery milkman in the 1950’s and early 60’s and he had at least a couple of these old Divco’s. Wish I* could find some of the old slides or photos to scan in showing him with his first one, painted up for Borden dairy.

  25. Dustin

    Divcos are SOOOOOOO cool! Not something you see every day (anymore).

  26. Jerry

    My Dad drove a Divco milk truck and it was bright red. Buckeye Dairy in Fairport, Ohio. I used to ride with him until I started the 1st grade. I picked up the empties while he delivered the milk. I loved it. What a memory.

  27. Roxanne M Georggin

    What would it cost to have it restored to it’s original beauty? Ballpark it!

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