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  • Arizona Contractor & Community

Old School Equipment: Dart Truck Company

Significant changes occurred when Bagdad Copper Mines converted from underground mining to an open pit in 1945. President and Chairman of the Board John C. Lincoln provided a loan for new machinery for the central Arizona operation, which increased production with improved efficiency. The machinery changes were dramatic, such as shovels with electric controls that replaced the labor-intensive mechanical link and toggle methods.

New equipment at the mine included Bucyrus Erie 22T churn drills, P&H 1400 and 1055 electric shovels, Northwest diesel shovels, Euclid TD15 22-ton trucks, and Dart 140s torque converter trucks. The Dart trucks were prominent at the Bagdad, with the copper mine operating 23 trucks running 24/7, with a hauling capacity range from 25-50 tons by the mid-1950s.

To service Dart trucks used at Arizona copper mines, the company partnered with local dealers, Prescott Tractor Sales and Goar’s Service & Supply in Bisbee. In 1947, Dart also offered a short-lived, over-the-road facility, Dart Truck Distributors, by partnering with J.D. Williams and E.I. Barnett. The outlet, at 3958 South Central Avenue in Phoenix, assisted Dart owners with truck customization.

One truck driver at Bagdad Copper Mines, 29-year-old Lewis Shipwash, drove his No.6 Dart truck six days a week, eight hours a day, making 40 trips daily from the pit to the dumping ground or ore crusher carrying roughly 20,000 tons of material, according to a May 1954 issue Arizona Days and Ways magazine.

There was danger in every trip. Aside from hazardous obstacles on the path, a runaway truck could happen from glazed-over brakes. The No. 6 Dart truck caught fire one afternoon, and Shipwash wisely turned around on a steep hill and drove to the maintenance yard. Mechanics doused the flames, repaired the broken gas line, and the truck was back in operation within a few minutes.

These rugged vehicles were built by the Dart Truck Company, founded in Anderson, Indiana, in 1903. The company was renamed the Dart Mfg. Co. in 1907 and relocated to Waterloo, Iowa. According to the website, the early truck models were chain-driven, but the company introduced shaft drive in 1912. The company moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1925 as the Dart Truck Co.

Dart manufactured heavy trucks, working closely with the mining industry, and customizing vehicles for clients during the Great Depression. This approach allowed Dart to pioneer design and fabrication techniques, igniting a revolution in larger tonnage trucks at an affordable cost. The company introduced an off-highway truck in 1937, and two years later, offered one of the first diesel-electric drive trucks.

To read the rest of this article, you are invited to purchase the digital issue here.

This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Nov/Dec 2021 issue, Vol. 10, No. 6.


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