Most of the trucks spotted at shows all have a special element about them. For some it’s about sheer beauty, while others are all about how far the customization and fabrication can go. Those are all awesome traits to look for, but sometimes you find a truck (usually an older rig) that is all about the nostalgia of days gone by – and these are often the most interesting ones to find. This 1954 LT Mack, owned by Sweetwater, Texas residents Mark and Betty Smith, can be categorized in the latter group, for sure. Not a perfect truck, by any means, but it still turned a lot of heads and sparked many conversations with the people at the show in Joplin, MO where I first saw it.
Born and raised in Plainview, Texas, Mark (62) found an interest in trucks his junior year of high school. His step-dad owned a grain elevator just outside of town, where many trucks would come in to load. Every day, after school, Mark would rush down to the elevator to see the trucks and learn what he could from the drivers. When high school graduation day came, all the graduates went out and partied hard, except for Mark – he jumped in a truck and began working, hauling pigs and grain from Plainview, TX to Oklahoma City and back. After a few years of hauling livestock, Mark began to have an interest in diesel engines. In 1975, Mark made the move to Clovis, New Mexico, where he started working on diesel engines out of the back of his pickup.
Around the time Mark relocated to New Mexico, a cattle-hauling company in southern Texas had purchased some trucks equipped with K-series Cummins engines, which sparked a curiosity in Mark. Before long, Mark went to work for a man in El Paso where he became very familiar with the K-series engines. In 1978, Mark opened his own diesel repair shop in Clovis, NM – a prime location to service all of the livestock haulers passing through. In 2000, Mark left the shop behind so he could operate a cattle ranch just outside of Sweetwater, Texas.
A year later, Mark married longtime friend Betty, the lady who he gives credit for what he has today. Mark met Betty back in ‘86 when she brought a truck into his Clovis shop for repairs. They were friends for over 15 years before they started dating. Betty herself drove trucks for over 20 years before they were married. “One day in 1980, while working odd jobs, I was walking down the street and saw a female truck driver go by. I knew right then that was something that I wanted to do,” said Betty. She immediately went to a farming friend who was happy to help teach her how to drive a truck. Not long after that, she began hauling grain and became an owner operator, running in the southwest. As the years went by, running the roads eventually began to take its toll and Betty wanted to do something different. In 1998, she became a teacher at a truck driving school until she married Mark.
In 2009, while attending a family Thanksgiving celebration in Texas, Mark overheard a conversation about a ‘54 Mack LT for sale in Lubbock, Texas. Betty and Mark decided to drive up to Lubbock just to look at the Mack, but ended up bringing it home to Sweetwater that very day! “I could remember the older drivers talking about those LT’s and what quality trucks they were. If it wasn’t for hearing those stories, I probably wouldn’t have bought it,” said Mark about why he purchased the LT. The Mack had originally been a daycab with a 200-hp HB 600 Cummins, purchased from a dealership in Pueblo, Colorado. Over the years, the truck had many different careers hauling livestock for various companies in the southwest before ending up in the hands of Jerry Jedkins, who sold it to Mark.
Once back in Sweetwater, the truck’s Cat engine was switched out with a, you guessed it, KTA 730 Cummins, and then an Eaton-Fuller transmission was installed. Besides the engine and transmission, and a little paint and other small repairs, the LT was in great shape. The body and frame of the truck are still completely original.
These days, Mark operates M-B Ranch & Corral, along with occasionally working on his friend’s trucks. When he isn’t out working the ranch, you can find him listening and adding to his over 2,400 CD collection of Western Swing and Big Band music from the 1930s and 1940s. Mark’s favorite artists include Bob Wills and the Texas Playboy Band, along with Benny Goodman, just to name a few.
Mark would like to thank and give credit to the late Sonny Campbell of El Paso, TX, as well as Andy Taylor of Taylor Trucking and C.H. Parker of Breckenridge, TX, for being an inspiration to him and helping build him into the man he is today. We would like to thank Mark and Betty Smith for preserving this awesome piece of history. The trucks of today will become the memories for tomorrow, and the trucks of the past, like this old LT Mack, will always allow us to relive the days gone by.