White Trucks and White Motor Company – A Wild and Wacky Ride

History of White Trucks

White Trucks, also known as White Motor Company, was founded in 1900 by Thomas H. White. Thomas was also the founder of the White Sewing Machine company. Two years prior to that White had bought a Locomobile steam car and his son, Rollin, worked to improve its design and makeup. Rollin then patented this new version and offered it back to Locomobile.

White Trucks Builds First Vehicles

Rollin then managed to get his father to let him build a steam car using the redesigned motor in a car in a corner of the sewing machine company. His brother, Windsor, joined in the venture and they managed to put together 50 cars by October 1900 and after testing, they were offered for sale to the general public in April 1901.

At this time, White Motor Company was still a part of the White Sewing Machine Company, but they separated in 1905 to form its own company. One of its first notable historic moments was the building of a steam car known as Whistling Billy, which Web Jay drove on July 4, 1905 at a then record speed of nearly 74 miles per hour.

In 1909, one of White’s cars was chosen by William Howard Taft as the first official president’s car, which got the White Motor Company lots of positive publicity.

The last of these steam powered cars came in January 1911 when White Motor Company changed to making gas powered vehicles.

White Motor Company Gas Vehicles

Even though the White steamer car was considered to be a good vehicle, the standard being accepted at the time was the combustion engine, which used gas to power it. White knew this, so he licensed rights to the Delahaye style of gas powered cars. Delahaye was a car producer at the time.

Tractors Join the Vehicles at White Motor Company

At this time, Rollin White was getting interested in making tractors and created them from White Motor Company truck parts. The main company, however, didn’t share Rollin’s enthusiasm for tractors, so he created his own company called Cleveland Motor Plow, and that turned into Cletrac Tractor later on.

White Motor Company Buses

During the 30s, White Motor Company made buses to take people through the National Parks in the U.S. and they ran in seven of the National Parks in the western U.S. Some of these early White buses have even been restored and still are in operation at the parks.

White Begins Making Trucks

White Motor Company stopped making cars right after World War I and started making trucks. At that time they sold about 10 percent of all the trucks in the U.S. White made several sizes of trucks, including light all the way to semi trucks. They were a strong company, and managed to add several other truck companies to their holdings throughout the next few years, including Sterling, Autocar, Diamond T, and REO. They also sold Consolidated Freightways trucks, but didn’t own them outright.

Notable Historic Events for White Trucks

Throughout its history, White Trucks has had several notable events occur since it began making trucks. These include:

In 1932 White Trucks briefly merged with Studebaker due to low sales during the Depression, but two years later, they reorganized and became the White Motor Corporation.

In 1949, one of White Trucks semi trucks appeared in the James Cagney movie White Heat.

In 1967, White Trucks formed a Western Star section and it sold trucks in the western part of the U.S.

In 1953, White purchased the Autocar Company, and from then until the 1970s they distributed trucks from Freightliner, but still were making trucks under their own company name. Their sales went down in the 1960s and they briefly tried to merge with their old sewing machine company but that move was disallowed by the federal government.

They also considered mergers with other companies around this time, such as Daimler and Renault. However, ultimately it was Volvo AV that got White Truck’s U.S. assets in 1981 after White went bankrupt in 1980 and lost $311 million.

It’s assets in Canada were bought by Bow Valley Resources Services and NovaCorp. White officially went out of business by 1985 under its own power, but Volvo kept the White brand name until sometime in the 1990s.

White Trucks Under Volvo Brand

During the 1980s, White Trucks made trucks under the White name and Autocar even though Volvo owned them, so it was known as Volvo-White. Volvo later bought out the heavy trucking owned by GMC in 1987 and merged it with White Trucks, thus forming a brand called White-GMC. Later, Volvo stopped using the White brand name and was just known as Volvo Trucks.

During the 1980s, under Volvo, they created improved styles of trucks, including the Integral Sleeper in 1982, which was a long distance vehicle; the Conventional in 1983, which had been upgraded; as well as the Autocar DS in 1984, the Integral Tall Sleeper truck in 1985 (known as the Globetrotter of America); the Aero in 1987; a construction style truck called the Autocar that had an integrated driveline, also in 1987. By 1996 Volvo was no longer using the White brand name and was known as Volvo-Autocar.

As you can see, over the years the White Motor Company and White Trucks changed hands and names several times during its history. Although somewhat of tumultuous road it is White trucks that helped to make many valuable changes and improvements in the trucking industry that will continue to be felt today.