The History of the Garford Truck

Updated April 17, 2017

The Garford Company had a shaky history as an independent automobile company. In its early years, Garford forged a relationship with Studebaker. The partnership dissolved Garford and produced cars for just another two years. However, Garford found its niche in the transportation industry as a maker of commercial trucks. During World War I, the Garford Motor Truck Company supplied foreign countries with military vehicles. After the war it produced a series of 1.5- to 5-ton trucks.


Arthur Garford founded the Garford Company of Elyria, Ohio, in 1904 by purchasing the assets of the Federal Manufacturing Company. It sold transmissions, front and rear axles, steering gearboxes and other parts to automakers. In 1905, Garford collaborated with Studebaker by supplying chassis components to make Studebaker-Garford automobiles. The partnership ended in 1910, and Garford struck out on its own. For 1912, it produced cars with four- and six-cylinder engines and 118-, 120- and 135-inch wheelbases. As many as 19 body styles included limousines, roadsters and tourers. Moreover, they were expensive, selling for as much as £2,665 ($91,430 in 2010 dollars). However, without Studebaker’s distribution network, the company struggled. Willys acquired Garford automobiles in 1914.

Truck Building

Garford separately produced trucks as the Garford Motor Truck Company, beginning in 1909. Most of its successful projects involved supplying chassis to coachbuilders that produced commercial vehicles. In 1915, Garford relocated to Lima, Ohio, and began supplying chassis to coachbuilders and producing fully-equipped trucks of its own. In 1923, Garford built a 25-passenger bus chassis. Lima businessmen saw the opportunity to build buses on a large scale and founded the Superior Motor Coach Body Company to produce luxury motor coaches using Garford chassis. Garford’s full-bodied truck production included more than 30 units for the U.S. Post Office.

World War I

In 1914, the Russian Tsarist army ordered 70 Garford armoured trucks, known as Garford-Putilow cars. Russia, later the Soviet Union, used the vehicles during World War I, the peacetime Stalin era and during Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The vehicle featured a turret-mounted 76.2mm gun. Three machine guns complemented the main armament. The 36-horsepower four-cylinder Garford-Putilow carried a crew of eight and weighed 8.6 tons. In 1916, the Danish Army ordered a fleet of 3-ton, 18-horsepower Garford trucks.

Postwar Era

By 1919, Garford had focused on civilian production, with trucks up to 5-tons capacity. The 1.5-ton 77-B Model commercial truck could carry up to 3175kg. on a 144-inch wheelbase. A 29-horsepower four-cylinder engine with a 4.5-inch bore and 6-inch stroke powered the truck, which rode on wood-spoke wheels with 36-by-5-inch front solid tires and 40-by-5-inch rear solid tires. A full cab, windshield, odometer and searchlight were included in the $4,300 price tag ($53,712 in 2010 dollars). The 2-ton 28-horsepower four-cylinder 70-B Model sat on a 128-inch wheelbase and had a 1.81kg. capacity. The 5-ton 68 Model on a 128-wheelbase featured a 36-horsepower four-cylinder engine, dual rear wheels and a 4.54kg. capacity. Relay Motors purchased Garford in 1927 and continued producing Garford trucks until 1933, when Relay went into receivership.

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About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.