Truck News


In Praise of the B Model Mack

I got a letter from Winnipeg some time ago, in response to the B train story I wrote. It was from Thomas Kuzyk, a celebrated country singer from that city. I’d mentioned that I’d driven for Eaton’s and pulled their B trains until the sad demise of that marquee department store, once a Canadian institution that still has some resonance in our culture. Thomas had also worked in transportation for Eaton’s out of Winnipeg, I assume, for 25 years and wrote a batch of country songs during that time. “Those were the greatest years, “ he wrote.

But he wanted to tell me about a tune he’d set the music to, “Whatever Happened to the B Model Mack?” which was recorded by his band The Country Tigers, and a version is presently available on You-tube. He wrote that the lyrics had been penned by long-time trucker Bob Reimer (a very distant relative to the trucking company) and Thomas left me Reimer’s phone number.

Now it was probably half a year since I’d gotten the letter and I’d been busy during that time writing my column for Truck News and working full time for Percolator. But I have this keen interest in trucking history and a song about the B model Mack twigged my curiosity. Who is this lyricist who rights about classic trucks like the B Mack?

Bob answered the phone and we immediately bonded. “I just loved the B model Mack like some people like a ’57 Chevy. Mack made everything on that truck, the Thermodyne engine and the Maxidyne 15 speed transmission. It was a double stick five and three transmission that you shifted with both hands, without the clutch, and you did a lot of shifting in those trucks,” he told me.

Ask any old timer about the B model Mack and they’ll have nothing but praise for them. I’ve never drove one, but I asked Ross Mackie about them and he commented: “I never had a B model Mack but you were really something is you did. The first really cool truck I had was a 1956 Autocar, but the B Model was something special.”

There’s only limited info about the B Model on Wikipedia (perhaps some truck historian should update the file). But evidently it was the most popular truck on the road and there were probably thousands running around Canada during its heyday between 1950 or so and up until the late 70s. Samuel Steel had a bunch of them, according to Reimer, as did several trucking companies in Toronto that ran into Winnipeg. Atomic Transport had a stable of B model Macks where Bob first encountered them.

Reimer started driving them in 1962, became a Freightliner owner operator for a time for Arnold Bros., but was driving a B model in the 1970s. During his long career (he’s 77 now and no longer trucking) he hauled grader blades to maintenance depots along the Alaska Highway, graders to Whitehorse one winter, as well as regular runs out of Winnipeg to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Thunder Bay and occasionally Toronto. During his last years trucking he ran Stateside for Arnold Bros. He also spent some time behind the wheel of REOs, but his B-model diesels were the ones he loved the best.

So I thought I’d print the lyrics for “Whatever Happened to the B model Mack?” and another song about the B Mack that Bob also wrote, which he thinks is even better. I’m hoping to try these songs out with my band, the Silverbacks (we’re not a garage band, we’re a converted dining room band) and I’d welcome any more classic truck songs that the readers might be able to forward. Look out Nashville, Hammer Down!

Whatever Happened to the B Model Mack?” by the Country Tigers, lyrics by Bob Reimer

Whatever happened to the B Model Mack?

They drove across the prairies, they’re never coming back.

Shifting through the steering wheel, according to the tach,

From coast to coast, they hauled the most,

They’re never coming back.

Whatever happened to the Hayes Clipper train

With gauges on the visor, the dash was so plain.

Thirteen speeds for all your needs, through the wind and rain.

The Grizzly Bear just didn’t care,

It won’t be back again.


Whatever happened to the good old trucks we used to see?

The Autocar, the Reo, the Louisville, the Diamond T?

Silver wheels and shining grilles, with bumpers you could see,

The marker lights lit up the nights,

They’re now just history.

Whatever happened to the ’44 White?

It would always get you there, if you drove day and night.

With the stack blowing black smoke, you fought the winter snow,

As far as you could go.

Whatever happened to the good old trucks we used to see?

The Autocar, the Reo, the Louisville, the Diamond T?

Silver wheels and shining grilles, with bumpers you could see,

The marker lights lit up the nights,

And now they’re now history.

My Old B Model Mack:   Lyrics by B Reimer


If you’re an old time trucker, this song is meant for you.

There must have been a time you learned, to jamb a gear or two.

I mattered not how much you thought, that you would lead the pack,

You’d find yourself behind the wheel of a B model Mack.


B model Mack first hit the road in 1953.

They soon became well known for reliability.

From the bulldog on the hood, to the mudflaps on the back,

You had yourself a classic truck, the old B model Mack.


Chorus:           B model Mack, oh B model Mack.

                        I wish I had it back, my old B model Mack.


If you got your speed right up, and caught up to someone slow,

It took some time to pass, if your RPM was low.

But if you had a downhill, you could easily pass him by,

Just so he’d do the same to you,

Going up the other side.


Chorus:           B model Mack, oh B model Mack,

                        I wish I had it back, my old B model Mack.


My uncle went to wash his car, and walked up to the till.

He bought a pack of gum to change a 20 dollar bill.

He was the millionth customer to walk in through the door.

The manager informed him, and he almost hit the floor.

They said: “Congratulations, you’ve won a Cadillac”

My uncle said: “I’d trade it for a B model Mack”


Chorus:           B model Mack, oh B model Mack

                        I wish I had it back, my old B model Mack


Me and Cletus stopped to talk, on Cluny hilltop road

I wanted to make Moose Jaw, with enough time to unload

I pulled out on the downgrade, the road ahead was clear.

My tach went past the redline,

So I kicked it out of gear.

Just then I saw some flashing lights, in my rearview mirror.


It took a while for me to stop, my brakes were laying smoke.

The officer just shook his head, before he actually spoke.

He finally said: “Just go ahead, just cut your velocity back,

I thought I was clocking a Peterbilt,

I didn’t know it was a Mack.”



Chorus:           B model Mack, oh B model Mack

                        I wish I had it back, my old B model Mack

Harry Rudolfs

Harry Rudolfs

Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio. With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude.
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6 Comments » for In Praise of the B Model Mack
  1. Doug McKenzie says:

    Interesting to say the least.
    But an error or two – maybe.
    Maxidyne was the name of the pioneering high-torque rise diesel engine made by Mack, not the name of the transmission. That would have been Triplex for a 5 & 3.
    Back during it’s heyday, just about everyone had B-Models. As a kid I used to watch Smith Transport’s roll up and down Kingston Road.
    Until the advent of Mack’s R Model, the B Model Mack was one of the most-produced vehicles ever built.

    • Bob Reimer says:

      Doug: I stand corrected on the Mack tranny- definitely a triplex. When you are 77 years old, the terminology sometimes escapes you. I appreciate your comment. Some drivers found it hard to love a truck with a top speed of 58 MPH. The ones I drove all had that 5.29 rear end gear ratio.

  2. jake mulder says:

    Just read your post and song…. Not bad….. A little late…. But if you bent them two stick you could shift with one hand!!!!! The only time a B would do 60 mph is coming in to a town or going down hill with a tail wind!!!!! I drove those suckers for 5 years running Florida…… Starting in 67…… Oh, and when “shifting” them thar gears…. From 4th high to 5th low you would have both stick in nuetral for a second, well, a split second! No clutch of course!!!!! A picture of the truck was posted today on Hank’s truck forum by Rob Archer….. Maybe you can find it!!!!! Jake.

  3. Bob Reimer says:

    Just one point about 2 handed shifting. You did not exactly move both sticks simultaneously. To upshift both sticks, you dropped your RPM from 2100 down to below 1500, Then you pulled the main out of gear with your left hand, and put it into gear with the left hand just as you pulled the aux. out of gear with the right. Then you throttled back up 1800 RPM to complete the shift. Never thought of bending the sticks, but it could work.

  4. Mike Mager says:

    I just received a copy of an article of yours – In Praise of the B Model Mack … from a co worker at CAA Manitoba – Thomas Kuzyk

    Tom wanted to share the article with me based on my involvement with fleet vehicles at CAA Manitoba but what he didn’t know was before I got into my current profession I grew up on trucks as a furniture mover for North American Van lines and Atlas Van lines and absolutely loved semi trailer trucks and was always thrilled (actually giddy) when our cross country operators came into town and I got to ride to the moving job in one of their trucks – my favorite was the big Kenworth cab overs … I had models of that truck and again was thrilled when I got to take a ride in it … I was in many that were quite fancy and others not so nice … I do remember the B Model Mack and rode in a number of them …. anyways your article which I thoroughly enjoyed and was well written brought back good memories of those days – much appreciated

    Mike Mager
    President / CEO
    CAA Manitoba

  5. Jassmine says:

    I enjoyed the article in Truck News about the B Model Mack. My Dad drove a truck so I could relate to the article. My Dad had a Fargo Truck. I never see this truck around anymore. Did they stop making them. Anyway, thanks for the great article.

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