Horse and wagon beginning
Brockway was founded by William N. Brockway as Brockway Carriage Works in Homer, New York. It was named Brockway Carriage Works and incorporated in 1875.
Into the Iron Age
The company leadership changed in 1889 when the founder's son George A. Brockway took the helm. While initial production had been horse drawn carriages, the future lay in mechanical power. Toward that end Brockway, in a cooperative arrangement with Chase Motor Truck Company of Syracuse, NY, manufactured 30 auto delivery wagons. Their first truck entered the marketplace in 1910, powered by a 15 horsepower, 3 cylinder, 2 cycle air-cooled engine.
Brockway shipped 6 delivery trucks to California in 1910, making the company a national concern. George Brockway also became formally associated with the Chase Motor Truck Company in 1910 in the capacity of an officer and as managing head of the company. Chase continued to manufacture parts for Brockway. In 1912 Brockway was incorporated as Brockway Motor Truck Company of Cortland, NY, a manufacturer of motor trucks. All stockholders were members of the Brockway family.
Changes and growth
The Brockway relationship with the Chase Motor Company continued with the appointment of R. S. Reed as chief engineer and factory superintendent. Reed had formerly been associated with Chase.
Brockway had purchased a facility owned by the Ellis Omnibus and Cab Company in Cortland, NY. The first Brockway truck rolled out of the plant in 1912, a Model A purchased by the Miller Corset Company of Cortland, NY.
Brockway continued production of both light duty and heavy trucks for the next 65 years. The company purchased the Indiana Truck Corporation in 1928, expanding production capacity while absorbing a competitor. The company now operated 2 plants, the home plant in Cortland, NY as well as the Marion, Indiana facility owned by Indiana Truck. The same year saw installation of Martin A. O'Mara, a former White Motor Company executive, as company president. G. A. Brockway remained as Chairman of the Board, financial director, and superintendant of the Cortland, NY facility.
Brockway sought to acquire Autocar, one of the oldest truck nameplates in the country. The stock market crash of 1929 put an end to those ambitious plans, and falling stock prices forced Brockway to sell the Marion, Indiana facility to White Motor Company in 1932. White subsequently shut down the Marion plant, moving all operations to their Cleveland, Ohio base.
Brockway reorganized in 1932, continuing production and service as The Brockway Motor Company. The company introduced in 1933 a line of electric trucks as well as their model V-1200 gasoline engine trucks powered by an American-LaFrance 12 cylinder, 240 horsepower gas engine. The electric truck division was located in New York City.
The company had many models, featuring 21 different offerings in their 1934 tour of 11 major eastern cities.
The next year (1935) saw introduction of 11 new models. George A. Piroumoff became company president that same year. Under his leadership Brockway introduced the Metropolitan, a cab-forward design rather than a cab-over-engine (COE) design. This model was popular with utility/power companies with seating for 4-5 crew members available.
Legacy of service
With entry of the US into WW II Brockway boomed, abandoning all except military production. By 1946 their production was 4,212 trucks, reflecting the durability and flexibility of their product. Following the war the company produced just 2,919 units in 1948, the lower figure reflecting declining military demand and general market saturation.
The next decade saw the Korean conflict and an increased demand for trucks. For a time the company feasted on government contracts, then the inevitable famine followed.
The 50s saw merger fever grasp the truck manufacturing sector. White Motor Company was the prime player in many acquisitions, gobbling up the Sterling Motors brand in 1951, Autocar in 1953, REO Motors in 1957 and Diamond T in 1958.
In response to this merger mania, Brockway entered into a lease purchase agreement with H&B American Machine Company. H&B was to lease Brockway for 5 years with a purchase option. The deal died when H&B was unable to raise funds for an agreed upoin payment of 5.5 million dollars. The company continued to operate and offered their first diesel model in 1955, powered by a Continental Diesel engine. The White Motor Company expressed interest in Brockway in 1955 but negotiations broke off in July. Continental Motors Corp., who had been supplying Brockway with diesel engines, also expressed interest in acquiring the company. Talks failed and were terminated in August 1955.
Merger with Mack
Another player entered the field in 1956 when Mack Trucks acquired the Brockway nameplate. Mack had been experiencing their own financial woes. Mack had expended significant capital developing a new cab during the early 50s, a cab that became their famous B Model. Financial investors bought large shares of Mack stock and eventually became directly involved in operations. The question was whether to liquidate the company or continue and even expand operations. Expansion won, and Brockways were offered as part of the Mack stable of products. Brockway trucks were offered as a custom-ordered item, allowing for reduced inventory costs. Mack trucks on the other hand were mass produced, raising the capital requirements on the company significantly. In 1955 Mack enjoyed a 55% gain in earnings on a 31% gain in sales, due in large part to their Brockway line.
The company sought a distinctive logo for its offerings. The Huskie was selected in 1957, an apt addition to parent Mack's Bulldog logo.
The next year saw introduction of Brockway's Huskie models. That same year Mack (and Brockway) suffered a strike by their union production lines. Five plants, uncluding Brockway's Cortland, NY facility were idled. The strike was ended in December 1958.
The next year saw Brockway sign agreements with the Air Force to provide 94 Huskies for a contract of $800,000, delivery to be by summer's end 1959.
The 1960s saw the 50th anniversary of the company (1962), as well as a million dollar contract with the military to provide trucks to the Navy and Air Force. Brockway introduced their first COE truck in 1963, a truck based on Mack's F model COE design. Mack enjoyed growth of sales of over 25% in 1966, a mixed blessing. Increased sales demanded increased inventory and service facilities, a combination which kept Mack in a cash strapped position, The ever present White Consolidated Industries (former White Motor Company) sought to acquire Mack in 1967, an offer which was rejected by Mack. The company was acquired by the west coast firm Signal Oil and Gas Company in 1967. Mack was to remain autonomous, with no other truck manufacturers to merge at any future date.
Struggle to survive
The late 60s saw Brockway continue introduction of new models. Trade magazine Overdrive Magazine declared Brockway The Most Rugged Truck in the World in their May 1968 issue.
The 1970s saw introduction of Caterpillar diesels as an option. More models were added to the Brockway lineup. The Arab Oil Embargo during the early 70s gave Brockway (and other truck makers) a severe case of snake bite. Brockway could sell every truck they could produce, but they were snake bitten by a shortage of parts. High interest rates and tight capital dried up the market of available truck buyers. Federal regulations requiring costly changes to brake standards iced the cake.
Brockway managed to circumvent the gathering storm by entering the glider kit market. These kits were complete cab/frame assembly sans engine and rear drive axles. This obviated the shortage of engines from which the industry had been suffering. A backlog of orders also helped the company get 85% of their workers back on the assembly line with the aid of an order for 575 trucks destined for delivery to Iran. The contract was for an estimated value of 22.6 million dollars.
An inglorious end
Brockway had beat out parent company Mack Trucks for the Iran truck contract as well as a very large order from the NY Dept. of Transportation, causing friction between the truck makers. UAW members of Local #68 had been working without a contract for almost a year. A wildcat strike erupted at the Cortland facility in 1977, the strike called without a vote of the rank and file. Mack threatened to shut the plant down forever, then begged the union to go back to work for a year without a contract. Mack promised to work out details plus pay retroactively for contract upgrades in exchange for these concessions. Behind the scenes Mack was feverishly negotiating with several potential buyers. One buyer almost had a completed deal ready on April 29, 1977. On May 2, 1977 it was announced the deal had fallen through and the plant was closed. Mack liquidated the Cortland, NY production facility and a parts warehouse was set up in Pennsylvania, Mack's home state.
Brockway still was under contract to complete the Iran truck order. Parts to assemble the final 45 trucks were shipped to Miami, Florida and assembled there. The last Brockway was produced on June 8, 1977.
There is an annual show for Brockway enthusiasts in Cortland, NY. Cortland is the long standing home of Brockway, site of their creation and their eventual demise. Cortland is also the site for a proposed Brockway Museum dedicated to "The Most Rugged Truck in the World