Butler Mark V: A testament to necessity's invention, marking an era in lumber transportation
It's undeniable that large machines have a certain captivating allure. This allure isn't limited to children—adults are often equally entranced by the marvelous feats of engineering. Such was the case with the Mark V truck, conceptualized by the four Butler brothers in the mid-1940s. At the time, the brothers needed a robust machine for transporting wood around Sooke, located on Vancouver Island in Canada.
After some time, they concluded that the machines offered in the market did not meet their requirements. Then, Claude Butler conceived the idea of building their own vehicle. To bring this idea to reality, Claude enlisted the help of Barney Oldfield. Like Claude, Oldfield was experienced in mechanics. Consequently, in 1960, the first machine was constructed - a truck powered by a 14-liter, high-pressure V12 engine, accommodating a total weight of 99 short tons.
In subsequent years, backed by others, the Butler family continued manufacturing more trucks. However, their most intriguing project was the Mark V. One of the factors influencing their decision to build it was the objective to carry a payload exceeding 110.2 short tons. Technological advancements and accessibility of suitable components facilitated this.
Cliff Burrows, a former Kenworth employee of an American truck manufacturing company, was a key contributor in the design process of one of the largest lumber trucks. The culmination of their collective efforts resulted in a product in 1974 that was significantly different from its predecessors. The truck featured a rigid frame, and the drive was only transferred to the rear axles (equipped with dual wheels). Only the first two front axles were steerable (fitted with single wheels).
Furthermore, the design allowed for easier engine access, simplifying its maintenance. The cabin was relatively low, fitted with amenities for the driver, such as a pneumatic suspension seat. The numerical specifications of the Butler Mark V are indeed impressive.
Powering the vehicle was a two-stroke, 16-cylinder Detroit Diesel engine with a staggering 18.6-liter capacity, capable of generating an incredible 750 horsepower. Working with an automatic transmission, the beast of an engine had to manage a massive load. By design, the Mark V could transport a 100-short-ton load. Additionally, Columbia Trailer custom-built a trailer for Butler capable of hauling 110.2 short tons of wood.
Proposals to boost the power to 1000 horsepower were also considered. The truck measured nearly 42.7 feet in length and stretched to over 78.7 feet when combined with the trailer. Each axle weighed over 2.5 short tons, with the front wheels boasting a diameter close to 72 inches (the rear wheels were slightly smaller).
Such massive dimensions inevitably posed a logistical hurdle. As expected, the vehicle could not be driven on regular roads. Nevertheless, a test drive occurred on a public road thanks to the team's good relations with local law enforcement. One phone call secured an escort. The truck was transported to its place of operation by rail.
Claude Butler had vast ambitions to manufacture a larger fleet of these trucks catering not only to the forestry industry but also to the mining sector. Promotional materials were even circulated. However, these plans never really took off.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that Butler didn't use the vehicle for long and sold it relatively quickly. Today, it lies in private possession but far from in prime condition. The Butler Mark V is overrun with bushes, awaiting a restoration to its former glory. One can hope that in the future, this colossal machine will impress spectators, young and old alike.