We all have those cars from our childhood that standout. There was the 49 Plymouth my mom used to drive (and the first car I remember). Then there was the series of VW bugs my dad drove as I grew up.
But there’s only one that I’d love to get my hands on: A Divco milk truck.
You see, my dad was a milkman. (Actually, he had two jobs, delivering milk in the morning and newspapers in the afternoon.) Every morning at 3 o’clock he’d take off to deliver dairy products right to people’s front door. Heck, at one point he actually used to put the milk in their refrigerator. Can you imagine having a milkman coming into your home every morning while you slept and stocking your fridge?
In the milk delivery world, Divco was king. The company’s roots go back to the 1920’s. It started by building electric delivery vehicles and then moved on to gasoline versions. Divco stood for Detroit Industrial Vehicle Company (although the name soon changed to Divco Detroit Corporation). The company’s bread and butter through the years was building multi-stop vehicles like home delivery milk trucks.
In 1937 the company created a design that would last nearly 50 years. It had a snub nosed sloping hood with a broad flat windshield and slightly tapered box on the truck’s back-end. It hit the streets in 1939 and a year later the company added insulation and refrigeration. The rest is milk truck history. Although the design was slightly refined over the years, one look at the last truck to roll off the line in 1986 and you knew where it started.
The most intriguing thing was the method used to help drivers who only wanted to go a short distance. There was a seat, but it could swing out-of-the-way which allowed the driver to stand (they would never get away with that today). The truck had two pedals. Gas was on the right and on the left was a single pedal that controlled both the clutch and the brake. Push halfway down and it engaged the clutch, go down further and it engaged the brake.
My dad kept his truck parked in our backyard, plugged in to keep the refrigeration unit cold. It was packed with milk that he would start delivering early the next day. I spent many a cold morning (at least as cold as it gets in LA) riding around with my dad as he delivered milk for Los Angeles dairies like Edgemar and Alta Dena.
I see the occasional Divco show up at Barrett Jackson auctions in everything from pure stock to all out hot rod. Personally, I’d love a resto-mod Divco. Stock on the outside, but with a big crate motor under the hood and better suspension. My dad always called his motor the gutless wonder and going up hills with a full load of milk was never easy.
Restoring a Divco isn’t easy or cheap. Fortunately, there’s a strong group of Divco enthusiasts who appreciate the significance of the truck’s design and it’s place in the suburbanization of America. The Divco Club of America produces newsletters and promotes milk truck get-togethers (the next one is in Asheville, NC in June 2013). My dad used to be a member before he passed away.
Divcos aren’t cheap, but even a nice one would only put a small dent in the million dollars. So what would I do with the rest of the money? I’d use a big chunk to build the new garage big enough to house my prize!