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Vanette div. of Brooks-Perkins 1943-1948, Detroit, Michigan; Vanette div. of Universal Sales Inc, div of Hughes-Keenan Corp., 1950-1957; Duravan, a product of Universal Sales, Inc., Division of Hughes Keenan Corporation, 1950-1957; Duravan div. of Universal Sales, Inc., a division of Transairco Corp., 1966-1972; Delaware, Ohio.
Associated Builders
Transportation Engineers (aka Dearborn - aka Brooks), 1935-1943, Highland Park, & Detroit, Michigan

Hughes-Keenan, specialized in iron and structural steel specialties. Founded in Mansfield, Ohio, in 1904 by Arthur S. Hughes (b. 1878) & Thomas F. Keenan (b. 1876), the firm produced boilers, smoke stacks, structural steel and ornamental iron for the construction industry as well as numerous iron and pressed-steel accessories.

Arthur S. Hughes was born on November 13, 1879, in Mansfield, Richland County, Ohio to John and Martha (O'Neil) Hughes. John Hughes was also a native born Ohioan who was born in Black Fork, Richland County to parents of Pennsylvania-Dutch heritage.

The grandfather of John Hughes was William G. Hughes, a Hessian soldier, who was hired by King George III to fight against the American colonists during the Revolutionary War. Like many others of his class he deserted the army and settled in Pennsylvania. His son, the father of John and grandfather of Arthur S. Hughes, moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio about 1828 and settled nine miles east of Mansfield, being one of the pioneers of Richland County.

At the time of the Civil war John Hughes rendered active allegiance to his country on the field of battle afterward moving to Mansfield where he became engaged as a street contractor and later on as the owner of a cold storage and ice delivery business. He married Martha O'Neil, a native of Pennsylvania, who came to Ashland county in her girlhood days. In their family were seven children, six of whom lived to adulthood: Delia, the wife of Charles Beck, Mansfield; Millie, the wife of E. A. Evans, Mansfield;: Judson W., directing engineer for a boiler concern, Mansfield; Charles Henry, assistant cashier of the Richland Savings Bank; Arthur S., founder of Hughes-Keenan and the subject of this biography; and Frank, a machinist of Mansfield.

Arthur S. Hughes acquired his education in the public schools of this city, supplemented by study under the direction of correspondence schools after he had entered the field of business. At the age of seventeen years he entered upon an apprenticeship as boilermaker with the Aultman-Taylor Company, with whom he remained for eleven years. When nineteen years of age he was sent to South America by that company and spent two years there and in the West Indies, directing engineering in San Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia.

Upon his return he crossed the country for six years serving in the same capacity visiting every state in the Union. Upon his return from the road he was appointed assistant foreman of the boiler department, where he was placed in charge of drafting and planning for new projects.

On December 24th, 1902, Hughes was married to Bessie Morgan, the daughter of Arthur Morgan, a sewage disposal engineer, and to the blessed union was born two daughters; Alberta May (b. 1905); and Mary Helen (b. 1906).

In October, 1906, he resigned his position, forming a partnership with Thomas F. Keenan to make boilers and other steel and iron specialties under the style of Hughes & Keenan. At first only half a dozen men were employed in the shop and only $5,000 was invested. Within the year the firm was incorporated with a capital stock of $25,000, and its products expanded to include structural and ornamental iron specialties. Located at 260 North Mulberry St., Mansfield the firm produced Pressed Steel Stairs, Ornamental Iron, Fire Escapes, Steel Door and Window Frames, and Pressed Steel Toilet Partitions which were sold under the Hygea brand.

Much less is known about his partner, British-born Thomas F. Keenan. Keenan emigrated to this country with his parents in 1869, after which he became engaged in Mansfield's boiler-making business, marrying his wife Anna, in 1900. He retired from Hughes-Keenan in 1912 and Hughes became the controlling executive.

A fire broke out on December 17, 1916 which destroyed the majority of the firm's factory. The firm relocated to an 8-acre site located at 648 Newman St., Mansfield, upon which was constructed a new modern factory, financed through an increase in the firm's capital stock from $25,000 to $200,000.

Arthur S. Hughes was also president of the Lexington Furniture Company, president of the Superior Body Company, of Marion, Ind., director of the United Tractor & Equipment Company, of Chicago; and president of the Indian branch of the Manufacturers Club.

By 1925 the firm had grown to employ 150 men and had a monthly pay roll of $30,000. The plant now covered six acres and the manufacture of dump and flatbed truck bodies became another specialty.

Howard F. Gorsuch, Hughes & Keenan's chief engineer during the 1920s, 30s and 40s came to the firm via the Galion Iron Works & Mfg. Co., of Galion, Ohio, another early manufacturer of truck hoists and dump bodies. Once at Hughes-Keenan Gorsuch was awarded a number of vehicle-related patents, a Gravity Dump Body for trucks, US Patent number 1,602,484, filed on December 14, 1923 (issued Oct 12, 1926) and a Front End Loader for tractors, US Patent number 1,785,119, filed on June 5, 1926, awarded on December 16, 1930.

The name of Hughes-Keenan's president, Arthur S. Hughes would be added to all subsequent patents issued to Gorsuch which included an Earth Working Attachment for Tractors, Patent number 1,785,122, filed on December 16, 1926 (issued on Dec. 16, 1930), a Loader Attachment for Tractors, patent number: 1,785,119 (filed Jun 5, 1926 - issued Dec. 16, 1930) and two dump truck bodies, US Patent numbers 1,790,380 (filed Oct. 14, 1927- issued Jan. 27, 1931) and 1,748,292 (filed Nov. 10, 1927 – issued Feb. 25,1930). One exception was for a Dumping Body for Trucks, patent number 1,684,673 (filed Mar. 26, 1923 – issued Sep. 18, 1928) that was issued to Theodore O. Hollnagel of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and assigned to Hughes-Keenan.

During the twenties and thirties Hughes-Keenan offered numerous flatbed and dumping bodies for Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge/Graham Bros. trucks. The also produced Driver/Salesman delivery bodies for Ford Model T & TT, A & AA and Model B & BB chassis. Similar offerings were made available for Chevrolet, Dodge and International trucks.

One unusual Hughes-Keenan product was the "Iron Mule," a short haul dirt mover that featured a 2-yard dump body that could be fitted to Fordson or McCormick-Deering tractors.

In 1929 Hughes-Keenan issued an illustrated four page bulletin on their Iron Mule which they characterized as "dirt moving gluttons". They later introduced the 'Super Iron Mule' tractor, which featured a 4-yard dumping body mounted on crawlers that included a power hoist for the dump mechanism.

On February 25, 1930 Arthur S. Hughes and Howard F. Gorsuch were awarded US patent number 1,748,292 for a dumping truck which was assigned to the firm. On April 28, 1931 the two engineers were awarded patent numbers 1,802,427 and 1,802,428 for a frame mounting for tractors which was also assigned to the firm.  A Gorsuch-designed hydraulic hoist motor - patent number 1,975,775 - and hoist control system - patent number 1,971,651 – designed for the firm's dumping bodies were awarded US patents in the fall of 1934.

The Hughes-Keenan Iron Mules were offered in two configurations, the first, a fully assembled powered dump wagon with an integral power plant; the second, an easy to assemble kit which used a donor tractor supplied by the customer.

A period description of the Iron Mule kit follows:

"An unusually sturdy steel channel section frame supports the body with its load and the Iron Mule mechanism, the tractor being hung in this frame and acting as a driving unit only. A special axle at radiator end, called the oscillating axle, allowed the wheels to set at different elevations but always keeps them erect.

"The Hughes-Keenan Company of Mansfield, Ohio, built this underbody hand hoist for Chevrolet and Graham Bros, chassis. We are looking at it from the top. A hand crank fits at the upper left, and we can see several sets of gear wheel reductions that transform the human's strength into lifting capability".

The March 1931 issue of Contractors and engineers Monthly contained the following article/advertisement:

"New Tractor Crane Unit

"The Hughes-Keenan Roustabout Crane, which is manufactured by the Hughes- Keenan Co., Mansfield, O., has been adapted to the Model GU Trackson Allis-Chalmers Industrial crawler tractor. This combination provides a compact, flexible, and easily operated crane unit.

"Both the crawler unit and the crane are sturdily constructed and designed for heavy duty. The Model GU Trackson Crawler was built to meet the needs of industrial users, and is especially suited to the operation of auxiliary equipment like the Hughes-Keenan Roustabout crane. This crawler has the open design and wide clearances which are necessary for the in-building of such attachments.

"The boom of the Hughes-Keenan crane is full-revolving, swinging in all directions through a complete circle, on a ball bearing and is effective at all points because of the counterweight box which is mounted on the turntable. The boom can be raised and lowered by power, enabling the unit to go through doorways, etc., and the load can also be lifted or lowered without moving the boom. The load is raised by a cable which is wrapped on a drum and which is independent of the cables that hold the boom in place. The crane does not interfere with the use of the crawler tractor for drawbar work, and therefore the outfit is an all-purpose unit which may be used for hauling dirt in trailers, scrapers, or wagons, pulling big trucks through mud, sand etc., and many other jobs as well as for crane work."

The Roustabout Crane proved to be one of the firm's most popular products, and remained available into the 1950s in three versions; self-propelled, truck-mounted and crawler-mounted. Hundreds of the cranes were purchased by the US Military who used them during WWII and the Korean and Viet Namese conflicts.

On May 7, 1943 the Hughes-Keenan Co. was given the Army-Navy "E" award. Newspaper accounts state that "Nearly a thousand persons visited the plant of The Hughes-Keenan Company, Mansfield, Ohio, on May 7th to see the men and women who make Roustabout Cranes honored with the Army-Navy "E"."

The “E” award was the Army-Navy Award for Excellence in War Production and was normally awarded when a firm completed a large order for the US War effort or filled an order in a short period of time.

At the ceremony, the employees would be given an enameled pin mounted on a card certifying their contribution to the war effort with a message from the president.  The employer would be presented with an “E’ flag and banner and outstanding employees would be presented with a special certificate.

The November 2, 1947 Lima (OH) News announced the merger of the firm with two other central Ohio manufacturers:


"COLUMBUS, Nov. 1 (AP)—Formation of the Hughes-Keenan Corp., with principal offices in Delaware, O., today received approval of the secretary of state, combining the Hughes-Keenan Co., of Mansfield, the Correct Manufacturing Co. of Delaware, and the Burkett Closed Body Co., of Dayton.

"The address of the Hughes-Keenan Corporation, beginning November 15, will be Delaware, Ohio. The move will bring together two of the firm's three divisions — the Correct Manufacturing Company and Hughes-Keenan. The third division, the Burkett Body Company of Dayton, Ohio, is scheduled for movement later."

Although it was announced that Burkett was relocating to Delaware, Ohio, I could locate no concrete evidence that such a move actually occurred. It's possible that that Glenn W. Way, the man behind the Hughes-Keenan / Correct Mfg. merger, merely purchased the firm's equipment and relocated it to his Delaware, Ohio factory where he had just undertaken a contract to manufacture bodies for the Ford-based Vanette route delivery truck. Whatever happened, it's clear that Lee T. Burkett retired withdrew from business sometime between 1948 and 1950.

The August 4, 1948 Mansfield (OH) News Journal announced the firm was relocating to Delaware, Ohio:

"Hughes-Keenan To Leave City Oct. 1

"Mansfield will lose one of its oldest industries in October when the Hughes-Keenan Manufacturing company moves to Delaware to combine with two other plants. Date of moving was announced today by W. E. Post, vice president and general manager of Hughes-Keenan, who said the company expects to leave Mansfield "about the first of October." The company buildings, located at 621 Newman street, are now partly occupied by the Mansfield Tire and Rubber company under terms of the lease negotiated between the two firms last October. After Hughes-Keenan vacates the plant, the Mansfield Tire will take over the entire plant for storage. Founded in Mansfield in 1904 the Hughes-Keenan company was incorporated in 1909. At Delaware, the firm will merge with the Burkett Closed Body company of Dayton and the Correct Manufacturing company of Delaware. The Hughes-Keenan company twice won the Army-Navy "E" award for war materials production. Its war manufacture was devoted to the production of cranes for handling cargo in air fields and for loading ammunition. Hughes-Keenan cranes were used in every theater of operations during World War II."

The real reason for the move was that Delaware, Ohio resident Glenn W. Way (b. Jul. 16, 1901-d. Nov. 21, 1988), had recently purchased a controlling interest in both firms and wished to consolidate operations at his Correct Manufacturing Co., a partnership formed by Way and his wife Zuilla E. (Shook) Way in 1940.

Glenn Wilson Way was born on July 16, 1901 to Ebbert W. Way in Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio. His father, Ebbert Wesley Way (b. Feb. 7, 1874), was born to Joseph Covington and Clarissa (Bird) Way, two Amish farmers who were also born and raised in Killbuck. The Ways were directly descended from Edward and Robert Way, two British-born brothers, born in Chitto, County of Wiltshire, England that emigrated to America in 1685 (or 1686) and settled in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Ebbert was a veteran of the Spanish American War of 1898-1899, who served with the 8th Ohio Volunteers, Company H, headquartered in Shreve, Ohio.

On September 24, 1924 Glenn married Zuilla Eleanor Shook (b. Mar. 10, 1903-d. Dec. 3, 1958), the daughter of Albert H. and Mary (Steel) Shook. To the blessed union was born three children; Betty Eleanor (b. Mar. 13, 1926), Alton Glenn (b. Sep. 08, 1927), and Dwight Wilson Way (b. Jun 1, 1930-d. Feb. 3, 2010).

After his first wife Zuilla passed away in 1958, Glenn W. Way married Pauline M. Plymire (b. Jun. 16, 1908 – d. May 4, 2009) on Aug. 26, 1961.

Just prior to his acquisition of Hughes-Keenan and Burkett Closed Body, Correct Manufacturing had undertaken the construction of Van Ette route delivery trucks for the Brooks & Perkins Co. of Southfield, Michigan.

Van Ette delivery bodies for Ford trucks were made before the war by Transportation Engineers, a firm organized in 1936 by Oliver N. Brooks (b. Oct. 30 1915-d. May 1, 1969) and E. Howard Perkins in order to furnish Ford dealers with COE conversions of Ford V-8 truck cab and chassis. Perkins was the firm chief engineer while Brooks, supplied the capital.

Oliver Newberry Brooks was born in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan on October 30, 1915 to Frank W. and Carol (Newberry) Brooks Jr. His father worked for Homer Warren & Co, a large Detroit-based insurance and real estate co. His grandfather, Frank W. Brooks Sr., was President of the Detroit United Traction Company, Detroit's largest street and interurban railway company.

On June 19, 1912, Frank W. Brooks Jr. had the good fortune to marry Carol Newberry, the daughter of Truman Handy Newberry, a former secretary of the Navy under Theodore Roosevelt and soon to be US Senator 1919-1922. While attending Princeton University Oliver became friends with John F. Kennedy, another young man from a well-heeled family who shared Brooks' interest in sailing.

E. Howard Perkins, (b. Jan 15, 1896-d. Jan. 1968) had a well established reputation in the sheet metal industry and had previously worked for the Dow Chemical Company it its magnesium fabrication laboratory in Bay City, Michigan. While at Dow he was also responsible for the fabrication of the spherical magnesium gondola used by the "Century of Progress" balloon in its attempts to set a world altitude record in 1933 and 1934. He also fabricated the gondola used in the Army Air Corps disastrous Explorer I altitude record run on July 27, 1934.

Brooks & Perkins first factory was located at 15130 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI. The following text is transcribed from a 1936 ad that was placed in the Commercial Car Journal:

"From the industry's DEARBORN LINE CAB-OVER-ENGINE FOR FORD TRUCKS MORE ROOM FOR PAYLOAD Dearborn Line Cab-Over-Engine Conversions give you a whale of a lot of room for payload and more profits! Moving the cab over the engine Increases the payload space of your Ford Truck by 80% to 60%. You have the payload apace of a large van and retain the fuel economy and maneuverability of a small truck. See your nearest Ford Dealer or write us direct. TRANSPORTATION ENGINEERS, Inc. PO BOX IK HIGHLAND PARK, DETROIT"

Transportation Engineers Dearborn Ford conversion was not the first COE, in fact most pre-teen trucks were built with the driver seated over the engine, although the first enclosed cab over engine truck in the modern sense was produced by the Sanford Truck Co. in 1922. With a handful of exceptions, the design lay dormant for the next 12 years but starting reappearing in the mid-to-late thirties. Autocar, Diamond T, Fageol, Federal, Ford, Mack, Sterling and Studebaker offered true COE trucks in the late thirties, but the most attractive were produced by White based on the designs of Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky. Although the Dearborn's weren’t plug-ugly, they couldn’t hold a candle to Sakhnoffsky’s creations.

In fact Transportation Engineers were one of a handful of firms building Ford-based COE (cab over engine) chassis in 1935. Eaglesfield & Irish Co., a small Indianapolis, Indiana-based manufacturer, offered its own take on the Ford COE as did its Indianapolis neighbor, Marmon-Herrington, who offered a similar vehicle albeit with all-wheel-drive.

The firms products were so similar that the Commercial Car Journal erroneously identified an Eaglesfield & Irish unit as a Dearborn Line product in its August 1937 issue, resulting in a retraction that was published in its October 1937 issue:

"Gold Bloom Bloomer

"Thank heaven the editorial eraser isn't overworked correcting published mistakes. So seldom must we use it that it's practically no embarrassment at all to admit a mistake. That goes for the Gold Bloom picture on page 19 of the August issue. We said it was a Transportation Engineers' cab-over-engine Ford conversion. It wasn't. 'Twas a conversion by Eaglesfield & Irish, of Indianapolis. So there!"

Another Detroit-based outfit, named Twin-Flex, built European style COE's that utilized modified Ford cabs mounted ahead of the front wheels. Like its competitors, Twin Flex utilized a stock Ford grill up front, its main distinction being the inclusion of heavy-duty Thornton dual tandem axles at the rear. The peculiar-looking Twin-Flex conversions were easily distinguishable from the significantly taller Dearborn and Eaglesfield & Irish conversions.

The Montpelier Mfg Co. of Montpelier, Ohio COE conversions for 1937-38 Chevrolet, Dodge, Fargo and GMC trucks that was very similar to Transportation Engineers' Dearborn Line. In 1939 production of both the Chrysler and General Motors COEs was transferred to corporate-owned facilities effectively cutting Montpelier out of the increasingly lucrative COE market, forcing the firm to concentrate on their line of route delivery vehicles. As we shall see Transportation Engineer's pre-war experience closely followed that of Montpelier's.

Transportation Engineers started with a stock 157" Ford Model 51 chassis and relocated the steering column as well as the brake pedals and transmission linkage. Early Dearborns utilized the stock Ford front fenders, grill, and headlamps, but by the end of the thirties, Dearborn was using their own distinctive bodywork, and buying drivetrain-only chassis from Ford.

Many Dearborn COE's featured attractive bodies designed to exploit the advantages of the COE design, while others were not so attractive, but no doubt just as useful to their owners.

While most Dearborn's were COE's built on medium to heavy duty Ford chassis, they also built a walk-in route delivery truck based on a Ford ½-ton and 1-ton chassis. Aimed at Dairies and other multi-stop vehicle customers, the van featured a Ford flathead V8 mounted on a 112" wheelbase chassis modified for forward control operation.

Automotive Industries 1937 New York Auto Show issue described the new addition to the Dearborn Line:

"On the Ford stand there is shown also a sample of the Dearborn line of package-delivery cars built from Ford parts by Transportation Engineers, Inc., of Detroit. These are available with either the 60 or the 85-hp. engine. There is 10 ft. of loading space length behind the driver's seat and a total of 335 cu. Ft. loading space. The body is of all-pressed-steel construction, and the de-livery price in the New York area was given as approximately $1200."

Dearborn's homely full-size cabs were redesigned in 1937 and featured a marginally more attractive forward-tilting hood assembly incorporating Ford's 1937 fencing mask truck grill.

In 1938 Ford introduced its own line of COE cabs, effectively shutting out Transportation Engineers from the increasingly lucrative COE market. The front-ends of Ford's 1938 COE's were noticeably better-looking than the 1937 Dearborn Line and incorporated Ford's new 1938 truck grill placed in the center of totally new sheet metal on a much wider, redesigned cab. The new 1938 COE Ford was available as a drive-away chassis, a standard cab and chassis or outfitted with a five-man crew cab.

Dearborn's 1938-1939 1-ton multi-stop delivery vehicles featured the new Zephyr-style headlights and grill found on Ford's 1937-38 passenger cars. United Parcel Service (UPS) ordered a number of these small delivery vehicles on 1-ton frames.  Regular headlights were still available from 1938-1939 on the budget-priced 1/2 ton chassis.

The following article/advertisement appeared in a 1939 issue of Progressive Grocer:


"A parcel delivery unit consisting of a "Dearborn Line" body on a Ford V-8 chassis, is meeting with great success among retailers who have light bulk loads to deliver, according to an announcement by the Ford Motor Co., Detroit, Mich. The "Dearborn Line" body is constructed low to the ground with the driver's seat farther forward than in conventional types giving over three cubic feet of usable load space. The bodies are supplied on 112 and 122-inch wheel-base chassis with either an 85 or 60 horsepower V-8 engine. These units are said to be low in cost to operate."

In late 1939 Transportation Engineers relocated to the Taylor-Winfield Corp. plant located at 14307 Third Ave., Detroit, Michigan. The new facility was located nearby Ford Motor Co.'s Highland Park plant which allowed the firm virtually direct access to new Ford truck frames. The new factory also more floor-space than the old one, allowing the firm to meet increasing orders from fleet owners.

Available from late 1939 through the 1940s was the Dearborn Van Ette (later Vanette). This new forward-control delivery vehicle superseded the multi-stop van first offered in 1935-36. It included a new center-split horizontally-slatted front grill plus the oval Ford-sourced headlights introduced in 1938. Although it utilized a 1-ton Ford chassis, it looked very much like the Metropolitan-International step-vans produced from the 1930s through the 1960s.

A Van Ette Junior shared the regular Van Ette body but was built on a lighter-duty 3/4 ton Ford chassis.

Dearborn also built a short-wheelbase route delivery vehicle that was designed for a 122" Ford 1-ton cowl and chassis that was shortened by 10" to 112". Called the Easy-Route Milk Truck, the compact truck could carry 42 cases of milk bottles, a day's payload for a typical dairyman.

A 1940 issue of Fleet Owner contained the following article/advertisement:

"E-Z Route Milk Body for Fords

"Transportation Engineers, Inc., of Detroit, announces a new milk body which they call the 'Brooks E-Z Route.'… This unit is built exclusively for Ford truck chasses and features an all-steel body that will accommodate 44 standard milk-cases. … Other details include an easily operated door with hand-lever control; special swiveling driver's  seat, controlled by a heel-pedal; ample compartments for driver's books, sweater, cap, etc.; and a special dome-light over the driver's head, for convenience in checking records during the early morning hours … For more details write to Howard Perkins, c/o Transportation Engineers, Inc., 14307 Third Ave., Detroit, Mich."

On November 8, 1940 Transportation Engineers, Inc., Detroit received a copyright on the use of the term "Brooks Van Ette".

The July 1940 issue of Fleet Owner included the following article/advertisement:

"Ford Handles "VanEtte Junior"

"FORD Motor Company, through its branches, announces the addition of a 112-inch, half-ton package-delivery unit to its lines handled. . . . This job is equipped with a Brooks "VanEtte Junior" body as made by Transportation Engineers, Inc. Detroit, Mich. … The new package unit has 9 feet of loading space, with a total cubic capacity of 284 cu. ft. It supplements the "VanEtte Senior" which is mounted on the Ford 122- inch, % or 1-ton chassis, with body having 10 feet of loading space.

A 1941 issue of Milk Plant Monthly announced the removal of Transportation Engineers to new headquarters:

"Delivery Unit Firm Gets Larger Plant 

"Transportation Engineers Inc., Detroit, builders of Brooks VanEtte and EZ-Route bodies on Ford chassis, has moved to new quarters at 1957 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, Mich. Sales offices in New York City and Philadelphia."

By late 1941, Transportation Engineers were now calling the Van Ette the Brooks Vanette. Models included the 1-ton Vanette Senior and the 3/4 ton Vanette Junior, both available on either a 122" or 103" Ford forward-control chassis. The Easy Route was now called the Brooks EZ-Route and built using Ford's 1-ton cowl and chassis. A new model, the super-sized Wholesaler, was added in 1942, but saw limited production.

What follows is the transcript of a factory letter dated January 15, 1942:

"Transportation Engineers Inc., 1957 West Lafayette Blvd. Detroit, Michigan

"Gentlemen: - With all good intentions, we advertised extensively that we would soon have a 1942 catalog ready.

"Work was well along on the preparation of this catalog when the United States suddenly became involved in War. While we shall make every effort to supply VanEttes and E-Z-Route Units, we must tell you that the outlook is not encouraging for civilian demand and we have decided not issue a 1942 catalog, at least until conditions warrant offering a line for general civilian use.

"At the present time, the 134" trucks are available and we strongly urge upon anyone expecting to require a truck of the VanEtte type to order immediately before more drastic restrictions are placed upon all truck production. By combining the information given in the enclosed 1941 catalog with the Wholesaler folder and the new price list, you will have complete information on our present line.

"In the E-Z-Route series the Model ER5, Salesman's Special and the ER6 have been discontinued. Model ER7 built on the 122" chassis with no wheelbase reduction, providing a loading space four cases long has been added. All specifications are shown on the price list.

"Very truly yours, Transportation Engineers, Inc., R.C. Yates, Sales Promotion Manager. Manufacturer of Brooks Bodies."

Very few pre-war Van Ettes are known to exist although the Yankee Air Museum, which is headquartered at the former Willow Run Airbase in Ypsilanti, Michigan has been restoring a 1941 Ford-based Brooks Van Ette 1-ton line maintenance truck that was used on post at the Willow Run Bomber plant.

During the Second World War Transportation Engineers built ambulance bodies and various aircraft components, and were one of the first firms to utilize magnesium in the construction of airframes. Brooks and Perkins dissolved Transportation Engineers in 1943 and formed a partnership called Brooks & Perkins for the purpose of fabricating aircraft components of magnesium. There first government contract was for deep drawn, under slung, magnesium wing gun fairings used on Bell’s P-63, King Cobra. Deep drawn magnesium electronic cases and aircraft parts followed including the contract to manufacture all eight gun turrets used on the B-36 bomber.

A 1947 issue of American Machinist announced the post-war incorporation of the firm:

"Brooks & Perkins, a former partnership, has been incorporated as fabricators of magnesium parts and products at 1957 W. Lafayette, Detroit. Officers include: E. Howard Perkins, president; Oliver N. Brooks and Paul A. Day, vice presidents; Clifford W. Sponsel, vice president in charge of fabrication; and Charles I. Vogel, sales manager."

By this late date Brooks' involvement with the firm was mainly as a director as he spent most of the year in Bermuda building and racing international one-design yachts. His old school chum John F. Kennedy made a much-publicized visit to Bermuda in the spring of 1953, when he was just a rookie Senator for Massachusetts, and a few months before he married Jacqueline Bouvier. Kennedy stayed at Brooks' Bermuda estate, Eventide, in Warwick, the two friends spending most of their time yachting and playing golf at Riddell's Bay Golf & Country Club. In 1960 Kennedy appointed Brooks US ambassador to Bermuda.

Brooks & Perkins planned on resuming Van Ette production after VJ Day, however their shop was filled with large government magnesium contracts and decided to farm out the production of the Vanette. Consequently they formed a wholly-owned subsidiary in May, 1948 called Vanette, Inc. to handle the sale of the vehicle, subcontracting its assembly to the Glenn W. Way's Correct Manufacturing Co. of Delaware, Ohio.

(Brooks & Perkins remain in business today in Cadillac, Michigan, their expertise in rare metals making them a popular Defense Department contractor. During the late 1950s the firm produced magnesium sheet turrets for the B-47 and B-52 bombers and also constructed some of the nation's first satellites used by the Navy's Project Vanguard program.)

Built by Correct Mfg., under contract with the Vanette div. of Brooks & Perkins, Vanette delivery vehicles were sold and distributed by a third Brooks & Perkins-controlled firm, the Universal Sales Co. of Delaware, Ohio. The trucks were sold through two different dealers groups. Universal Sales Co. distributors offer the truck as the "Vanette" parcel delivery for Ford chassis; while the Ford Motor Company dealers offered it as the Ford Model KZ milk and bread route delivery truck.

Post-War Vanettes were available in all the pre-war varieties including the new Wholesaler body and featured a new, much more attractive front end on the Vanette Senior models. Some large municipalities such as Cleveland, Ohio used modified Vanette ambulances in their Police and Fire Rescue departments.

On or about July 1st, 1950 Brooks & Perkins sold off the Vanette operation to Glenn W. Way. 1951 literature now imprinted Vanette Division of Universal Sale Inc. , Delaware, Ohio. A division of Hughes-Keenan Corporation, Delaware, Ohio.

1949-50 Ford F-3 and F-5 Parcel Delivery vehicles featured a Vanette-sourced body which incorporated the F-3 cowl and windshield Ford introduced in 1948. 1951 Vanette's featured the brand-new 1951 Ford truck full-width grill and headlight assembly. Ford's Parcel Delivery series was renamed the P-Series in 1953 and the Delaware-built vehicles included the grills and headlights introduced on Ford trucks in 1953. The P-Series trucks were also available as a heavy-duty cowl & windshield chassis which was called the P-600.

At the 1952 NTBMDA convention in Atlantic City, the National Truck Body Manufacturers and Distributors Association elected Glenn W. Way as their new president.

In 1954 Universal Sales brought out the Duravan, a route delivery body built expressly for Dodge forward control chassis. A transcription from a large display ad in a 1954 issue of Fleet Owner follows:

"Five New Truck Bodies… which are designed for parcel deliveries are now being produced by Universal Sales Inc. Delaware, Ohio. The new bodies are designed to mount on the 1954 Dodge forward control chassis.

"Heretofore, bodies produced in the Universal line for parcel delivery have been designed for GMC, Ford and Chevrolet chassis only. The new models bear the trade name "Duravans," and will be available in both wide and narrow sizes, and on wheelbases ranging from 104 in. to 129 in.

"They are particularly suitable for dry cleaners, bakeries, dairies, laundries, florists, groceries, newspapers, traveling libraries, department stores and other businesses requiring high mileage, small size delivery vehicles. They were primarily designed to lower costs on multi-stop routes.

"Among the features listed by the manufacturer and included as standard items in the line are: solid 18 in. rear doors. 29 in. full sliding side doors, parallel interior walls, thick fibreglass roof insulation, spacious cab with adjustable closed storage compartment, windshield, and convenient platform. All windows are of safety and the truck body is particularly designed to be dustproof, with special rubber tubing on all doors. All the joints have been treated with Alumilastic filler. Descriptive literature, specifications and prices on the Duravan parcel delivery bodies are available.

"Universal Sales, Inc., Division, Hughes Keenan Corporation, Delaware, Ohio."

In 1957, the Hughes-Keenan Corporation, became a division of the United States Air Conditioning Corporation, a Minneapolis, Minnesota firm formed in 1937 to manufacture air conditioners for movie theaters. The event was covered by Domestic Engineering as follows:

"US Air Conditioning Corp. merges with Hughes-Keenan

"Delaware, O. – The United States Air Conditioning Corp. of Philadelphia has effected a merger with the Hughes-Keenan Corp. of this city. Hughes-Keenan will become a division of usAIRco and operate under the US Air Conditioning name, according to Glenn W. Way, who becomes president and chairman of the executive committee of usAIRco. Way said the new division will manufacture materials handling cranes and a line of delivery-type truck bodies. U.S. Air Conditioning manufactures air conditioning equipment in its Philadelphia plant."

In 1960, United States Air Conditioning acquired the Skyworker division from the Emhart Manufacturing Co. of Hartford, Connecticut. US Air Co subsequently relocated the Skyworker operations from Milford, Connecticut to its Hughes-Keenan division in Delaware, Ohio. Sky-Worker produced hydraulic aerial lifts for the utility and tree service industries.

Hughes-Keenan continued to build on Ford chassis into the 1960s. A new budget-priced half-ton P-100 was introduced by Ford in 1961, although not as a cowl & windshield chassis. Ford continued to use the circa 1953 styling on the P-series into 1964 when the vehicle was dropped, however, totally stripped P-Series chassis remained available into the 1970s. By that time most Vanettes no longer featured the distinctive full-width Ford grills found on earlier models utilizing a horizontal louvered radiator opening flanked by single headlights mounted above the turn signals.

In 1966 Glenn W. Way and a group of Ohio investors formed a holding company, Transairco Inc., to take over the assets of U.S. Air Conditioning Corp. which was now known as US Air Co., Div. of Transairco Inc., Delaware, Ohio. Way subsequently closed down US Air Conditioning's Philadelphia plant, relocating all air conditioner production to Delaware, Ohio.

In December of 1966 Divco-Wayne Corp announced that it was in negotiations to sell off its Divco Trucks Division. On January 1, 1968, Divco-Wayne Corp. was acquired by Boise-Cascade, Inc., and Divco delivery truck production was sold to Highway Products, Inc., a Kent, Ohio company based in the former Twin Coach bus plant.

Divco-Wayne agreed to sell its truck manufacturing assets and facilities to Highway Products, Inc., in August of 1967 and the sale was consummated that November. Highway Products was a Kent, Ohio manufacturer truck bodies that was based in the former Twin Coach bus plant.  Highway Products purchased the Divco assets in order to acquire its popular line of medium-sized buses and had no intention of resuming production of Divco route delivery trucks.

Within a month Highway Products sold off what remained of Divco's assets to Glenn W. Way's Transairco. Also included were Divco's intellectual property, body dies and what remained of Divco's parts inventory. With the acquisition of a truck manufacturer, Way hoped it would help increase sales of the recently introduced Sky Worker overhead booms which could now be offered in a turnkey package utilizing the sturdily-built Divco chassis. Way announced the purchase to the trade on January 1, 1968. Apparently the acquisition of the Divco line coincided with the end of Vanette production as advertisements for the vehicle ceased in 1965 although a few 1966-1969 Vanettes are occasionally offered for sale.

Down a year to move production from Detroit to Delaware, the Divco assembly line reopened in 1969 producing far fewer trucks annually. The final models were the 300 and 200 series with 115-inch and 127-inch wheelbases, and load capacities from 6000 to 10,000 lbs. The same Ford gasoline engines as in 1963 were available, with an optional 3-speed dual range automatic transmission. Diesels included Detroit, Caterpillar or Deutz.  Chassis were also produced for other uses, including Divco Refuse trucks. In addition to Divcos, Correct continued to produce truck beds and Skyworker Cranes.

Divco's listing in the 1969 Automotive News directory follows:

"Divco Truck Co. Transairco, Inc. PO Box 360 Delaware, Ohio 43015, Phone (614) 363-1231 G.W. Way President.

"In 1968 — Divco US new truck registrations totaled 1,192 vs. 1,175 in 1967 and 1,867 in 1966.

"Transairco Inc., purchased the Divco complex from Highway Products in late 1967, shortly after H-P bough the Divco manufacturing rights from Divco-Wayne. Shortly after the purchase, Transairco moved the Divco manufacturing operation to Delaware, (O), beginning truck production there in December, 1968.

"Transairco also purchased the Divco service parts business from Divco-Wayne in the summer of 1968, moving it to Delaware, (O).

"Products – Five models of wholesale and retail delivery vans on wheelbases from 115" to 127½". Vehicles are used primarily for delivery of dairy products. Primary feature of the vehicles is that they can be driven from a sitting or standing position. Transairco also builds Sky-Worker and Hi-Worker "elbow-type" hydraulic lifts, wheel-type motive cranes and Vanette, Duravan and Caravan walk-in bodies. Plants — Delaware, Ohio."

Initially, Divco's offices remained in Ashland but on December 1, 1970, the corporate office was closed down and all Divco operations consolidated at Transairco's Delaware plant.

In 1971 Transairco merged with a group of companies owned by Andre J. Andreoli, an Akron, Ohio based investor who had made a fortune in hotel and racetrack management. The merger gave Andreoli control although Way and his family remained the second largest shareholders. Andreoli relocated Transairco's corporate office to his hometown of Akron, Ohio and all Delaware operations became divisions of Transairco Inc. which was, for all intents and purposes, was now a holding company.

The firm's listing in the 1971 Automotive News directory follows:

"Transairco Inc., Akron & Delaware, Ohio: Andre J. Andreoli (Chairman of the Board) Glenn W. Way (President) R. Ralph Felver (1st Vice-President & Sec) George Kucera (Assistant Secretary) Daniel Slavin (Treasurer). Number Employees: 325 Mfr. Truck Cab Bodies, Cranes, Hoists, Air Conditioning Ventilating Equip., Aerial Lifts, etc."

Way and Andreoli did not get along and with the year Way began to sell of their shares in Transairco, the family's share in the holding company dropping to just 26%. Although Way remained on the board of directors, he resigned as president and entered into negotiations to buy back the Sky-Worker and Divco operations from Andreoli.

In mid-August of 1972, Transairco agreed with Way and certain Transairco stockholders to incorporate a wholly-owned subsidiary, Correct Manufacturing Corporation - the name paid homage to Way's first company, formed back in 1941.

At Correct's first board meeting, on August 31, 1972, Correct accepted an offer from Transairco to acquire a majority of Transairco's manufacturing assets, including those of the Skyworker enterprise. Way and his family then swapped all of their shares in Transairco for all of the shares of Correct Manufacturing, at which point Correct ceased to be associated with Transairco. Andreoli was elected the first president of Correct on August 31, 1972, but Way became Correct's president and general manager on September 1, 1972 and Andreoli surrendered his shares in the firm to the Way family.

With Way back in control Correct Mfg.'s Divco Truck and Sky-Worker crane subsidiaries became profitable and remained so into the next decade until problems with the Skyworker's 50 foot boom arms and the ensuing litigation forced the company into bankruptcy in 1985.

The final Divco trucks were produced under the authority of the bankruptcy trustee in January, 1986, and the assets of the company were then liquidated soon afterwards. Glenn W Way died on November 21, 1988 at the age of 87. He was survived by his second wife, Pauline, and three children; Betty, Alton and Dwight.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -


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DIVCO: America's Favorite Milk Truck - Automobile Quarterly: Vol. 37, No. 4, pub 1998

Robert R. Ebert & John S. Rienzo Jr. – DIVCO: A History of the Truck and Company, pub 1997

Abraham J. Baughman - History of Richland County, Ohio, from 1808 to 1908, pub 1908

William A. Duff - History of North Central Ohio Embracing Richland, Ashland, Wayne, Medina, Lorain, Huron and Knox Counties, pub. 1931

C.B. Galbreath - History of Ohio: Vol. V, pub. 1925

Mike Jaeger - Get High in an Early Ford COE - V8 Times Magazine – bi-monthly publication of the Early Ford V8 Club.

Brooks and Perkins: “B & P 25 Years”, Metalscope - Brooks and Perkins, Detroit, Feb 1968 issue 

Robert E. Brown - Magnesium Wrought and Fabricated Products: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, Magnesium Technology Symposium, pub. Feb. 2002

Donald F. Wood - Delivery Trucks

James K. Wagner - Ford Trucks since 1905

Don Bunn - Dodge Trucks

Fred Crismon - International Trucks

Don Bunn - Encyclopedia of Chevrolet Trucks

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

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