NEW PRESTON, CT – It’s a heavy-duty truck brand that still inspires affection and loyalty more than 45 years after going out of business. “I always was a Brockway fanatic when I was a kid. I had Brockway hats,” recalled Jeff Frankland of New Preston as he stood before his vintage bright yellow Brockway 361 model.
Frankland’s Brockway was purchased new in 1974 by his uncle and came with a dump body. “I rode in it when I was 14 years old on weekends,” he said, explaining the genesis of his attachment to Brockway big rigs.
His uncle sold the truck to Hart Construction in Gaylordsville in 1980. Five years later, Frankland was hired by the company and, as luck would have it, ended up driving it himself for two years. “I loved driving the truck. I remember sitting on the passenger seat when I was a little kid,” he said.
The story could have ended there, but it didn’t. While Frankland moved on to another job, the truck stayed in service until 1990 when the engine blew. It was then dumped in a field and forgotten, at least until Frankland spotted it and got the itch to rescue it.
“In 2000, I inquired about it because I wanted to get it back and fix it myself,” he said. “It was in bad shape. It had no motor, no transmission. The hood, the nose, and everything was off it. It just sat there, grass growing up through it.”
Frankland paid $500 for the Brockway, bought it home and began working on it outside next to his house. He initially put a 350-horsepower Cummins diesel engine and a 15-speed Eaton Roadranger transmission in it. “I drove it for a few years with that,” he said.
“I started restoring it over the years; a little every year I’d do a little more, every winter I’d do a little bit more. Of course, bodywork doesn’t stay good when you do it outside and so I had to redo it.”
This time, Frankland got more serious. A 400-horsepower Cummins Big Cam diesel engine went into it; the transmission and rear end got attention; and it got fresh paint. “I went through the whole truck completely. I’m not really finished with it yet but I wanted to drive it this year because it’s been down for four years. I’m not much of a painter as you can tell but it (is) better than what it was,” he said.
The makeover wasn’t as expensive as it could have been even though he acquired another truck for parts. “I’ve restored a 1940 Chevy pickup and it cost me more to do that than this because everything in this truck was wheel and deal,” Frankland said.
“I had sumptin that someone else wanted and I swapped for it. The transmission was sumptin I swapped for; that someone else wanted. The motor, I paid for it but I bought the whole truck and I made out like a bandit selling the rest of the whole truck. That paid for the motor.”
It may be back on the road, but the Brockway 361 hasn’t been driven much; maybe 80 miles in 2021. It isn’t cheap to run. It has two 50-gallon fuel tanks on either side of the cab and gets about six miles to the gallon.
In the heavy-duty truck world, Brockway was a minuscule brand, overshadowed by bigger names like Mack, Peterbilt and Freightliner. Founded in 1875 by William Brockway as a carriage company, it shifted to making trucks in the early 20th century and was headquartered in Cortland, N.Y. In 1956, Brockway was purchased by Mack, which kept the brand going until 1977.
The brand’s popularity was largely limited to the Northeast, Frankland said, and what set its models apart were the styling and their ability haul heavy loads. A Brockway could carry as much as 50 to 60 tons “‘cause they had the motor to pull it. They were the only truck that had the big V12s in them. They were durable. They hold up to the road and they had big motors in them.”
Every August, Brockway owners gather in Cortland for the four-day annual National Broadway Truck Show.
Frankland has owned his Brockway for 23 years and he bought it at the right time as they’ve become collectible. “People are finding these trucks sitting in the weeds, in the woods and restoring them now. You don’t see none for sale anymore. People are scarfing them up,” he said.
See the 1974 Brockway 361 in action in this YouTube video…
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