It’s not every day you see a milk truck just driving down the street anymore. And, it’s definitely not every day you see a milk truck attempt a 10-second 1/4-mile pass! Trust us, it’s a sight worth seeing! After we watched Mark Cryer’s 1963 Divco milk truck, affectionately named Howie, go down the drag strip during Sick Week, we knew we had to know more.
Back when a lack of good refrigeration meant milk would quickly spoil, milk was delivered to houses daily. As we all know, due to improved packaging and the introduction of more refrigerators and cooling appliances in private homes, the need for milk delivery has all but gone away over the past half-century. What became of all those milk trucks?
Well, milk trucks such as those built by the Detroit Industrial Vehicle Company (Divco), were once as much a part of the American way of life as baseball and apple pie. From 1926 until 1986, Divco produced multi-stop delivery trucks unlike any others. In fact, only the VW Beetle stayed in production with the same basic model for a longer period of time. Today, many people consider Divco as the icon for the multi-stop delivery era.
As mentioned, today it’s rare to see a milk truck driving around in any capacity, so when Mark Cryer and his team showed up to Sick Week in a patina’d 1963 Divco milk truck and a twin-turbo 496 big block Chevy under the hood, you had to be blind not to take notice. Mark found the truck just 10 miles away from his house.
We got the chance to speak with Mark on day 2 of the drag-and-drive event when racing was unfortunately cancelled at Orlando Speedworld due to rain. All competitors still had to show up to the track before getting to cruise on to Gainesville, and many used it as an opportunity to do extra mechanical work on their vehicles – Mark’s team certainly did.
They had just hurt their second transmission in the truck due to torque converter issues and were getting the third one situated when we walked by the pit. He was kind enough to tell us about the big block Chevy they were running and about the truck itself.
“We’re running a 496 big block Chevy with Edelbrock oval port heads, a twin turbo kit that we bought on eBay and a Holley Super Sniper fuel injection system,” Cryer says. “It makes 815 horse and we’ve run a quickest ET of 11.34 at 114 mph. The truck also has a Turbo 400 trans, a Gear Vendor overdrive, and a Ford 9-inch rear end. It’s running pretty good for us, other than having some torque converter problems.”
Utilizing a twin-turbo kit, Cryer told us they run 15-17 lbs. of boost to the big block Chevy, but had to run lighter boost than normal at Sick Week because of the torque converter issues they were having. Mark and his team did a lot of the work on the truck themselves, but did have some help from a few machine shops for the build.
“We use Begler’s Engine Machining near Bourbonnais, IL for all the machine work on the engine,” Cryer says. “They did a really, really good job and we’re very happy with that. Then, the whole build was led by a real good friend of mine, Dave Lindsey, who’s done my race engine for 15 years. He helped put together the components to make sure we had the right combination and it’s worked real well.”
Cryer mentioned that the big block uses a modest rotating assembly and features a Howard’s hydraulic roller camshaft and Crane solid roller rockers up top.
“We had some problems with different lifters from different companies and we’ve gone to Crane solid rollers on the hydraulic cam now,” he says. “We’ve seen some different engine places doing that, so we tried it and it’s working good. We kind of mixed that up a little bit.”
The truck’s big block Chevy engine is one thing, but the milk truck itself is a whole other thing and it rightfully gets a lot of eyeballs. People can’t help but be interested in seeing it, and it looks awesome going down the track.
“It is fun,” Cryer admits. “It’s big. It’s heavy, but it’s very unique and it’s all 100% original patina. There’s a couple panels that we had to replace on it that were really bad. We found it 10 miles away from our house. It took about four years to build it. We gutted the inside of it. We took the whole frame, chassis and drivetrain out. We took all the floor components out and had to rebuild all of that and we completely saved the body. Then, we did our own interior.”
Today, the Divco milk truck goes to events such as Drag Week and Sick Week and blows people’s minds when it wheelies down the track, attempting to make a 10-second pass.
“It’ll wheelie pretty good,” Cryer says. “If everything’s working good, it should be running in the mid-to-low 11-second range. If we get all the bugs out of it by Friday, by the time we get back to Bradenton, we want to turn up the boost. We want to get it into the 10s. That’s our goal. We’d love to run a 10.90 with it.”
Unfortunately, their converter problems continued into the latter half of the week during Sick Week, and the 1963 Divco milk truck had to bow out of Sick Week competition on Thursday in Valdosta, GA. If you have a chance to see this truck yourself, don’t miss the opportunity!
Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor Oil, Elring – Das Original, Scat Crankshafts and Engine & Performance Warehouse Inc./NPW Companies. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].