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Kenworth- A History of Truck Innovation

Kenworth is one of the most renowned names in the trucking industry. Along with their iconic styling, the company introduced many of the features found on trucks to this day. In 1945 Kenworth became a division of Pacific Car and Foundry Company. Paccar today also produces Peterbilt and DAF trucks and is a Fortune 500 company.

Kenworth can trace its history back to two brothers, George T. and Louis Gerlinger, Jr. In 1912 Gerlinger Motor Car Works was an automotive repair shop in Portland, Oregon. When business was slow, they concentrated on developing a truck of their own design. From the onset, they introduced a powerful inline six-cylinder engine, which was a novelty to the truck industry of the time.

In 1916 the Gerlinger brothers relocated to Tacoma, Washington. Here they leased their building from Edgar K. Worthington, a businessman who was impressed with their truck's potential. In 1917, Worthington and Captain Frederick Kent purchased the company, and named it Gersix Motor Company. By joining their two names, they finally incorporated as Kenworth in 1923.

According to RitchieWiki, the company changed its focus several times. Initially, they offered extensive customization options, so as to cover a variety of customer needs. These custom trucks proved to be quite popular and kept the company profitable.

During the Great Depression, Kenworth's experience with custom trucks enabled them to diversify, by producing vehicles for specialized purposes. Logging trucks were always in big demand in the Pacific Northwest, but the company started to build custom-made fire trucks as well. Another application was school and transit buses, which remained a mainstay for the company until 1956.

Although the original six-cylinder engines were very popular, in 1933 Kenworth became the first American truck to offer a Diesel engine. They also introduced the first sleeper cab. In 1935 they created the now classic "bubble-nosed" truck, forerunner of the later cabovers. With the onset of WWII, Kenworth produced military M1 trucks outfitted with construction equipment such as cranes and winches.

In 1944, Kenworth was sold to Pacific Car and Foundry. By the fifties, with the absence of military contracts, they began developing trucks for the oil industry. In 1955 there was enough demand worldwide that Paccar set up production plants in Mexico and Canada.

In 1962 they entered the Australian market with the KWS925 model, and later exported others in kit form and assembled locally. In the mid-eighties, Kenworth began developing more aerodynamic cabs to increase fuel economy. In 1991 they pioneered dual steering to give their trucks a tighter turning radius.

Today, Kenworth's head offices are in Kirkland, Washington, USA. They remain one of the leading innovators in heavy truck design. If you are looking for a Kenworth, or other truck brand, please don't hesitate to contact us.