Yesterday, Marty Densch lamented the passing of the roadside “drive-in” restaurant. If you’re younger than 25 years old you probably have never even seen a milk man deliver milk door-to-door from a milk truck to lament the passing of the milk truck. Divco, the largest maker of milk trucks, built its last one in 1986. The familiar snub nosed body style was introduced by Divco in 1939 and it holds the distinction of being the motor vehicle that was in production longest, next to the VW Beetle.
Divco was the brainchild of George Bacon, chief engineer of the Detroit Electric Vehicle Company. To this date, more electric cars have been sold by Detroit Electric than any other company (though that statistic is likely to change in the near future with all the new EVs that are arriving to market) but by the 1920s sales were declining. In 1922, looking for a new market Bacon designed a novel milk delivery truck that could be operated from four different positions, front, back and from both sides. Unfortunately, the batteries of the day were not up to cold weather and heavy loads. When Bacon couldn’t convince his superiors of making a gasoline powered milk truck, he got some investors together and started the Detroit Industrial Vehicle Company (see the pattern there?) using engines from suppliers like Continental. The company underwent a number of reorganizations and acquisitions but it sold trucks under the Divco brand in one way or another from 1927 until 1986.
Divco milk trucks (and Hackney built Good Humor ice cream trucks) are the comfort food of collectible vehicles and have an enthusiastic band of collectors. It’s not unusual to see restored Divcos at car shows, often restored to a condition that the trucks never saw during their working lives. 1954 was the first year that Divco offered refrigeration, earlier models using ice boxes, and the ’54 Divco model 15 pictured here was at the Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti. Note the dairy’s two digit phone number on the side of the truck. The ’65 Divco model 300-B truck that was at a show at the Packard Proving Grounds earlier this year is a heavier duty model with a longer wheelbase, box van cargo body, and duallys, but it still has that distinctive snub nose.