White Motor Car Co. - 1900-1995 - Cleveland, Ohio

    The White Sewing Machine Company, as it was originally called, introduced a steam automobile in 1900 and changed its name to the White Motor Car Company. Their last steam-engined vehicle was manufactured in 1910 and in 1912 they introduced a line of ambulances in association with their Ravenna, Ohio neighbor, the Riddle Coach & Hearse Company.

Unlike their Riddle cousins, the White ambulance's coachwork was plain and utilitarian, and looked more like a delivery van than the beautiful coaches built by Riddle. All ambulances featured White's big 60hp six chassis which featured a wheelbase of  140". The bodies were supplied by Riddle and sold through the White dealer network until 1916, when White discontinued the 140" chassis.

Riddle-bodied Ambulances and Funeral Vehicles were produced and sold by White in a large number of styles from 1912-1914.

The heavy duty 140" White was a popular chassis with other coachbuilders as well. G.A. Schnabel, National Casket Company, Pete Kief, and Hornthals were all satisfied customers during the early-to-mid teens.

The White Truck enjoyed much more success than the White automobile and just prior to WWI, the firm decided to concentrate on trucks. Automobile production ceased at the end of 1918 and White became one the largest Truck producers in the world. They manufactured the Standard Class "A" Truck for the U.S. Army during World War I. Trucks bearing the White name were being manufactured up until 1995, when their current owner Volvo decided to drop the White name.


WHITE (ii) (US) 1901 to date

(1) White Sewing Machine Co., Cleveland, Ohio 1901-1906

(2) The White Co., Cleveland, Ohio 1906-1915

(3) White Motor Co., Cleveland, Ohio 1915-1965

(4) White Trucks, Cleveland, Ohio 1966 to date

Rollin H. White of the Cleveland sewing-machine concern (unconnected with (i) White) started to build steam cars in 1900. Early ones had 2-cylinder simple engines mounted under the floor, underslung frontal condensers, tiller steering, and chain drive: front-mounted compound engines, radiator-type condensers, wheel steering, and shaft drive made their appearance on the 1903 line. White boilers were of semi-flash type with a steaming capacity of 100 miles between refills.

The firm's first van was delivered to the Denver Dry Cleaning Co. in 1901. Thereafter car-based light commercials on pneumatic tires became a regular part of the catalog range, the 1904 10hp version carrying a 10-cwt payload. By 1906, a wide diversity of bodies was available: these included buses (one was exported to Japan in 1907), police patrol wagons (the 30hp type found favor in Rio de Janeiro), fire appliances, and mail trucks. White Steamers were the US Army's first standard motor ambulances. Some larger 2%-, 3-tonners with double compound engines, vertical boilers, and side-chain drive were tried but not made in quantity.

Though steamers were still available in 1911, 1910 had seen a line of gasoline cars based on the French Delahaye. Along with these came a range of trucks using the same type of 4-cylinder L-head monobloc engine. 4-speed overdrive gearboxes were standard, with conventional bevel drive, pneumatics, and twin rear wheels on the ½ ­ton GBE, double reduction shaft drive on the 1 ½-tonner, and chain drive (plus solids) on the 3-ton type. By 1912 there was also a chain-driven 5-tonner, the TC, this having a 5.3-litre engine. These basic variants were continued without major change until 1918, though later 5-tonners ran to 5.9 liters, power dump trucks made their appearance in 1914, and in 1913 the company built an unusual steel-tired logger using the new 60hp 6-cylinder car engine. A year later Rollin White left the company to found the Cleveland Tractor Co. (Cletrac). 1- to 3-ton Whites were standardized by the American Army in World War I, some 18,000 being delivered.

White became more seriously involved in the bus business during 1917, when they built the first of a large fleet of open-sided sightseeing vehicles for the Yellowstone National Park. Commonly known as the YP-­type, these were based on the 20-45 TDB truck chassis, subsequently used for other types of PSV. The municipally-owned transit system of San Francisco was running a small fleet of Whites as early as 1918, and examples are known to have operated in interurban service in Ohio by 1919. Rebuilt White taxicabs aided in the rapid expansion of the Star Auto Stage Association in central California in 1916, and Whites also helped build up the extensive system of Motor Transit Co., based on Los Angeles and initiated by a White truck dealer.

1918 saw the abandonment of private cars (apart from a few 'specials' on light commercial chassis which persisted in penny numbers until the late 1930s). Also dropped was chain drive, which gave way to double reduction bevels, while the 4-cylinder engines were given detachable heads. The range structure continued as before. Widespread interest in the company's buses led to the introduction of the first White chassis specifically intended for PSV use, the Model-50 of late 1921. Essentially a modification of the 20-45, it continued with the well-tried 4-cylinder GN engine (subsequently evolved into the GR and then into the GRB), but was both longer and wider than earlier designs. When air brakes were added to create the 50-B in 1925, the White bus was fully competitive with the currently popular AB Mack and Type-Y Yellow, and sold well for both local city transit and over-the-road duties. Production estimates are difficult to work out, but probably not more than 10 per cent of White's annual output in the later 1920s (the years of the greatest expansion in the US bus industry) consisted of bus chassis.

White made no precedent-setting strides in bus design, their vehicles selling on durability and consistent performance. The company's first series-production 6­-cylinder commercial vehicle was the Model-54 bus of 1926: a 4-cylinder type with similar styling carried the Model-53 designation. The 54 had a 519ci 7 -bearing ohv engine, dual coil ignition, a 4-speed gearbox, and Westinghouse air brakes on all four wheels. The 54-A of late 1928 was an important improvement: the dash was pushed forward over the two rear cylinders, and the engine set over the front axle, increasing passenger capacity from 29 to 38 on city transit version, in return for a modest wheelbase increase from 20ft to 20ft l0in. There was also a 15ft variant, the 65, later joined by the intermediate 65-A. In 1928 the company built an experimental gasoline-electric bus, which combined the big 6-cylinder engine with two rear-mounted G.E.C. electric motors.

The trucks continued on established lines, though pneumatic tires and electric lighting were now regular equipment, even if oil lamps were still cited in the 1929 catalog. Among 1927's new models were the 1 ½ -ton 57, which dispensed with a transmission brake, and the 3 ½ ton 58, available with an air-brake option, 6,260 commercial vehicles found buyers in 1928, when models were available for payloads from 15-cwt to 7 ½ tons. In 1929 the ohv 6-cylinder Model-54 engine was applied to the Model-59 heavy tractor, while a modern lightweight was the 1-ton 60 with 4.3-litre, 54bhp 6-cylinder sv unit, spiral bevel drive, and hydraulic fwb; orthodox mechanicals would not be quoted after 1933. The new small White was not cheap ($1,850 for a chassis), but it found favor for high-class delivery work, being often seen with town-car style bodywork and dual sidemounts. The old sv fours survived in the up to 2 ½ -ton class (they would linger on into 1934), but hydrovac brakes on all wheels were now general practice, and were found on a new heavy-duty family, the 620/640 series for GVWs of up to 16 tons. Engines were ohv 6s of 75 or 100 hp, pneumatic tires were standard, and features of the heavier variants included auxiliary transmissions, electric pump feed, double reduction drive, all full air brakes. Sub variations were the K-series with engines projecting back into the cab, and White's first catalog 6 X 4s for 10-ton payloads. These featured Timken worm-drive back axles and were supplied in small numbers to the US Army. 1932 was a poor year, with only 2,138 vehicles sold, but during the season White absorbed Indiana, transferring that con­cern's operations to Cleveland. They also entered into a brief association with the Studebaker-Pierce-Arrow consortium, during which period a few Pierce-Arrow trucks were assembled in the White factory.

A more important development of 1932 was a 505ci, 143 hp sv flat-12 engine with which White hoped to take the lead with heavy-duty city buses. Subsequently made also in 8lIci, 225 hp form, this unit featured dry-sump lubrication and twin downdraught carburetors, and was located amidships and under-floor in a range of PSV s for up to 100 passengers introduced in 1933-4. Other characteristics of the design were twin starter motors, air­-assisted wet-plate clutches, and 5-speed constant-mesh gearboxes, but these so-called Pancakes soon gained a reputation for thirst and poor performance. Both the engine and the composite wood and steel body construction were dropped at the end of 1937, but the basic under-floor engine concept was retained in a new series of city buses, also available in parlor-car layout, so that the ageing 54-A and 65-A could be dropped. The new 24 engine was much more modem, and in bus form the new White was successful, though the over-the-road version failed to attract much attention. The smaller flat­-12 engine also found its way into some heavy forward-­control trucks, but these made little impression and disappeared during 1938.

A restyled 700 truck series, distinguishable by its vee radiator, appeared in 1934, helping to boost annual sales from a low 1,384 to close on 4,000. These followed classic lines with flexibly-mounted 6-cylinder coil-ignition engines, ohv being retained for the heavy-duty models, some of which ran to 9Y2-litres. 5-speed gearboxes were standard in the over 3-ton class. Even more elegant were the 1936s, with streamlined cabs designed by Alexis deSakhnoffsky; thereafter the shape of normal control Whites changed little until the later 1950s. Light-duty models included a 1 ½ -tonner, the 703, with 80 hp sv engine, available with factory-built streamlined van bodywork; chassis prices were as low as $1,185. Though White's subsidiary, Indiana, had pioneered the use of the Cummins diesel, White themselves stayed with gasoline power, apart from a few special-order heavies with Cummins units made for export from 1937 onwards. The 1937 range covered everything from lightweights up to 16 ½-tonners, these including some 6 X 4s as before. All had 6-cylinder engines, mainly sv, with ratings of up to 130 hp. Air brakes and 5-speed gearboxes characterized the heavier Whites, while there were now parallel forward control models in the 1 ½-, 10-ton bracket with streamlined cabs. In the bus field, White had some more successful offerings in the shape of modified normal control truck chassis; the 2-ton 704 (for school bus use) and the larger 706 (for transit and intercity work) sold better in the mid­1930s than the well-liked but outmoded regular PSV line. These were later superseded by forward-control versions designated 706-M, 800-M, 805-M, and 810-M. Early White bus types had been supplied either in chassis form or with bodies by Avery or Lang, but by the late 1920s a close association had developed between White and the Bender Body Co. of Cleveland, who built most of their PSV coachwork. The change to a new type of construction in 1938 involved a new White bus manufacturing plant on the east side of Cleveland, where bodies as well as chassis were built. Bender tried to keep alive by making bodies on other makes of chassis, but expired around 1942.

White was building normal control 6 X 6 trucks for the Army in 1939, but in the meantime they had explored the multi-stop delivery van market with two unusual models. The first of these was the under-floor engined Merchandor of 1938 followed a year later by the more radical White Horse 2-tonner, a Franklin design. It featured forward control, full unitary construction, a 3-speed gearbox, coil rear springing, and a rear-mounted, quick-detachable 2.4­litre air-cooled flat-4 engine giving 40 hp. Of stand-and­-drive type, it sold 2,000 units in two years and was the last true lightweight White for twenty years.

During World War II White produced some 20,000 Hercules-powered M3A1 scout cars of Indiana design, as well as more than 4,000 similar M3 half trucks powered by their own 147 hp sv 6. Heavier military models were 4 X 4 tractors and 6 X 4 and 6 X 6 trucks, some of which used proprietary engines, either Hercules gasoline or Cummins diesel. The full normal control line was resumed in 1946, with hydraulic torque converters and air conditioned cabs as regular options a year later.

By the 1938-42 period White had annexed some 10 per cent of the available heavy duty transit bus business, major buyers being transit systems in Cleveland, Washington and Boston, as well as the Pacific Electric Railway of Los Angeles. Like the trucks, the buses went back into production unchanged after the war, some very large orders being fulfilled between 1945 and 1947. Once the backlog had been cleared, however, sales fell off in

favor of more modern rival machinery with diesel engines mounted transversely at the rear.

Buses continued to play second fiddle to the trucks. There was a stylistic facelift in 1949, and Cummins diesels became a regular option after 1951, but both sales and the company's share of the market stayed low. White's last bus, a 50-passenger Cummins-powered transit type for Washington, was completed in October, 1953. Total bus production had amounted to some 15,000 units. A school bus chassis based on the normal control truck with 6­cylinder gasoline engine, was however, listed as late as 1968.

Along with the expansion of their truck business, White went empire-building in the 1950s. First to fall to them were Sterling in 1951, followed by the Freightliner custom truck (1951), Autocar (1953), Reo (1957) and Diamond T (1960). Of these concerns, Autocar survives to the present, and the Diamond T and Reo companies were merged into a single unit, which White eventually sold off in 1968.

Forward control was revived on the Super Power 3000 range of 1949. These featured power tilt cabs, with the usual options of 5-speed gearboxes, 2 speed rear axles, air brakes, and disc-type handbrakes. Up to 1955, some of the lighter models were fitted with Packard's obsolete 6­cylinder sv gasoline engine. Also in 1949, Cummins diesel engines were regularly available in 12.2-litre 6-cylinder form, while the traditional sv gasoline units ran up to 8.1 liters and 184 hp. The heaviest tractive units catered for GCWs in the 100,000 pound class, and by 1955 more power was forthcoming all round, with turbocharged editions of the Cummins engine, and the up-rating of White's Mustang gasoline engines to as much as 215 hp. Weight-paring techniques were applied in 1959 on the 5000 forward control and TDL normal control tractors. These featured fiberglass cabs and front wing assemblies, as well as liberal application of aluminum which lopped a ton off the basic TDL. Engines were Cummins diesels from 180 to 262 hp (335 hp on the 6 X 4 forward-control Turnpike Cruiser of 1960); other features included multi-­speed transmissions by Clark, Fuller or Spicer, and (on the cab 5000) power-assistance for gearshift driver's seat and cab windows. In the range were further specialist types, notably 4 X 2 and 6 X 2 twin-steer developments of the 3000 family with automatic transmission for airfield­ tanker work, and the heavy duty 6 X 4 Construktor, an off-highway or mixer chassis with 5 X 3-speed transmission, normal control, and a choice of gasoline or diesel engines in the 145/220 hp bracket. At the other end of the scale White made another attack on the urban delivery van market with two types. Of these the Highway Compact van had a GVW of 26,000 pounds and was made for them until 1965 by Highway Products; thereafter Highway handled their own marketing. Engines were gasoline units by Ford or Chrysler, diesel options being by Perkins or GM-Detroit. The smaller PDQ revived the White Horse theme, though its quick­-detachable power unit was conventionally located. As White no longer made any small engines, an astonishing variety of types found their way into this one; the F-head 4-cylinder Willys, the Continental 6, the Plymouth Valiant's ohv Slant 6, a Chrysler marine V8, and the British 4-cylinder Perkins diesel. A fire at White's branch plant at Montpelier, Ohio, brought PDQ production to a halt in 1965, and thereafter the company was content to stay with heavies.

By the late 1950s there were ohv gasoline Mustang engines as well as the traditional sv types, and by 1961 the 3000 had evolved further into the Utilideck, a half-cab type for the carriage of steel girders. Alongside these were some more compact forward control models, the 1500s for city work, with low tilt cabs mounted over the front axles and a heavy bumper protecting both grille and lamps. Wheelbase of the 1500 tractor was only 6 ft. 2 in. and 4­ speed gearboxes, gasoline engines, and hydrovac brakes were standard, though a wide range of options included air brakes and power steering. By 1964 the British Perkins diesel in 6-cylinder form was also available. Half-cabs had been applied to mixer chassis, not to mention the White­-Freightliner range. A so-called Mustang V8 gasoline engine was announced in 1966 as an option in the 4000 and 9000 normal control trucks and tractors; this 250 hp unit was, however, nothing more than a modified Cummins diesel, and never saw series production. Thereafter gasoline engines were quietly phased out, the last sv Mustangs making their appearance in 1971-2. Some models were even quoted with Chevrolet-built gasoline V8sin 1971.

The 1967 line-up embraced the 1500 Compact (now available in a 6 X 4 configuration, as well as a wide selection of normal control trucks and tractors in 4 X 2, 6 X 2, 6 X 4 and 6 X 6 guises, 8x6s being added in 1968. As the White-built engines became obsolescent, proprietary units took over with diesels by Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit, Diamond Reo and Perkins featuring in the later 1960s, albeit only the first two makes were still regularly quoted in 1978. For 1968 White made a bid for the specialized Western-state haulage business with the Western Star line, made in branch plants at Ogden, Utah and Kelowna, British Columbia. These were available only with normal control and diesel power.

Essentially the same heavy-duty themes persisted into 1978. Descended from the Compact was the Road Xpeditor 2, a low-tilt cab type for urban work with a choice of l0.4 -liter Caterpillar or 14-litre Cummins engines, both sixes. For GVWs of up to 68,000lb. or GCWs as high as 125,000lb. there was the forward control Road Commander, made as a 4 X 2 or 6 X 4 with a wide choice of transmissions and engines of up to 450bhp. Its normal control counterpart with tilting fiberglass hood was the Road Boss. A comprehensive range of Western Stars included a 6 X 6, though the Construcktor was now made only with Autocar badges. Power steering and Allison automatic gearboxes were generally available, air brakes were standardized throughout the range, and the 1978 color chart embraced 306 different shades. An interesting feature of tandem-axle models was the use of White's four-spring rear suspension, and on Road Commanders and Road Bosses there were centralized servicing points for electrics and air lines. Despite a trading loss of $50 million in 1975, the group's production averaged 30,000 units a year, one-third of these marketed with White badges.


History of the White 706

The White Model 706 Tour bus was developed specifically for sightseeing in the National Park System of the United States of America.
In 1935 four manufacturing companies agreed to participate in product evaluations at Yosemite National Park to determine the best vehicle for touring in western national parks.

The transition from horse drawn carriages to internal combustion engine powered coaches had already taken place, but no standard had ever been established with regard to seating capacity or power requirements.

Early passenger vehicles in the parks were often underpowered or simply did not carry enough passengers. All of the participating vehicles were loaded with sandbags to simulate passenger weight and driven the same course throughout Yosemite National Park. The White Model 706, with its longer wheelbase and powerful 318 cubic inch 6 cylinder engine outperformed all of the other entries and was clearly the favorite. The styling of the White Model 706 did not go unnoticed. The radiator cowling and grill were the design of the renowned Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, a Russian immigrant whose designs had been used on the Packard, the Cord, and the DeVaux automobiles among others. The Bender Body Company had designed and built the coach body with the design influence of Herman Bender and F.W. Black, president of White Motor Company.

The Yellowstone Bus - Yellow & Black

Yellowstone ordered 27 of the Model 706's for the 1936 season and by 1940, there were 98 Model 706's at Yellowstone. There were only subtle changes made to the styling of the Model 706 in 1938 and 1939. (Note the square-cornered windshields of the 1936.) The older Yellowstone fleet was gradually phased out and the Model 706's were used until the mid 1960's when the remaining buses were sold. Generally the Yellowstone buses were sold whenever they needed major repairs. Many never rolled again.

The Skagway Streetcar Company of Skagway, Alaska assembled a fleet of eight units, buying them from private owners. The buses were used in Skagway until 2001 when they were sold to Yellowstone National Park for restoration, exhibition, and limited tour duty. Another two modernized Yellowstone Buses remain in daily service with Historic Battlefield Bus Tours of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Most of the Yellowstone buses have been accounted for. Museums and private collectors own several.

The Glacier Park "Jammer" - Red & Black

Glacier National Park purchased 35of the Model 706's between 1936 and 1940.The White Model 706's saw continuous service in Glacier except for 1943-1946 due to World War II. In 1989 the fleet was upgraded to modern specifications including power steering and automatic transmission. The entire fleet was temporarily removed from service in 1999 because of chassis metal fatigue and cracking.

The fleet was retrofitted with an entirely new running gear, completely refurbished, and returned to service for the 2002 season. In keeping with modern clean air standards, the 8 cylinder engines of the current fleet of 33 units can operate on either propane or gasoline. One unit, #78, was never modernized and is stored at the East Glacier, Montana garage facility. The White Model 706's used in Glacier National Park are called "Reds". The tour guide drivers have come to be called "Gear Jammers" or "Jammers", reminiscent of the time when the original gear boxes, requiring double clutching, could often be heard as they were jammed into gear. While today's drivers are still called "Jammers", with automatic transmissions being used in the fleet, the drivers are in reality simply "shiftless".


    For more information please read:


Ed Strauss & Karen Strauss - The Bus World Encyclopedia of Buses

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

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

Donald F. Wood - American Buses

Denis Miller - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trucks and Buses

Susan Meikle Mandell - A Historical Survey of Transit Buses in the United States

David Jacobs - American Buses, Greyhound, Trailways and Urban Transportation

William A. Luke & Linda L. Metler - Highway Buses of the 20th Century: A Photo Gallery 

William A. Luke & Brian Grams - Buses of Motorcoach Industries 1932-2000 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Greyhound Buses 1914-2000 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Prevost Buses 1924-2002 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Flxible Intercity Buses 1924-1970 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Buses of ACF Photo Archive (including ACF-Brill & CCF-Brill)

William A. Luke - Trailways Buses 1936-2001 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Fageol & Twin Coach Buses 1922-1956 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Yellow Coach Buses 1923 Through 1943: Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Trolley Buses: 1913 Through 2001 Photo Archive

Harvey Eckart - Mack Buses: 1900 Through 1960 Photo Archive

Brian Grams & Andrew Gold - GM Intercity Coaches 1944-1980 Photo Archive

Robert R. Ebert  - Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company

John McKane - Flxible Transit Buses: 1953 Through 1995 Photo Archive

Bill Vossler - Cars, Trucks and Buses Made by Tractor Companies

Lyndon W Rowe - Municipal buses of the 1960s

Edward S. Kaminsky - American Car & Foundry Company 1899-1999

Dylan Frautschi - Greyhound in Postcards: Buses, Depots and Post Houses

The Professional Car (Quarterly Journal of the Professional Car Society)

Gregg D. Merksamer - Professional Cars: Ambulances, Funeral Cars and Flower Cars

Thomas A. McPherson - American Funeral Cars & Ambulances Since 1900

Carriage Museum of America - Horse-Drawn Funeral Vehicles: 19th Century Funerals

Carriage Museum of America -  Horse Drawn - Military, Civilian, Veterinary - Ambulances

Gunter-Michael Koch - Bestattungswagen im Wandel der Zeit

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Ambulances 1900-1979: Photo Archive

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Funeral Vehicles 1900-1980 Photo Archive

Walter M. P. McCall - The American Ambulance 1900-2002

Walter M.P. McCall - American Funeral Vehicles 1883-2003

Michael L. Bromley & Tom Mazza - Stretching It: The Story of the Limousine

Richard J. Conjalka - Classic American Limousines: 1955 Through 2000 Photo Archive

Richard J. Conjalka - Stretch Limousines 1928-2001 Photo Archive

Thomas A. McPherson - Eureka: The Eureka Company: a complete history

Thomas A. McPherson - Superior: The complete history

Thomas A. McPherson - Flxible: The Complete History

Thomas A. McPherson - Miller-Meteor: The Complete History

Hearses - Automobile Quarterly Vol 36 No 3

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Automobile Manufacturers Worldwide Registry

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

John Gunnell - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975

James M. Flammang & Ron Kowalke - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1976-1999


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