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Hood ornaments may come and go but the Mack Truck Bulldog still looms large in its 81 year as the most noticeable truck mascot on the planet.
It’s hard to miss the shiny canine centre piece reared up on its hind legs above the Mack grille and pointing the road ahead. The bulldog is also what you grasp when popping open the truck’s hood to get at the engine.
The shiny bounding pooch has its own truck magazine and even an official line of mini-Mack outer wear ranging from firefighting, construction, utility and sports clothes, to Santa suits and teeny safety helmets. On its website, Mack Trucks sells bulldog merchandise that includes ash trays, clothing for men and women, key chains, watches and more.
Mack lovers around the globe have even crafted their own homemade hood mounted bulldog apparel.
Trucks bearing a gold plated bulldog are purebreds entirely built with Mack engines, drive trains and axels, while the chrome bow-wows indicate some of those systems are made by other manufacturers.
It was the vehicle’s in-the-field endurance, described by those who drove it, that led to the creation of the world renowned canine mascot.
Mack brothers, John, Augustus and William built their first motorized sightseeing bus in 1900, but it was their unique trucks assembled in Allentown, Penn., that became the iconic hauler of World War I, with 4,500 made for the U.S. government and more than 2,000 for the British military.
English soldiers nicknamed their Macks “bulldogs” for their strength on the road and doggedness in combat, which led to the firm’s use of the faithful breed as their metal plate trademark in 1922.
But it wasn’t until the next decade, in 1932, when Alfred Masury, Mack’s chief engineer came up with the iconic chrome-plated bulldog that leads the pack of truck hood ornaments to this day, “an estimated 560 dog years later”, as the company stated when employees in Greensboro, N.C. celebrated its 80 birthday last Oct. 11.
It all began with a bulldog Masury whittled out of a bar of soap while he was recovering from surgery. When he got home from the hospital the truck engineer made an identical carving out of wood and had the image patented.
The feisty metal cast hood-mounted mascot began to adorn all new Mack trucks the following year but sadly, 1933 was the same year Masury was killed along with 72 other passengers aboard the Akron, a helium-filled U.S. navy dirigible that crashed off the coast of New Jersey that April.
“For 80 years, the Bulldog hood ornament has been a symbol of the durability and reliability customers expect from Mack,” said Kevin Flaherty, president of Mack Trucks North American sales and marketing division in an issue of the Bulldog magazine’s celebration of the metal mascot’s octogintennial last fall.
“We’re proud of our heritage and that the Bulldog has become so widely recognized — and we tip our hats to Alfred Masury for his contribution to our legacy,” he added.
The original bulldog hood ornaments adorned the trucks’ radiator caps from 1933 until the mid-60s when some models were built with their rad caps accessible from under the hood.
The bulldog remained on top of the hood and it later underwent minor modifications making it easier to grasp as a handle.
“In the late 70s we began to use it as a handle to tip the hood and the ears and tail were slightly shortened,” said Don Schumaker, curator of the Mack Trucks Historical Museum, in Allentown.
The museum and heritage centre is part of the 159,000-square-foot Mack Truck Customer Center, built at the company’s former engineering development and test facility in 2010. It also includes a showroom, a test track and equipment, reception area and of course, the Bull Dog Café.
Schumaker said the museum, which showcases numerous vintage and modern trucks and traces the history of the firm started by the Mack brothers, was established in 1984 and was relocated when the new centre was built.
“We’ve had a steady stream of people coming in all day,” said Schumaker when contacted on this past New Year’s Eve. “In fact, on the day after Christmas (when the museum was scheduled to be closed) I came in because we had a family from Australia who wanted to visit.”
“There’s a Mack fan club in the Netherlands whose members come to visit us every year and people from all over the world come by throughout the year,” the museum’s curator added.
Mack bulldog ornaments and accessories of various vintages are constantly bought and sold around the globe on sites such as Amazon and eBay.
A wide assortment of Mack Bulldog and Mack Truck merchandise can be bought through the website https://www.mack-shop.com.
With its legions of fans, a designer wardrobe, a slew of accessories, a magazine, restaurant and lounge named in its honour, the mighty Mack bulldog clearly means more to a lot of people than just a shiny hood ornament.