Any farmer buying a truck between the first and second world wars probably bought new simply because used trucks weren’t available.
Most of these pre-war trucks stayed on their original farm until they could no longer pull themselves down a hill. Thousands of them are rusting away in the bush on the same farm where they first saw service.
All that changed after the Second World War.
Used military trucks of all brands and sizes came back to Canada on the same ships carrying solders. And many of those solders had notions of bringing a war truck back to the home farm.
Industry was in high gear by the time the war ended. Manufacturers had invested heavily in new truck factories and they wanted to keep them running.
They had catered to farmers before the war, but once it was over, truck companies put extra effort into mechanizing agriculture.
One Canadian truck brand from the 1913-72 period that many farmers identify with is the Fargo.
The Fargo Motor Car Co. of Chicago built Fargo trucks from 1913-22, and there are two theories about the name’s origin.
One is that the name was chosen to take advantage of the Wells Fargo Stagecoach image and the rough and tumble way of life pursued by rugged individualists. The other is that the name was based on “far” and “go,” meaning the truck will “go far.”
Whichever the case, the name disappeared from 1922-28 until Chrysler bought the original Fargo manufacturing company in Chicago, name and all.
At first, Chrysler produced two distinct truck lines: lighter trucks were known as Fargo Packets while heavier trucks were known as Fargo Clippers.
Both were powered by the same Plymouth four cylinder gas engine and both drew heavily from the parts bins of Plymouth, DeSoto and Chrysler cars.
Fargo trucks started to become serious haulers in 1930, when the one-ton Freighter debuted and the full product line was given the DeSoto six cylinder gas engine. At that time, heavy dump trucks and semi tractors rounded out the lineup, with optional Perkins or Meadows diesel engines.
The Depression saw the demise of hundreds of North American car, truck and farm implement manufacturers. For Chrysler, it was a golden opportunity to buy the Dodge Brothers Co., which included the Graham Brothers Truck Co., builders of heavy duty trucks.
This takeover established the Dodge-Desoto-Plymouth-Chrysler family as a major contender in the North American truck market, but it also gave Chrysler three competing truck lines in a depressed market.
As a result, the Graham line was absorbed by Dodge, turning Dodge into the top selling brand, with Fargo lagging a distant second in the U.S. market.
But rather than kill the Fargo name, Chrysler dropped it from the U.S. market and exported Fargo trucks to Canada and other countries.
The Canadian Fargo came to market in 1936, available in five models from half-ton to three-ton. For decades, starting in 1936, every Fargo ad included a variation of the line, Built by Chrysler in Canada.
“Fargo trucks for most export countries were made in the United States, though all Fargos sold in Canada were made in Canada,” according to an historical article in the Plymouth Bulletin corporate newsletter.
Chrysler thought it was making a big splash with truck buyers in 1950 when it introduced its unique automatic transmission, called Fluid Drive.
However, truck buyers 63 years ago were nothing like truck buyers today. They bought only heavy duty work trucks and had no confidence in automatic transmissions.
By the late 1950s, prairie farmers were looking for bigger trucks. Half-tons no longer had the capacity to haul the volume of grain they produced.
Two-ton and three-ton grain trucks with duals and hydraulic dump boxes became the norm, and bigger farmers began buying five-ton trucks.
The last farm truck with a unique Canadian identity rolled off the assembly line at the end of the 1972 model year.
After spending $50 million on a major upgrade of the 60-year old brand name, Chrysler pulled the pin on Fargo in 1972.
The evolution of farm trucks since 1972 is a familiar story. Rail branch lines have been pulled up and distances from farmgate to elevator delivery have increased, as have farm size and per acre productivity.
Farmers either run their own fleet of semi trucks or hire truckers to haul grain to the elevators.
Semi tractors that once boosted 250 h.p. have been replaced by fuel efficient, environmentally friendly tractors putting out 600 h.p.
Experts agree that compliance with the full Tier 4 criteria will ultimately result in better fuel efficiency with fewer emissions, but the complexity of those engines may cause headaches and downtime.
As well, the construction, mining, logging and manufacturing sectors are gradually migrating toward diesel-electric drive.
Electric interface between power source and rubber on the ground gives the operator better control, thus making better use of the available horsepower.
Electric drive also introduces the possibility of economically viable multi-wheel drive on semi rigs.
As-needed all-wheel drive on the tractor and trailer makes it more feasible for a semi to haul out to the field during seeding and haul back from the field during harvest.