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1947 Marmon-Herrington Ford CM6-4: A Restored And Rare 4x4 Wrecker

Posted in Features on October 25, 2016
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Marmon-Herrington (M-H) is one of the founding fathers of four-wheel drive, but it’s a name not often heard these days. The company was founded in 1931 when Walter Marmon and Arthur Herrington joined forces to produce all-wheel-drive trucks. Marmon was the founder of the Marmon Motor Car Company and Herrington was an Army engineer who had worked in the ’20s to help the U.S. Army design and build its own fleet of all-wheel-drive trucks. Along the way, he patented a steering knuckle design that provided the foundation for a device many four-wheelers use today: the double-cardan CV-joint used on driveshafts. The Marmon Motor Car Company went out of business in 1933 but Marmon-Herrington hung on and remains in business to this day.

At first, Marmon-Herrington built its own truck designs in the larger capacities. That was not as profitable as it could be and the company looked for a way to cut costs. Walter Marmon came up with a humdinger of an idea: Why not convert an existing line of trucks to all-wheel drive? Marmon owned a Ford dealership and immediately settled on that brand as the most adaptable. Herrington was vehemently opposed but when he was in Iran in 1935 negotiating a military contract, Marmon had M-H engineer Bob Wallace convert a Ford truck. Herrington was furious upon his return but became an enthusiastic supporter after seeing and driving the truck.

The company soon found a strong market for the conversion of Fords. Eventually, they did just about everything from passenger cars through light trucks and trucks up to 3-ton capacity, including 6x6 conversions. They still built their own lines of big trucks. It didn’t take much lobbying with Ford leadership, namely with old Henry himself, to make the conversions available through Ford dealers. Your Ford truck could be ordered from Dearborn, sent to Marmon-Herrington in Indianapolis for conversion, and shipped to your dealer for delivery.

The Army was all over the Marmon-Herringtons and bought substantial numbers of converted trucks leading up to World War II, including 1/2- and 1-ton light 4x4s. One of the events leading up to the development of the light 4x4 truck and the WWII jeep was the Marmon-Herrington 1/2-ton Ford conversion of 1936, which became the Army’s lightest standard-issue 4x4 to that date. M-H was a big supplier of trucks and equipment in World War II, including a line of light tanks. They were a big player after the war and had a strong place in the light and medium truck market, even after others entered the conversion game. The bottom fell out in the late ’50s and early ’60s when light and medium truck manufacturers began building 4x4s in house. Ford’s handshake deal with Marmon-Herrington for light 4x4 trucks ended after 1958, when Ford began producing 4x4s in-house stating for the ’59 model year.

In 1947, the world was still recovering from the global upheaval of WWII, but the American truck industry was starting to build up a head of steam. Ford’s 1947 line of trucks was nothing particularly special, essentially a revamp of the prewar line with a few minor tweaks. It was geared up for a redesigned line of trucks for 1948 that would knock the world on its ear. Ever heard of the F-Series Ford truck?

The behind-the-times nature of the ’47 Ford line didn’t stop the one company from buying a Glade Green 1947 Marmon-Herrington Ford CM6-4 truck and adding a big Tulsa 23L winch and boom to lay gas lines in Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky in the late ’40s. The CM6-4 was based on Ford’s 798T series 1 1/2-ton trucks and sat on a 158-inch wheelbase. They were powered by an industrial version of Ford’s legendary 239ci flathead V-8, which cranked out 100 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. That’s not a lot by today’s standard but in its class, that was decent power for the day in which speed and power expectations were lower. A Warner T-9 four-speed was mounted behind the flathead. The T-9 was a widely used, non-synchro, spur gear transmission that was the ancestor of the legendary T-98 that came along later. A power take-off from the T-9 powered the Tulsa winch.

Behind the T-9 was mounted a divorced transfer case. The exact type M-H used varied, depending on the weight rating of the truck, but most in this class used either a two-speed unit from Fuller or a Timken-Wisconsin. These were “full-time” transfer cases but they didn’t have a center diff. Instead they had a lockable compensator on the front output, which was a dog-clutch that allowed a speed differential between the front and rear driveshafts but could be locked for a 50/50 split. Unlocked, a sharp turn on the highway resulted in a “brrrrr” from the compensator.

Around 1950, DeLucio & Sons, a Richmond, Indiana, excavating company got a contract to lay gas pipe locally, and when the truck came up for sale at a Cincinnati used truck dealer, it was perfectly equipped to fulfill that contract. The DeLucio family had started up in 1942, and the ’47 M-H was one early sign of its early success and expansion. In subsequent years, it continued to be used for laying pipe and every other job you can think of as well. In the ’60s, it spent six months pulling cable when a local power plant was being built. It was used to lift and set heavy beams and trusses, as well as to pull big diesel engines from construction equipment. It was often used at construction sites to recover stuck vehicles, both with the winch or by the power of its four-wheel drive. It was never retired at DeLucio’s and was still in occasional use when John Ittel bought it in 2003. John did a little cosmetic spruce up and today it shows only 41,000 miles.

The Details:

1947 Ford Marmon-Herrington CM6-4

Owner: John Ittel
Estimated value: $10,000
Engine: 239ci L-Head V-8 (Ford 79A)
Power (hp): 100 hp @ 3,800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 180 lbs-ft @ 2,000 rpm
Bore & stroke (in): 3.19 x 3.75
Comp. ratio: 6.75:1
Transmission: 4-speed, Warner T-9
Transfer case: Fuller
Front axle: Marmon-Herrington/Timken Detroit
Rear axle: Timken-Detroit
Axle ratio: 6.67:1
Tires: 7.50-20
Wheelbase (in): 158
GVW (lbs): 13,500
Curb weight (lbs): 4,950 (cab & chassis)
Fuel capacity (gal): 20
Min. grd. clearance (in): 19
Approach angle (deg): 48
Departure angle (deg): 36

Though it only shows 41,000 original miles, this truck lived a lifetime of work in the construction and excavating business. It’s obvious DeLucio & Sons took good care of the truck or it wouldn’t have survived. Bob DeLucio reports the original color was a glossy olive green, most likely Glade Green. The DeLucios painted it red, and it stayed that way until Ittel went with the current tan and brown.
The winch and boom were the heart of this old workhorse from day one. This type of rig was commonly used in the oil industry and for laying pipeline, so it was likely a package available from someone way back when.
Marmon-Herrington purchased the axle centersections from Timken-Detroit and added its own tubes with knuckles that contain Art Herrington’s patented double-cardan CV-joint. The front axle part of the four-wheel-drive conversion involved new and relocated springs and modifying the steering system. These axles were very similar to units used on the early GMC 2 1/2-ton 6x6 trucks of WWII.
The transfer case was from Fuller, but we could not find much information on it. What we did learn came from Chuck Mantiglia, of Chuck’s Trucks, a vintage Ford truck restorer and Marmon-Herrington guru in Connecticut. It uses the almost universally despised M-H compensator system. It could be called the tightwad’s center differential and was invented by M-H for their first 4x4s. The front output had a dog-clutch that allows a speed differential between the front and rear outputs. You make a turn on the highway, and the compensator ratchets like an early Detroit locker on steroids. If you need a 50/50 torque split in rough terrain, you pull the compensator lever, which locks the dog-clutches. This Fuller transfer case is huge and probably outweighs many automotive engines. It had a rear PTO optional and could also drive a second rear axle.
The rear Timken-Detroit axle was unchanged from the Ford application but the suspension was upgraded and raised in height. In the case of this truck, that resulted in a slight GVW increase. The standard Ford 798T truck had a standard GVW of 12,500 pounds where the M-H CM6-4 was 13,500. The standard Ford truck had an optional two-speed rear axle that wasn’t available with the M-H conversion.
The 15,000-pound Tulsa Model 23L PTO winch was commonly used in the oil fields. A 23L winch is still listed from Tulsa today. The cable drum in the center can be disengaged and the capstans on both ends can be used independently with rope or cable.
Nothing fancy here! Not even a heater, though it was optional and this truck once had one. The gauge cluster was used in just about every Ford truck from the late ’30s.
A forest of levers! We can recognize the main shifter and parking brake handle. We learned the lever under the driver’s position is the compensating lever. There is at least one PTO lever. After that, we need training! Driving this truck is probably a workout! Bob DeLucio described this truck as needing a “real man” behind the wheel.
The Ford flathead is legendary in hot-rod circles, but it was also a popular truck and industrial powerplant. In ’47, the engine designation was 79A but the truck powerplants had some extras not found in the cars. Among them were hardened steel valve seats, chrome alloy valves, “Double-Duty Silvaloy” bearings, and pistons with an extra oil control ring. The engine displaced 239 ci and made 100 hp in both car and truck use. Torque output varied from 180 to 194 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm, depending on the application. This is the original engine and has had one overhaul since 1947. The miles aren’t high, but it acquired a lot of hours in winching operations.
The origins of this bumper and brush bar are lost to time, but it was there when the DeLucios bought the truck. When Ittel bought the truck from them, the bumper was bowed out about 8 inches in the middle and here comes a funny story. Years ago, one of the DeLucio dozers got stuck. The M-H was the go-to truck for this situation. The dozer was heavy so the front bumper was attached to a very large tree as a deadman. The winch strained but eventually got the dozer out. They noted afterwards the front bumper was close to letting loose.
Positive? Compensating? “Positive” is akin to a locked center differential in a full-time transfer case, and “Compensating” is unlocked. The control protruded from under the seat, just about between the driver’s legs.


Chuck’s Trucks
DeLucio & Sons Excavating

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