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J. Tom Moore & Sons, MCT Custom Truck Bodies, Inc.
J. Tom Moore & Sons, 1942-1985; Memphis, Tennessee; MCT Custom Truck Bodies, Inc., 1975-2001; Memphis, Tennessee (office); 1975-1994; Hernando, Mississippi (plant); 1994-2001, Nesbit, Mississippi (plant).
Associated Builders
Griffin Inc.

Although they remained in relative obscurity J. Tom Moore & Sons (and their successor MCT) produced a reported 85% of the world’s armored bank trucks constructed during their half-century in business. Their high-security vehicles transported money, bullion, jewelry and other valuables for Brinks, Loomis, Wells-Fargo, Garda and others using purpose-built International Harvester truck chassis.

The firm dates to 1942 when Memphis, Tennessee truck body manufacturer J. Tom Moore found a waiting niche market constructing armored trucks for Brinks and whose main supplier became engaged in manufacturing war materials. The firm’s initial plant was located in downtown Memphis at 295 Court Ave. across the street from Memphis’ Masonic Temple on property now occupied by the loading docks of the Downtown Elementary School. Moore’s listing in the 1948 Memphis directory follows:

“Alf. T. Moore (Eva; J. Tom Moore & Sons) h 532 Goodland

Alvin Moore (Alma) welder, J.Tom Moore & Sons h 1308 Englewood

Benj. F. Moore (Ida M; J. Tom Moore & Sons) h 476 Goodland

J. Tom Moore (Mabel; J. Tom Moore & Sons) h. 500 Haynes

J. Tom Moore (Claudine) h. 504 Haynes

J. Tom Moore & Sons (J. Tom Moore, B.F. Moore and A.T. Moore), Custom Truck Body Mfrs., Truck Bodies Built, Repaired, Painting, Welding, Auto Upholstering, Seat Covers, Convertible Tops, Truck Cushions Rebuilt and Recovered. 295 court Ave (3), Tel 5-6283 (For further information see page 18 Buyers Guide.”

Brink’s was the first in the industry to reinforce its cars with armor and weapons.  Brink’s vehicles were equipped with .38 caliber revolvers, .44 caliber repeating rifles, 12 gauge shotguns, gas riot guns and sub-machine guns.

As demand increased the firm relocated to a 20,000 square foot facility located adjacent to Memphis’ airport at 2900 Airways Blvd. in the facility currently occupied by the Memphis branch of ABC Supply Co., a wholesale distributor of roofing and siding materials.

The first diesel-powered Brink’s trucks were bought in 1956 for $25,000 each.

They also manufactured hi-lift catering trucks for air carriers, poultry transport trucks and trailers. An offshoot of their armored car business was the construction of mobile banking units and riot control vehicles. A short history of the firm was published in the February 21, 1967 issue of the Nashua Telegraph:

“Memphis Firm Specializes In Building Armored Cars

“By Morris B. Baker

“MEMPHIS – Eighty-five per-cent of the world's armored cars are reported to be manufactured in a 20,000 square-foot plant built on a five-acre site that adjoins Memphis Metropolitan Airport.

“The firm, J. Tom Moore & Sons, Inc., is also said to be the South’s largest manufacturer of custom-made truck bodies.

“When the company was in its infancy a quarter century ago, the late J. Tom Moore looked for an area to create a business that would not be attractive to other manufacturers.

“‘We talked to armored-car operators,’ said B. Frank Moore, president and son of the founder, ‘and found two vital necessities—security of the valuables to be carried and comfort for the personnel. We set out to achieve these goals.’

“Today Memphis-made armored cars transport money, bullion and other valuables in all 50 states and in most countries of the Free World.

“B. Frank Moore has been responsible for innovations now included in every unit made by the company. Among them are laminated construction of door locks for greater strength, improved gunposts and an efficient ventilation system for the interior.

“Each armored car is custom-made to the specifications of the customer and required an average of six weeks to complete. Usually a dozen armored vehicles are under construction at a time.

“The company also builds mobile bank units. They are driven to shopping centers, large manufacturing plants and communities which have no banking service.

“The mobile banks are constructed basically on the order of armored cars but are much more elaborate inside. They have wall-to-wall carpeting, paneled interior walls, fluorescent lighting, air-conditioning and a picture window of bullet-resistant glass that weighs 175 pounds.

“Two persons ride in each car, and, upon reaching the destination, they serve as cashiers. Financial transactions are carried out by sliding drawers of the type used at a bank's drive-in window and communication with patrons is via two-way intercom.

“The company recently signed a $148,000 contract with the State of Virginia to build six maximum protection personnel vehicles for the Virginia State Police. Delivery is to be made by the end of this year.

“International Harvester Co. will build special chassis for these units which will weigh approximately 33,000 pounds apiece.

“The four-wheel-drive vehicles will have armor plating of sufficient thickness to withstand a direct hit by a .30-caliber bullet, three-inch-thick bulletproof windows and a built-in battering ram, capable of knocking down a brick or concrete wall.

“‘If a criminal starts shooting form within a building. ‘ said Felix G. Tanner, sales manager, ‘one of these vehicles can move in, knock down a wall, if necessary, and open fire on the gunman without endangering police personnel in the car.’

“In addition to being a volume builder of armored cars, J. Tom Moore & Sons is one of the largest builders of specialty truck bodies in the nation.

“Its units range from a trailer built for a casket manufacturer to carry and display four caskets to the bodies used by food-catering firms that serve the airlines. The catering units can be raised hydraulically to a height of 13 feet for easy access to the service doors of jet aircraft.

“‘We don’t know of any company that comes close to building the variety of trucks today that we do,’ said William C. Moore, also a son of the founder and current executive vice-president and general manager of the firm.

“‘One customer wanted a horse transportation van with a walnut paneled interior. We had never heard of horses being transported around the county in such a luxury vehicle but we build what the customer wants and this customer got his walnut paneled horse van.”

An article in the August 25, 1967 Harrisonburg Daily News Record provides more details about the Vehicles constructed for the Virginia State Police:

“Massive Armored Car For State Police Rolled Out

“Memphis (AP) – They rolled out Thursday the latest weapon the Virginia State Police will be using if civil disorder hits that state – a massive battleship class armored car designed to withstand a major attack.

“The Memphis firm building six of the huge vehicles for Virginia says the one unveiled Thursday is the only one of its type especially designed for police department use.

“The manufacturer terms the bullet-proof trucks ‘maximum personnel protection vehicles’ and each one costs in excess of $35,000. The air conditioned truck carries eight officers.

“The Virginia State Police have had armored cars for a number of years. But W.C. Moore, vice-president of J. Tom Moore & Sons, says his firm has never been called upon to construct a police vehicle of the heavy-weight type now being made for Virginia. The Moore firm is a major manufacturer of armored cars.

“Moore says police departments can easily find uses for armored cars. ‘Had the Austin, Tex., police had one of these vehicles available when Charles J. Whitman stationed himself atop the 27-story tower on the University of Texas campus Aug. 1, 1966, they presumably could have stopped him before he shot 44 people, killing 14 of them,’ he said.

“Many man-hours of engineering went into the new vehicle in the Moore drafting rooms, which like the plant are kept closed to the public by a platoon of security guards.

“The aim was to make the new vehicle nearly invincible.

“Precautions were taken against the truck being overturned by a mob. The entire lower edge of the body has steel finger-piercing barbs. Even without the barbs, it would not be an easy matter to topple the 30,000-pound vehicle.

“The gasoline tanks are inaccessible except when the driver opens his door. All windows have three-inch laminated glass capable of stopping a .30 caliber armoring-piercing ammunition.

“For added protection, the driver can hydraulically lower a steel plate across the windshield. The radiator is protected from any bullet punctures by armored louvers controlled by the driver.

“The truck has all-wheel-drive, six 14-ply tires, with 10 forward and two reverse speeds, and is powerful enough to ouch a car out of the way or go straight through a brick or concrete block wall.

“It also has a winch to pull obstacles from its path.

“Like a tank, the weight of the vehicle prevents it from winning any road races. Its top speed is 45 miles per hour.”

A J. Tom Moore & Sons mobile banking truck was pictured in the August 1967 issue of Popular Science with the following caption:

“Instant money from instant bank

“Mobile banks now serve shopping centers, industrial plants, and towns without banks. Wood paneling and fancy drapes add dignity, but that teller's window is of bullet-resistant glass. The builder is J. Tom Moore & Sons, Memphis, Tenn.”

Moore & Sons passed down to Rick Moore's father, William C. Moore, who sold it to a Fort Worth-based conglomerate in 1975.

William C. Moore took the proceeds and organized a competing firm, MCT Custom Trucks Bodies, Inc., at 3155 Industrial Dr., in Hernando, Mississippi, his son Rick taking over the helm as president. The  February 3, 1992 issue of the Memphis Business Journal revealed that at the time 70% of its sales come from armored truck bodies.

In 1985 the firm survived a chapter 11 bankruptcy and within the decade it was purchased by John Halstead who transferred MCT’s operations to a leased facility 4 miles to the north of the Hernando plant - adjacent to Interstate 55/69 - at 60 Pleasant Hill Rd., Nesbit, Mississippi. Unfortunately, succees did not follow and MCT had vanished from industry directories by 2001.

Coincidentally another leading armored bank vehicle manufacturer was founded by a former Moore employee named Elon Griffin (b.1926-d.2010). He left the J. Tom Moore & Sons in 1969 founding his own firm, Griffin Inc., in Byhalia, Mississippi. Griffin retired in 1994 and sold the firm to its current owner Greg McKay who has transformed it into one of today’s leading manufacturers of armored vehicles in the cash transit industry, manufacturing vehicles for Brinks, Loomis and others.

©2013 Mark Theobald for







Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark - Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942

C.F. McKivergan - Armored Trucks In Business, The Rotarian, March, 1937 issue

Bruce Hansen - Rolling body armor: fortified trucks keep cash safe, Memphis Business Journal, February 3, 1992 issue

Brinks Armored Trucks - Wheels of Time (American Truck Historical Society), March-April 1996 issue

Frances Levison – Brink’s, Movers Of Money, LIFE, June 25, 1945 issue

Money On the Move: Brinks Armored Trucks, This Old Truck, Vol. 4 No. 1, March-April 1996 issue

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