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This is about as purebred a Mack as you can buy today… I used a pix of this ugly fugitive from the 70s cabover for a reason, as I shall explain. The 70s were the heyday of Mack, when they were head and shoulders above the rest in engineering. Heck, some of their competitors like Freightliner were still building trucks that were more evolved than engineered, and all they really built was their cab, buying the powertrain from Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Eaton, Rockwell and such. In the face of such unsophisticated competition Mack had their own wind tunnel big enough to drive a literal Mack truck through, dyno cells, and test track. The result was the most sophisticated truck in America and maybe the world, with aerodynamic cabs, turbocharged Maxidyne engines so torquey they needed half the gears of the competition’s, indestructible triple countershaft transmissions, and double reduction drive axles that were both more durable and more efficient than the competition’s. The 2013 MR model pictured here was introduced in 1977, and other than a new grill it’s looks haven’t improved a bit.

In the recession of the 1980s European truck makers came over and bought up undervalued american truck makers on the cheap- Daimler got Freightliner, Volvo bought White on the steps of bankruptcy court, and strangely enough Renault got Mack. Yup Renault, government owned maker of cars and trucks that defined mediocrity, acquired the crown jewel of american trucking, Mack.  Not much changed for awhile, other than Macks disappearing from international markets where they competed with Renault’s products. Then I saw an unfamiliar looking conventional cab semitractor in Advance-United colors, and AU was an all Mack fleet. But for the AU colors would have never known it was a Mack, and the grill looked to be sized just right for Renault’s diamond shaped logo… Perhaps International’s trademarked diamond logos saved us from that fate?

The CH turned out to be a decent truck, but it was barely a Mack. Built in a whole new assembly plant in the Carolinas, the CH’s frame was built and trimmed by Spicer, and delivered with just about everything installed but wheels, engine, and cab to the Mack assembly line. The cab was built by another supplier in Orville, Ohio and supplied fully trimmed. In theory you could order a CH with Mack transmission and axles, but almost all were built with Eaton transmissions and Spicer axles, and even if you ordered Mack axles they were built by Spicer.

It gets worse… With the millennium barely dawning, Volvo dumped their car biz on Ford and bought Renault’s truck biz, lock, stock, and Mack. I had high hopes- Volvo had a rep as a driver’s truck while Renault’s major selling point was low price- So I bought some Volvo stock. It was a good ride for a while… But clearly the Mack bloodline was being diluted with Volvo parts. First was Volvo’s T-Ride rear tandem suspension, repackaged as “M-Ride”. Mack owners weren’t about to give up the tried and true Mack bogie, fortunately. Then Volvo slipped their own chassis under the Mack cab… Worked OK on the highway trucks, but the vocational version had problems. Suddenly a lot of long term Mack customers were switching to Kenworth, but Volvo didn’t pay no notice. And while the chassis and drivetrain may be generic, under the hood remained the wonderful Mack engine with the power of a big block Cummins or Detroit with less weight and more torque than anything.

Then came the 2007 and 2010 emissions standards for diesel trucks, formidable standards that challenged the best engine makers. Given the low volumes of big diesel truck sales, Volvo decided to build common engines for Mack, Renault, and Volvo in 11, 13, and 16 liter versions. Makes sense on the face of it, but Mack had covered the same range with a 12 liter 6 and a 16 liter V8 that could share a whole buncha parts. Yup, instead of three engines, Mack could have done the job with two new engines that shared most of their parts, especially the critical cylinder head and fuel injection design. But Nooo… Volvo ran the show and Mack trucks from 2007 on with rare (Cummins) exception were given repainted Volvo engines. To add insult to injury, Volvo has repackaged their single countershaft automated mechanical transmission as “Mdrive” and is pushing it hard.

So it’s now not unusual to find new Volvo and Mack trucks on the dealer’s lot that but for the cab are identical- Volvo frame and engine, Eaton or Volvo transmission, Meritor axles, etc.. And rumor has it that the now quarter century old CH cab is about to be replaced, With a Volvo design bearing a Bulldog hood ornament… The last Mack part left on what will be marketed as a Mack truck.

Back to that ugly MR, the all but official garbage truck of America. It still has the old Mack chassis and cab design, predating the Renault and Volvo takeovers. I know, it’s ugly, and Volvo has much more comfy and prettier cabovers for highway truckin’. But for trawling inner city alleys, nothin’ beats the simple and easily repairable boxy MR and it’s traditionally unbreakable Mack chassis. Heck, raise the roof a couple inches and the whole refuse industry would be up in arms because their mechanism for front loading refuse containers would bang into the newly raised roof. Slap on a Volvo cab, and even with a bulldog hood ornament the refuse industry will cancel orders and give their business to some upstart that will clone the MR, minus the bulldog for trademark reasons….

Let a four legged bulldog or other proud breed slut around with enough cheap mutts and ultimately the offspring will cease to be a bulldog. Same with a once proud truck brand…

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