- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

From 1953 through 1966, Mack built Model B61 trucks durable trucks with a bulldog atop the radiator shell that towed trailers, delivered ready-mix concrete and carried loads as dump trucks.

One of those dump trucks was owned in the early 1970s by Fetco, a Montgomery County trucking company. Before graduating from the University of Maryland in 1977, Bill Wilkinson spent his summers wrestling the three-spoke, 22-inch-diameter steering wheel of a 10-wheel Mack dump truck.

"That's when I fell in love with the B," Mr. Wilkinson said 25 years later.

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Now that he travels throughout the Tidewater area selling propane equipment, he keeps his commercial driver's license current in case he has to demonstrate a propane truck.

Because he doesn't have to drive a big Mack now, he decided he wanted one.

Another truck aficionado and friend, Eddie Jappell, bought a used 10-wheel 1962 Mack B61 tractor with two live rear ends driving all eight rear wheels. Mr. Wilkinson persuaded Mr. Jappell to sell the Mack to him in the summer of 2000.

"It needed some cosmetic help," Mr. Wilkinson remembers of the maroon truck with black fenders.

A&D Towing, of Carlstadt, N.J., had worked the Mack for 20 years to haul heavy equipment on lowboy trailers. The Mack, with a gross vehicle weight rating of 52,000 pounds, had a 170-horsepower, six-cylinder Thermodyne diesel engine under the hood. Power was transferred to the eight drive wheels through a 15-speed triplex gearbox.

Mr. Wilkinson had no intention of ever towing a commercial trailer, so the greasy fifth wheel was removed and that area between the tandem dual wheels was covered with a shiny sheet of diamond-plate aluminum. A form-fitting fender made from the same material covers each set of four drive wheels. Behind the cab is a pickup truck accessory, a black gang box to provide a modicum of storage space.

To accommodate the occasional need to tow an antique car on a small trailer, Mr. Wilkinson welded a Class III hitch at the usual bumper height.

A more powerful 237-horsepower, six-cylinder Maxidyne diesel engine was recovered from a wrecked late 1980s Model R Mack. It was turbocharged, requiring Mr. Wilkinson to install the external air breather on the right side of the cab to provide the required extra air.

Because hauling heavy loads wasn't going to be in the Mack's future, all the gears in the original transmission weren't needed. The original transmission was replaced by a straight five-speed transmission, which means less gear shifting and double clutching both up and down for Mr. Wilkinson.

"With no overdrive," Mr. Wilkinson said, "60 is about tops." The speedometer tops out at 80 mph.

The old Mack was remarkably rust-free, Mr. Wilkinson says. Parts for it are still available.

Before repainting the dashboard green, the color shared by all B Models, the tachometer, speedometer, fuel gauge and cardboard headliner were replaced.

All the windows were replaced and new chrome and stainless brightwork installed after the body was painted a brighter-than-bright yellow, the fenders and chassis glass black with the twin 45-gallon saddle fuel tanks fire-engine red.

With a satisfying sound coming from the two vertical 10-foot-tall exhaust stacks, each one 5 inches in diameter, Mr. Wilkinson exclaims, "This truck delivers me to where I want to be."

The Mack sold new for about $18,000, according to Mr. Wilkinson. It came with a vinyl-covered seat, air brakes, two air vents above and behind the fenders and a heater. He has installed a citizens band radio strictly for show. It can't be heard with the truck in motion.

Five amber clearance lights march across the top of the cab above the two-piece windshield. Behind them is a pair of 18-inch-long chrome air horns, which Mr. Wilkinson is happy to honk whenever a youngster in a passing car makes the universally recognized request by pumping his arm. "It takes me back to a simpler time," he said.

Because the 19½-foot-long tractor has no heavy trailer to hold down the rear wheels, he remarks, "It lets you know what type road you're on."

He plans to remove a few of the 10 leaves in both rear leaf springs. To further enhance the ride quality, he also hopes to replace the 10.00 R 22-inch recapped tube-type tires with 11.00 R 24.5-inch tubeless tires.

The restoration of the Mack was more or less complete by April 2002 so Mr. Wilkinson anxiously drove his truck 170 miles to Ocean City. He encountered no problems along the way. The truck delivered mileage figures ranging from seven to 10 miles per gallon. "You can't measure pleasure in dollars and cents," he comments.

Mr. Wilkinson concedes to being somewhat intimidated by the size of the truck when he started the restoration project. However, with the help and encouragement of Eddie Jappell, he soon realized the only difference from working on a car is that you need heavier jacks and bigger wrenches.

As Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Jappell worked on restoring the truck with its four 12-volt batteries, Mr. Jappell's pre-teenage daughter, Bernadette Mary, would fetch tools for them. Before she died from a medical problem, Mr. Wilkinson said, she had taken a liking to "that old truck."

He thinks of her whenever he lights up his Mack. "It runs me back through a time tunnel," he said.

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