Gotfredson Truck Corporation: Los Angeles Factory
FAMOUS TRUCK BUILDER HERE
With the commercial world fully awake to the indispensability of the motor truck in every branch of service where efficiency is imperative, manufacturers are setting themselves to handle what bids fair to be the most spectacular year's business in the history of the commercial car division of the automotive industry.
Gotfredson's regard for the people of Southern California was demonstrated in 1925 when the company provided a 4-ton Model 80 truck to carry Santa's "Snowland Float" on an 1100-mile holiday tour. The Los Angeles Times sponsored the event. Over the course of three weeks just before Christmas, the float - complete with reindeer and sleigh - visited hundreds of schools and cities in Los Angeles and the surrounding region. Santa brought good cheer to thousands of children during the tour, riding atop his sleigh supported by a Gotfredson truck.
"It's a long way from the
North Pole to Los Angeles, both in distance and climate, and so when
Santa came to the city a few weeks before Christmas in 1925 with
Dancer and Prancer and a few of their cousins in the reindeer
family, there had to be some sort of transportation for them.
For the reindeer to travel on their own over the city's hard
pavements was out of the question. Gotfredson Truck came to the
rescue with a 4 ton Model 80. Here you see Santa and the
reindeer on the truck being eagerly greeted by the school
"The schedules of the appearances of the reindeer were published in advance, drawing thousands upon thousands of people, young and old, at the place where the deer were advertised to appear. Above all, then, there could be no breakdowns resulting in delays or cancellations with consequent disappointment to the crowds. Despite the great and varied demands made upon the truck, not once during the three weeks it carried the reindeer hither and thither was there a single delay or flaw in the entire program, due to truck trouble. In all, the Gotfredson carried Santa, his reindeer, and eight Eskimos about 1100 miles around Southern California, over paved roads and dirt roads, smooth roads and rough roads, up hill and down dale," the Times reported on January 24, 1926.
Gotfredson Trucks were custom built to suit individual needs. The oil industry was particularly enamored by the Gotfredson design. A March 1928 issue of Petroleum World magazine ran an advertisement for Gotfredson model trucks between one and ten tons, with special equipment available to suit oil field requirements. The advertisement included a picture of a Gotfredson truck bearing the logo of the Pennzoil Oil company branch based in Bakersfield, California 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Gotfredson Truck dealership published telephone listings in the city directory between the years 1925 and 1929. The final 1929 telephone listing was in highlighted in bold print and read: "Gotfredson Truck Corp., Manufacturers of Gotfredson Motor Trucks and Taxicabs." Listings for years 1925 and 1926 listed G. O. Fries as manager. The years 1927, 1928 and 1929 listed a manager by the name of G. L. Ellis.
"G. O. Fries, manager of Gotfredson Truck Corporation factory branch, pointing out the detail of the "worm shaft service brake" mounted at the rear of the propellor shaft, which is said to be an exclusive feature with the Gotfredson truck." (Los Angeles Times; September 21, 1924).
Gotfredson's best production years were 1926 and 1927, but troubles began shortly thereafter. Gotfredson's acquisition of a huge bodybuilding factory just outside Detroit called the Wayne Body Corporation put a heavy financial burden on the company. It appears Gotfredson wanted to centralize motor truck manufacturing out of the Wayne Body facility, but sagging sales and the stock market crash of 1929 threw a wrench into his plans. Los Angeles and Cleveland branches were mortgaged to keep the company afloat. In 1929, the Canadian operation was sold to a group of Canadian investors, who kept the Gotfredson name but took over ownership and operation. The approaching depression would lead to plummeting truck sales nationwide and competition from larger automobile manufacturing firms became fierce.
Despite financial trouble, Benjamin Gotfredson was optimistic about the future of commercial truck sales in the late 1920s. "The year 1928 will show a record in the automobile industries," Gotfredson announced at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles in January of 1928. "There will not be any war on low-priced cars, as has been predicted. Henry Ford has enough orders today for his new product to run his factory to capacity for two years, and I doubt that the General Motors Corporation and Ford can turn out enough cars to meet the demand for their products. Bigger and better business is clearly indicated in the truck business, with plenty of room for all automobile manufacturers," Gotfredson concluded.
Gotfredson's Los Angeles operation would be out of business two years later. California's Franchise Tax Board forfeited the Gotfredson Truck corporation rights on June 6, 1930. By law, Franchise Tax Board forfeiture means the company was delinquent in paying California state taxes, although Gotfredson presumably made good on these debts in time. Gotfredson Truck survived the depression and continued to produce gasoline and diesel motor trucks out of Detroit until 1948 under the name Robert Gotfredson Truck Company (Benjamin Gotfredson's only child).
Gotfredson's Los Angeles building is still standing today near the intersection of 9th and Merchant streets in what has become a garment and produce district several miles east of downtown. The building housed the "Fantasy Cash & Carry" market for at least 10 years prior to being transformed into a Mexican restaurant sometime around 1996. The "Tacos El Poblano" restaurant has since closed down and the front portion of the building is vacant. A market called "Vidal Produce" occupies the rear, one-story section of the building. The interior, two-story space in the front of the building remains very much unchanged from its 1924 layout. A kitchen was added for operation of the restaurant; but interior architecture including windows, offices, and even a wooden staircase are still intact. The front arches of the building have been boarded up and covered with stucco. Ironwork that once decorated the upper portions of the arches has been removed.
Click on images for larger view
1999 Photos of former Gotfredson Truck Corp. building at 1235 E. 9th St. in Los Angeles
The Gotfredson Truck building stands today as a testament to Benjamin Gotfredson's success as a businessman, his dedication to the city of Los Angeles, and his support for the community. A Los Angeles Times report from 1926 conveyed the city's regard for the Gotfredson Truck Corporation and those who worked there: "The caliber of the Gotfredson people is indicated in the type of building they put up to house their factory branch here. One combining both beauty and utility."
~ Copyright 1999, David Gotfredson ~