If you’ve been around big trucks and trucking for a while, you probably learned at least two things – there are guys who love Peterbilts and there are guys who love Kenworths. To these drivers and owners, these are the only trucks that matter. They love their big extended hoods and what’s under them. And if you should bring up any other manufacturers, say Mack, it’s usually a ho-hum response. But, say the word “Super-Liner” and see what happens. Ears perk up, heads turn, and usually a discussion breaks out regarding these Super-Liner’s big, beautiful hoods, and the legendary 500-hp Mack E9 V8 diesel engine, which the Mack Super-Liner is typically associated with.
Initially designed for the western market, Super-Liner production began at Mack’s former plant in Hayward, CA and was introduced in 1977 to replace the RL Series. Given the designation of “RW” by Mack, the R meant it was part of the R-Series of trucks and the W signified a “Western” distinction. While the Super-Liner was engineered to accommodate higher powered engines that required greater cooling capability than the Mack RL Series could provide, it was also designed to attract owner operators and small fleets with its classic styling. Many Mack and Brockway fans have argued that the Super-Liner was derived from Mack’s defunct subsidiary, Brockway Motor Trucks, but we will leave that discussion to them!
Mack offered a variety of engine options in the Super-Liner during the truck’s production run from 1977 to 1993, the most common being the Mack E6 Maxidyne and Econodyne engines, aftermarket options such as Cummins, later on the Mack E7, and obviously, of course, Mack’s E9 V8 engine. In 1984, Mack re-engineered the Super-Liner, branding it a “Super-Liner II” which is easily differentiated by each headlight assembly containing two square lights each instead of the former style with round headlights. To kick-off this next generation of Super-Liners, as well as Mack’s new cabover at the time named the Ultra-Liner, Mack built a limited edition run of 250 E9 V8-powered trucks called the “Magnum” edition.
A total of 186 Magnum edition Super-Liners and 64 Ultra-Liners were built. These trucks were easy to identify as they were all black with “Magnum” in bold red lettering on the side of the hood (and cab of the Ultra-Liner) with trailing thin red stripes after the Magnum name. Magnum trucks were special, and they came with a special red Mack interior package, as well as other cool details, such as chrome plated brake chambers, that set it apart from other trucks. Mack offered the Magnum Super-Liner in two sleeper configurations – a 36” and a 60” flat top – built by Able-Body. Mack also offered the Magnum edition trucks in three horsepower ratings that included 400-hp, 450-hp, and 500-hp.
Even though the last Super-Liner rolled off the assembly line 30 years ago this year (1993), you can still find many of them working to this day. But, with Mack no longer producing their E9 V8 diesel engine and parts for them getting harder and harder to find (not to mention more expensive), finding a Super-Liner still working powered by an E9 engine has become a pretty rare thing in this day and age. However, for Mainesburg, PA based owner operator Stephen Tice, Super-Liners and E9 V8s are his truck and engine of choice.
Like a lot of Pennsylvania based trucking operations, Macks run in the family. Growing up on a dairy farm, Stephen’s father Harold Tice had a Mack B-61 straight truck with a 24’ flatbed that was used on their farm to haul hay and bagged fertilizer, along with other products. Later, the B-61 was converted into a tractor, and Harold began pulling a dump trailer and hauling coal. In the early 80s, Harold acquired a 1969 Mack F-Model cabover to replace the tired B-61. Equipped with a 5-speed and a Mack 237 Maxidyne, Harold worked it hard, with Stephen telling us, “During that time, you could load and unload coal 24 hours a day.” So, at a young age, Stephen learned how to begin wrenching on his dad’s trucks. “He’d come home at night, tired and worn out from a long day, and the truck would need some maintenance, and I’d be the one to do it,” Stephen said.
After graduating high school in 1990, Stephen got into dairy farming like his father, and also began working at a local truck and diesel repair shop. But eight years later, the trucking bug finally got the best of him, and he began driving a 1982 E9-powered Super-Liner for his dad. Purchasing his first truck in 1999, it was a 1985 Super-Liner with Canadian specs, including a 60” spread on the drives. The truck was powered by a 440-hp E9 with a Mack 12-speed transmission and had a 60” sleeper. It was also the 12th Super-Liner II ever built, but Stephen said he had no love for that particular truck – in fact, he really hated it.
With that in mind, an opportunity struck in 2002. A company near Mack’s former world headquarters in Allentown, PA had a pair of E9-powered Macks for sale – a 1993 Mack Elite CL600 and a 1990 Mack RW613 Super-Liner with a custom 68” sleeper. Painted dark blue and black with a pink stripe, the Super-Liner had all of its Mack badging removed and the truck’s iconic bulldog had been painted pink, as well. Stephen said, “It was one of the ugliest paint schemes I had ever seen!” While not exactly pretty to look at, the truck, which had about 700K miles on it, had been well cared for. So, a deal was made, and Stephen purchased the Super-Liner and his father bought the CL600.
After Stephen got the Super-Liner home and in his shop, he went to work on it, removing the sleeper and shortening the frame, along with doing a restoration. Once it was done, the Super-Liner rolled out of his shop two years later sporting a beautiful Dupont Imron Bright Teal Metallic paint scheme and wearing all its proper Mack badging. Equipped with a 500-hp E9 V8 mated to a Mack T2180 18-speed transmission, pushing power to 3.58 Meritor rears, and riding on a 230” wheelbase, the Mack also had an air-ride suspension, Alcoa aluminum, and 22.5 tall rubber. In order to pull his MAC frameless dump trailer, Stephen set the truck up with a wet line, as well.
Affectionately named “Blue” by Stephen’s wife Mindy, the Super-Liner now has nearly 1.8 million miles on its odometer and has been through one complete engine change and one full rebuild. “Blue is a fun truck to drive, as I have the fuel pump cranked up and it’s pushing nearly 680-hp, but with all that torque, you have to be really careful. I was laying under it one time with the oil pan off and couldn’t believe what I saw – the block had stress cracks all over it!” Stephen said, in a serious yet fun tone, “These E9s have a lot of power and you have to know how to drive them in order to make them last,” continuing with, “If you’ve never heard a E9 when it’s pulling and lugging a heavy load in that 1400-1500 rpm range, it’s very unique, and one of the coolest sounds you’ll ever hear from a diesel engine!”
While telling me about what it’s like to drive an E9-powered Mack, Stephen mentioned his cousin Andy, who operates an E9-powered Elite CL600. “We used to load a lot of bulk material in New York going to Pennsylvania, and we’d be running heavy. Andy used to like to show-off with his V8, which was really turned up, and a lot of times he’d follow a guy who had a big KW or Pete for miles and miles running the flat land of New York, knowing the guy he was following had a big CAT or Cummins under the hood. And when they finally would get to the hills of Pennsylvania, Andy would step out in the left lane and pass the guy while going up a hill!”
While Stephen has owned and worked on several other Super-Liners over the years, he had always wanted a 1985 Magnum edition. “My dad was looking at buying one years ago, he even test drove one, and I always thought those rigs were wicked cool. He ended up passing on buying that Magnum, though, as it had low oil pressure.” But, as Stephen continued, “About 10 years ago, my wife’s stepdad kept telling me that there was ‘one of those trucks you like’ parked out back at the construction company he worked for in New Jersey. I told him on several occasions I wasn’t interested, but he kept bugging me about it. I jokingly told him one time, in order to get him off my case, that the only way I’d be interested in the truck was if it was black with a red interior and had the word Magnum on the hood.” And, to Stephen’s surprise, his wife’s stepdad said that was exactly what it was!
The 1985 Magnum that Stephen now owns was in pretty rough shape when he bought it, as it was literally rotting to the ground and buried in mud from years of sitting in a dirt lot. With the help of friends Danny Smith and Joel Sweeney, it took nearly two and a half years to track the owner of the Magnum down! After finding the elusive owner, Stephen purchased the truck for $15,000. While some said he was crazy to pay that much, he now owned one of the rare 186 Mack Magnum edition Super-Liners. With help from Danny and another Mack connoisseur, Bob Daumer, the Magnum was dug out of the mud, loaded on a Landoll trailer, and then hauled back to Mainesburg for its restoration.
Three years later, after stripping the Magnum down to its frame rails, re-skinning the 36” Able-Body sleeper, adding fresh paint and new graphics, having much of the Magnum’s interior recreated (with the exception of the stock red Mack seats with the Magnum logo embroidered in the headrests), and rebuilding the E9 engine and the entire driveline, the big black Bulldog Mack Magnum rolled out of Stephen’s shop looking as good as the day it rolled off the assembly line. “It’s not perfect, but it’s 99% complete,” referring to some of the unique odds and ends that adorned the Magnums when new, like the chrome brake chambers, which he did not put back on the truck. “I have a love/hate relationship with this truck, as I have never been able to get it to run just right. I’ve consulted with other Mack gurus, and we’re all a bit confused on why it is having trouble idling correctly,” Stephen explained.
While Mack had no definitive numbering system for the Magnum trucks, based on chassis records, Stephen has been able to figure that his Magnum was the 71st one built. “Every dealer was offered at least one Magnum, and mine was originally sold at Easton Mack in Easton, PA,” said Stephen. It rides on a 212” wheelbase, with its 500-hp E9 V8 engine pushing power to a Mack 9-speed transmission, then on to 4.17 rears, and riding on a Neway air-ride suspension. While most Magnum editions were double framed, Stephens is one of the rare single frame trucks produced. The truck currently has over a million miles on it, and Stephen has never operated it for revenue since its restoration – he’s content to let it be a show piece.
In 1986, the Statue of Liberty turned 100, and to help celebrate this momentous occasion, Kenworth created their limited edition Liberty models, and Mack followed suit, introducing another limited edition – the “Freedom” edition – and 200 of these units were made from Super-Liner and Ultra-Liner trucks. Marketed by Mack as “Freedom From Repair Costs” with parts, labor, and warranty for three years/300,000 miles, excluding normal consumables such as tires, filters, and lubricants, these Freedom edition trucks were available with both the Mack inline E6 and E9 V8 engines. The trucks were phantom gray with red accents, along with some special graphics, that reflect the Statue of Liberty. The Freedom edition Macks were marketed and sold during the 1986 production year, but all the trucks were delivered in the fall of 1986 and classified as a 1987 model year upon delivery.
For years, there was a guy who owned a trucking company down the road from Stephen who had one of these 1987 Super-Liner Freedom editions in his fleet. He offered it to Stephen a few times, but he always passed, because the guy wanted too much money. However, about six years ago, a driver ended up laying that truck over while delivering a load with a dump trailer. Not damaged too badly, the owner wasn’t interested in repairing the old Super-Liner and approached Stephen again in the hopes he’d be interested in purchasing it this time. While not interested at first, although the price was right, Stephen’s son Kyle had been working in a truck repair shop and decided to purchase the vintage Super-Liner after his dad told him about it. So, now there were three cool Super-Liners in the Tice family!
The Freedom had been converted from a sleeper truck to a day cab, but the previous owner had saved the original 48” Able-Body sleeper, so he included it in the sale. Once again, another rare Super-Liner made its way to the Tice shop for a full restoration. This one, not powered by the legendary Mack E9 engine like Stephen’s Super-Liners, has a 350-hp Mack E6 Econodyne, mated to a T2100 Mack 10-speed transmission, and now runs on new frame rails, since the original ones were twisted when the truck was laid over. Today, sporting a 224” wheelbase, the rebuilt truck also has 135 gallon fuel tanks, all-aluminum wheels wrapped in 24.5 tall rubber, and a Neway air-ride suspension.
Thankfully, Stephen and Kyle were able to save and repair the truck’s original hood and cab. After the paint was applied, it came time to find the “Lady Liberty” graphics. After a few frustrating searches, Kyle ended up having a new set of graphics created for the truck. Currently, Kyle’s 1987 Mack Freedom edition Super-Liner has 850K miles on it. And, like his dad’s Magnum edition, Kyle’s truck is also strictly a show piece that has been retired from any revenue-generating service.
While Stephen has enjoyed being an owner operator with his own authority the last 20+ years, he made the decision last year to quit trucking. “Between all the regulations, insurance, paperwork, fuel costs, freight rates, and traffic, just to name a few, it just wasn’t worth the hassle anymore,” Stephen said with a bit of disappointment in his voice. “It’s just not the same as it used to be. I really love trucking, but all the fun has been taken out of it by government regulations, and they’ve made it harder and harder for the little guys out here,” Stephen said.
Since Stephen decided to call it quits, he’s been happily working as a mechanic for Sullivan Township in Tioga County, Pennsylvania the last year or so. While not driving his Super-Liner on a daily basis any longer, Stephen has become one of the premier “go to” guys in the country when it comes to Mack Super-Liner trucks and Mack E9 V8 diesel engines. He also began restoring trucks for others, and recently finished a year-long restoration of a 1986 E9-powered Mack RW713 Super-Liner day cab tractor for Mack collector Jeff Mante of Nazareth, PA.
Stephen’s father Harold Tice is currently 84 years old and, while retired, has a restored 1959 Mack B-61 he enjoys taking to truck shows and events with Stephen’s older brother Jeff. Stephen and his wife Mindy have been married for 30 years and have two sons – Seth (23) and Kyle (25). Their son Kyle has been married to his wife Katie for two years, and Kyle currently works for a local municipality driving an old Mack R-Model dump truck.
I’d like to send special thanks to trucking photographer Duncan Putman for traveling from his home in Keuka Park, NY to Mainesburg, PA this past fall to do the photo shoot with the Tice family. Their trio of very rare Mack Super-Liners is second to none, and the history of each one of them just makes them that much more interesting. I hope you enjoyed this trip back through time and learned a lot about these memorable rigs known as Super-Liners, because they really were, in a word, super!