Remembering GMC Crackerbox Trucks – Stubby, Square, and Tough!


Remembering GMC Crackerbox Trucks – Stubby, Square, and Tough!

(By Greg Rourke) – Yes, more big trucks, more cabovers. GMC called their all new, aluminum tilt cab trucks the F model, but truckers called them the Crackerbox. It’s easy to see why. All straight lines, nothing aero or swoopy here.

The Crackerbox was built from 1959 through 1968. There were restrictive length laws then, and a shorter tractor meant a longer trailer. More trailer meant more freight, and trucking companies weren’t too concerned about driver comfort. The cab was 48 inches from the bumper to the back of the cab on the non sleeper, or “daycab” models. A sleeper model was available, with the bunk measuring 75 inches long, but the width was 30 inches and narrowed down to 22 inches behind the driver seat. Must have felt like sleeping on a park bench.
Among the available powerplants was the GMC Twin Six V12 gasoline engine. Several Detroits were also available, and apparently later in production one could get Cummins and Cat diesels. I’m sure there’s lots of nearly deaf retired truckers from  screaming Detroits under the seat. But these were built to fill a purpose, not to make drivers happy.
The short cab resulted in a very unique fleet, which Brian has featured in the past. Coles Express in Bangor, Maine had a problem. They hauled potatoes south, but with little freight moving north they had excessive deadhead miles. They ordered a few Crackerboxes with 6V-71 Detroits, which would be the shortest engine available, and thus didn’t stick out behind the cab. The Coles family owned the Freightliner dealer in Maine, but apparently the GMC filled their need better. After taking delivery they were sent to Hendrickson in Chicago to have dual steer axles installed, then back to New England to have a 3300 gallon tank installed. They could now deliver gasoline and fuel oil on their backhauls. Maine got wise to their shenanigans and revised the length law, rendering these obsolete.
Production came to an end in 1969 with the introduction of the Astro, which must have been a day and night difference for drivers. Length laws got more lenient, driver comfort became more important, and most of the remaining Crackerboxes were beat to death. While truck enthusiasts love cabovers now, I assure you there is little love lost by those driving 150,000 miles a year who prefer not to be sitting in something that rides like a pogo stick.

Check out some photos of GMC Crackerbox trucks below –

gmc1 gmc2 gmc3 gmc4 gmc5 gmc6 gmc7


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7 thoughts on “Remembering GMC Crackerbox Trucks – Stubby, Square, and Tough!

  1. PJ

    Being an avid fan of semi truck history, I have never heard of these. Awesome stuff. The semi truck history is one built from necessity and some of the quirky, cool, and badass solutions they came up with is on par with what hot rodders did to find speed in the early days. You do have to feel for the men who drove some of those early trucks though. Driving a very loud, very harsh riding truck for tens of thousands of miles. Not a fun job.

    1. Shawn Fox Firth

      I agree , the drivers of today wouldn’t last a few days at best , have you ever seen those multi-stick Mack trucks ? That’s when Men were Men and the women were . . .well you get the Idea . Cheers

  2. OrvH

    ah yes , the government.
    per the article “… They could now deliver gasoline and fuel oil on their backhauls. Maine got wise to their shenanigans and revised the length law, …
    And how is/ was that better for the people?

  3. skylark_1967

    My dad sold GMC trucks from the mid 50’s to the early 80’s. I remember visiting my dad at work when I was little and seeing these trucks on the lot. We called them “tilt cabs” and they seemed as tall as skyscrapers from my six-year-old perspective.
    It has been at least 30 years since I’ve seen one of these rigs on the road. This article brought back some good childhood memories.

    1. Richard Gebhart

      I like your memory here, Skylark. I didn’t know until this they were called “crackerbox”, but I like that too. I grew up next to a trucking company that is long defunct, Wolverine Express in Muskegon, Michigan. As a little kid, like seven or eight, I befriended one of the motor pool guys, and he would hook the tractors to the trailers for the next morning’s runs. I rode with him once in several trucks, including a crackerbox. It was like a skyscraper, Old cab over Diamond-Ts, White Sidewinders, Internationals, Macks. All of those trucks from the late 50s and early 60s were glorious, uncomfortable and divine machines. This is like 55-years ago but the thrill is like from earlier today.

  4. Gary351C

    I love old trucks! The 2015 Freightliner I drive everyday is is junk. I always thought it was interesting that GMC, FORD and DODGE all had their own version of the “crackerbox” around the same time. I was in Irwindale a few days ago and across from the speedway is an old Dodge crackerbox sitting in a yard with 10 or 15 other old 60’s and 70’s trucks.

  5. Chevy Hatin' Mad Geordie

    You Americans had it good!

    As recently as 1975 I remember getting lifts in ancient Leyland trucks where the driver had to use two hands to shift gears and to eke out the miserable fuel economy would employ an “Aberdeen Overdrive” which was a chock of wood to hold down the clutch pedal so he could cruise down long hills. The cabs were bare metal with wood framing and the engine was situated right bang in the middle of the cab that cooked and deafened the driver. This amazed me especially when I got a lift in one of the first Scania rigs on our roads, Most cars did not have the driver comforts that these had and within a few months those ancient wheeled torture chambers were consigned to the junkyards.

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