Here’s one of the most powerful military 6×6 vehicles ever built. This Corbitt was finished just before the 2016 ECDT Hall of Fame Weekend and displayed for the first time. It was restored and owned by John Hedgepeth, of Henderson, NC, and the freshly sprayed, enamel olive drab paint was still drying. It’s ready to march with an 855 CID Hercules inline, six-cylinder gasoline engine! Yes, 855 CID!
Story and Images by Jim Hill
You’re here on the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame website because you are a drag racing enthusiast of drag racing and its heroes, or perhaps because you were once a drag racer yourself. You may have also attended one or more of the great ECDT Hall of Fame Weekend events, in Henderson, NC, mid-October of each year. If you’ve been to Henderson and the Hall of Fame Weekend you may have also discovered the annual display of Corbitt Trucks, located alongside the railroad tracks, parallel to the massive car show, on Henderson’s Garnett Street.
Each year members of the Corbitt Preservation Association bring out their Corbitt trucks, some restored and some “a work in progress”, but all enjoying the day and the chance to show enthusiasts their own automotive hobby.
Corbitt’s post WW-II trucks were used to create the earliest days of the great long-distance trucking industry. Firms such as Railway Express Agency used Corbitt’s for their rugged dependability and big-load capabilities.
It’s also often a surprise for first-timers at the Hall of Fame Weekend that Corbitt trucks were built right there in Henderson, NC, home of the Corbitt Trucks. The company began in 1899 as a buggy maker, founded by Richard J. Corbitt, a former tobacco merchant. Corbitt built early gasoline powered autos, but in 1910 he began building trucks, and by 1913 decided to concentrate solely on trucks. Corbitt built North Carolina’s first school busses, and military vehicles for WW-I.
A crowd always gathers early Saturday morning to watch the Corbitt Preservation Association unload their treasures for display during the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame annual car show. Corbitt Trucks were built right there in Henderson, NC, 1910-1955, and were used during WW-I, WW-II and the Korean War by U.S. Military.
Through the 1930’s Corbitt built military and civilian trucks and with the onset of WW-II Corbitt was a key supplier of trucks for Roosevelt’s Arsenal of Democracy. One of its most successful was an enormous, 6×6 transport truck powered by equally massive Hercules 779 or 855 cubic inch, gasoline engines. One of the few survivors of this genre made its just-restored debut at this year’s ECDT Hall of Fame Weekend. (see photo)
This massive Corbitt semi-tractor is surrounded by other beautifully restored trucks built right there in Henderson, NC. Corbitt used both gasoline and diesel engines. Hercules and Continental gasoline and both Cummins and Hercules diesels of various displacements.
After WW-II the company built single and dual rear axle trucks and semi-trailer tractors that opened the cross-country, long-distance trucking industry. A Corbitt dual rear-axle, semi-tractor was called upon to haul Howard Hughes’ massive, 75-ton “Spruce Goose” from Hughes Aircraft, in Culver City, CA, 28 miles away to Long Beach Harbor, for its famously recorded, pre-flight trials. It was the largest and heaviest over-highway moving job ever attempted!
Corbitt Trucks were technological leaders in the medium and heavy truck industry with many breakthrough features such as early rear axle differential drive (instead of chain drive!), all-steel, weatherproof cabs and heavy gauge steel frames and components.
Corbitt also built a limited number of farm tractors, such as this example, on display October 15, during the ECDT Hall of Fame car show.
By 1955 founder Richard Corbitt’s health had failed and he had no heirs to carry on his legacy. The company was sold and assets liquidated, yet hundreds of Corbitt trucks soldiered on, well into the 1980’s, a tribute to their ruggedness.
Corbitt Trucks helped place the city of Henderson, NC on the map. Today only younger enthusiasts and a few old-hands from the Corbitt company remain. For more information try www.corbitttrucks.com to contact the Corbitt Preservation Association.
This Corbitt semi-tractor was once raced on speedways, and driven by Bill Johnson. It’s now owned by Charles and Tina Norman, from East Bend, NC. This was the famed No. 11’s first time out after 30 years in storage!
Drag racers are well known to be among the most curious and talented mechanical tinkerers. During the Saturday car show many can be found poring over the interesting collection of Corbitt Trucks displayed. These mechanical monsters are always fun to view, and to take a trip back into time when Henderson, NC was home to super powerful, always reliable, nationally-famous Corbitt Trucks.