Federal Trucks

1920 Federal Truck

One of the truck companies that appeared on the long list of truck manufacturers in 1917 is the Federal Motor Truck Company, a Detroit-based independent truck maker that was founded in 1910. It is not very common to see survivors, but the picture above shows a 1920 Federal truck located near me at the Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege.

Shortly after the company’s inception, a Federal truck won a 1911 Tour called the Chicago Reliability Run.  Twenty-eight trucks competed in the 937-mile race from Chicago to Detroit and back.  The race took nine days to complete and it rained for four of those days which made many of the roads nearly impossible to travel.  One 26-mile stretch in Michigan was virtually impassable and ended the race for many of the trucks.  The Federal powered through, taking 7.5 hours to do so.  Other companies entered multiple trucks, but Federal entered a single 1-ton truck and it won carrying a load of 2,650 pounds, an overload of 650 pounds above its rated capacity.  It also made the entire trip under its own power, the only truck in its class to do so.

Another story from 1917 described Federal’s efficient parts department.  The company kept bins full of parts that were monitored so that they never ran out, and dealers were also required to fully stock replacement parts at all times. A complete parts book was given to each purchaser and a record was kept of every truck leaving the factory so that orders could be filled quickly while reducing the possibility of error. This system enabled the company to fill an incredible ninety percent of orders on the same day they were received.

The competitive environment of the 1950s were the end of many car and truck companies, and so it was with Federal.  The company was purchased by Northwestern Auto Parts Co. (NAPCO) in 1954.  At that time it was reported that there were 50,000 Federal trucks in use worldwide and 300 franchised dealers.  Napco moved Federal operations to Minneapolis, but the division lost money and no trucks were manufactured after 1959. 


Advertisement. Cartinhour-Bowman Co. The Indianapolis News, 12 April 1919, p. 11.

Advertisment. Standard Motor Car Company. Oakland Tribune, 10 September 1911, p. 36.

“Federal Company Assures Service.” The Honolulu Advertiser, 3 June 1917, p. 6.

“Federal Truck Fleet Grows.” Los Angeles Sunday Times, 18 March 1917, p. VI-7.

“Made in Minneapolis.” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, 8 January 1956, p. 6C.

Paul, Herb. “City Men Buy Out Detroit Truck Maker.” The Minneapolis Star, 14 September 1954, p. 23.

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