In keeping with the celebration of 10-4 Magazine’s 30th Anniversary, John and I got to take a trip back in time, and we did it without the help of Doc Brown and his DeLorean! Thirty years ago, Mack Trucks introduced the successor to the iconic SuperLiner. The Elite CL700 brought the legendary E9 V8 diesel powerplant into the era of the aero truck. Our fellow 10-4 writer Mark Harter was familiar with these trucks and went on a mission to find one for our 30th anniversary edition.
Mark began by making a call to a fellow Mack enthusiast, Bob Daumer. Bob suggested Mark contact Doug Maney at the Mack Experience Center in Allentown, PA in hopes he might know of a customer that was still operating one of these impressive dogs. After Mark told Doug what he was looking for it was like the stars aligned. Doug said it just so happened the Experience Center had recently been given a 1993 Mack Elite CL700 from the test fleet at the Mack Trucks Hagerstown Powertrain Facility where it had spent its entire life.
The story was initially going to be a historical look at this iconic rig, but it turned out to be so much more. John and I were initially going to Allentown to shoot the photos, and then Mark was going to write the story. The Mack Trucks Historical Museum is part of the Mack Experience Center and the former Test Track is at the same location. Mark asked Doug if it might be possible for John and me to take this Mack on a test drive as well, for the story, and he said, “Of course!” This changed everything and it now became our story, not just the photos. We were looking forward to this awesome opportunity and can’t thank Mark enough for suggesting it.
Talking to Doug and Mark on the phone, both are a wealth of knowledge. John drove a Mack from Pennsylvania to California and back to PA for one trip, but I have never had any experience driving or really being around Mack trucks. Being able to do something like this was going to be a first for both of us. Mark was adamant about this being so special because this truck is powered by a 550-hp E9 V8 Mack engine, and it is the only one in North America with the V-Mac II electronic engine controls on an E9. The electronic engine controls for the E9 were never introduced in the US market but are common in Australia. This truck is 1 of 2 built with the V-Mac II electronics, and the only one that still survives today.
When John and I arrived at the guard shack to the Experience Center, the guard had our name tags printed out, and then directed us to where we would meet Doug. It’s an impressive entrance, with big Mack signs, and the iconic Bulldog welcoming you in. We saw the truck sitting out front waiting for us. Doug had told us they had her all cleaned up and ready for the photo shoot. It looked like rain was coming when we got there, but lucky for us, it didn’t come. At this point, Doug came out to greet us, giving us a walk-around tour of this Elite CL, since this was both John and I’s first interaction with a Mack of this era.
We were both impressed by the fact that Mack hadn’t given the truck a fresh coat of paint. She is totally original to the day she rolled off the assembly line at Mack’s former facility in Winnsboro, SC, which was opened back in 1988. Her faded paint adds to her character, but it doesn’t take away from just how solid she was built.
Getting up inside the cab, we were impressed by the special Elite interior. The seats are red velour and embroidered with a Bulldog on the side of each seat, which were extremely comfortable. The room between the driver and passenger seats is very nice, allowing easy access to get back into the stand-up sleeper, which had an upper bunk that was laid down, but it didn’t seem to take away too much room in there. There are three drawers behind the driver’s seat in a beautiful red wood finish, and the top of them is like a little nightstand, complete with a pull-out table above the drawers to make doing paperwork or eating easy. There is also a nice closet opposite the drawers to hang clothes. The quality and layout of the bunk was well thought out and would be very comfortable for everyday use.
After our introduction to the Elite CL700 and its amenities, Doug took us to a part of the test track to kick off the photo shoot with a great background of tall trees and the sun peeking through the clouds occasionally – this old Elite Mack was shining in all her glory. The gold Bulldog on the hood signifies that this truck is a pure-bred Bulldog with a Mack engine, Mack transmission, Mack air-ride suspension, and Mack rear-ends. Doug pointed out (and I took pictures of) all the Bulldogs I could find on many parts all over the truck, like the exhaust manifold, the end of the air cleaner tube, the air bags, the suspension parts, and so many others. It is so cool!
Then it was time to take her for a run around the test track. John went first and was impressed how tight the Mack 18-speed transmission was, the smooth ride and handling, and the power of that big V8 under the hood. He would have been happy to “crash the gate doing 98” and take that dog for a long walk to California and back! John really liked the idea of the vent on the driver’s side door – it’s like a bunk vent that lets air flow in the summer to your feet. He also really liked the way the side box was under the bunk and the pouches in the side box doors. The engine doesn’t have the roar of a CAT, but it does have the bark of a dog! John really liked this dog and would scratch its neck anytime.
When it was my turn to drive, I was impressed by how smooth it shifted and just how close the transmission gears are – I compared it to driving a Corvette. There was lots of power, great handling, and good acceleration when shifting up through the gears. The dashboard is well laid out and the gauges are easy to read. The ashtray up on the dash shows she was born in a different time period. Overall, it handled well, and the rig’s acceleration was quick and smooth.
The Elite package could be bought on a CL600 or a CL700 at the time, but it was a very limited production for both models. The Elite package included a black engine, a bright finished gold Bulldog, a Cobra LTD remote CB, Alpine stereo system, Bulldog embossed Alcoa wheels, dual heated MotoMirrors, power windows and air locks, a 60-inch high rise bunk, and an exclusive warranty package, plus so much more. The iconic Bulldog you see riding on the hood of every Mack Truck was patented as an automobile radiator cap on October 11, 1932. The famous Bulldog has received a few changes over the years, notably its ears and tail, but it remains the symbol of Mack Trucks to this day.
Doug started with the museum in 1996 as a volunteer and in 2015 he became the curator of the museum. He has always loved trucks and Macks are his favorite. Mack Trucks, Inc. has records dating back to nearly the beginning of Mack’s existence in 1900 at the museum. The museum is staffed by volunteers from the Antique Truck Club of America (ATCA) that help restore and maintain trucks that are owned by the museum. The Mack Experience and Museum should be on your bucket list, and if you ever get the chance to visit, don’t pass it up – it is a very cool place, whether you are a Mack truck fan or not.
John and I would like to thank Doug for the “Elite” Mack experience that we will never forget. It gave both of us a new perspective of these awesome older Macks, and a genuine respect for these classy and rugged trucks. Happy 30th anniversary to everyone at 10-4 Magazine. John and I are both so glad we could participate in this fun edition and contribute a feature about a unique truck from 1993 to help celebrate this momentous milestone.