1947 Streamliner by Alexis de Sakhnoffsky

The aim of this project was to create a 3D computer model of the 1947 Streamliner and, using the geometry obtained, to manufacture a 1/24 scale model of the truck by a computer-controlled CNC milling machine. Measurements taken from the restored 1947 Streamliner were used, however the tractor was modified to accommodate for the original longer wheelbase.

Images showing several stages of the modelleng process (Click on a thumbnail below to view a full-size image)

Final renders (Click on a thumbnail below to view a full-size image)


It is often claimed that the streamlined beer trucks of the late 30s' appeared as traveling billboards since advertising of beer was prohibited in the media [1]. However, it should be noted that the so-called 'Streamline design' was the order of the day. Raymond Loewy successfully applied it to locomotives, long distance busses and automobiles, while design projects of Norman Bel Geddes ranged from airplanes to ocean liners. In fact 'streamlining' became so popular, that it was used to stylize virtually any kind of consumer product, including completely static ones [2]. Moreover, even for the moving objects, their seemingly 'aerodynamic' shapes were mere fruits of imagination of their creators, as actual experiments with wind tunnels were seldom conducted.

Streamlining of trucks was probably started by The Texas Company (later Texaco) already in 1931 [3]. Their 1933 Diamond T-based tanker [4,5], also known as the ﯤlebugॸemplifies the early efforts in streamlining of fuel tanker trucks. This was followed by other companies in the field as well tank body manufacturers. One of the most popular platforms for these trucks was Dodge Airflow, first introduced in December 1934 [3].

Count Alexis De Sakhnoffsky (1901 - 1964) was a prominent industrial designer who had a long association with the White Motor Company. As an assignee for the company he was responsible for designing streamlined tankers based on conventional and coe trucks [6-8]. The design for the first generation of streamliners for John Labatt Limited was patented by de Sakhnoffsky in 1938 [9]. Apparently related to Labatt's streamliners were designs of a trailer patented in 1937 [11] and a tractor in 1938 [11]. However, Labatt's was not the only brewery that operated streamlined vehicles at that time [12].

Four generations of streamliners were built for Labatt's [1,13]. These included semis and vans of similar design. All the designs were drawn by Alexis de Sakhnoffsky. The streamliners were built by the Smith Brothers Motor Works of Toronto. The coachbuilder used Canadian-built White tractors and Canadian-built Fruehauf drop-frame trailers to construct the vehicles [1,13]. The bodies for the units were hand-built of aluminum sheets pined over the wooden frame of white oak and ash [1,13,14].

Labatt's initial order for the forth generation of streamliners was placed in 1941. Original plan included 15 units for Labatt's and one unit for Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, as a vehicle for transporting ponies. Manufacturing was however disturbed by World War II and the work resumed only in 1946. Eventually eleven units were built, ten for Labatt's and one for Princess Juliana [1].

The 1947 Labatt's streamliner was different its predecessors, the trailer was set lower and was rounded at the front and the rear, it also sported a decorative stainless steel dorsal fin. The tractor had a longer 121" wheelbase. The specifications of the streamliner are given in Table I. The vehicle was painted red with distinctive stripes and lettering in golden leaf; the two tone (red/dark blue) paintjob characteristic for the previous generations of streamliners was dropped [13].

1. Bradbeer Dick and Rutledge Donna. The Streamliner - Background. In: Labatt's Streamliner from 1936 to Today, Public Relations Department., Labatt Brewing Company Limited, Toronto, Ontario. Publication year unknown;1-3.
2. Lucie-Smith Edward. The Triumph of Modern Design. Pages 101-111. In A History of Industrial Design. Phaidon Press Limited, Oxford, UK, 1983.
3. Butler Don. 1938 Dodge Airflow Truck. Special Interest Autos. 1988;104:46-49.
4. Kizer Howard W. Design for a Motor Driven Tank Truck. US Patent Des.89,642. 1933.
5. Kizer Howard W. Streamlined Automobile Vehicle. US Patent 2,048,454. 1936.
6. de Sakhnoffsky Alexis. Cab-Over-Engine Fuel Tank Truck. US Patent Des.105,899. 1937.
7. de Sakhnoffsky Alexis. Gasoline Truck Vehicle. US Patent Des.108,269. 1938.
8. de Sakhnoffsky Alexis. Fuel Tank Truck. US Patent Des.108,346. 1938.
9. de Sakhnoffsky Alexis. Combined Brewery Delivery Tractor and Trailer. US Patent Des.109,013. 1938.
10. de Sakhnoffsky Alexis. Semitrailer Body. US Patent Des.106,063. 1937.
11. de Sakhnoffsky Alexis. Tractor. US Patent Des.108,827. 1938.
12. Crane Larry. Streamlines. Automobile Magazine. 1999(July):122-126.
13. Anonymous. New Labatt Streamliner. An article from a 1948 magazine. Full text of the article is found on Walter Millers' website (the Museum of Automobile Art & Design, www.moaaad.org, item Ref# 805).
14. Anonymous. Born Again Labatt's Streamliner. Wheels of Time. 1986(May/June):30-31.
The complete high resolution versions of all patents are available on the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Table I. Specifications of the original 1947 Streamliner
Overall dimensions
Length - 36 ft., 10 in.
Wheelbase of unit - 28 ft., 5 in.
Wheelbase of tractor - 121 in.
Height - 9 ft., 8 in.
Width 8 ft., 5 in.
White Model W.A. 122
Engine - Super Power Model 140A
Displacement - 362 cu. in.
Transmission model 501B, 5 speeds ahead
Rear end ratio 29
Smith Bros. streamlined tilt cab
Air windshield wipers and horn (air)
Anti-jacknife equipment on fifth wheel
Overall length of semi - 28 ft.
Inside capacity of trailer - 825 cu. ft. (approx)
Fruehauf Drop Frame Chassis
Smith Bros. Custom Built body.


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Last update: 20.06.2009
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