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Red Wrecker: 1919 Mack Bulldog

1919 Mack Bulldog

Now this is one tough looking truck! I guess calling it a Bulldog is quite fitting, given the bulky looks, massive 4 cylinder engine and rock solid construction. This truck was apparently used as a ladder truck in Minneapolis, then turned into a wrecker by the fire department. It’s only covered 1,600 miles, this is one time I actually believe the low mileage claim. Most fire fighting equipment is rarely driven far and is usually well maintained. Outside of parades and the occasional car show, I’m not sure what you would do with this truck, but boy would it be fun! If you have some good ideas for this Mack, you can find it here on eBay in Monticello, Maine.


  1. Howard A Member

    DON’T CHANGE A THING!!! This is just an incredible view into the past. I mean, this was state of the art, as most tow trucks back then were converted sedans. This was clearly HEAVY DUTY. While the “bulldog” moniker was a few years away, Mack got that from WW1, when Mack trucks like this were deemed “tough as a bulldog”. The radiator was mounted agin the firewall ( bet that was a little warm on hot days) and the chain drive and hard rubber tires made for some tough driving ( I heard chains had to be greased every 50 miles, and adjusted almost as often, and they did come off from time to time, prompting the driver to put them back on and hard rubber tires would lose chunks of rubber, kind of like that grocery cart with a flat spot on a wheel, bet THAT made for a long day) And the oil can by the motor, was for oiling the valve train, WOW. The towing museum in Chattanooga should scarf up on this. Never been, but I’d like to see it someday. No creature comforts here, just plain work. BTW, that hoist is HAND cranked, and electric start was not the norm. No wimps here. Great find.

    • Dave Wright

      Howard………WW1 was long over by 1919. I love these old trucks. They worked along side horses that were still the most common tool used at the time. Mack still has all the records as to where the truck was sold and many times to whom. We are embarking on the restoration of my 1920 Packard 3 ton truck this fall. It is a bit more sophisticated than this Mack, differintal rear end and enclosed oiling on the engine but a similar vehicle. The first truck Pneumatic tires were put on Packards like mine by Goodyear and raised the operational speeds from 20 MPH to over 30. Goodyear bought several Packards and toured the country touting the advantages of Pneumatics.

      • Howard A Member

        Hi Dave, well, WW1 was not long over in 1919. ( 1914-1918) The AC Mack was introduced in 1916, because the demand for trucks was so great. I believe WW1 was known as the 1st mechanized war. Many were sent to the UK during the war, and after the war, became the truck of choice for construction and logging. The AC Mack was made until 1939. Also, “Old Dobbin” and these did not get along well. By the time these came out, the handwriting was on the wall, horses were out, ( but still used somewhat) and trucks were in.

      • geomechs

        Interesting enough, the ‘Bull Dog’ moniker was actually started by the British soldiers. They were the ones who mentioned that a Mack was ‘tough as a bulldog.’ I was watching a feature on A&E’s Time Machine series entitled: ‘Trucks, Wheels of Industry,’ or something to that effect. I’ve got it recorded on VHS somewhere but it seems to me that’s where I first about the connection with the Brits.

  2. Fred W.

    Pneumatic tires? We don’t need not stinkin’ Pneumatic tires! Email sent to the towing museum, just in case they don’t know….

  3. alder

    I am really thinking about this and would love some advice.

    How would this be to drive, and what would the top speed be comfortably? 35 or so? And where would you get new tires for it? I bet it will be a lot to get to me from Maine, but boy is it cool. Any advice is welcome!

    • Howard A Member

      Hi alder. Unless you are George Atlas, I hope you have some strong arms. These are a chore to drive. I’d say, as equipped, this probably has a top speed of under 20 mph. These motors had a lot of torque, but not much hp. so they had to be geared way down. And limited braking, as well. Hard rubber tires are still used. Forklifts and skid steers use hard rubber tires, and I bet someone like Coker could set you up with some. Truth be known, it would be much better in a museum.

  4. Cody

    This is so cool. I have so many questions. Why does it have 8 spark plug wires? Where do the other 4 wires even go, as they clearly don’t go to the distributor visible in the picture. Is that the carburetor below the exhaust manifold? Does the carburetor feed the engine against gravity?

    Being a wrecker back than with this bad boy would be pretty darn fun. Open air cab for comfort. Oiling your engine and drive-train on the way to the job site would prove challenging and keep you on your toes. Heck, driving this thing is probably a hair raising experience, as I’m sure driving it was sketchy at best. After a day of work you would surely feel like you accomplished something, because you actually made it home.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Cody, I’ll try ( but way before my time). My good friend geomechs would know for sure, but I believe, being a fire engine, this looks like it has a dual ignition. That thing on the lower right, is the magneto, and it appears to have a conventional distributor as well. I think there was switch on the dash, you could run it on either system. The carb under the exhaust manifold is an updraft carb, and were very popular with early engines. ( don’t ask me how they work) They were very prone to flooding ( for obvious reasons) and the regular down draft carbs became the standard in the ’30’s and beyond. Like I said to alder, these didn’t go very fast, and were only for city deliveries. There were no OTR trucks, per se, as everything then moved by rail, and these would take the stuff from the RR to the customers in the city.

      • geomechs

        Hi guys. To answer that question regarding dual ignition systems, there was a provision in fire trucks to utilize (2) separate ignition systems just in case one conked out on the job. Sort of like an aircraft engine. You could shut one down or run on both (like aircraft are supposed to be). The dual systems actually complimented each other and some engine builders started offering conventional powerplants with that option. Of course as development continued it really wasn’t necessary to have dual systems on even a fire truck as they were considered reliable enough. I think as long as Lycoming supplied fire truck engines, they ran dual systems regardless.

      • Howard A Member

        Thanks, geomechs. I knew we could count on you. I always judge how hard a vehicle is to drive, by how many spokes the steering wheel has. THIS HAS 5! Any input on what the 3 pedals do?

    • Cody

      Great stuff guys, thanks for the answers. That’s very interesting about the dual ignition systems. I didn’t even know airplane engines required that, but it makes sense. I suppose in this application they would complement each other, as you said. It’s the equivalent to running a hotter ignition on a drag racer I’m assuming. More spark, cleaner burn, more power.

      And the up draft carb, that just defies logic to me, it’s still very interesting. I wonder if this would prevent gas pouring into the engine if the float sticks? I wonder if it even has a float? I guess it’s off to google for a history lesson.

  5. Dave Wright

    It appears to have dual ignition, like my Maserati !!!! Another example of nothing new under the sun.

  6. Matt Tritt

    I bet that both ignition sources work simultaneously. My dad’s 1933 P-3 Rolls had triple ignition – 2 distributors and a magneto, all working at once. Spark plugs weren’t as reliable in those days and were prone to early failure, so double ign on a fire truck seems like an excellent plan.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Matt, got to get to the fire. Years ago, my old mans business partner bought a late ’40’s Seagrave hook and ladder truck. It had a V-12 engine ( their own, I believe) with dual ignition and 24 plugs! Never saw anything like it before.

      • Matt Tritt

        Seagrave 12’s were great engines. I know that American LeFrance used the Packard 12 in their trucks, but no dual ignition.

        Off-subject, but I attempted to help a guy figure out why his Land Rover Discovery with the 8 cyl engine wouldn’t start the other day in the market parking lot. I had my multi-meter with me and couldn’t read any activity on the coil wire – but when he turned the ignition switch to “off”, I got zapped big time through the rubber jacket! Anyone ever heard of anything like that before?

      • Dave Wright

        Seagraves used Pierce Arrow V12’s that were made long after the companies demise.

  7. G 1

    Some 1930’s Nash Had twin ignition. 1 distrib and plugs on each side of the head across from each other.

  8. Birdman

    2 words…. Daily Driver!

  9. Will

    I know a local parade route that I would love to drive this in a few times a year. Hmm who needs their float towed by something that gets noticed?

  10. Phil, bklyn

    The six engines on a B-36 bomber were 28 cylinder (four rows of seven cylinders) with dual ignition. When there was a cold start that fouled the plugs, there were 336 plugs to change (or pull, clean, reset and re-install).

    More info about this plane at:

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