Unrestored Survivor: 1919 Oldsmobile Model T Economy Truck

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Vehicle manufacturers will often diversify their range to derive income from untapped markets. This sometimes involves creating an entirely new market sector, although most follow the relatively safe route of developing a new model to gain a foothold in an existing segment. Oldsmobile was no stranger to this philosophy, producing a range of heavy commercial vehicles during the early 20th Century. One of these was the Economy Truck, marketed between 1919 and 1924. This 1919 Model T Economy Truck is an unrestored project candidate. It retains the vital components required to return it to its former glory and is listed here on eBay in League City, Texas. The seller set a BIN of $25,000 with the option to make an offer. Our own Jonny C spotted this rare beauty.

The Economy Truck wasn’t Oldsmobile’s first venture into the commercial vehicle world. The company bolted a delivery-van body to its Curved Dash model in 1903 and released the Heavy Commercial Car in 1905. It envisaged the Economy Truck as an affordable alternative for farmers and small business owners, marketing it under the advertising slogan “There’s the truck for my business.” This example emerged during the first production year, retaining the vital sheetmetal for a relatively straightforward restoration. Everything wears a consistent coating of surface corrosion, but there are only minor spots of penetrating rust. The simple engineering and construction techniques used by Oldsmobile means the buyer could completely dismantle this classic to address the corrosion and achieve a high-end finish. Most of these Trucks featured timber bodies, and this is no exception. The existing woodwork could serve as a template for the restorer to return that aspect to its former glory. However, the unknown history means they could use historical photos to recreate one of many variants produced for specific companies. Coca-Cola was one of Oldsmobile’s major customers, and transforming this Truck into a tribute could be viable.

William Durant went on a spending spree during the early 20th Century. Apart from bringing Oldsmobile under the General Motors umbrella in 1908, he also purchased the Northway Motor and Manufacturing Company. Northway became a supplier to several General Motors brands and built the 227ci OHV four powering the Economy Truck. It produced a respectable 40hp that fed to a double-reduction rear end via a three-speed manual transmission. Power and torque were considered excellent for the period, with the Economy Truck capable of consistently hitting 22mph. Drivers could coax it to higher speeds, but doing so would void their warranty. For potential buyers, this Truck comes with positive news. It runs and drives, and a passionate enthusiast has been its long-term custodian. It is conceivable that the buyer could leave the vehicle essentially untouched and preserve it as a survivor dripping with character.

The term “agricultural” springs to mind when examining an Economy Truck’s interior. Because they weren’t envisaged to cover long distances, most featured a timber seat with padding to provide a degree of comfort. Buyers could order their Truck with a semi-enclosed timber cab, although many spared the cash and opted for the open version. That appears to be the case here, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the new owner is pegged to that approach. The internet is awash with photos revealing alternatives, and producing a tribute to one of those vehicles would not be out of place. Alternatively, preservation might be the new owner’s path with this classic.

Oldsmobile’s Economy Truck range generated significant income for the company, totaling 16,000 sales during its production run. It met ready acceptance, with companies like Coca-Cola snapping them up as delivery vehicles. Like many commercial models, the horsepower race passed these beauties by, and most were scrapped when deemed too slow to meet growing consumer demands. How many survive is unclear, but this one could be a rewarding restoration project. The vital components are intact, and it would only take an individual with respectable woodworking skills to return the body to its original form. As a project, they probably don’t come much more straightforward than this. The price may seem high for a vehicle of this type, but past sales history confirms it is competitive. Would those thoughts be enough to tempt you to pursue this Oldsmobile further?

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    Very cool and rare truck however I believe that the offers will be somewhat lower than the BIN. And let me be the first one to say that NO it’s not that California TV truck.

    Like 4
  2. bobhess bobhessMember

    Can we assume that the engine picture was taken before it got capable of running and driving? Hope so. Rare beast here.

    Like 3
    • Blake

      If you are referring to the missing valve cover, there was no cover for the rocker assembly. There is a can that came from the manufacturer mounted to the firewall. You were supposed to oil the valves upon start up and periodically as you drove. The can is still present on the firewall.

      Like 1
      • bobhess bobhessMember

        Interesting Blake. Thought only early Morgen 3 wheelers had exposed rockers. Why the vacuum line to the intake manifold?

        Like 0
  3. Fred W

    If I had it, I would have to do a Beverly Hillbillies tribute truck. It’s the same year and model!

    Like 6
    • Jethro Bodine

      Beverly Hillbillies truck was a 1921 Oldsmobile Model 46. Still exists in a museum in MO. Donated by Paul Henning, who was the show’s producer and grew up in that part of the country.

      Like 5
    • DON

      The Beverly Hillbillies truck started life as a touring car and was cut down to make a truck – Maybe it was done by “Oakies” heading to California like in the ” Grapes of Wrath” !

      Like 3
  4. TheOldRanger

    I love this truck, and I can’t help but smile at the “bench seat”.
    I hope someone will get this, fix it up, and keep it in good shape…. excellent parade car, also for car shows, etc…

    Like 3
  5. John EderMember

    This is equipped with the famous Moon 2×4 gas pedal.

    Like 0
  6. James Martin

    Sorry not everything is not worth 25000. I wish people would get a clue.

    Like 1
  7. CarbobMember

    Well lo and behold here is an Oldsmobile truck. As I said in a comment on the Model T; until today I was unaware that Oldsmobile made trucks. I learn a lot from this site. We sure have evolved when you compare the pickup trucks of today to this primitive beast. GLWTS.

    Like 0
    • John EderMember

      Yes we have- you could currently purchase 2 or 3 of these for the price of a new truck (I guess that is because this didn’t come in a crewcab, 4 x 4 or have cup holders).

      I read a NYT article the other day that indicated that a car payment of $1,000/mo was not that unusual these days. I remember when that was a mortgage payment…

      Like 2
  8. Roykirk

    Twenty five is steep, maybe around fifteen thousand.

    Like 0
  9. V12MECH

    I believe Paul Henning had a older brother, Harry (Cotton) Henning, who was the crew chief for the Indy Maserati that ran in1939 & ’40, also for a number of other cars, pre and post war, but died young. Anyone know more?

    Like 1
  10. Randy Baker

    I have a dash clock for a 1918 Oldsmobile. A clock maker cleaned and repaired it in 1998. Still running well. If you may be interested. Email me.

    Like 0
  11. Danny V. Johnson

    Fred W, a minor correction: “Barris found a 1921 Olds behind a feed store in nearby Fontana, California.”

    But there isn’t much difference between a 1919 and 1921 Oldsmobile. I do like your idea. That “Olds” truck needs a hug, and Granny siting in a rocker, with a shot gun, up top.

    Like 2
  12. Joe Machado

    I don’t see anything hollywood connected with this Olds.
    I see hard working people loading, unloading, driving in hot, cold, rain, dust, winds, flat tires, and that it may have never been driven on paved roads in its useful life.
    I would want some stories this truck could tell.
    That’s more important than a beverly hillbilly show.
    Different people today.
    $25,000. Yep, the stories would be worth this truck for me.
    I been busy, as I got Eleanor to Barrett Scottsdale for its photo shoot and off to Florida.

    Like 2

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