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The Early Years of Mack in Europe: Those French Mack-Bernards

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Mack purchased French truckmaker Camions *Bernard S.A. in December 1963 with the original intention to directly handle European sales (just as International acquired Pegaso and Chrysler acquired Spain’s Barreiros Diesel S.A. and England’s Rootes Group).

However, the Bernard acquisition more realistically resulted in Mack products localized for the French domestic market.

Mack had wanted to utilize the Bernard plant to assemble trucks from imported KD (knocked down) kits for the European market. Mack continued to import complete trucks as well.

Mack produced Mack-powered Bernards from 1963.

The bulk of COE Bernard-Macks from 1964 were fitted with cabs from Fernand Geneve S.A. (which Unic also used), while conventional models based on the B- and R-model used cabs from Carrosserie Pelpel, Pourtout and Letourneur & Marchand (the French had a history of using specialist cab builders).

I don't find these French cabs attractive, but this was the norm in France during the time period.

Mack had to fit the conventionals with B- and R-model hoods (a styling clash) because the Bernard hood typically used with the 200hp Alsthom air-cooled engine wouldn’t fit over the 211hp Mack “Thermodyne” engine. Certainly nobody was ever satisfied with the appearance.

In 1965, the Mack-powered EF(T)35 COE was introduced with a Geneve cab (also used by French truckmaker “Unic”).

Mack closed Bernard in 1966. Mack France was established at the former Bernard location (rue de Verdun, 92, Bagneux, France). Factory machinery, much of it supplied by Mack from 1963, was shipped to the Mack plant in Iran.

Why didn’t Mack invest more deeply at the time? Mack had money but it had already been invested on a great many key projects.

  • Mack powertrain production had undergone an expensive relocation from Plainfield, New Jersey to Hagerstown, Maryland in 1961.
  • The F-model was introduced in 1962
  • The MB in introduced 1963.
  • The R-model in introduced in 1965.
  • The Maxidyne/Maxitorque drivetrain was introduced in 1966.
  • The Hayward plant was purchased in 1965 to better compete in the west coast market.

Note: Mack Trucks’ International Operations Division had three active sales channels: Mack Trucks Worldwide Ltd., Mack Trucks Western Hemisphere Trading Corp. and the Export Division of Mack Trucks.

Note: From 1966, Mack was assembling trucks in Australia, Belgium, France, Guinea, Iran, Pakistan, Portugal and Venezuela.

* Bernard was established after World War 1 remanufacturing ex-U.S. Army Liberty trucks for civilian use. Later, the company was licensed to produce Gardner (UK) diesel engines.

When Eduard Bernard died in 1950, the company was in financial difficulty. Mack Trucks entered the picture around 1955. Bernard filed for bankruptcy in 1957. Eduard’s son took over the company, keeping the company afloat with Mack’s guarantees. In 1963, Mack took control of Bernard and made it Mack’s European production center.






















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This is stuff we would never get to see or know about if it wasn't for this site and dedicated Mack enthusiasts! Going to have dinner with a friend in San Francisco tonight. He was a friend of Zenon Hansen and when Nixon was elected President the first time he flew Bill down to the inaugaration with him in the bulldog airlines. He and his wife knew Zenon and his wife from the country club in Allentown. A lot of great stories to hear!! Last year his wife gave me a handful of bulldog items that Zenon had given them during that time period.

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