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Kidron Body Works, Kidron Body Co., Kidron Inc., Kidron Inc. div. of TTI, Inc., Kidron Inc. div. of VT Hackney, a subsidiary of VT Systems
Kidron Body Works, 1944-1952; Kidron Body Co., 1952-1985; Kidron Inc., 1985-1995; Kidron Inc. div. of TTI, Inc.; 1995-2005; Kidron Inc. div. of VT Hackney, a subsidiary of VT Systems; (Kidron) Dalton, Ohio; 1965-present, Lakeland, Florida; 1964-present,Orville, Ohio; 2004-present, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; 2003-present, Tulare, California; Independence, Kansas ; Kidron Mexico S.A., 1990-present; Monterrey, Nuevo León; México
Associated Firms
Orrville Body Co., Hackney Bros.

The Kidron Body Works started life as small manufacturer of cutom-built quad cabs and sleeper cabs that soon found a niche supplying various types of operator enclosures to manufacturers of heavy trucks and construction equipment.Located in the  unincorporated community of Kidron (mailing address Dalton, Ohio), located 35 miles southwest of Akron, (25 miles west of Canton) in southwestern Sugar Creek Township, Wayne County, Ohio. Longtime cab customers include Galion Iron Works, Clark Equipment (aka Michigan), Eaton Yale Towne (aka Trojan), Thew Lorrain Shovel, Massey-Ferguson and others.

In the early 1950s they added conventional truck bodies to their product lineup and were early adopters of aluminum and FRP (Fiberglas reinforced plastic) dry goods and insulated / refrigerated truck bodies. Today they survive today as a divison of VT Hackney, a multinational truck body manufacturer that distributes its products throughout North America, Central America and Asia-Pacific.

Kidron was founded near the end of the Second World War by two Swiss Mennonite brothers; Lester (b. June 25, 1916 – d. Dec. 28, 1992 in Lakeland, FL) and George Bixler (b. March 8, 1915 – d. October 18, 1990 in Millersburg, OH), two former employees of the Orrville Body Co., the nation's largest manufacturer of OEM sleeper and quad cabs. Orrville's clients included Mack, White, Autocar; Western Star; Diamond-T, REO, Brockway, International, Studebaker, Ford, GMC and Volvo.

Coincidentally Ohio was the home of most of the nation's truck cab manufacturers, several of which were started by ex-Orrville Body Co. employees. The Ohio-based firms included: Highland Body Co., Cincinnati (pre-war White sleepers); Gerstenslager Body Co., Wooster (multi-makes); Royal Body Co., Akron (pre-war Ford & White sleepers); Crown Steel Products Co., Orrville (multi-makes); Orrville Metal Specialty Co., Orrville (multi-makes); and Montpelier Body Co., Montpelier (pre-and post-war Ford sleepers).

Non-Ohio based firms engaged in similar work included: Stoughton Cab & Body Co., Stoughton, Wisconsin (post-war Ford); York-Hoover Body Co., York, Pennsylvania (pre-war multi-makes); Proctor-Keefe Body Co., Detroit, Michigan (pre- & post-war Ford); Automotive Industries Inc., Owendale, Michigan (post-war multi-makes); Winter Weiss Co., Denver, Colorado (pre-war Ford sleepers); and Wilson Motor Bodies and Smith Bros. - both located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Lester (b. June 25, 1916) and George (b. March 8, 1915) Bixler were born in Sugar Creek, Wayne County, Ohio to John J. (a farmer, b. Feb. 7, 1872 - d. Apr. 30, 1953) and Eliza (Nussbaum, b. in 1887, in Indiana; d. 1925) Bixler. George and Lester’s paternal grandparents were John C. (b. 1841 – d. 1909) and Maria C. (Sommer, b. 1841 – d. 1913) Bixler. Siblings included Alvin (b.1907); Verna (b. 1909); Leonard (b.1914); George (b. 1915); Lester (b. 1917); Lillian (b.1919); John L.(b.1920); infant girl (b./d.1922); infant boy (b./d.1923); and Melvin (b./d. 1925) Bixler. Unfortunately George and Lester’s mother, Eliza Nussbaum Bixler, died while giving birth to Melvin in 1925.

Coincidentally the Bixler brothers married twin sisters, Martha and Mary Haueter.
Lester married Mary Haueter (b. May 4, 1915, daughter of Alfred and Lina Lehman Haueter of Orville, Ohio) the 1940 US Census lists him Holmes, Wayne County, Ohio (res. 1935 in Kidron, Ohio), his occupation, manager of a feed store. On June 4, 1938 George married Martha N. Haueter (b. May 4, 1915 – d. May 7, 2005, daughter of Alfred and Lina Lehman Haueter of Orville, Ohio) and to the blessed union were born two children: Phyllis (b.1939); and George Jr. (b. Mar. 9, 1950) Bixler. The 1940 US Census lists George in Orrville, his occupation as ‘builder’ in a ‘sleeper cab factory’.

The Bixler boys joined many other members of the community who found a job watining for them at the Orrville Body Company. In 1944 George had an opportunity to open his own body shop, purchasing an old red implement storage barn located next to the tennis courts inEast Kidron .  By the end of the War his brother Lester and brother-in-law Bill Brown had joined him in the enterprise as did a young blacksmith named Russel Saurer, who had also just returned from the War. Later their first cousin Ira Sommer (b.1920 in Sugar Creek, Ohio to farmers Christian P. and Ida Sommer) joined the firm as salesman. Their paternal grandparents were John C. (b. 1841 – d. 1909) and Maria C. (Sommer, b. 1841 – d. 1913) Bixler.

By 1950 the company employed eighteen and began constructing truck bodies  in addition to building cabs and doing collision and refurbishing of existing vehicles. On October 28, 1952 the firm was incorporated in the state of Ohio by George Bixler, Dennis L. Hofstetter and Earl D. Hofstetter as Kidron Body Co. and additional property was purchased across the road from a farmer named Paul Keiner.

Dennis L. and Earl D. Hofstetter were the sons of Daniel J. Hofstetter and Kathryn Amstutz. Siblings included: Alvin Hofstetter; Earl Daniel Hofstetter; Viola K. Hofstetter; Lorene Ferne Hofstetter and Eunice Delpitine Hofstetter

Dennis L. Hofstetter (b.March 24, 1908 - d. April 29,1993) married to Owayla Fern Brand (b. Jun. 15, 1906 in Holmes Couty, OH, – d. Aug. 1, 2001). Earl D. Hofstetter (b. October 12, 1904 – d. March 17, 1961) married to Theresa 'Terry' F. Long, and to the blessed union were born three children:  Earl Daniel Hofstetter, Jr.; Richard W. Hofstetter and Anna Jean Hofstetter.

The September 17, 1953 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent included a picture of a new Dodge-chassised 1,500 water tanker constructed for the Orrville Volunteer Fire Department:

“New $4,500 Fire Truck To Aid In Conquest Of Country Fires

“Fire protection to area farmers was given a tremendous shot in the arm this week when the new 1,200 gallon capacity water truck was completed by the Kidron Body Company and turned over to the Orrville Volunteer Fire Department. The new truck, which cost $4,500, is the result of the co-operation between the trustees of two townships, Greene and Baughman, Orrville City Council, and the Volunteer Fire Department of this city. It climaxes the efforts and hard work of a group of men who set out as early as last December to get this goal accomplished and provide this added protection to their friends and neighbors in the county area.”

March 5, 1956 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:

“Do you know whose farm is pictured here today?

“The Lester Bixlers have lived on the farm for three years, although their actual farming has been restricted to one Summer. Mr. Bixler, now a foreman for truck body construction at the Kidron Body Company, was one of the founders of Kidron Body, along with his brother George, who is president of the firm. Lester sold his interest in the body company, bought the farm to make room for his large family, only to learn that he was allergic to wheat and oat stubbles.

“So that nixed farming for him. Clarence Schrock, a neighbor, farmed it for two years and, recently, Ralph Marthey bought 52 acres of the 57 acre plot. The house and five acres are still for sale and the Bixlers hope they can sell it soon so that they can go ahead with their plan of building a new home in Kidron.

“Lester, who is 40 years old, is a native of the Kidron community and has been with the Kidron Body Company for nine years. Even when farming he worked there part time.

“Lester Bixler and his wife, the former Mary Haueter, were married in 1939. They have five children, Ruth Ann,15, a sophomore at OHS; Richard, 14, a freshman; Carol, a fifth grader; Barbara, who is almost four years old; and Becky Sue, who is almost two.

“Mrs. Bixler, it will be recalled, has a twin sister, Martha, who, incidentally, is married to Lester’s brother, George. They live in Kidron. The Bixlers are members of the Orrville Mennonite Church.”

March 14, 1957 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:

“Kidron Community Council Hears About Expansions

“Kidron, Mar. 14.—The Kidron Community Council announces the construction of a new building, 160 ft. x 50 ft. by the Kidron Body Company, to be located across the road from the present plant. This construction will begin as soon as the weather clears up enough for foundation work to got under way in an open field. This, announcement was made to the Kidron Community Council by president Merl Lehman at the meeting of the council Monday evening. George Bixler, president of the Kidron Body Company, informed Mr. Lehman that he wanted the council to be the first to hear this public announcement. This expansion program will require a considerable number of new employees by the Kidron Body Company as soon as the new construction is ready for operation. With a number of homes now available in the Kidron area for new families, this may develop into a choice set up for new men finding employment here or elsewhere in or near Kidron.”

April 3, 1958, Massillon Evening Independent:

“Fulton Gets New Fire Truck

“The Canal Fulton Volunteer Fire Department has purchased and equipped the small truck shown in the above photo and presented it to the village. Firemen pictured with the truck from left to right are Robert Ries, Earl Stoughton, Ray Ries, chief and Jay Butter, assistant chief. Standing on the rear step of the truck are William Fellmeth and James Finefrock. The body of the $1,500 truck was purchased from a Kidron body shop and the remainder of the truck was built by volunteer work of the firemen. The small truck will be used to fight grass fires and similar small blazes and was placed in use March 27. It carries 100 gallons of water. Funds for the vehicle were raised by the firemen through carnivals, from donations received from residents of outlying areas who found it necessary to have water hauled for their stock and other projects and from contributions made by George Muhlhauser who has been making generous gifts to the department annually for a number of years. The truck brings to five the number of trucks housed by the department in the fire station.”

By then end of the decade  Bixler had split the firm's operations into four groups; Custom Body Div.; Metal Fabrication div.; Kid Division; and the Plastics Division.

The obituary column of the March 23, 1961 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:

“Earl Hofstetter, Prominent Kidron Businessman, 56

“Earl Daniel Hofstetter Sr., 56, died at Dunlap Hospital Friday at 4 a.m. following an extended illness. He was born Oct. 12, 1904, southwest of Kidron and except for short periods in Canton, Toledo and Peru, Ind., he was a life resident of the community.

“He operated the Hofstetter Brothers Super Market with his brother, Dennis, until ill health forced him to retire after 31 years. They opened the store in 1929 as a general store and steadily expanded it. The business was sold recently to his son and two nephews. He served on the boar d of directors of the Kidron Body Co. since its organization, one term on the Dalton Local Board of Education, and two terms on the board of directors of the Tusco Grocery Co.”

September 19, 1963 edition of the Elyria Telegram:

“…checked with representatives of the Galion Co. and were instructed to contact the Kidron Body Shop of Kidron, which make the cab for the Galion firm.”

December 3, 1964 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:

“Kidron Body Co. Opens Branch At Garrod Furniture Site Here

“Kidron Body Co. has leased from Blair House, Inc. of Cleveland the former Garrod Furniture building on Sterling Ave., according to George Bixler, president and founder of the Kidron based firm. Partly through efforts of the Orrville Chamber of Commerce, Kidron Body was able to arrange a one-year lease with Bernard Siegel, president of Blair House. Garrod Furniture ceased business some years ago and the building has been vacant since then. Mr. Bixler said the building will be used for experimental purposes and development of new products. Orrville plant will employ approximately six persons with Eugene Hannie of Orrville, who is production manager at Kidron Body, temporarily acting as supervisor. The building is now in use. Lease includes an option to buy. Decision whether to remain in Orrville after the lease, or consolidate all operations in Kidron, will be made later, according to Mr. Bixler.

“Zoning Issue

“Sterling Avenue area is zoned residential. However, Garrod Furniture had been permitted to operate as a ‘non-conforming user.’ Last Thursday, Raymond Lindamood, attorney representing the Kidron Body Co., filed a petition with the Zoning Board of Appeals to allow industrial use of the area. Zoning Board, plans to hold a hearing according to Robert Lacy, sales and service director. Members are Wilmer Smith, Virgil Runion, Ed Kraft and Orrie Gresser. Kidron Body also has begun work on a building in Kidron which will give the firm 6,000 feet of additional space. This is the 13th time in its 18-year history that the firm has expanded.

“New Truck Bodies

“Under roof now are 6,000 additional square feet in the metal division. Soon to be occupied by the recently-developed aluminum truck body kit, the, new addition was planned to accommodate the growth of that product which was first marketed a year ago.

“Kidron Body engineers have expanded the aluminum kit production to include a fiberglass reinforced plastic body, known as "FRP," of the same design. Both are constructed with, the same extrusions for, frames, but give the purchaser a. choice of models.

“The new aluminum truck body kit has been marketed for six months, and 250 of them have been produced. Production rate is two and one-half kits per day in the old plant. Fifteen new employees have been added to the payroll to operate this division.

“Sales for the kit are now confined to the U. S. east of the Mississippi River. Expansion to the West is contemplated when production facilities are ready.

“Sheet metal fabrication of plant No. 2 also has grown. Production of custom-built truck bodies, chiefly the use of the new kit in its own plant, is much larger.

“Employment Up

“Employment has jumped from 66 a year ago to a current 110. Mr. Bixler expressed confidence that many more will be needed to operate the new sections. A new overall sales approach is being used and has increased output of the plants 35 per cent in one year to keep up with new orders.

“The sales force and management displayed the new products recently at the National Truck Body and Equipment Association, Convention in Kansas City, Mo. Employment in the plant is largest in the sheet metal fabrication department. This division turns out products for several large nationally-known manufacturers.

“Galion Iron Works uses Kidron Body cabs on all their road graders. Yale-Towne Co. of Batavia, N. Y. and Clark Equipment Co. of Benton Harbor Mich. are the other two principal users of products turned out by the and welders.

“Victor Dix, president of the Orrville Chamber of Commerce, and Dave Davault, chairman of the Chamber's Industrial Development Committee, said the Kidron Body Co. would be a wonderful addition to the community. 'The reputation of Kidron Body as a first-rate progressive firm has been well established,' said Mr. Dix. 'Quality growth is necessary for every progressive community,' said Mr. Davault. 'Quality truck body manufacturing has been a trade-mark at Kidron Body and management is both fair minded and progressive. We wish the firm the best of luck on their new ventures both in Kidron and Orrville.'”

By 1965 Bixler realized that in order to get a piece of the expanding truck body business, he would have to build a satellite operation somewhere in the southern US. A site was chosen in Lakeland, Florida, adjacent to the region's municipal airport in Lakeland, Florida, the January 21, 1965 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent announcing the expansion to the local community:

“Eugene Hannie To Head Kidron Body Company's Florida Operation

"Further expansion of the Kidron Body Company has been announced by that firm. Construction of a new plant will begin next fall in Lakeland, Florida. The company has purchased a five-acre tract of land there and has a three-year option on five additional acres.

“This action took place almost at the same time the company was negotiating for rental of the Garrod Furniture building on Sterling Avenue here for plastics development. The city-owned land faces Drane Field Road, location of the airport. A $50,000 industrial plant for production of aluminum and plastic truck bodies, primarily for refrigerated-type hauling, will be constructed. It is hoped operation can begin by January, 1966. Eugene Hannie of 1824 Lynn Dr. will manage the Florida operation.

“Except for routine final approval by the Federal Aviation Agency, the transaction was terminated when George Bixler, Kidron Body Co. president, and the mayor of Lakeland, Harold Grizzard, executed the sale.


“This sale ended about eight months of negotiations between the body company and the Lakeland board. Chairman William S. Myrick Jr. and executive director, Robert Drabik, were present to sign the contract.

“Mr. Bixler stated that the Lakeland operation could possibly employ 30 by the end of the first year of production. Except for three or four key employees which the company will send South from the parent plant, most workers will be drawn from the Lakeland labor pool.

“Last fiscal year, the company reached a new high of $1.3 million total sales. Truck body and sheet metal fabrication are responsible for this record.

“Supplier of Cabs

“Kidron Body Co. is a major supplier of cabs for Galion Iron Works and assemblies for Clark Equipment Co. and Yale-Towne Manufacturing Co. Kidron Body Co. currently supplies about 75 per cent of meat hauling bodies in Ohio and a substantial number in Indiana and Pennsylvania. These truck bodies leave the plant complete and ready for the road.

“Another division manufactures a prefabricated, knocked-down truck body of plastic or aluminum which is delivered to assembly plants throughout the east.

“The new Lakeland division will serve the South. This division is now a year old and has been engineered exclusively by Kidron. At present, the local plant employs about 110. The new Orrville plant employs six. Employment has grown about 40 per cent in the last year. All offices and engineering operations of the company will remain in the Kidron location.”

By the end of the year Kidron South, as it was known, was producing aluminum and FRP truck bodies and trailers for distribution acorss the southern United States. Within a short time the plant employed 130 and was producing $3 million worth of bodies annually.

January 6, 1966 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:

“Iceboxes Make Comeback; Lehman Hdwe. at Kidron Answers Need of Amish for Cold Storage

“Kidron Body Manufacturers 'Em

“By Mike Starn

“Ask most folks born after 1943 what they think of your new icebox. 'Come again,' they say. I never met one in my life until recently ... so the pleasure was all mine. I'd been a victim these past 22 years of roll-out, fold-out, pasteled, even-temperature, multi-shelved, Betty Furnessed ‘refrigerators,’ the mere mention of which leaves me cold.

“Kidron Body Co. makes, and Lehman Hardware of that village sells iceboxes ... and in an expanding market, too. Faced with a mounting demand from the area's Amish population who shun modern man's electrical dobuggery, Lehman Hardware met the problem head-on.

“The hardware has long been a main supplier of gasoline engine-driven washing machines and kerosene appliances and have franchises in many neighboring states for this special equipment.

“But even kerosene-driven refrigerators aren't acceptable to the Old Order Amish, one of the largest concentrations of whom make their home in Wayne County. Time is the Great Leveler only to those who make obeisance to it.

“The hardware store made the best of the situation at hand. Before leaving for another stint as manager of Menno Travel Service in Nairobi, Kenya. Africa, Junior Lehman, owner of the store, negotiated with Kidron Body Co. metal parts division, to manufacture the boxes he designed. Details of the operation were handled by John Hall, salesman for the firm; Junior's father, Ezra, and a brother, David, who operates the store in Junior's absence.

“The finished product is a work of art, sans gizmos. The pearly-white box is 59 inches by 28 inches by 25 deep and sports an ice compartment capable of holding up to 135 pounds of ice.

“Kidron Body has produced 25 of the ‘new’ iceboxes to date with more on order, according to David Lehman, hardware manager.

“Interior of the box is made from rustproof fiberglass insulated with two-in thick Styrofoam used by most refrigerator and freezer manufacturers. Replacing the old latch lock, however, is a magnetic gadget installed around the door. Shade of progress!”

December 31, 1970 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:

“Frank Wyss was a partner of Albert Amstutz in operating threshing equipment for area farmers for a number of years. He also operated a dairy business, selling and delivering milk to local residents until the late 1940's; and was employed at Kidron Auction from its beginning in 1925 until the present time. When the threshing rig storage building was sold to George Bixler in 1946, it grew into the Kidron Body Co. of today.”

August 30, 1971 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent:

“Ira Sommer TBEA Official

“Ira Sommers, sales manager for the Kidron Body Co. at Kidron, holds the registration committee chairmanship for the Truck Body and Equipment association's (TBEA) 24th annual international convention and exposition in Chicago Oct. 4-6. This special three-day event provides the only total market showpiece in the world for all types of truck 'bodies, truck equipment, truck hardware, hydraulic systems, lights, safety equipment and other pertinent products.

“The Truck Body and Equipment Association (TBEA) maintains fully staffed headquarters in the Chevy Chase building, Washington, D.C., and has a membership comprised of this Nation's and Canada's fore-most truck body builders, truck equipment manufacturers, truck accessory manufacturers, and their respective distributors. Sommer has long been active in the TBEC and has been honored with the chairmanship of the registration committee for the past five years.”

To further position the firm as one of the nation's leading truck body manufacturers, Kidron needed to get their products into the Midwest. In August of 1971 Bixler purchased a suitable property in the small Mennonite community of Pretty Prairie, Kansas, the February 29, 1972 edition of the Massillon Evening Independent announcing Kidron's plans to the local residents:

“Kidron Body to build new plant in Kansas

“George Bixler, founder and president of Kidron Body Co., has announced the board’s decision to expand by opening a new plant in Pretty Prairie, Kansas.

“The expansion is designed to extend the company’s production and service facilities to a new geographical area. The operation in the Midwest will resemble the current branch in Lakeland, Fla., now in its seventh year.

“The new branch will produce truck bodies and provide service for national accounts. It will be another step approaching nationwide distribution, because additional distributors will be added to the current total of 60 in major cities.

“Bixler acquired 10 acres of land in Pretty Prairie last August in anticipation of the expansion. The village is in a Mennonite farming community resembling the locality in Kidron, where the company originated in 1946.

The new plant, when it is built, will be operated from the Kidron headquarters as is the Florida plant. No definite date for contraction has been disclosed, but it is hoped that production may begin by October 1973.

“The Florida operation has grown yearly and now covers 35,000 square feet. It serves the southern tier of states as far west as Texas. The Kidron Plant has distributors from the east coast to Iowa. Production in both plants now covers both custom-built bodies and kits produced for assembly by distributors.

“The main plant in Kidron also has an extensive sheet metal fabrication division. It produces cabs and other assemblies for numerous major road and construction machinery equipment firms. This phase may in time be incorporated in the branch plants as the demand materializes, Bixler said.

“Currently, all the fiberglass used in van body construction is produced only in the Florida plant and then transported as prefabricated kits to the distributors.

“At this point, says Bixler, the projected development will be using trained personnel from both plants. Lester Steiner, now, now is sales in the Kidron custom body division, is slated to become the Pretty Prairie plant manager.

“Norman Sommer, recently of Orrville, Ohio, and now in sales at Lakeland, will become the Pretty Prairie plant manager.

“Employment figures in Kidron are currently 150, and Lakeland, 35. As the Kansas operation develops, it is estimated that it will attain a level comparable to the Florida branch, which has had consistent growth.

“Kidron Body has just entered its 26th year of operation. Its growth has passed through various stages as it advanced from custom body building, addition of the metal fabrication division, development of the body kit divisions and distribution of prefab bodies, and the recent construction of container systems for national accounts.”

March 12, 1972, Hutchinson News (Kansas):

“Kidron Body Firm Locates in Area

“George Bixler, founder and president of Kidron Body Co., has announced the board's decision to expand by opening' a new plant here. The operation in the midwest will resemble the current branch now in its seventh year in Lakeland, Florida.

“The new branch will produce truck bodies and provide service for national accounts. It will be another step approaching nation-wide distribution as additional distributors will be added to the current total of 60 in major cities.

“Bixler acquired ten acres of land in Pretty Prairie last August in anticipation of the expansion. The village is in a Mennonite farming community resembling the locality in Kidron where the company originated in 1946. At this point, says Bixler, the projected development will be using trained personnel from both plants. Lester Steiner, now in sales in the Kidron custom body division, is slated to become the Pretty Prairie plant manager.

“Norman Sommer, recently of Orville, Ohio and now in sales in Lakeland, will be heading the Kansas sales staff.

“Employment figures in Kidron are currently 150, and Lakeland, 35. As the Kansas operation develops, it is estimated that it will attain a level comparable to the Florida branch which has had consistent growth.

“Kidron Body Co. has just entered its twenty-sixth year of operation. Its growth has passed through various stages as it advanced from custom body building, addition of the metal fabrication division, development of the body kit divisions and distribution of prefab bodies, and the recent construction of container systems for national accounts.”

July 9, 1972, Hutchinson News:

“Pretty Prairie Firm To Break Ground

“Pretty Prairie - Part of the centennial celebration here will be the ground-breaking for a new Pretty Prairie industry. Groundbreaking will be about 1:30 p.m. July 15 at the site of construction for a 120 foot x 180 foot building for Kidron Body Co. The new branch will produce truck bodies and provide service for national accounts. Lester Steiner is general manager.”

During the mid 1970s George Bixler retired from active managment of the firm, turning the reigns over to his cousin. Kidron's new president, Robert L. (b. Mar. 3, 1941 - d. Jan. 18,1996) Sommer, was the son of Ira J. (b. May 30, 1919 - d. Sept. 20, 2004) and Lillian N. (Bixler) Sommer - Ira being Kidron's longtime sales manager and George Bixler's first cousin. Norman W. Sommer (b. Nov. 10, 1928 - d- d. Aug. 26, 2000), manager of the Pretty Prairie plant, was Ira's younger brother and Robert L. Sommer's uncle. The February 26, 1976 edition of the Orrville Courier Crescent announced Bixler's retirement to the Kidron community:

“Elected President

“Robert L. Sommer has been elected president of the Kidron Body Co. He will replace George Bixler who started the company 30 years ago and has presided over since then. Mr. Bixler will remain as chairman of the board. Sommer and his wife, Janet, and their daughters, Jodi and Lori, reside in Kidron and attend the Orrville C. and M. Alliance Church.”

A $1.3 million fire detroyed Kidron's Lakeland, Florida operations in late 1983, the December 29, 1983 edition of the Lakeland Ledger reporting:

“Investigators Find No Cause to Kidron Fire, by Gary Kimler

“Lakeland – Investigators searched Wednesday but didn’t find the cause of the fire that destroyed a 30,000 square foot truck assembly plant southwest of Lakeland Tuesday Night.

“Sheriff’s Investigator Duane Bickmire estimated damage to Kidron Body Co. at $1.3 million.

“He and two other fire investigators – Ed Wiles of the State Fire Marshal’s Office and Alfred Combee of Polk County’s fire department – sifted through the burned-out structure most of the day Wednesday.

“The assembly plant is at 4220 Drane Field Road, about a mile west of Lakeland Municipal Airport. The company, based in Kidron, Ohio, assembles aluminum and fiberglass truck bodies.

“Blackmire said the assembly plant contained a few combustible materials, which may have been the source of explosions firefighters heard and saw when they arrived at about 7:45 p.m. and found the building engulfed in flames.

“No one was hurt in the fire.

“The great majority of combustible materials were stored in a nearby building that didn’t catch fire, Bickmire said.

“George Bixler, an official at the company’s home base in Ohio, was asked Wednesday if Kidron would rebuild in Lakeland.

“‘At this point in time,’ he said, ‘we feel that the Florida market is good and we have every intention of trying to serve that market.’

“He said Kidron had been in Lakeland since the mid-1960s and, at last count, employed 42 people.

“Firefighters from Lakeland and Medulla Volunteer fire departments were hampered Tuesday night by insufficient water supplies and water pressure.

“There were only two fire hydrants at the scene and both were fed by the same 6-inch water main. Lakeland Fire Department Cmdr. Lester Mitchell sad that was the equivalent to having only one fire hydrant – and a poor one at that because the water pressure was poor so far away from the city.

“‘Course, if we would have a dozen hydrants we probably wouldn’t have cut down on the loss much because it was pretty well engulfed by the time the Lakeland Fired Department arrived,’ said Fire Department Lt. Julian Green.

“Green said Lakeland firefighters remained at the site throughout the night and returned to the station about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.”

In 1982, Kidron introduced its own new and innovative state-of-the-art refrigerated truck body, followed by a semi-trailer with some of the same advantages, first shown in 1984. By this time, active markets had expanded throughout the U.S. as well as into Canada, Mexico and Central America.

1992 Dunn & Bradstreet listing:

Kidron Inc. (OH) 13442 Emerson Rd, Kidron, Ohio. Mfrs. insulated/refrigerated truck bodies &  trailer bodies; sheet metalwork. Accts Meaden & Moore Inc. Robert L. Sommer chrmn; H Tr 'Ted Lutton, COO Ex VP; John L. Naylor Jr., Sec.; John E. Sommer, VP; Tom Danneiniller, Engr Mgr.; Mark Husted, Cont.; Gene Lindgren Mgr.; George Bixler Jr., Asst Soc.; Fred Arnoff.

On February 8, 1995, Kidron Inc. was acquired by Transportation Technologies Inc., of Washington, D.C., which also owned Hackney & Sons, the premier manufacturer of beverage truck bodies and trailers. That was followed by the 1997 purchase of Hackney Brothers of Wilson, N.C. - like Kidron, a major supplier of insulated truck bodies to the dairy industry. Subsequently, Hackney Brothers products were merged into the Kidron line, giving birth to the Hackney Ultimate model. Bringing these great traditions under a single corporate umbrella, TTI with the Kidron advantage was able to set a new industry standard for customer satisfaction with greater resources and a clear dedication to developing further innovations in product distribution.

In the July 1, 1998 edition of Trailer and Body Builders, Bruce Sauerwrote:

“A larger manufacturing plant has expanded the capabilities of Kidron Inc. in Lakeland, Florida.

“The company had been producing van bodies in a 34,000-sq-ft plant in Lakeland. Relocating to a 120,000-sq-ft plant provides the company with several advantages, including the ability to manufacture trailers.

“Kidron has manufacturing plants in Kidron, Ohio, and Washington, North Carolina. The company has been building van bodies in Lakeland since 1965, but space limitations made it impossible to produce trailers at the Florida plant.

“‘This is the best plant we have for manufacturing trailers,’ says John Sommer, Kidron's executive vice-president. ‘We have analyzed the operations of our other locations and have come up with a plant that really suits our needs.’

“One of the biggest needs was flexibility. Kidron is one of the few major manufacturers that routinely builds trailers and truck bodies on the same assembly line. The Lakeland plant is capable of manufacturing nine-foot van bodies, 48-ft trailers, or anything in between.

“Most of Kidron's production involves insulated van bodies and trailers, but the plant also produces dry-freight vans and some aircraft catering bodies.

“Built-in Flexibility Kidron has done several things to enable the plant to produce vans ranging in length from 9 to 48 feet, 78 to 108 inches high, and 84 to 102 inches wide.

“The plant is set up with two assembly lines, both of which can produce bodies and trailers. The key to the flexibility is found in the fixtures the company uses. The floor fixtures, for example, can accommodate all widths and lengths of floors that Kidron needs to produce. The track welder can automatically lay down a longitudinal weld of any length up to 55 feet. The same is true for the two roofing stations, both of which are 55 feet long.

“‘We had six units in our two roofing stations yesterday,’ Sommer says. ‘All of the bodies were short enough to fit three in each station.’

“The roofing station is a fixed height. To accommodate the different heights of trailers and truck bodies, Kidron lifts them to a convenient working height for those installing the roof. An air hoist lifts the vans to the desired height. To maintain that height during the roof installation process, the vans are placed on pairs of fixtures that move laterally in and out. The closer the stair-step fixtures get to one another, the higher the van can be placed.

“Sides are produced by feeding the aluminum sheet, sideposts, and rivets through a rivet press. The press is wide enough to handle sidewall height requirements, and the CNC press is easily re-indexed to accommodate various lengths and sidepost spacing.

“‘Length is no problem,’ Sommer says. ‘Our sidewall station is 140-ft long. We just keep setting rivets until we've made a wall that's long enough.’

“Self Reliant

“Until the new facility opened last year, the Lakeland operation relied heavily on the main plant in Kidron, Ohio, for the components it needs. That is changing now that the company has a plant with sufficient space and equipment for component production.

“‘This has been a big change for us,’ Sommer says. ‘The money we save by not shipping parts from Ohio to Florida will more than pay for the lease on this building.’

“After moving into larger quarters, Kidron sold the building it previously occupied to Jim Hardee Equipment.

“‘Moving was a real experience,’ Sommer says. ‘At one point, we were building product while we were wiring the building and installing fixtures.’

“The new Kidron plant is part of a long, narrow building located in an industrial park at the Lakeland airport. Kidron leases a 400' x 300' space in that building. In addition, the company has a 300' x 40' overhang and a 4,000-sq-ft paint area. Kidron use the overhang area to install liftgates, bumpers, mudflaps, and refrigeration units. The mild winters of central Florida make it possible for the company to use the area all year long.

“The paint area houses two paint booths-33 feet and 54 feet in length.

“A Year of Change

“The past year has been one of change for Kidron and parent company, Transportation Technologies Inc. Among the tasks the company has undertaken:

* Purchased Hackney Brothers, manufacturers of insulated bodies directed primarily at dairies.

* Closed the old Hackney Brothers Body plant in Wilson, North Carolina, and moved production to the Hackney & Sons plant in nearby Washington, North Carolina.

* Moved into the new plant in Lakeland.

* Implemented a new computer system. The company is in the final stages of converting software from other data formats.

* Trained staff in all plants (Kidron, Lakeland, and Washington) to build cold-plate trailers.

* Introduced a new product-the Hackney Ultimate-that combines the best features of the Hackney and Kidron designs.

“Ultimate Truck Body

“The new Ultimate van is designed for dairy and ice cream products, meat, seafood, frozen food, cut flowers, ice, and other products that are sold on multi-stop routes.

“Bodies range in length from nine to 24 feet. The outside sheet is made of smooth aluminum panels or color-impregnated fiberglass sheet. Inside lining typically is fiberglass with damage-resistant wear strips on the side and front walls.

“Insulated with up to six inches of non-CFC polyurethane foam, the vans are designed to hold temperatures at -20 degrees F on multi-stop routes. They can be equipped with Hackney Vari-Temp and plate systems as well as conventional refrigeration units.

“Grand Opening

“To commemorate the opening of the new plant, Kidron sponsored an open house April 30. The event attracted about 500 visitors and the support of 40 suppliers, many of whom set up tabletop displays promoting their product.

“‘The open house gave us the opportunity to show our customers and vendors the additional capability we have with this new plant,’ says John Sommer Jr. ‘We emphasized our insulated van manufacturing capability. That's our strength.’”

In July 2003 Kidron more than doubled its capacity through the purchase of the former Grumman Olson  truck body plants in Montgomery, Pennsylvania and Tulare, California for pennies on the dollar, the August 25, 2003 edition of Trailer and Body Builders reporting:

“Kidron adds products, manufacturing, and distribution

“Kidron's parent company, Specialized Vehicles Corporation (SVC) has completed a strategic acquisition that has made Kidron one of the largest manufacturers of truck bodies and trailers in North America.

“SVC acquired two additional manufacturing facilities located in Tulare, California, and Montgomery, Pennsylvania - both formerly owned by Grumman Olson.

“The acquisition provides Kidron with over 350,000 square feet of additional manufacturing space, complementing existing Kidron manufacturing facilities in Kidron, Ohio, and Lakeland, Florida. Kidron took immediate possession of the two new manufacturing facilities and work forces, expediting the process of preparing them to produce Kidron products.

“The acquisition marks the culmination of Kidron's business strategy to be a national provider of insulated truck bodies and trailers capable of providing fast service and product deliveries for customers and dealers on both coasts. The acquisition also meets the strategic goal of continuing to expand the Kidron product portfolio with additional product lines. Kidron will now offer insulated truck bodies, dry freight van bodies, cut-away bodies, service bodies and refrigerated trailers.

“It is anticipated that all facilities will produce the entire product portfolio. Kidron has also secured a chassis bailment pool to serve the dealer markets.”

The April 1, 2004 edition of Trailer and Body Builders announced that Kidron's new Montgomery, Pennsylvania facility was up and running:

“Kidron plant opens in Pennsylvania

“Specialized Vehicles Corp (SVC), parent company of Kidron brand truck bodies and trailers, has opened a manufacturing plant in Montgomery PA for Kidron products.

“‘We have an order backlog for almost 300 dry freight units,’ said John May, president of Kidron. ‘Opening this facility will let us meet our customers' expectations and actively solicit new dry freight orders in June that can be delivered in July and August. Subsequently, we intend to broaden our product offering in Montgomery to our full line of refrigerated and dry freight bodies and trailers.’

“Among products now being manufactured in Montgomery is the new Cargo Star dry freight van, introduced at the National Truck Equipment Association's recent Work Truck Show.

“The 235,000-square-foot plant was acquired in July 2003 and retooled to efficiently produce Kidron products. Located at 914 Saegers Station Road in Montgomery, it is staffed and fully equipped for assembly, fabrication, paint, and turnkey service.

“‘This plant, and the jobs it creates, was made possible by a cooperative effort involving governmental entities including the state of Pennsylvania and officials from Lycoming County,’ said May.

“The plant is Kidron's fourth operating facility. Its Tulare CA facility, also acquired in July, was opened in 2003. Other plants are in Kidron OH and Lakeland FL.”

 The March 1, 2005 edition of Trailer and Body Builders prodvided additional details on Kidron's new Pennsylvania facility:

“Special delivery

“It would take $80 million to create what Grumman Allied spent in 1987 on its Montgomery, Pennsylvania, truck body plant, according to the company that owns it now.

“For that price, you would get an automated paint department — complete with multiple robotic painters — and a serpentine conveyor system to move truck bodies seamlessly through the assembly process. You would have a 234,000-sq-ft plant and 34 acres for storing incoming chassis and finished goods. And you would have the infrastructure you need to compete for the next $1-billion order for truck bodies.

“The Kidron Division of Specialized Vehicles Corporation (SVC), however, did not spend $80 million for such a plant. SVC was able to acquire the facility for pennies on the dollar following the liquidation of Grumman Olson in 2003.

“And while Kidron is not planning on a billion-dollar truck body order anytime soon, the company has big plans for using its newly acquired production capacity.

“‘There really isn't another truck body plant to compare with this one,’ says general manager Tom Dolan, a Grumman veteran who worked in the plant during its heyday. ‘This facility was a capital intense structure built by an aerospace oriented company.’

“Grumman's Montgomery plant was a high-octane plant when it was built in 1972 to produce modular homes and motor coaches, but it was turbocharged when the company received the contract to build the LLV (Long Life Vehicle) that the U S Postal Service ordered by the thousands in the 1980s. At its peak, the plant was producing 100 postal trucks per day and up to 50 dry-freight bodies. Automotive-style assembly technology helped make that possible, including an in-floor conveyor system that continuously moved the trucks through the assembly process. Robotically applied paint, part of the automated finishing department, also helped move truck bodies through the plant quickly. Although Kidron is not using the robots, the company says it can paint the typical vehicle in about 10 minutes.

“‘Without that contract for those postal service trucks, none of this would have made any sense. Grumman made a $42-million capital investment in 1987 — about $80 million in today's dollars — to get this plant ready to produce that order. There's no way to justify that kind of expense to build 10-20 van bodies and three or four trailers per day. We were very fortunate to have been able to acquire a facility like this for the price we paid.’

“Grumman Olson had four truck body plants when the company went bankrupt in 2003. When the Grumman assets were sold during the summer of 2003, Kidron was able to acquire two of them — the Montgomery facility and a 146,000-sq-ft plant in Tulare, California. With the acquisitions, the Ohio-based manufacturer now has plants to serve the Midwest, Northeast, South (with its established plant in Lakeland, Florida) and the West.

“‘With plants only in Ohio and Florida, it was difficult for Kidron to compete nationally,’ Dolan says. ‘But the two additional plants make us a lot more competitive.’

“Gearing up for trailers

“The acquisition provides geographic balance for the company, along with greater production capacity. It also makes it possible for Kidron to become a greater player in the trailer business.

“Kidron, a specialist in producing refrigerated vans, has been able to capitalize on the growing trend toward refrigerated delivery trailers. But as the business has grown over the years, so has the size of the trailers the company produces. Kidron currently is using only 40% of the building, giving the company ample room to gear up for trailer production. And with plenty of room between support posts, the building will permit lengthy trailers to move through it smoothly.

“‘Refrigerated fleets aren't content with 28-32-ft local delivery trailers anymore,’ Dolan says. ‘In just the past two years, we have seen a big increase in demand for longer trailers in these applications. Fleets are spec'ing a lot of 48-ft local delivery trailers, and we are building trailers up to 53-ft long.’

“The Montgomery facility began prebuilding parts for trailers in April 2004 and assembled its first trailer in August.

“Tooling for trailers

“Prior to Kidron's acquisition, refrigerated trailers have not been built in the Montgomery plant. The company recently took a major step to increase its production of reefers by installing an insulation press. The press can simultaneously foam both sides of trailers up to 53 feet long and can accommodate all wall thicknesses that the company offers.

“Kidron is equipping its Montgomery plant to be as self-sufficient as possible.

“‘We believe that self-sufficiency offers a lot of advantages,’ Dolan says. ‘It lowers our costs, enables us to offer better quality, and reduces our lead times. Bottom line is that we are better able to serve our customers.’

“Dolan says the plant has the fabrication equipment it needs to produce a wide range of parts and components for its truck bodies and trailers. The plant also is designed to do as much assembly work as possible off-line, with fully completed subassemblies being brought to the main assembly line.

“‘We are still in growth mode here,’ Dolan says. ‘But with the acquisition of this plant, Kidron has the capacity to produce the size and volume of trailers that our customers are demanding. Orders are in place, and we are gearing up to produce a lot of trailers and dry freight truck bodies this spring.’

“Getting started

“Despite the emphasis on refrigerated trailers, the first Kidron product built in Montgomery was a dry-freight van body.

“‘It was simple for us to start with dry-freight vans,’ Dolan says. ‘Grumman had been building them right up until the plant closed. They had discontinued production of stepvans here, but the plant was in good shape to produce dry-freight van bodies.’

“Grumman liquidated in June 2003, and SVC took possession of the plant in July. Kidron spent approximately six months planning how the plant could be adapted to produce the company's product line. Modifications and retooling began in March 2004, and the first Kidron vans produced in Montgomery were delivered in May.

“‘Our first order was for 283 trucks,’ Dolan says. ‘We hit 100% efficiency after building just 42 vans, and we completed the order in 2½ months.’

“Dolan credits an experienced workforce with the plant's fast start. ‘We primarily have long-term employees here,’ Dolan says. ‘We have some recent hires, but a lot of our employees were here when Grumman was producing the LLV order in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Some of them were even here when the foundation for this plant was poured in 1972.’

“‘This plant has had a culture of manufacturing. Grumman was a company that was committed to that idea. If they needed a bulkhead, they would machine it out of titanium and aluminum billets. That approach was true here — we have granite measuring tables and huge press brakes that you just don't see at most truck body manufacturing plants.’

“Dolan was director of engineering at the Grumman Olson plant in Sturgis, Michigan, when potential buyers for the plant began to make inquiries about the Grumman Olson properties. He also had extensive experience with the Montgomery plant during the LLV days.

“‘I met the suitors, including representatives of SVC,’ Dolan says. ‘Some of the potential buyers really didn't understand what this plant is all about. They viewed a lot of the features of this plant as just things that were in the way. We didn't want to have to convince them of the possibilities that this plant could provide. With all the industrial engineering that went into this plant, it would have been a shame for someone to rip out everything and produce for themselves a 275,000-sq-ft box. John May, though (Kidron's president), recognized immediately that this plant would allow us to build what we don't currently build and to be more efficient making the things we do.’”

July 1, 2012 edition of Trailer and Body Builders:

“Company's plant in Kansas builds Hackney and Kidron products

“For the first time since the merger of Kidron and Hackney, the products of both companies are being built in the same plant. Hackney’s beverage body plant in Independence KS has been expanded to accommodate production of the refrigerated van bodies built by Kidron.

“Not every hybrid contains an engine and an electric motor. Take the newly ‘hybridized’ Hackney and Kidron plant in Independence, Kansas, for example.

“It's been almost a decade since two of America's venerable truck body manufacturing companies — Hackney and Kidron — became sister companies. During that time, Hackney plants built Hackney products, and Kidron plants built Kidron products. The two operations mostly shared ownership, rather than manufacturing space. Until now.

“The VT Hackney plant in Independence, Kansas, is the first to house production of both — the beverage body and trailer line that Hackney builds and the refrigerated bodies that are the hallmark of Kidron.

“But Kidron recognized the potential to use the Hackney facility as a manufacturing base for serving the Southwest, and expanded the Hackney plant by more than 50% in order to create space to manufacture refrigerated van bodies.

“In making the move, it is now much closer to major population centers in Texas (now the nation's second-most populous state), along with Colorado, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

“‘We have a good sister company with a well-managed plant here in Independence,’ says John Sommer, executive vice-president. ‘It was a great place for us to invest.’

“Hackney first opened the plant in 1972. Located on 28 acres, the facility consisted of 140,300 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space, along with 6,600 square feet of offices.

“To meet Kidron's manufacturing requirements, the company expanded the main assembly building with a 54,250-sq-ft addition. The chassis and final installation building was enlarged by 18,000-sq-ft.

“The entire process took less than a year. The company broke ground June 14, 2011, and began limited production May 1.

“‘We hired a general contractor to build the building. But other than that, we did the entire project with existing staff,’ says Kevin Spears, plant manager. ‘That includes either finding or building all of the fixtures. And we did it while taking care of the normal Hackney production — at a time when demand for Hackney beverage bodies was really beginning to balloon.’

“Contributors to the project included Jason Scammey, engineer; Steve Potter, production manager; and Ron Hannigan, materials manager.

“Getting ready

“Construction for the expanded facility began July 1 last year. And while the building was being constructed, a group of Hackney employees went to Kidron headquarters in Ohio for training.

“‘We posted a notice to see if anyone would be interested,’ Sears says. ‘We needed nine, and 20 people volunteered.’

“The nine who were selected spent two months in training. Hackney in turn hired nine new people to replace the skilled personnel who transferred to the Kidron side of the plant.

“Sears, a Hackney veteran, also spent time learning the Kidron product. He studied the company's plants in Kidron, Ohio, and Montgomery, Pennsylvania, in search of best practices that could be implemented in Independence.

“The building was completed January 31. However, the plant was far from complete. Fixtures had to be installed, and some plans were changed as people had new ideas. Here is one example:

“‘Kansas is tornado country,’ Sears says. ‘We are required to have a tornado shelter. As we looked at the heavy structural steel that we were using to build our elevated roofing station, it occurred to us that we could use the area beneath the roofing station as our tornado shelter. We put some heavy steel walls around the beams and now have a shelter that is far stronger than what we had planned. More than 70 people can gather beneath our roofing station in the event of a tornado.’

“Significant differences

“Refrigerated van bodies and beverage bodies are two different products with major differences in the way they are manufactured. For example, most of the welding is done on the floors of refrigerated bodies. Beverage bodies, however, involve a significant amount of welding throughout. They also require a fair amount of fabrication — including major alterations to the chassis frame rails.

“For refrigerated vans, insulation quality is key. It is primarily an assembly process with very limited fabrication required. Generally, the bodies are mounted with no significant alterations required on the chassis.

“‘We alter frames every day,’ Sears says. ‘So if we get a chassis for a Kidron order that needs alteration, we are ready to do it. We know exactly what's required.’

“Even the basic material flow is different for the two product lines. Hackney beverage bodies have been and will continue to be stall-built. The plant has six assembly stations where Hackney products are produced. By contrast, Kidron uses a cellular manufacturing approach to produce subassemblies that are fed into an assembly line.

“Ramping up production

“Kidron is only in the first few weeks of production at the Independence plant.

“‘We have a good backlog,’ Sears says. ‘By the end of 2012, we expect to be building 15 bodies a week, and we will be pushing for more.’

“The additional production is well within what the plant is designed to be able to build. When at top speed, the plant should be able to produce seven bodies a day — 35 per week — on a single shift.

“‘We have an experienced workforce here,’ Sears says. ‘Our average employee has 17 years experience with us.’

“A lengthy history

“Much like the people who work there, Kidron and Hackney have been serving their respective markets for many years. Hackney, based in Washington, North Carolina, has been specializing in beverage bodies and trailers for more than 60 years. Beyond that, the Hackney family traces its roots back to England where it built four-wheeled horse-drawn carriages known as Hackney coaches. The first know coach of this type was built in 1619.

“Kidron also started as a family business. Two of the three generations of the Sommer family continue to work there.

“The two companies are now owned by VT Systems (VTS) is an integrated engineering group serving the aerospace, electronics, land systems, and marine sectors. VTS has 5,100 employees worldwide.”

October 1, 2012 issue of Trailer and Body Builders:

“VT Hackney opens plant in Kansas, plans to increase Kidron truck body production

“VT Hackney Inc, a unit of VT Systems Inc, plans to increase production of its Kidron insulated and refrigerated truck bodies by more than 50% per year with its recently opened 70,000-square-foot production facility in Independence KS.

“The facility provides the company the capacity to produce more than 2,000 insulated and refrigerated truck bodies annually.

“Completed in less than a year, the new plant delivers Kidron's ColdShield system, the latest technology used at the plant. A total temperature management system, ColdShield is offered exclusively in Kidron's refrigerated distribution truck bodies and trailers. A critical component of ColdShield is a state-of-the-art foaming system that lets Kidron truck bodies protect refrigerated products by maintaining cold temperatures longer.

“About 250 people attended the grand opening ceremony for the Kidron production facility July 12. Attendees included employees, local business representatives, state and local leaders, and company executives.

“‘This is an historic day for our company, employees, and the city of Independence,’ said Mike Tucker, president and chief executive officer.”

Press Release dated September 25, 2013

“VT Hackney, Inc. (VT Hackney), a company of VT Systems, Inc. (VT Systems), today announced that Kidron Metal Products, specializing in custom manufactured cabs, operator cab enclosures, cabins, and specialty fabrications, has unveiled a new website. will target automotive and original equipment manufacturers seeking to outsource specialized parts and components required to complete finished products.  Kidron Metal Products has developed a niche in manufacturing sectors such as construction, agriculture, rail car, automotive, and utility.

“Tom Dannemiller, Director of Sales and Engineering, Kidron Metal Products, said, ‘Our Metal Products division has flourished since the economy has rebounded. We felt the need to create a stronger brand presence online, while establishing a convenient way for our customers and future customers to communicate with us and learn more about our capabilities.’

“Kidron Metal Products is located in Kidron, OH, and shares production and support services with Kidron Truck Bodies.  Previously, Kidron Metal Products operated under the Kidron Truck Body brand and website.  With the launch of, Kidron Metal Products will also be introducing a new logo to further differentiate the brand to new markets.

“‘Tom and his team have done an outstanding job of building Metal Products and capturing new business.  Kidron Metal Products is now ready to be a stand-alone brand to be more focused in reaching out to a new market of customers and exploring new possibilities in the custom metal products arena,’ remarked Mike Tuker, VT Hackney President.

“VT Hackney, headquartered in Washington, one of the nation’s leading specialty truck body and trailer manufacturers, marketing its products to a diverse group of markets under the leading Hackney and Kidron brands. Today, VT Hackney operates manufacturing facilities in four states and has 24 assembly and service partners worldwide. The company has registered trademarks in 40 countries and serves customers in over 60 countries worldwide.

“VT HACKNEY, a company of VT Systems, is the leading manufacturer in North America for specialized truck bodies and trailers that services multi-stop food and beverage service distributors and municipal emergency rescue departments. With its two leading brands, Hackney and Kidron, VT Hackney specializes in beverage truck bodies and trailers, emergency rescue bodies and trailers, contractor services truck bodies and multi-temperature refrigerated truck bodies and trailers. Please visit

“VT SYSTEMS is an engineering company providing integrated solutions to the commercial and government markets in the aerospace, electronics, land systems and marine sectors. VT Systems’ innovative solutions, products and services include aircraft maintenance, repair and modification; software solutions in training and simulation; satellite-based IP communications technology; network solutions that integrate data, voice and video; rugged computers and computer peripherals; specialized truck bodies and trailers; weapons and munitions systems; road construction equipment; and ship design and shipbuilding. Headquartered in Alexandria, Va., VT Systems operates globally and is a wholly owned subsidiary of ST Engineering. Please visit


“Mr.Tucker's leadership is founded in his many years of experience and success in the food, dairy and beverage industries, developing a strong commitment to top-notch customer service that now benefits Kidron customers. In 1990, he joined the Hackney Division -- like Kidron, also a part of VT Hackney. At Hackney, he held many leadership positions in operations and sales prior to being appointed president in 2001.


“Mr. Sommer is a second generation founding family member and well known in the refrigerated distribution industry. He continues to serve and provide leadership for Kidron, with which he has now been associated for over 50 years.


“Mr. Sommer, a third generation founding family member, works with national accounts and handles the day to day market communications for the company. His previous sales experience in the truck equipment industry includes three years with a leading liftgate manufacturer where he served in various management and marketing positions. Sommer earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration/Marketing from The University of Akron.

“Sommer’s career in the industry started at Waltco Lift Corporation before he joined Kidron in 1998. Throughout his time at Kidron, Sommer has held various management positions in areas of customer service, marketing and sales.  Before his promotion, Sommer served seven years as National Accounts Director. 

“The Kidron brand represents leadership in the industry,” says Sommer. 'We are blessed with an experienced employee base and exceptional sales team. I look forward to the new challenge and continuing the success of Kidron Truck Products.' Sommer is a 1993 business graduate of the University of Akron and continues to live in the Akron area with his wife, Carey, and three children.”

© 2015 Mark Theobald for








James O. Lehman - Sonnenberg, a haven and a heritage: a sesquicentennial history of the Swiss Mennonite community of southeastern Wayne County, Ohio , pub.1969

Mennonite Community Association – The Mennonite Community, Vol 4-5, pub. 1950

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