October 27, 2023
Change. It’s inevitable, and it’s something we’ve seen a lot of over these past 175 years. (People aren’t exactly clamoring for wooden wagons like they used to, you know? But you move on. Adapt.) And while it can be daunting, making a big change, and some may balk (at things like the switch to internal-combustion engines and even today’s impending switch to alternative fuel vehicles), we believe it presents opportunity. Opportunity for growth and innovation.
Inception of the Knapheide Service Body
In 1968, Harold W. (Bud) Knapheide, Jr. tasked his son, Harold W. (Knap) Knapheide III, with developing and marketing a new Knapheide product, the service body. Many thought we were crazy. After all, business was booming, thanks to our grain body. Which meant, at the time, we didn’t need to diversify and market to a different set of industries. But, just over a decade later, it saved our company when the agricultural market collapsed, and the demand for grain bodies diminished with it.
Today, the service body continues to be an integral part of our business and has paved the way for some of our newer products, like Knapheide mechanics trucks and utility vans.
“It [the service body] represents a very critical part of our history,” Mark Hubble, Operations Manager at Knapheide Installation Center West Quincy, said. “If it had not been for that turn, this company would have probably been in a very different situation. The forethought that owners of this company have had has always allowed us to see the future and move towards it.”
And look at how far we’ve come.
“I mean, when you look around and see how many service bodies are on the road today, it seems like a majority of them are Knapheide bodies,” Mark Rose, Engineering Manager, said. “There’s a sense of pride in seeing that something that grew in Quincy has touched so many areas of the United States, just from our small town.”
Knapheide Heritage Vehicles
The Knapheide heritage vehicles represent critical points in our history and were used this year to commemorate our 175th anniversary. The wagon was where it all started. The Model TT signaled the beginning of our vehicle upfitting. The grain body allowed our business to really take off. And the service body? Well, it’s what got us here today and was rebuilt as a tribute to Knap and his contributions to Knapheide.
Bringing Back the ’71 Service Body
“Originally, for this project, we were just going to restore an old unit, but we determined that it wouldn’t be our best choice,” Hubble said. “So, we set off on the path of building something from the ground up.”
And after a great deal of searching, Hubble was able to locate what they were looking for, a 1971 Chevrolet C-10. But, it required a great deal of work to get in shape for the Knapheide Heritage Vehicle Display.
So, while Hubble and his team started restoring the C-10, Chris Weiss, Vice President of Engineering, and his team started on the body.
“What made this body special was that we actually used the old paper drawings when recreating it,” Weiss said. “Once we found those, we were able to recreate them in SolidWorks, just like we would today.”
And once in SolidWorks, it was time to move on to fabrication. But, like with the Model TT rebuild, there were some things standing in their way. Time and change.
“These older units are different from the ones we do today. The tooling that we would have used then, we don’t use anymore. And in order to recreate that, we had to use modern technology, which wasn’t easy, to be honest with you,” Richard Baze, Engineering Supervisor, Testing Lab, said. “So, I recruited my dad and Dick Kerker (both Knapheide retirees) to come in and help make sure that what we built was authentic. They helped us through the process and even did some work on the body as we put it together.”
Recapturing a Moment in Time
Once the truck was refurbished and converted into a cab chassis, and the body was designed and built, it was time for sanding and paint.
“Although there were many colors we could have chosen for this unit, we went with this yellow. We did that for two reasons,” Hubble said. “The first was the infamous Knapheide photo from an old TBEA conference, and the second was to honor Bo’s dad because he did a lot with these service bodies.”
Following the prep and paint, Hubble and his team at the Knapheide Installation Center West Quincy worked together to upfit the 1971-style service body on the 1971 chassis.
“And once it was all put together, painted and up on display, you really got the full effect,” Weiss said. “We worked on this for almost an entire year and invested a lot of emotional energy into it. But that’s when it really clicked, you know. The history, you are a part of it, and part of helping the company celebrate this special time.”
“I think my dad would have been very proud,” Bo Knapheide, President and CEO of Knapheide, said. “All of the vehicles are great representations of our history and are a testament to our people, who took great pride in recreating them.”