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A world-class manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks, an American-based company with a rich legacy in automobile construction, a pioneer in bus production industry – all these laudatory words are attributed to Kenworth. Founded in 1912 as a car dealership, the brand has grown from an unknown vendor of local significance to a globally recognized vehicle designer with operations in the USA, Australia & Mexico (under the management of Paccar parent company).
In 1914 after two years of existence, brothers George T and Louis Gerlinger, Jr. decided to construct their own truck, equipped with inline 6-cylinder engine. The Gersix became the first ever commercial truck produced by Gerlinger Motor Car Works. In a few years the company was acquired by the two businessmen who renamed it into Gersix Motor Co. It was not earlier than 1923 that the brand has got its presently known name – Kenworth Motor Truck Company.
Since that time, the manufacturer has established a mass-production of multi-purpose trucks. Today its inventory boasts Class 7 to class 8 vehicles of various destinations, including vocational, heavy-duty, medium, government, alternative fuel, etc. models:
Class 7: T440 – diesel engine, 13 spd transmission, 380 horsepower, AG 380 suspension, all steel wheels, left-hand drive; T370 - diesel engine, 6 spd transmission, 325 horsepower, left-hand drive;
Class 8: T880 – diesel MX 13 engine, automatic transmission, 455 horsepower, standard cab; T680 - diesel ISX engine, ultrashift transmission, 525 horsepower, AG 400 suspension, aluminum wheels; T660 – 425 horsepower, 13 spd transmission; T800 - diesel 11.9 L engine, 10 spd transmission, 425 horsepower; W900 - diesel ISX engine, 13 spd transmission, 560 horsepower, aluminum wheels.
Breakthrough in Bus Design
The first bus under Kenworth brand rolled off the production line in 1926. By 1933, it has been the only American designer to integrate diesel engines as standard in vehicles. Initially, there was a line of school buses, based on Gersix trucks chassis; however, later on, the team started using dedicated chassis – BU. It could hold up to 29 passengers.
During the Great Depression years, the maker sparkled with a new line of buses, known as KHC-22. It boasted an enlarged capacity (33 passengers) and an expanded wheelbase. In addition, it introduced a transit bus (870), powered by Hercules JXCM engine. By 1939, Kenworth has become a key force in transit bus development. During WWII period, the company had to redirect its manufacture to military trucks; yet, it continued the design of buses.
In 1944 the brand became part of the Pacific Car and Foundry Company (PC&F). A new formation proceeded with the development of intercity & interurban buses. Moreover, it introduced the first trolley coach (model E) that was built only for one city – Portland, Oregon. Further on, the company showcased K, W, and N bus models which could hold between 20-25 passengers and were released in different technical configurations.
In 1949 Kenworth popped with Model T school bus that immediately became a hit. The vehicle featured a four-pane windshield and a roof escape hatch – the first ever inventions. The CT model was differentiated by a larger capacity (allowed up to 79 passengers onboard) and a 450 inline 6-cylinder International Red Diamond engine. This line became a best-seller not only within the USA; it was exported to the Middle East, Venezuela, and Uruguay.
In late 1950s PC&F sold all rights (together with equipment and technology) for bus manufacturing to Gillig Bros. The latter incorporated some of the most successful ready-made designs into their own line of buses – Transit Coach model range. As a result, Kenworth has entirely plunged into the production of trucks.