BUYERS GUIDE - HEAVY DUTY
We tend to think that the 4WD truck was a post-World War II innovation, but the history of 4WD trucks goes way back, to before World War I. An unknown number of very successful ‘Quad’ truck models were brought to Australia during and after WWI.
Jeffery Quad truck with US Marines on board
The Jeffery Quad was a four-wheel drive, 1.5-ton rated truck, developed and built by the Thomas B Jeffery Company from 1913 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. After 1916 it was branded the Nash Quad by Nash Motors, which acquired the Jeffery Company.
The Quad was an amazing vehicle for any time, let alone the pre-World War I era. The Quad was one of the first successful four-wheel drive vehicles and its production continued for 15 years, with a total of 41,674 units made.
The Quad’s ability to traverse terrain that challenged modern trucks meant people used their slow, but unstoppable Quads until the 1950s.
It all began when the Jeffery Company began the development of its Quad in response to the United States Army’s need to replace the four-mule teams used to haul standard one-and-a-half-ton loads. The Army requested proposals in late 1912 and Jeffery was keen to provide one.
The only existing truck that could possibly do the job was the Four Wheel Drive Auto Company (FWD) truck, but Jeffery bought one and testing showed that its performance was unacceptable. Jeffery sold the FWD and began its own design from scratch.
By July 1913 the Jeffery Company had its 3000lb (1.4 tonnes) capacity truck ready for demonstration of its capabilities.
The Quad in detail
The Jeffery Company’s cars were branded ‘Rambler’, which was the brand of its previously manufactured cycles. The new Quad was initially called the Rambler Quadruple and was powered by a car-derived 281 cu in (4.6-litre) petrol four-cylinder that produced 21bhp (16 kW).
More grunt proved necessary, so the production Quad was powered by a Buda-manufactured 312 cu in (5.1-litre) side-valve, four-cylinder engine that produced 52bhp (39 kW) at 1800 rpm.
The ‘Rambler’ car monniker was dropped and ‘Quadruple’ was shortened to ‘Quad’.
The Quad had four-wheel drive and four-wheel brakes, as well as an innovative four-wheel steering system. This novel approach to steering allowed the rear wheels to track the front wheels around turns, so that the rear wheels did not have to dig new ruts when traversing soft or slippery ground.
The axles were two-part designs, with straight I-beams bolted underneath the leaf springs, to do the load bearing job.
Bolted above each axle was a Muehl limited-slip differential unit that employed the same principle as today’s Torsen geared LSD. (Small gears between the side gears stopped spin-out by worked on the principle that a worm gear can drive a cog gear, but not vice-versa.)
From the diffs, different length half-shafts ran across the top of each beam axle to universal joints on the wheel hubs. The half-shafts carried no vehicle weight.
Each U-joint was connected to a spur gear that drove an internally-toothed ring gear, centred in the hub. This ‘portal’ axle design has been employed on many military vehicles over the years and on Mercedes-Benz Unimogs since the late1940s.
Drive to the diffs went from the engine, via a Borg & Beck clutch, through a four-speed transmission, to a chassis-mounted transfer case and then, via U-jointed propshafts, to the front and rear diffs.
The Quad’s combination of innovative features constituted a revolutionary approach to four-wheel drive and allowed the truck to traverse soft and poor conditions with unprecedented effectiveness. It did all that on solid rubber tyres!
Quads in World War I
Although the USA was neutral when WWI broke out, the Europeans were desperate to find motorised alternatives to horse-drawn wagons. The slaughter of horses at ‘The Front’ was a cause of great concern to generals and also to the RSPCA.
Under the chairmanship of the Duke of Portland, the RSPCA provided horse ambulances and shelters for wounded horses. The Jeffery Company was keen to provide motorised alternatives to horses and mules.
In October, 1914, the French Government ordered a trial shipment of 150 Jeffery Quads. By February, 1915, there was an armoured-car version being built by the Jeffery Company.
Canada, being a member of the British Commonwealth, had troops in Europe and also a fleet of Quads. The Boston Globe quoted the American Consul in Great Britain, Albert Swaim, who said: “The Jeffery Quads that landed here with the Canadian contingent are the best thing we’ve seen – much superior to anything that can be obtained in Europe”.
It didn’t take long for the Allies to take advantage of the Quad’s mud-handling abilities and the Quad became the workhorse of the Allied Expeditionary Force.
At least 11,500 Jeffery and Nash Quads were built between 1913 and 1919. The Quad was also produced under license by other truck makers.
Before the USA entered WWI in 1917, Quads saw service under General John J ‘Blackjack’ Pershing, in both Jeffery Armored Car and regular transport roles during the Army’s 1916 Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa, through Mexico.
Quads were also used extensively during Pershing’s later European campaigns of World War I.
The United States Marine Corps also adopted the Jeffery Quad, using it in the occupation of Haiti and of the Dominican Republic, from 1915 until 1917.
The War comes home to the Jeffery Company
The company’s founder, Thomas B Jeffery, had died in 1910 and his managing direcrorchsip had been taken over by his son, Charles T Jeffery. In May 1915, he was on his way to France aboard the British luxury liner, RMS Lusitania, to discuss a contact to supply armoured Quads to the French Army. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat and 1200 people lost their lives, but Charles was rescued.
This experience had a profound effect on him and he decided on a complete change of lifestyle and put the Jeffery Company up for sale.
In August 1916, Charles Nash, co-founder of Buick and former general manager of General Motors, purchased the Jeffery Company and renamed it Nash Motors. So, the Jeffery Company was the forerunner of Nash Motors and American Motors Corporation (AMC) that was purchased by Chrysler in 1987.
Quads Down Under
NSW’s Delegate Argus newspaper reported in March 1916 that a new enterprise was opening on the road between Delegate and Nimitybelle (sic). Delegate Motors Ltd had acquired a Jeffery Quad.
The company planned to haul freight between Delegate, Nimitybelle and Merimbula, down the perilous Brown Mountain Pass. Another carrier was planning to put a Quad into service on the route to Bombala, to replace a steam lorry.
In October 1916, Newcastle’s Northern Times reported a demonstration held by Hawkins Ltd, of its new Quad truck. The newspaper also reported that several Quads were operating successfully in remote areas, including one working with the AA pastoral company in Longreach.
Our featured Jeffery Quad was spotted by retired GMH executive, Marcus McInnes, on a trip to Winton, Queensland. The truck has been partially restored by the Kennedy family and is on loan to the Walzing Matilda Centre. Fortunately, it was stored in a nearby shed when fire ripped through the Centre in 2015, so it was undamaged.
We’re doing some provenance research on this vehicle and will add the info when we have it.