It might just be the best-kept secret in the Lehigh Valley.
The Mack Trucks Historical Museum, near Queen City Airport, has been open since 1984.
The current space – the museum was previously in the Macungie area — is the site of the former Mack Engineering Development and Testing Center, which was opened in 1975. Due to the classified nature of development, it was purposely tucked away from main roads, but in a sense, it is in the heart of a flurry of activity in Allentown.
Inside, you can learn about the history of Mack Trucks, which was started by brothers Jack and Gus Mack in 1893 in Brooklyn, New York, as a carriage company. When the brothers, who were joined by another sibling, William, outgrew their space in Brooklyn, a fourth brother Joseph suggested Allentown, where he lived and operated a silk mill.
So, in 1908 the Mack Brothers Motor Car Co. incorporated and moved to the Lehigh Valley, where there was an abundance of both space and workers.
The move to Allentown brought on the move to truck-building. World War I created the need for heavy-duty trucks and, though not intentional, the birth of a corporate symbol that has stood the test of time.
The AC Model 1916, which is on display in the museum, was used heavily during the war. English soldiers, upon seeing the shape of the truck, said it resembled a bulldog so they nicknamed the ACs Bulldog Macks. The name stuck, and although it has taken on some different looks – you can view them in the museum as well — the bulldog has been used as the corporate symbol for nearly 100 years.
In the main gallery, you’ll find a rotating display of trucks, some owned by Mack, some on loan from collectors. You can also see some interesting Mack-themed items including a coin-operated children’s ride that I swear I remember riding on as a little girl. Doug Maney, curator of Mack Trucks Historical Museum and my tour guide for the day, says that’s quite possible. It was found in a barn in New Tripoli and restored to its sparkling splendor.
But behind the scenes is where some of the most important work happens. It’s something the public never sees but might perhaps use. The Mack Trucks Inc. Historical Collection is a massive archive of data, graphics, original blueprints and photos of Mack vehicles over the years.
Say you are restoring a B61T diesel truck and have hit a snag in restoring the headlights. The archive operation can help. Records on just about every Mack vehicle ever built are stored there along with a massive collection of photographs that Maney and a team of volunteers (mostly Mack retirees) work tediously to scan and catalogue. Collectors can use the “contact us” link on the website to request information.
Also behind the scenes are Mack vehicles that are carefully being restored by volunteers. The current project involves a 1945 Mack NM model.
If you are visiting, use the directions on the website, which…