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Columbia Mfg. Co.; Columbia Carriage & Wagon Wks; Columbia Carriage & Auto Wks; Wentworth & Irwin; Columbia Body & Equipment
Columbia Mfg. Co., 1901-1906; Columbia Carriage & Wagon Works, 1906-1910; Columbia Carriage & Auto Works, 1910-1917; Wentworth & Irwin, Inc., 1917-1960; Columbia Body & Equipment div. of Wentworth & Irwin, 1960-1994; Columbia Body Mfg. Co., 1994-1997; Portland, Oregon; 1997-present; Clackamas, Oregon
Associated Firms
G.M.C., Doane, Atterbury, Nash, A.M.C., American Motors

Older Portland, Oregon residents may recognize the name Wentworth & Irwin as being that city's American Motors dealership which was located at 1005 W. Burnside from 1941 to 1987. The firm's involvment in motor sales dated to 1912 when the Columbia Carriage & Auto Wks began selling motor trucks to residents of Washington State and Oregon. They started with Atterbury (1912), then GMC (1914), Doane (1917) and Samson (1919). They also distributed Beeman and New Britain tractors and in 1922 established a stand-alone Nash dealership at 21st and Washington Streets, Portland. For many years were one of the northwest's largest manufacturers of logging trailers. All signs of the firm are gone save for the former Nash-AMC building at the corner of 10th and Burnside that's currently the home of Powells Books. The firm's truck body business survives in the southern Portland suburb of Clackamas, where the Columbia Body Mfg. Co. manufactures heavy-duty dump bodies and trailers for the region's municipalities and contractors.  Of particular interest to transportation enthusiasts are a series of streamlined bus bodies constructed by the firm in the mid-1930s, several of which were of the 'Newell-type,' or 'deck-and-a-half' style that predominated in the Pacific northwest. The Columbia trailers mentoined in this article are unrelated to those made by their neighbor to the north, the Columbia Trailer Co. of Vancouver, B.C.

Our firm's history can be traced to a wagonmaker named Samuel B. McBride (b. Aug. 1837 -d. May 3, 1918) , who in the 1880s established his own carriage works, S.B. McBride & Co., at 4th ave. and Madison street.

Samuel B. McBride was born in Jefferson, Indiana during August of 1836 to Henry (b.1788-d.1862) and Elizabeth (Todd – b. 1792-d.1882) McBride. Siblings include Amanda (b.1826 –d. 1855) and John Wallace (b.1831 – d.1867) McBride. After serving his apprenticeship with a blacksmith in Monroe County, Iowa he moved to Albia, Iowa where he married America Jane McIntire (b.1836 – d.1922), and to the blessed union was born five children; Wilson G. (b.1857), Maryetta (b.1859), *Ella Etna (b.1862–d.1965); Bertha B ( b. 1865) and Hadden S. (b. June 25, 1873) McBride.

(*After she retired, Ella moved to Seattle where she gained fame as a fine art photographer.)

The 1860 US Census lists him as a 'wagonmaker' in Albia, Monore County, Iowa. In 1867 the McBride family headed west, the 1870 US Census listing them in Wadsworth, Washoe County, Nevada, his profession listed as 'carpenter'. McBride moved further west in the early 1870s, first to Albany, Oregon, and finally in 1874 to Portland where the experienced wagonmaker found plenty of work constructing wagons, trucks and carriages for the city's businessmen.

The 1890 Portland Directory lists S.B. McBride & Co., (Samuel B. McBride, Daniel G. Snuer) carriage makers, cor. 4th and Madison. He later moved his business to 330 Third Ave., and in 1902 relocated to 290 Front street were he established the Columbia Manufacturing Company, the firm's name referenced the large river that divides Portland with its neighbor to the north,Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Its listing in the 1903-1906 Portland Directories follows:

“Columbia Manufacturing Co., (Samuel B. McBride, pres., Joseph A. Ryan, sec.) wagonmakers, 290 Front.”

In 1906 Charles G. Irwin (b. Jul. 24, 1879 – d. May 19, 1954) acquired an interest in the Columbia Mfg. Co. from its secretary, Joseph A. Ryan, becoming a junior partner to founder, Samuel B. McBride. They reorganized as the Columbia Carriage Mfg. Co., which was listed in the 1907 Portland directory:

“Charles G. Irwin, sec Columbia Carriage Mfg. Co., res. 724 E. Burnside

“Columbia Carriage Manufacturing Co., S.B. McBride, pres., C.G. Irwin, sec, Wagonmkrs, Water ne cor. Market.”

Charles Granger Irwin was born on July 24, 1879 in Port Huron, Fort Gratiot Township, St. Clair County, Michigan to Charles H. (a customs inspector b. Apr. 1841 in England – d. Jan. 10, 1904) and Alice (b. August 1841 in Canada) Irwin. Siblings included five sisters: Sarah (b.1863 in NY), Ellen (b.1866 in MI), Alice (b.1870 in MI), Ethel (b.1873 in MI), Florence (b.1878 in MI), and Harrison S. (b.1881 in MI) Irwin.

1900 US Census lists his parents in Detroit, but no listing for Charles Granger, who was now living in Sacramento, California where he worked as a clerk for Waterhouse & Lester, Inc., 709-715 J Street (Sacramento), a San Francisco-based distributor of carriage materials and hardware, hardwood lumber, iron, steel, and coal, carriage trimmings, tops and cushions (E.W.A. Waterhouse, pres.; A.A. Waterhouse, v-pres.; Seymour Waterhouse, sec; Wells Fargo Bank, trea.) with offices in Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose (all Calif.) and Portland (Oregon).

On February 4, 1903 Irwin married Harriett Green (b. Jan. 1, 1883 – d.1981) at Sacramento, California. Harriett Green was born Jan. 1, 1883, in Sacramento, Calif., to& Ely L. and Mary Everett (Reed) Green. The newlyweds relocated to Portland where Irwin took a position with the Portland branch of Waterhouse & Lester, his listings in the 1904-1906 Portland Directories follow:

“Charles G. Irwin, slsmn., Waterhouse & Lester, res. 365 13th.”

In 1907 McBride and Irwin reorganized the firm as the Columbia Carriage & Wagon Works, the 1908-1910 Portland directories list the principals as follows:

“Chas. G. Irwin, sec-treas Columbia Carriage & Wagon Wks., h. Rockspur Or.

“Columbia Carriage Manufacturing Co., S.B. McBride, pres., C.G. Irwin, sec-treas, 330 Water St. (cor. Market).”

In December of 1910 George G. Wentworth (b. April 30, 1870-d. May 30, 1940) bought out McBride’s share of the business which was reorganized as Columbia Carriage & Auto Works, the January 9, 1911 issue of Oregon Daily Journal reporting:

“To Whom It May Concern:

“Notice is hereby given that on the 19th day of December, 1910, the Columbia Carriage works filed with the Secretary of State supplemental articles of incorporation changing the name of the said corporation to the ‘Columbia Carriage and Automobile Works’ and increasing the capital stock thereof to ten thousand dollars. C.G. Irwin, Secretary.”

George Gannett Wentworth, was born in San Francisco, California on April 26, 1870, to Joshua Jackson (an engineer, b. 1827 in Maine-d.1913) and Ariana Matilda aka Mary (Gannett, b. 1831 in NH - d.1923) Wentworth. His father, Jackson G. Wentworth, was one of the pioneers of San Francisco, having gone to California, by way of Cape Horn, in 1849. Siblings included Mary (b. 1864), Anna (b. 1866), and Charles J. (b. 1868) Wentworth.  George G. Wentworth received his education in the public schools of San Francisco and from 1888—95 was employed as a salesman by the Hawley Mason Hardware Co. in that city. In 1895 he entered the service of the Honeyman Hardware Co., 4th SW cor. Alder, Portland, Ore., as manager of its tool department and in 1896 married Anita B. (b. Sep. 23, 1870 in S.F. Calif. – d. 1944). To the blessed union were born two children, Charles W. (b. Aug. 1897) and Jackson G. (b. Oct. 1898) Wentworth.

McBride and Ryan returned to business at the same time, the February 19, 1911 issue of  The Oregon Daily Journal:

“Three New Companies Launched

“Three articles of incorporation were filed yesterday in the office of county clerk: Columbia Manufacturing Company, S.B. McBride, J.D. Honeyman and J.A. Ryan, capitalization $5,000.”

Wentworth handled the sales and Irwin managed the 6-man shop, the bulk of their business being the construction and repair of wagons, goose neck drays and carriages. In late 1911 they also took on a franchise for Atterbury trucks and the construction of truck bodies and trailers gradually became the firm’s focus.

1911-1916 Portland directory lists:

“Columbia Carriage & Auto Wks., (George G. Wentworth, pres., Chas. G. Irwin, sec-treas.) 209 Front St.

“George G. Wentworth, pres., Columbia Carriage & Auto Wks., 209 Front St, h. 791 Johnson

“Chas. G. Irwin, sec-treas Columbia Carriage & Auto Wks., 209 Front St., h. Rockspur Or.”

The firm's listing in Chilton's 1913 Vehicle Yearbook follows:

“PORTLAND. — Columbia Carriage and Wagon Works, 209-211 Front St. G. Wentworth, president; Chas. G. Irwin, secretary, treasurer, general manager and purchasing agent.”

The September, 1913 issue of 'Up To the Times' Magazine provides evidence that the firm was one of the first to construct motor buses on the West Coast:

“Pendelton will be the first city in the West to have auto street cars. G. F. Baker, who has been operating a taxi-cab service there, is having two 25-passenger auto buses built in Portland by the Columbia Carriage company and they will be delivered before September 15. He plans to operate them on all paved streets with ten-cent fares.”

The May 10, 1914 issue of the Oregon Daily Journal annoucned the firm's appointment as a GMC distributor:

“Portland Becoming Coast Truck Center; Practically Every Well Known Make Has Representation in This City

“Portland is fast becoming the truck center of the Pacific northwest. Practically every well known truck made in America has substantial representation in this city. The latest acquisition is the General Motors company truck line, said to be the most complete built by any manufacturer in this country. This concern builds both electric and gasoline trucks ranging from 1000 pounds capacity to five tons, with a price radius of from $1200 to $3100.

“W.H. Barnes, the factory representative, recently placed the agency for this line of vehicles with the Columbia Carriage and Auto Works, located on Front street. The territory covered by the local concern includes the entire state of Oregon and the counties in Washington bordering on the Columbia river. The men at the head of the Columbia Carriage and Auto Works, G.G. Wentworth and C.G. Irwin, are both well-known young business men of this city and have been in the carriage and wagon business for many years. Several years ago they took the agency for the Atterbury truck and succeeded in selling quite a few of them in this territory, but as the Atterbury people did not build a complete line of vehicles, and demand for carried sizes grew, the local men decided that the General Motors company would give them a much large field to operate in and therefor took that agency.

“The General Motors Company, in addition to building trucks, also owns the Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile and several other makes of pleasure cars that are represented in this territory.”

The September 27, 1914 issue of the Oregon Daily Journal mentioned a fleet of International-chassised buses recently constructed by the firm for the Pendleton Auto Street Car company:

“Automobile Street Cars Used For First Time in Pacific Northwest

“The first real automobile street cars to be placed in service in the northwest were shipped from Portland to Pendleton, Ore., the first of last week and were introduced to the public as the Pendleton Auto Street Car company Thursday, the opening day of the Round-Up.

“G.K. Parker of Pendleton is at the head of the transportation company that has inaugurated this method of street railway service in Oregon. The chassis on which the street car bodies are built were purchased from the International Motors company of this city and the body work was done by the Columbia Carriage & Auto Works. The cars have a seating capacity of 40 people each and have a pay-as-you-enter arrangement in order that the driver of each machine may also act as conductor. In this way the services of one man are utilized as motorman ad conductor.

“Auto street cars have been run with great success in other parts of the country for several years and from this initial step of the progressive eastern Oregon people there is no reason why, in a short time, many of the smaller cities throughout the northwest should not be served with street car service of this nature.”

The May 23, 1916 issue of the Oregon Daily Journal included an article detailing the firm's operations and the costs associated with purchasing a light truck body:

“Nothing The Matter With Portland

“The Columbia Carriage & Auto Works, 209-211 Front street, has not been proclaimed from the housetops, yet it is paying the 30 people employed in its 50 x 100 four story and basement building more than $500 a week for their services.

“It has been in operation 15 years and has grown, like a human being, from infancy to a robust, healthy, muscular institution.

“Its announcement reads that it builds automobile street cars, busses and sightseeing cars, hearses, ambulances, delivery cars and commercial rigs of every description, and rebuilds private cars to suit the wishes of anyone. For example, the Journal representative saw a large private car being changed over into a small hotel. Its owner will soon start out on a tour of a considerable portion of the country, and the car is being changed into a living room, like a davenport, into a bedroom, and if the party should take a notion he may carry a gasoline stove along and board himself and guests. It will be not only a comfortable and complete car in which to travel, but will have a most attractive appearance.

“Prices Seem Moderate

“Open delivery beds are built upon cars for $20; a canvas bow-top delivery bed, 43 inches long, 40 inches wide and 50 inches high, with canvas bow-top over bed and seat, back and side curtains, capable of being converted into a runabout by removal of three bolts in bed, $50; strong bow-top delivery bed, considerably larger than the last mentioned, with five inch flare board on either side, back and side curtains, windshield rods, tail lamp bracket, horn bracket and cushion, rear doors or end gate and cushion, $100, and panel top delivery body, 60 inches long back of seat, 40 inches wide, 54 inches high, handsome fore doors, rear doors or end gate and curtain, one front side storm curtain, fender brackets, lamp bracket and cushion, $115. These are merely samples of the cost of auto equipment work, where it is done on a large scale, as in this establishment. A fine auto hears for an Oregon city undertaker was being completed, a Salem banker’s beautiful car was being remodeled according to its owners own ideas and wishes, making it very handsome and different from any other, probably, in the state, and there were others in different stages of manufacture which were destined for Baker and for points in Idaho and northern California.

“All Kinds Of Bodies Built

“‘We do a great deal of work for garages,’ C.G. Irwin, manager, said, ‘and for business houses generally. We have recently completed four auto deliveries for Meier & Frank, one for the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph company, an immense truck for Doernbacher Furniture Manufacturing company, and one each for the Columbia and Saito Fish companies. We find the business men of Portland exceedingly loyal to our industry. This is what has enabled our concern to grow so substantially. Today we are overwhelmed with orders. Our business is 100 per cent greater than at this time last season, and we are booking new orders daily. The city commissioners, however, do not treat us so graciously, and for the life of me I cannot understand why. They patronize agents of eastern manufacturers buying the same vehicles we could sell them at no higher prices, thus sending Portland money east to support institutions having no interest whatever in this city. The council recently bought a couple of street flushers. Suppose an accident should happen to one of these. The agency here is closed, and it would be at least two weeks before repairs could be obtained.

“‘Our business covers a broad field, Oregon, Washington and Idaho would naturally be our stamping grounds, but we reach into Montana and northern California. Our equipment is so complete we are enabled to compete in quality of work and prices with any factory anywhere, and this fact is becoming well known to the public.

“Material Scarce

“‘One difficulty, however, confronts all workers in our line at present, and that is the scarcity of material. It is almost impossible to procure sheet steel, even at tremendously increased prices charged for that commodity. Happily we had been buying in large quantities and had a big stock on hand when prices began to soar. That supply, however, is gradually ‘fading away,’ and orders placed months ago have not been filled. I fear our stock will be exhausted before we receive a renewal, which, I understand, will be a month or more. We have similar difficulty in securing aluminum, of which we use considerable. For business reasons, if for no other, we all will be glad when this European war is ended.’

“The transactions of this concern amount to from $180,000 to $200,000 a year. G.G. Wentworth is president of the company, and he devotes all his time to its interests.”

Columbia Carriage and Auto Works listing in the 1915-1917 Portland Directory follows:

“Columbia Carriage & Auto Wks., (George G. Wentworth, pres., Chas. G. Irwin, sec-treas.) Agents, G.M.C. Trucks, Mfrs. Auto Bodies and Wheels, 209-211 Front, Tel Main 2892.”

In 1917 Columbia Carriage and Auto Works firm reorganized as Wentworth & Irwin, their entries in the 1918 Portland Directory being:

“Columbia Carriage & Auto Wks. succeed by Wentworth & Irwin Inc.

“Chas. W. Wentworth, purchasing agent, Wentworth & Irwin Inc., r. 1130 E. Flanders.

“Geo. G. Wentworth, (Anita B.) pres. Wentworth & Irwin Inc., h.1130 E. Flanders.

“Wentworth & Irwin Inc., (G.G. Wentworth, pres., C.G. Irwin, sec-treas. –mgr.) Agents for G.M.C. Trucks and Tractors, Mfrs. of Auto Bodies, Tops, Wheels and trailers, 200 2d., cor. Taylor, Tel Main 2892.”

The April 15, 1917 issue of the Oregon Daily Journal announced the frim was moving to larger quarters:

“Wentworth & Irwin Take New Quarters

“Wentworth & Irwin, local distributors of the GMC and Doane trucks, have acquired a more convenient location at the southeast corner of Second and Taylor streets, where it is the intention of the firm to maintain one of the best truck service stations on the coast.

“A ten-year lease has been secured and the building, which is a two-story brock, 100 x 100 feet, will be remodeled. The plant and equipment of the present location will be moved to the new quarters and a show room will be one of the new features.

“For the past six years Wentworth & Irwin under the name of Columbia Carriage & Auto Works have occupied quarters on Front street near Taylor which was in the midst of the old wholesale district.”

The April 25, 1917 issue of Motor World announced that Wentworth & Irwin were now carrying the San Francisco-built Doane ‘Low-Bed’ Truck:

“Wentworth & Irwin, Portland, Ore., formerly the Columbia Carriage & Auto Works, have taken over the agency for the State of Oregon for the Doane truck, manufactured in San Francisco.”

The May 5, 1917 issue of the Oregon Daily Journal provided a few more details in regards to Wentworth & Irwin's new digs:

“Carriage & Auto Works Will Move

“The Columbia Carriage & Auto Works, now located at 209-211 Front Street, is fitting up a new place on second street between Taylor and Salmon, in the premises formerly occupied by the Monarch Paper company, and will move its big plant to this spot about the first of June.

“The business of the company, owned by G.G. Wentworth and C.G. Irwin, is growing rapidly. The concern will take hold of an ordinary auto and convert it into a first class truck.”

The June 16, 1917 issue of the Oregon Daily Journal announced that the firm had completed renovations on their new place of business and were moving in:

“Wentworth & Irwin Occupies Fine New Factory Building

“Carriage and Auto Works Reincorporates Under Names of Its Owners

“It is 16 years since the Columbia Carriage and Auto works came into existence, a mere baby industry employing two or three workers.

“One year ago, Messrs. Wentworth & Irwin were employing 30 people in the 50 x 100-foot four-story building at 209-11 Front street.

“And now the Columbia Carriage and Auto works has gone out of existence, its owners substituting their own names and incorporating under that of Wentworth & Irwin; has removed to the two-story 100 x 100-foot building at the southeast corner of Second and Taylor streets, increased the mechanical forces, and the new firm is doing a business of from $50,000 to $60,000 a month. The structure in which the company is now located has been completely remodeled, a finely appointed office has supplanted the antiquated enclosure of the former place, daylight permeates every inch of the interior, and the working force is supplied with all the refreshing ozone it can consume. The first floor accommodates the fine machinery outfit of the plant, and the second the woodworking and finishing department. Below automobiles and trucks in every conceivable shape and condition are received, repaired, remodeled or rebuilt, as may be desired or be necessary, and upstairs are made to appear as new. Models of a few years ago are transformed into the very latest creations, as if they were 1917, or even 1918 styles, and their owners can, if they are members of the Ananais club, safely assure their neighbors that they have invested in a brand new car.

“The G.M.C. trucks are Wentworth & Irwin productions. They are known for their strength and low prices. At this time the company is completing a 20 passenger car for Columbia Highway traffic, the handsome body of which is mounted on one of these.

“From a business of $8,000 to $10,000 a year 16 years ago, the company has grown to from $500,000 to $600,000 per annum.”

The July 1, 1917 issue of the Oregon Daily Journal announced that Wentworth & Irwin were manufacturing their own line of Columbia 1-ton truck extensions, which were marketed to owners/purchasers of Ford Model T and TTs:

“Firm Specializes in Truck Attachments

“Modern commerce demands methods of transportation which will combine speed and large carrying capacity at a minimum cost of operation. Motor transportation, of the several methods now employed, has received a great deal of attention by prominent manufacturers to achieve this end.

“There are many types of vehicles in the market, all catering their merits to the buying public. But of the cast numbers, truck attachments and trailers afford the most economical equipment.

“In order to meet this demand Wentworth & Irwin, formerly the Columbia Carriage & Auto Works, about a year ago started to manufacture a truck attachment on order only, and since that time the demand has been so great that the firm decided to make a special business of this line and organized a department under the direction of Fred Canfield. The attachment is of one ton capacity and has been called the Columbia truck attachment. Wentworth & Irwin have recently occupied new and enlarged quarters at Second and Taylor street.”

The firm also specilized in the rebuilding of wood-spoked wheels and were included in the 1918 Automotive Wood Wheel Manufacturer’s Association directory as an 'Official Wood Wheel Service Center.' In early 1918 Wentworth & Irwin began distributing the GM-built Samson Sieve-Gripp tractor, the January 31, 1918 issue of the Oregon Daily Journal reporting:

“Nothing the Matter With Portland by H.S. Harcourt

“‘We are employing 38 persons, our payroll is between $800 and $900 weekly, we do a business of between $600,000 and $700,000 a year, we are incorporated, and our capital is only $10,000.’ Said C.G. Irwin of Wentworth & Irwin company, formerly Columbia Carriage & Auto works, now located at Second and Taylor streets.

“It was 17 years ago that this concern started in business, and for a number of years it was located at 209-211 Front street. It outgrew these quarters, however, and about six months ago the 100 x 100 feet two story brick building at the southeast corner of Second and Taylor streets was secured. The structure was completely remodeled and fitted up in modern fashion. It had been occupied as an automobile top factory and the second story as a rooming house. All the upstairs apartments were removed and the wood working department of the big plant, engaged in the construction of auto trucks and the repairing and rebuilding of trucks and automobiles, occupies that floor.

“When the Columbia Carriage & Auto works came into existence, 17 years ago, large capital was not so necessary as now. This was probably the reason that this enterprise was founded in a $10,000 basis, and as its profits have paid for its extension, the corporation papers have never been changed and its capital stock increased. Its business has had to do, until very recently, only with the building of trucks and automobile, hearses, delivery rigs, etc., but lately it has added tractors to its list.

“‘It is not boasting,’ said Mr. Irwin, ‘to declare that we have found a coast invented tractor, the Samson, simply perfection in its line. It seems to embody all the attractive qualities of these very necessary farm devices, and we are selling great numbers of them. This is one of those cases in which good things are bettered by new though and adding genius, and this is why our tractor has so early in its life become so strong as favorite with those who have familiarized themselves with it many improvements over the ordinary.’

“Mr. Irwin is the business manager of this concern, and Mr. Wentworth superintendent of the manufacturing end. The latter is found right in the heat of the battle, so to speak. He is among those who are ‘doing things,’ and apparently with all their strength. They are operating a regular machine shop, wood working machinery and paint and varnish works. If it ever happens that a forlorn appearing ‘gas wagon,’ seemingly without a friend, is brought to the place, Mr. Wentworth sees to it that when it departs it is spick and spruce. His workmen make then shine.”

The November 1, 1920 issue of Motor West announced that Wentworth & Irwin had been awarded a repeat contract to produce mail wagon bodies for the US Post Office Dept.:

“The Post Office Department has again awarded to Wentworth & Irwin, Inc., manufacturers, and distributors GMC and Samson trucks, the contract for building all United States mail wagon bodies for the territory west of the Mississippi River. The Government purchases motor trucks without bodies and turns them over to Wentworth & Irwin to build the bodies according to specifications. This business last year amounted to $75,000. This is the third consecutive year that this firm has won the award.”

The March 23, 1918 issue of the Oregon Daily Journal announced that Wentworth & Irwin were going to construct 50 lumber semi-trucks and trailers for the hauling of high-grade old-growth spruce (called 'airplane timbers' as they were being used to construct air frames for the US and its Allies):

“Fifty Trucks Being Fitted For Camps

“The Wentworth & Irwin company, Second and Taylor, are fitting out 50 10-ton gas trucks for use in the spruce camps of Oregon. Their reaches are made of second growth fir trees larger than six-inch stovepipe, and 40 to 50 feet long. Airplane timbers will be loaded on the trucks to be hauled to places of loading on the railroad.”

The June 25, 1919 issue of the Oregon Daily Journal reported that Wentworth & Irwin had received yet another contract to supply the US Post Office Dept. with motor bodies:

“Portland Firm Gets Half Million Dollar Federal Contract

“One of the really important automotive transactions of the season in Portland is reported by Wentworth & Irwin, G.M.C. truck distributors and body builders, who have received a contract from the government for building mail trucks, the deal representing a consideration of about half a million dollars.

“The trucks are part of the equipment purchased by the government for war purposes. The decision to convert them into mail carriers followed the signing of the armistice.

“The Wentworth & Irwin shops at Second and Taylor streets, will be materially enlarged to handle the big job. New equipment will be installed, and a considerable force of men will be given employment on the work.”

The firm was lsited in the 1920 Portland directory under 'automobile bodies':

“Wentworth & Irwin Inc., (G.G. Wentworth, pres., C.G. Irwin, sec-treas. –mgr.) Agents for G.M.C. Trucks and Tractors, Mfrs. of Auto Bodies, Tops, Wheels and trailers, 200 2d., cor. Taylor, Tel Main 2892.”

In 1920 Wentworth & Irwin began distributing Samson trucks, tractors and farm equipment, another firm recently purchased by General Motors Corp. The
January 23, 1921 edition of the Oregon Daily Journal announced that:

“Body Building is Big Industry in Portland

“One of the largest builders of truck bodies is Wentworth & Irwin, at Second and Taylor streets. An immense plant has been set aside by this firm for the building of trailers, bodies, tire work and other skilled operations connected with motor car and truck work, and a considerable space has been devoted to body building alone. This firm turned out about 400 truck, bus, stage and hearse bodies last year, 180 of these being on Commerce truck chassis for use of the post office department in rural free delivery and city hauling work in connection with the mails.

“The company has been operating here for 14 years in body building alone, and some $35,000 in capital has been set aside for this kind of work. In normal times 40 men are employed in woodworking, blacksmithing and painting in connection with this part of the company’s activity. No passenger car bodies at all are manufactured.”

In 1922 Wentworth & Irwin began distributing New Britain light duty farm tractors which were manufactured in Connecticut by the New Britain Machine Co.  Wentworth & Irwin's business had expanded to where they required an increase in capitilzation from $50,000 to $100,000, the‘Notices of Increase in Capitalization’ column of the December 28, 1922 issue of the Oregon Statesman (Salem) reporting:

“Wentworth & Irwin, Portland; $50,000 to $100,000.”

In 1923 Wentworth & Irwin purchased the Nash Automobile Distributorship for the five western states from the Portland Motor Car Co. The new Nash store was located across the Williamette river at the corner of 21st Ave. and Washington street, its listing in the 1923-24 Portland directory being:

“Wentworth & Irwin Inc., (G.G. Wentworth, pres., C.G. Irwin, sec-treas. –mgr.) Agents for G.M.C. Trucks and Tractors, Mfrs. of Auto Bodies, Tops, Wheels and trailers, 200 2d., cor. Taylor, Tel Main 2892. Nash distributors 21st and Washington, Tel Main 2892.”

The December 16, 1924 issue of the Oregon Statesman (Salem) included a large display ad for Wentworth & Irwin’s second Nash dealership, the Kirkwood Motor Co., which was located at 246 State St., Salem, Oregon:

“Wentworth & Irwin, Inc., Announces Kirkwood Motor Co., the new dealers for Nash Motor Cars for Marion and Polk counties. A firm whose record measures up to the high ideals and standard of service of Nash Motor Company. We also announce the showing of the full line of 1925 Nash Sixes at the show room of the Kirkwood Motor Co., 246 State Street. Wentworth & Irwin, Inc., Portland, Ore.”

The April 5, 1925 issue of the Oregon Statesman (Salem) covered a visit to Salem, Oregon by Geroge G. Wentworth's son Charles W.:

“Nash Distributor Visits The Kirkwood Motor Co.

“Charles W. Wentworth, member of the firm Wentworth & Irwin, Inc., of Portland, Oregon distributors for Nash automobiles was in Salem Friday conferring with Fred Kirkwood of the Kirkwood Motor Company, Salem Nash dealers who have just opened up in their new location at the corner of Commercial and Chemeketa streets. Mr. Wentworth is very enthusiastic over the new Nash models and says that his company thinks that they are extremely fortunate in having the Kirkwood Motor Company for the Salem distributors. ‘The company have a wonderful place now at their new location and certainly can do justice in displaying our cars,’ said Mr. Wentworth.”

George G. Wentworth’s other son, Jackson G. Wentworth, who was also identified with the Wentworth & Irwin organization for a number of years, passed away in 1925.

The September 4, 1926 issue of the Oregon Statesman (Salem) included a large display ad for F.W. Pettyjohn Co., Salem’s new Nash distributor, who had taken over the 365 N. Commercial street premises formerly operated by Fred Kirkwood’s Kirkwood Motor Co.:

“Announcing F.W. Pettyjohn Co., Nash dealers displaying the new Nash Advances Six, Special Six and Light Six models.

“It is a genuine privilege and pleasure to announce that the F.W. Pettyjohn Company have assumed Nash representation in Salem for Marion and Polk counties.

“Wentworth & Irwin Inc., 21st and Washington Streets, Portland, Oregon.”

The F.W. Pettyjohn Co. was far more successful than their predecessor, and in July of 1927 opened up a satellite facility at 133 Second street, Albany, Linn county, Oregon.

Among Wentworth & Irwin’s numerous innovations was the first use of brakes on logging semi-trailers, which previously relied only on the semi-tractor’s brakes to slow down. At one time or another they used two different addresses for the trailer works; 123 Oregon St. and 327 Oregon St., properties that were later acquired by the City of Portland for the construction of the Oregon Convention Center. Wentworth & Irwin were also using the 'Wentwin' trade name on their trailers and bus bodies, as evidenced by their listing under the 'trailers' heading in the 1929 edition of Chilton’s Directory:

“Wentwin — See Wentworth & Irwin. Wentworth & Irwin, 327 Oregon St., Portland, Ore. 'Wentwin.'”

A 1932 issue of Power Wagon reveals that Wentworth & Irwin were constructing 3-ton semi-trailers for Seattle, Wash. and Portland, Ore.-based Consolidated Truck Lines, Inc.:

1932 – “From the very first, the company realizes the absolute need of good trailers on the long-distance hauls, and at present owns 72 trailers, all of three-ton capacity. Each trailer, of course, doubles the hauling capacity of the truck, with very little extra operating expense. The 72 trailers include 35 locally built Wentworth and Irwin trailers, five Fageol semi-trailers, 20 Sterlings, six Trailmobiles, and six Utility trailers.”

George G. Wentworth retired in 1932, leaving his son, Charles W. Wentworth, (born in Portland in 1896) to carry on the family business. In 1922, after a short stint in the US Navy, C.G. Wentworth was united in marriage to Ann Dowd, of Portland, whose father, James Dowd, was one of the early settlers of that city. To the blessed union were born two children, Patricia Ann, and Charles W. Wentworth jr.At that time Charles W. was manager of the firm's Nash distributorship which was located at Twenty-first and Washington streets, Portland. The 70,000 sq ft., 2-story, 200 ft. x 75 ft. facility included a splendid show and sales room, offices, and complete parts, service and repair facility.  A combined 100 persons were  employed at Wentworth & Irwin's G.M.C. truck distributorship (200 2d Ave., cor. Taylor St.), and 'Wentin' body works (123 Oregon St.).

Wentworth & Irwin built an unusual 1933-34 Ford tractor and semi-trailer bus who's tractor was remote-controlled from the trailer by the driver. The 'Tri-coach' system was built under license from its inventor, George W. Yost, the proprietor of Seattle's Suburban Transit System. 

As the Yost family owned a Ford dealership their stage line had easy access to Ford equipment, which was often used to in its early days to transport passengers over the line of the Yost Auto Co. Yost’s long experience in the automobile and surface transport business made him somewhat of an authority on what type of equipment was most in demand and in 1932 he designed a novel articulated coach that mated a Ford cowl and chassis with a passenger trailer via a fifth wheel.

Originally constructed by Heisers, Inc., the prototype 'Tri-Coach' utilized a 98" short-wheelbase 1 1-2-ton 4-cylinder Ford cowl and chassis, with the 'fifth wheel' suspension mounted about 18 inches forward of the power axle. The driver's seat was inside of the passenger coach. The Tri-coach prototype was featured in a 1932 Standard Oil Bulletin:

“A Bus Conceived in Seattle

“Now in the service of the Suburban Transportation System, which operates busses between Edmonds, Richmond Beach, Lake Forest Park, Des Moines, Lake Burien, and Seattle, is a new type of motor-coach developed by that company, whose manager, George W. Yost, conceived it. As the accompanying illustrations show, it is of the truck-and-trailer type. Because of its comparatively light weight (7700 pounds), a four-cylinder Ford motor serves to give it ample speed and power.

“The truck is a standard Ford truck having a shortened wheel-base, its rear axle equipped with double wheels. Upon it is mounted a fifth-wheel, which supports the forward end of the passenger body, or trailer, in turn support toward the rear by a wide trailer axle that is equipped with brakes and dual rear wheels.

“Of the numerous advantages claimed for this motor-vehicle, our correspondent notes the following: its design permits a reduction in height; the elimination of all machinery from under the passenger section makes it possible to have a bus but one step off the ground, the low center of gravity thereby- achieved resulting in easier riding and reduced side-sway, as compared with busses having greater clearance. Also, it is asserted, there is an elimination of body twists, which is accomplished by the three-point suspension. This bus can complete a turn in a fifty-foot circle. The coach body, which is steam-heated, is of steel and aluminum, constructed by Heisers, Inc., of Seattle. Castings for the fifth wheel were manufactured by the Western Gear Works, also of Seattle, and the truck chassis was adapted to this special use by the Yost Auto Company, local Ford dealers. The weight and cost of this Seattle creation are asserted to be about half that of other busses of equal carrying capacity. It was planned and built with the idea of producing a bus that will render satisfactory service with a reduction of cost in operation. If, after an extended try-out in actual service, it meets the expectations of the designer and operators, others like it may replace those that constitute the present fleet of the Suburban Transportation System.

“It is operated exclusively on Standard Oil products, and its ten wheels, not including the fifth, appear to be a sweet potential market for Atlas tires.”

The Tri-coach was not the first trailer-bus of its type, back in 1929 aviator Glenn H. Curtiss had designed and constructed a series of nearly identical 5th wheel trailer buses that were put into service by the Transportation Co., Dallas, Texas and the Miami Beach Transportation Co. in Miami, Florida. In 1934 the Highland Body Co. of Cincinatti, Ohio offered their own take on the semi-trailer bus called the 'Highland Acticulated Coach' using equipment supplied by Trailmobile.

Yost’s Ford semi-trailer coach was also featured in the ‘What’s New IN THE BUS MARKET’ section of the February 1933 issue of Bus Transportation:

“Look! A Semi Trailer Coach

“Powered by a Standard four-cylinder Ford Truck which was shortened to a 98” wheelbase, a semi-trailer bus is being operated experimentally in service on the lines of the Suburban Transportation System, Seattle, Wash., George W. Yost, general manager of this organization is the inventor of this new type of coach and the body firm, Heisers, Inc., are the creators of this special all-metal body. The semi-trailer seats 26 passengers with full standing headroom for 20 more.”

In 1934 an improved Tri-Coach powered by a flathead Ford V-8 was put into operation. Yost's semi-trailer coach proved so successful that by the end of the year Suburban Transportation System elected to replace its conventional motor coaches with Tri-Coaches, acquiring 3 more in 1935, 3 more in 1936, and 4 more in 1937.

Due to pressure from larger motor coach manufacturers the Washington State Legislature passed a new traffic code in 1937 which made it illegal to carry passengers for hire in a trailer in the State.

Suburban Transportation System fought the new legislation, claiming its Tri-Coaches were not 'trailer buses', however they agreed not to build any more Tri-Coaches and the 12 coaches currently in service were 'grandfathered in' and remained in use into the early 1940s.

July 19, 1935 issue of the Oregon Statesman:

“Tractor Delivery Trucks Purchased

“Approximately 9,400 hours of labor for northwest workmen has been provided by the purchase of four new, modern tractor and semi-trailer type gasoline delivery trucks by the General Petroleum corporation, according to H.M. Williams, Salem manager for General. This is one of the first times gasoline trucks have been purchased and manufactured in this area.

“This makes a total of eight units purchased in the northwest by General recently, four others having been completed a few months ago. All units were manufactured in the Kenworth Motor Truck corporation and Wentworth & Irwin, Inc. Portland and Seattle plants.

“Total cost for the four new units was in excess of $24,000 according to Williams. Each unit has a 2,400-gallon capacity, 10 wheels and is painted in the special General Petroleum green.”

Wentworth & Irwin built some bi-level buses in the mid 1930s that were used to transport both passengers and cargo. The rear passengers sat over a large cargo hold located over the rear half of the bus.

They also built some mid-thirties airport limousines on customer-designated chassis. One rare example was built using a stretched 1935 DeSoto Airflow chassis for the Mount Hood Stages, one of the very few Airflows known to have been modified for commercial use.  The Heiser deck-and-a-half coaches of 1934-1938 were constructed in two series, the first 100 series was constructed on ACF/ Kenworth bus chassis with a traditional front engine –rear drive arrangement. It was replaced in 1936 by the 700 series which featured a nearly identical passenger compartment with a completely streamlined front-end. The center-mounted Hall-Scott 6-cylinderwas cooled with air intakes in the lower side panels. At least two (2) 100 series were constructed and ten (10) 700 series, the latter in two different lengths. The latter series worked through World War II and were photographed in 1943 dropping off passengers at Camp Harmony, a Japanese Interment Camp located in Puyallup, Washington.

In 1937 Wentworth & Irwin began construction on a Kenworth-chassised motor coach, that was outfitted with the latest in emergency response equipment. Financed by Aaron M. Frank, the scion of Portland's Meier & Frank dept. store, and named for Portland's first fire marshall, the $30,000 'Jay W. Stevens Disaster Service Unit' made its public debut on March 29, 1939 on the stage of Portland's Municipal Auditorium. The vehicle could carry as many as 7 injured patients and included a small emergency operating theater, portable generators, flood lights and a public address system with broadcast capabilities. A brochure issued at the event listed the vehicle's capabilities:

“...equipped to handle not only fire, but all such diasasters as train wrecks, plane crashes the collapse of tall buildings, bridges or elevators; shipwrecks, highway disasters, snow slides, ,earth slides, floods, jail breaks, riots, epidemics, explosions, mine or tunnel diasasters, storms...”

When completed the innovative vehicle (now touted as costing $40K) toured the west coast, the September 29, 1939 issue of the San Bernardino County Sun reporting:

“Disaster Service Car To Be Exhibited in City

“The Jay W. Stevens Disaster Service unit of the Portland, Ore., Bureau of Fire will be exhibited in San Bernandino tonight from 6:30 to 8:30  in front of the Munipal auditorium, it was announced yesterday by Fire Chief C. Neal Niday, of San Bernadino.

“Fully equipped with every type of tool, device and machine that might be used in life saving or first aid in an emergency, the $40,000 streamlined car is the first of its kind in the United States.

“Constructed by experts under the supervision of Aaron M. Frank of Portland and donated by him to the Portland Fire Bureau of Fire on March 15, 1939, the unit will arrive in San Bernadino at 5 p.m., escorted by California Highway Patrol officers.

“It will be open to public inspection in front of the auditorium. The mayor and city council, as well as San Bernandino insurance men, will meet at 6:30 to go through the unit.

“Manned by a squad of six specially trained firemen, the unit has been on display at the National Fire Chief's convention at San Francisco and at the State Fireman's convention at Monterey. It is being returned to Portland, where it operates out of the central fire station. 

“The unit contains no fire fighting equipment, but is solely for the treatment of persons injured in emergencies of any nature or magnitude. It contains portable power plants and communication equipment.

“In recognition of the many years of outstanding work by Jay W. Stevens, in fire fighting and fire prevention, the unit has been named in his honor. Mr. Stevens served for many years on the Portland fire department.”

Bodies for the Portland Fire Department’s 1938 Fageol and Kenworth pumpers and chemical apparatus were assembled in Wentworth & Irwin's shops at a cost saving of some $21,000 over pre-built apparatus according to Portland Fire Commissioner Earl Riley. Wentworth & Irwin also constructed a special body for use by State of Oregon's Dept. of Forestry, theAugust 15, 1937 issue of the Oregon Statesman reporting:

“Truck for Forest Fire Use Received

“Will Tour State, Then Be Kept Here for Service in Woods of State

“A new fire truck, embodying the latest in fire-fighting equipment, has been delivered to State Forester J.W. Ferguson by the Wentworth-Irwin company of Portland.

“The entire equipment is carried in enclosed compartments constructed in the body, Tools include shovels, axes, hazel hose and saws sufficient to equip 60 firefighters. In addition there is a 550-gallon capacity tank. Three pumpers are provided.

“One of these is a power take-off with capacity of 130 gallons per minute while the truck motor is idling. It is possible to pump either from the tank or stream. The two other pumpers are the portable type Y Pacific Marine with a capacity of 60 gallons per minute each. Other equipment includes 30 feet of suction hose, relay reservoirs, pump cans and auxiliary gas tanks for the pumpers.

“Seat Eleven Men

“There also are electric lanterns for night forest fire fighting, first aid kits and miscellaneous equipment. Seats are provided in the truck for 11 men.

“The truck is painted red with chrome nickel railings. The design ‘Forest Department, State of Oregon’ is painted in large letters on each side.

“Following a tour of the state which will include most of the association units, the truck will be returned to Salem headquarters where it will be available for emergency calls.

“Eventually it is proposed to obtain several units.”

The school bus used on 'Leave It To Beaver' Television series from 1957-1963 was a 1940 Kenworth Model 610 with a Wentwin (Wentworth and Irwin of Portland, Oregon) body. It was originally sold to Taft School District in California through Bakersfield Garage and Auto Supply in 1940, and was later traded to Crown Coach Incorporated, who subsequently resold it to T & T Bus Service. Its serial number is 50900, and was equipped with a Hall-Scott 190 gas engine.

George G. Wentworth died in Portland, Ore., May 30, 1940, the July 15, 1940 issue of Automobile Topics reporting:

“George G. Wentworth, president of Wentworth & Irwin, Inc., Nash distributor of Portland, Ore., died last week at the age of 70.”

As the firm's customers were relegated to the Pacific Norwest, they rarely advertised outside of the region, although occasional ads such as the following were placed in Western Trucker:

“Passenger and Freight Carriers

“The most convincing evidence that Wentwin ‘Engineered Transportation’ is a recognized quality in coach, bus and trailer building is the great number of carriers bearing the Wentwin shopmark. Operators have learned it pays to standardize with Wentwin.


“The New WENTWIN Coach

“The New WENTWIN Pusher Coach for Portland Stages, pictured above”

During its first 40 years in business the firm's workforce increased from 6  to over 200, with a similar increase in floorspace from 10,000 to 175,000 sq. ft. Besides holding the distinction of being the oldest agency in the western United States distributing General Motors trucks, the firm's associated 'Wentwin' coach works specialized in the construction of heavy duty, custom-built trucks, rollers, and  trailers used to transport logs from the forests of the Northwest to the mills, its Wentwin (later Wentworth & Irwin) trailers being especially popular in the lumber industry.

Wentworth & Irwin's G.M.C. distributorship maintained full service departments for maintenance, reconstruction, and parts replacement for the General Motors lines of trucks, and the Wentwin body works maintained its own design, engineering, plate, machine, body, blacksmith, woodworking, trim, and paint shops for the manufacture and repair of the motor coaches, truck bodies and trailers.

During WWII Wentworth & Irwin constructed a number of war worker trailers for west coast firms such as Kaiser, Pacific Car, and Boeing that were engaged in large military contracts. Pulled by a tractor cab & chassis the semi-trailer buseswere often converted from existing new car carriers, or built from scratch. Similar bus-trailers were constructed in the midwest by Shult and Fruehauf.

Post War the firm continued to build its popular line of bodies for fire apparatus, trailers for log-haulers and a new line of dump bodies.

Founder Charles G. Irwin passed away on May 19, 1952, the June 1952 issue of Western Trucker reporting:

“Charles Granger Irwin. 74, founder of Wentworth & Irwin, Inc., manufacturer of trucks in the Pacific Northwest, died May 19 at a hospital in Portland, Ore. He was president of the firm he founded 51 years ago. He established the firm with the purchase of the Columbia Carriage Works which he converted to manufacture of truck bodies. He was soon joined by George Wentworth as a partner. Mr. Wentworth's son, Charles W. Wentworth, now is vice-president and general manager of the company. Mr. Irwin was born in Detroit, Mich. He is survived by his wife, Harriett, Portland, Ore.: a sister, Mrs. Henry Schleason, Oakland, Calif., and several nieces and nephews.”

In 1961 Wentworth & Irwin reorganized its commercial body and trailer division as the Columbia Body & Equipment Co., Logger and Lumberman West magazine reporting:

“Name Change:

“Wentworth & Irwin, Inc.’s industrial division has changed the name of this division to Columbia Body & Equipment Co. According to C. W. Wentworth, president, the new firm name coincides with new and expanded services and manufacturing facilities which offer truck dealers, fleet owners and individuals complete transportation exactly designed for the needs of the men and the products carried.”

Period advertisments list the Columbia Body & Equipment Co. division of Wentworth & Irwin, Inc., at 123 N.E. Oregon St., Portland, Oregon.

Now president of Wentworth & Irwin Inc., Charles W. Wentworth felt the future lay in retails automobile sales and in the mid-1950s sold their GMC distributorship to Portland-based DSU (Diesel Service Unit) which was founded in 1945 by Jim Montgomery, Bill Prothero and Wally Yost.

Wentworth retained his Nash distributorship into the modern era when Nash became Rambler then American Motors. Charles W. Wentworth Jr. took the reins of the family business in the 1960s, and in 1969 brought some much-needed publicity to the firm through a pair of AMX drag cars. Prospective car buyers were invited to come to the firm's 1005 West Burnside dealership to see the 'AMX  Wheel Stander... an engineering job they said couldn't be done.'

In 1978, when a struggling AMC bought back its franchise, then-president Charles Jr. bought a Chevrolet dealership in Portland. His sons, Greg, Scott and Bob Wentworth - the fourth generation - had joined the business in the 1970s, and in 1982, Charles Jr. bought a Buick dealership in Eugene, Ore., two hours south of Portland.

Charles W. Wentworth Jr. passed away in 1992, and Greg, Scott and Bob Wentworth were faced with sharing control of a business that for decades had been run by their father and grandfather. They elected to sell off their commercial body building subsidiary which had re-located to an 18,000 sq. ft. facility at 5525 S.W. 28th St. in 1989, due to the construction of the Oregon Convention Center.  In 1994 Tom Scranton purchased the Columbia Body & Equipment Co. reorganizing it as the Columbia Body Mfg. Co., which in 1997 relocated to a new modern facility loacted at 10037 S.E. Mather Rd., in the southern Portland suburb of Clackamas. The December 1, 1997 issue of Trailer/Body Builders Magazine featured an article on the firm written by Mark Nutter:

“Columbia Body Manufacturing Is Revived, Product Line Redesigned

“Tom Scranton is leading Columbia Body Manufacturing Company to the position it once held as a major West Coast dump body manufacturer.

“In the early 1970s and 1980s, Columbia dominated the dump body market within 100 miles of Portland, Oregon, Scranton says. The company had about 80% of the market. Scranton and the Hanel family purchased the company in 1994 and are establishing a strong market position.

“The biggest step Columbia Body took toward regaining its spot as a market leader is moving into a new location in 1997. The company moved from a cramped 18,000-sq-ft building into a renovated 60,000-sq-ft building on a 6 1/2-acre site in Clackamas, near Portland.

“'The lack of space reduced our gross profit margins,' says Todd Lessner, chief financial officer at Columbia. 'We lost price discounts because we didn't have enough storage space for quantity purchases of parts. Production was restricted because of space limitations and man-hours spent repositioning work in progress.'

“Increasing Efficiency

“Overall efficiency has increased dramatically in the new plant, Lessner says. Besides having over three times more space, Columbia invested in new machinery and plant equipment.

“The new equipment includes a 250-ton press brake, a 1/2-inch shear that can handle material up to 12-ft long, a metal worker, 26 welders, three plasma cutters, drill presses, and band saws. New bridge cranes span almost every square foot of plant space.

“Columbia purchased a new paint booth 54-ft long, 18-ft wide, and 18-ft high. The paint booth is equipped with gas dryers that can raise the temperature inside the booth to 180 degrees F.

“'This company is laying the groundwork for more production capacity,' Lessner says. 'Everything, including office equipment, tools, and machinery, was upgraded to take us into the year 2000.'

“When it moved into its new offices, Columbia installed a Digital NT server with 14 personal computer work stations and a local area network (LAN), Scranton says. A database program is being incorporated with a CAD program.

“'Incorporating the database and CAD programs will provide the long-term benefit of being able to automatically predict cash flow and track inventory,' Lessner says.

“Computer-Aided Sales

“In the future, sales orders will be entered into Columbia's computer system via laptop computers equipped with modems. After an order is entered, the computer database will allocate inventory for each Columbia product so the same components are always used.

“'We will realize greater economies of scale because Columbia will always be purchasing the same components to build its products,' Lessner says.

“With its new production facility, the company is already expanding its share of the dump body market, Scranton says. Occasionally, Columbia sells its dump truck and trailer combinations to customers located 500 miles from Portland.

“'Columbia's reputation for top quality was rooted in a labor force that included some of the best fitter welders on the West Coast,' Scranton says.

“Now, rather than relying on fitter welders to build its products, Columbia is using more welding fixtures, says Terry Potter, an engineer at Columbia. Welding fixtures provide better product consistency.

“'When it comes to building dump bodies, we're getting away from a job shop approach to more of a production line process so every welder doesn't have to be a fitter,' Potter says. 'We don't want a product totally dependent on one employee.'

“By using more welding fixtures, Columbia was able to streamline production and reduce the setup time needed to weld a workpiece, says Potter. Other changes reduced production time such as standardization of parts.

“Dump Body Designs

“The Columbia dump body design has a distinctive look with concave sidepanels on its truck body and pup trailer. Between the concave sidepanels and inner wall on the dump bodies and pup trailers is a 3/4-inch space. This air space insulates hot products such as asphalt and provides a clean exterior appearance since loads cannot damage the exterior concave sidepanel.

“In the 1960s, Columbia began building this dump body and pup trailer combination, incorporating a sidewall, top rail, and bottom rail formed from one piece of steel. After Scranton purchased Columbia, he immediately began redesigning the pup trailer.

“The frames of the pup trailer and dump body were overbuilt, Scranton says. For strength, the original design had extra crossmembers and bracing.

“'It was a sound design, but we found through engineering analysis that the benefit didn't outweigh the weight gain,' Scranton says. 'The original pup trailer and dump body designs hauled more metal around, and it really wasn't doing anything.'

“The new dump body and pup trailer frame is 30% stronger and uses eight-inch T-1 steel frame rails instead of 10-inch frame rails, Scranton says. This helped reduce by 600 lb the weight of the new truck and trailer combination compared to the original design.

“Stronger, Lighter Bodies

“Columbia's tub-shaped elliptical body is 600 to 900 lb lighter than the company's original dump body, Scranton says. Dump bodies built by Columbia are made of 3/16- by 1/4-inch Formalloy steel with a 400 brinnel hardness made by Oregon Steel Mills in Portland.

“'Formalloy is easier to form, and it maintains its hardness and yield strength after bending,' Scranton says.

“Columbia purchases steel in the maximum length for its dump bodies. This is more cost effective than purchasing several different lengths of sheet from the steel mill.

“'The cost of five different lengths of pre-cut metal sheet can outweigh the forming costs,' Potter says. 'We're trying to reduce machinery setup costs for different body lengths. The company is trying to budget more money for jigs, fixtures, and tooling.'

“Standard Width Frames

“Another major change Scranton made was switching to a standard 34-inch wide frame for the dump body and pup trailer. Dump bodies in the assembly process can now be mounted on either a truck or trailer frame.

“The side height of the new dump bodies was reduced, Scranton said. Columbia Body's engineers determined the center of gravity was too high on the dump body.

“'The overall design now has more stability,' Scranton says.

“A minor change Scranton made to the pup trailer was switching to cast steel undermounted spring hangers, he said. On Columbia's pup trailer, the most extensive changes were made to the drawbar. Scranton designed a hinged drawbar to replace the drawbar previously used on the pup trailer.

“Because the new drawbar is hinged and has a spring-loaded double-acting cylinder on each side, it absorbs the harmonic motion when hauling a heavy load on a rough road, Scranton says. The cylinders in Columbia's proprietary dampening system allow 5 1/2 inches of travel when the drawbar moves up or down.

“The build time for dump trailer drawbars was reduced by using a welding fixture thus eliminating a long setup time, Potter says.

“'But we increased the build time by adding two hours for Huck-bolting a glove reinforcement and bracing in the drawbar,' Potter says.

“Better Drawbar Design

“Columbia's drawbars are designed so the Huck bolts and glove reinforcement handle fatigue while the welds provide additional strength, Potter says. Gussets are Huck-bolted inside the drawbar where it attaches to the trailer.

“The drawbar design was first tested on two truck-and-trailer combinations Columbia built for Randalls Sand & Gravel in Puyallup, Washington. The truck-and-trailer rigs are used primarily off-road in rock quarries. In this severe service, Columbia's drawbars are holding up well compared to traditional fixed drawbars found on most pup trailers.

“Besides its drawbar, other design work at Columbia has concentrated on new products such as the five- to six-yard dump body for single-axle chassis, Scranton says. This dump body is being manufactured primarily for installation by Columbia distributors.

“Scranton's redesign of Columbia's truck-and-trailer combination has been an on-going process since 1994, he said. During this process, Columbia has been producing limited quantities of truck body and trailer sets a year.

“'Production was limited until we could have enough history to validate our engineering and design work,' Scranton says. 'Now we can release our drawbar and frame design into full production.'

“Production Increasing

“Since Scranton purchased the company, Columbia has increased production every year. In 1994, the company built 40 dump truck-and-trailer combinations. In 1995, it built 60. In 1996, Columbia built 150, and in 1997 the company expects to build 400 dump truck-and-trailer combinations.

“Each year since 1994, Columbia's gross sales have doubled, Lessner says. Columbia's sales result in an annual profit before taxes.

“'Because of our increased production capacity, we expect this upward trend to continue,' Lessner says. 'One of the benefits of Columbia's increased capacity is that the company can accept larger contracts.'”

According to the February 3, 2003 issue of Automotive News the Wentworth's automobile dealerships survive as follows: Greg Wentworth, (then 54) is president of Wilsonville Chevrolet, Wilsonville, Oregon; Scott Wentworth (then age 49) is president of Wentworth Buick-Pontiac-GMC, Portland Oregon; and Bob Wentworth (then age 47) is president of Wentworth Chevrolet-Subaru., Portland, Oregon.

© 2014 Mark Theobald for







F. Lockley - History of the Columbia River Valley from the Dalles to the Sea, pub. 1928

Barry Provorse & Alex Groner - Paccar the Pursuit of Quality, (2nd ed) pub. 1996

Doug Siefke - Kenworth: The First 75 Years

George Derby & James Terry White - The National Cyclopædia of American Biography, pub. 1958

Brian K. Johnson & Don Porth - Portland Fire & Rescue, pub. 2007

Karalynn Ott - Dealers Respond: 4 generations, 100 years, but what's next? Family Ties; Automotive News, February 3, 2003 issue

Ryan Corbett Bell - The Ambulance: a History, pub. 2009

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