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Hayes: King Of The West Coast

Aug 29, 2019 - one month ago

By Supply Post

FRONT PAGE STORY: Vancouver-built Hayes heavy haulers were the king of the Canadian West Coast trucks.
By Alyn Edwards

Berend Dessau and Arnie De Jong show their vintage Hayes heavy haulers at the BC Truck Museum in Cloverdale. Alyn Edwards photo.

A ghost sign appeared on the side of an old building at 295 West 2nd Avenue in Vancouver when the building beside it was being demolished for urban renewal: Hayes Anderson Motor Trucks – a British Columbia product – Satisfactory service assures lasting satisfaction. The sign had originally been hand painted on the False Creek industrial area building in the 1930’s.

The 1920’s sign uncovered during building demolition reads: “Hayes Anderson Motor Trucks – a
British Columbia product – satisfactory service assures lasting satisfaction”. Alyn Edwards photo.

At one time, Vancouver was a hub for heavy truck manufacturing. Partners W.E. Hayes and Douglas Anderson opened their Hayes-Anderson truck manufacturing plant in 1920. By the late 1930’s, the company had rebranded as Hayes Truck Manufacturing and was turning out about 100 highway and off-road trucks every year. The trucks earned a reputation for sturdiness and reliability. 

The Hayes Manufacturing factory on West 2nd Avenue built this 1933 water wagon for the City of Vancouver. Contributed photo.

In 1947, three former Hayes employees started Pacific Trucks in direct competition to Hayes. But many of the Pacific heavy haulers were exported for use as far away as South Africa and Indonesia.

Contributed photo.

Although Kenworth had a plant in Burnaby and Freightliner and Western Star trucks were turned out in Vancouver-area plants, Hayes and Pacific were the only locally-owned and operated truck manufacturers on Canada’s West Coast. Many of their trucks found use in the booming forest industry. 

Hayes trucks stood out because they were well designed, well built and they were very attractive.

Abbotsford long-distance trucker Arnie De Jong has been driving his 1965 Hayes Clipper 100 for well over 50 years. It gets a lot of attention on the highway and at truck shows. 

The first time Arnie climbed in this Hayes highway truck was in February 1966. The truck had been bought new by Del Barton and Arnie became his driver – hauling shakes to California and fresh produce on the return trip to Vancouver. 

The 1965 Hayes Clipper highway truck owned by Arnie De Jong. Alyn Edwards photo.

“Back in the day, Hayes trucks were a little more expensive. My truck was a custom. They had never built a truck like this before. It was so fancy that it even had chrome frames around the windows, a chrome steering column and two air ride seats,” he says. “The Americans ogled the truck because they didn’t have anything that looked like the Hayes.“

Alyn Edwards photo.

The radiator insignia was a giant ‘H’, the hood ornament was a grizzly bear and the interior had bear images sewn into the upholstery.

“I used to call that truck the Queen of Vancouver’s line haul rigs,” says former Hayes driver and salesman John Wihksen who is currently writing the history of the company. “That was the nicest looking truck in British Columbia.”

Arnie bought the truck in August 1970 for $32,000 with 520,000 miles on the odometer. “I was able to drive it for eighteen months before I had to do anything to it,” he recalls. “That was really important when you’re just starting out and need to save some money.”

His truck traveled one million miles before he had to change the engine.

When trucking was deregulated and rates plunged, Arnie started hauling loads to and from the Eastern U.S. with his Hayes highway truck – largely into Ohio and New York. 

The truck has been all over the continent traveling nearly two million miles in the more than half century Arnie De Jong has been behind the wheel. “It really stood up well. There’s not many Hayes trucks around anymore,” he says.

The 1965 Hayes Clipper highway truck owned by Arnie De Jong displayed at a Reno truck show. Contributed photo.

Now it’s a favourite at shows and he often sets up beside a 1970 Hayes HD owned by fellow Fraser Valley resident Bernd Dessau. Originally sold new in Kamloops, this truck hauled logs in B.C.’s interior until it was left parked under a tarp in Williams Lake for nine years.

1970 Hayes HD former B.C. logging truck owned and restored by Bernd Dessau, of Rosedale, BC. Below: Hayes Manufacturing Co. Ltd. Vancouver, B.C. data plate on the 1970 Hayes HD logging truck. Alyn Edwards photo.

“I made a deal with the owner that I wouldn’t work the truck and that I would restore it, Bernd says. “I bought it because of its B.C. heritage. It’s very Canadian, hand built and very unique,” Bernd says. 

The first truck he drove professionally was a Hayes. He now drives a gravel truck.

He has spent $40,000 and hundreds of hours restoring his truck over the past decade. He’s particularly proud of the interior which was done by the same person who upholstered the truck when it was new.

Grizzly bear motif was prominent in Hayes trucks as in this upholstery reproduced by Vancouver’s Quality Trimmers that originally upholstered all Hayes trucks. Alyn Edwards photo.

“Quality Trimmers in Vancouver did all the Hayes and Pacific trucks. The lady who upholstered the truck in 1969 stitched in all the bears,” he says referring to the bear insignias that were a Hayes trademark.

Alyn Edwards photos.

“I restored the truck as a tribute to all past and present drivers and the loggers from all over who loved Canadian trucks or helped build them,” he says. “It’s a passion of mine and it’s really important to keep our history going.”

The passion for Hayes trucks is echoed by fellow owner Arnie De Jong: “It means a lot to me. My whole life history has been spent in that truck. I have never seen a more fancy Hayes truck than mine. For the day and the year, it was very special.”

In 1975, Hayes was sold to a subsidiary of Pacific Car & Foundry of Seattle, manufacturer of Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks. One year later, the new owner closed the Hayes company permanently. 

It was the end of the line for Hayes trucks after 56 years in business and for Canadian trucks being built on the west coast. 

Alyn Edwards is a partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company. [email protected].

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