The Federal Trucks Company of America referred to its larger heavier models as ‘locomotive sized’ and at one stage used the catch cry “Federals have won by costing less to run”.
Federal Truck was developed from a prototype of the Bailey Motor Truck Company which had been started by Martin Pulcher in Michigan in 1910. Pulcher had started his venture with experience having previously worked with the Oakland Motor Car Company in Pontiac The first Federals were chain driven bonneted trucks of one and two ton capacity powered by a four cylinder Continental petrol engine with three speed transmissions.
By 1913 The Federal Motor Truck Company had built 100 trucks. They were more of an assembler than a manufacturer but the process was successful and was well received by industry. In1916 the chain drive system was replaced by Timken worm drive and a five ton model was announced the following year. A seven ton was released in 1918. Some models were sold under the name Whiting for the domestic market. This may be associated with the acquisition of designs or plans from the short-lived Whiting Motor Car Company that operated briefly between 1910 and 1912 or parts sourced from Whiting Foundry (no connection). History is very sketchy in this area.
By 1923 buses with 18 and 25 seat passenger capacity were added to the range. Apart from the Federal-Knight range all vehicles had Continental engines until 1927 when the Waukesha engined Scout four cylinder model was released and by 1929 all models also had brakes fitted on the front wheels. Soon after 50bhp four cylinder and 72 bhp six cylinder engines were offered as an option in Federal’s four and six wheelers and the Hercules engine joined the options available.
During World War two several different models were produced for military use earning the company four citations for its exceptional military vehicle production At wars end Federal continued with its pre-war civilian range until 1951 when the bonneted Styleliner with a 145bhp Federal engine was released in several different models and weight categories available with either petrol or diesel engines. In 1952 Federal was acquired by the Fawick Airflex Company and became the Federal Motor Truck Division of that company. Fawick was a family owned business that produced air operated brakes and clutches for industrial applications not pertaining to the automotive industry. The merger operated under the name Federal Fawick Corporation. While the Airflex division was highly profitable Federal Trucks lost money. This caused taxation implications that saw the Farwick Corporation take on the Commissioner of Internal Revenue in the Court of Appeals after what they deemed was an unfair ruling when they couldn’t claim the pre-merger losses of the Federal Motor Truck Company.. In 1954/5 Fawick sold all the assets of its Federal Motor Trucks division to Napco Industries and sustained a reported loss of nearly US1.5 million. Airflex also tried to claim this loss over the several years following the sale and this had also been disallowed by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Airflex lost their appeal.
Napco had started as the Northwestern Auto Parts Company in Minneapolis in 1918 by Romanian tinsmith Edward Rappaport. The business was essentially a salvage reseller and its motto was “For that hard to get part”. It listed as a public company on the Midwest Exchange in 1933 and changed its name to Napco Industries in 1950 to better reflect its growing diversity in manufacture which included communications equipment and aircraft parts. Edward Rappaport passed away in 1955.
Napco Industries moved production to Minneapolis and relied on special orders to keep it going. Napcos venture into truck manufacture was short-lived. Edward Rappaport passed away in 1955 and it was all over by 1959 for Federal Trucks.The end of vehicle production came about when an order to produce military truck axles took precedence. The last commercial vehicles produced by Federal were bus chassis. The Dana Group, through its subsidiary Spicer Heavy Axle Inc. purchased Napco for US$7.5 million and continued to produce heavy duty axles.