Chapter 22
The End of Gar Wood

    With the Gar Wood product line completely overhauled, the end of the decade could have been a time for the company to grow and increase its market share. Most of the other unprofitable divisions had been sold, allowing concentration of engineering and development on refuse bodies. And the engineering effort had been fruitful: the troublesome T-series and LP-800 were long gone, replaced by the rugged and popular LP-900. The FL-3000 had finally given them at least a toehold in the front loader field, and the all-new (if un-orthodox) Ten Hundred was a bold and forward-looking design.

    Despite the improved outlook, the decision was taken to permanently shut down Gar Wood manufacturing operations in the United States. The refuse bodies created by Fred Smith were well designed and securely patented by Sargent Industries, and the portfolio would be licensed around the world to the highest bidders. 1978 would be the last year of full production at the Enterprise, Alabama assembly plant.

    On April 6, 1979, a licensing agreement was reached with The Heil Company, granting them exclusive rights to manufacture and sell most of the former Gar Wood product line in North America. This agreement was not a "buyout" of Gar Wood Division as is often erroneously reported. Heil did not purchase the Enterprise factory in the deal, which was closed down permanently. The Gar Wood tooling was advertised for sale in June of that same year. It was shipped to Germany, where it was used to build licensed models for the European market.

    The end came after 40 years of building compaction refuse trucks, and for most of those years Gar Wood was the industry leader in sales. The company had achieved many important engineering 'firsts' in refuse body history. Founder Garfield Wood had invented the hydraulic hoist in 1911, which led to improved dump-type refuse trucks. The 1937 Load-Packer broke open the American market for compaction refuse trucks, and dominated the industry for many years afterward. They built the first rotary-sweep refuse packer in 1957 (LP-500), and the first unitized refuse truck in America (T-100), the latter model also pioneered the use of the swing-link packer system in rear loaders. An unprecedented engineering program during the Sargent years made Gar Wood the most innovative company in their field. Their very last model, the ill-fated Ten Hundred, was at least a decade ahead of its time with its curved-shell body. For generations of operators, Gar Wood was the first name in refuse bodies. Although the company is now a distant memory, it is fitting that its legacy lives on under various brand names around the world to this day.

    Although the Gar Wood name had vanished forever in America, the legacy lived on as licensed production continued worldwide under numerous other manufacturers. The following describes some of the more notable examples built from 1978 to the present.



The Heil Formula 5000 is easily identified by vertical body bracing, compared to slanted pillars of the LP-900

    Despite controlling the Gar Wood patent rights for North America since 1979, The Heil Company has built only the LP-900 rear loader, renamed the Heil Formula 5000. The vertical body pillars easily differentiate the Formula 5000 from all other versions of this design, which use forward-slanted posts. It replaced the high-compaction Colectomatic Mark V, which had been embroiled in a lawsuit filed by the Leach Company of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Unverified rumor suggests that the FL-3000 front loader was also considered for production as a Heil model. However, like the Ten Hundred, the Gar Wood front loader design would never see production again in the USA.

    If Heil had not been in the market for a high-compaction rear loader to replace the Mark V, the future of the LP-900 design may have been quite different. Sargent may have sold the rights to any number of established American manufacturers, or even to an upstart company. Ultimately, the outcome was good for both Sargent and Heil, and cemented Fred Smith's LP-900 as one of the greatest rear loader designs of all time. In regular USA production from 1972 to the present, it recently reached another milestone of some renown: counting the LP-900 and Formula 5000 as a single body design, it has now been manufactured longer than all previous Gar Wood models combined, from the first Load-Packer to the Ten Hundred.


    Beginning in the late 1970s, the firm of Scapa Engineering Ltd., Blackburn, started manufacturing Gar Wood refuse equipment, eventually producing the entire product line including the LP-900, LP-10 00 and FL-3000. By the latter half of the 1980s, the license was obtained by Aspinall Engineering, which actually resurrected the old Gar Wood logo, long after it had disappeared in the United States. Following the liquidation of Aspinall in 1993, this practice continued under the stewardship of Laird, Anglesey, before that company was itself absorbed into the FAUN Group in 1996.

Grundon Group was one of the first users of the Scapa FL-3000 front loader in the summer of 1978.

Scapa LP-900 was a popular bulk container loader, as this example owned by Safeway Skip Services

Scapa began production of the LP-10 00 in 1979, even as it disappeared in the USA with the demise of Gar Wood Division

Scapa FL-3000

Scapa LP-900

Aspinall Engineering resurrected the famous Gar Wood name and logo in the UK during the 1980s

Aspinall FL-3700 was a 37-cubic yard (28.3 cubic meters) version of the Gar Wood FL-3000


    Europe also saw widespread production of the entire Gar Wood line. Early models in Germany were sold by Kraus & Schollhorn GmbH (KSG) and dubbed the Europress LP-901 series. The original tooling from the Enterprise, Alabama factory was brought over to build these early German versions, which had the familiar slant-pillar body design. Industry consolidation resulted in FAUN acquiring the Europress manufacturing rights from Edelhoff Polytechnik in 1989. Through various other mergers and acquisitions, FAUN is now the primary producer in Europe and the UK, and builds the 901 rear loader (FAUN Powerpress) and the FL-3000 front loader (FAUN Frontpress). The LP-10 00 rear loader is no longer produced.

    During the 1980s, Fred Smith continued to design for Sargent Industries, and some improvements to these refuse bodies began to show up on the European licensed versions, even though they were never used on the Heil 5000 in the United States.

The KSG Europress LP-901 was built using the same tooling as the American Gar Wood LP-900

Early German versions look identical to the slant-pillared American versions of the 1970s

Bin-lift equipment was of a more European style, such as this container hoist

The Ten Hundred series was also produced by KSG in the 1980s

FAUN took over the German license for the Europress in 1989. This 901 series model features a
space-saving horizontal ejector ram, mounted just below the roof of the body and extending over
the cab. This type of ejector was used on European versions, but was never seen in America.

Face of ejector panel showing ram housing and guide tracks at top

Later FAUN models saw a name change from Europress 901 to Powerpress, and featured a restyled body and angle-mount ejector cylinder.

The FL-3000 became the FAUN Frontpress. The packer panel (3) is equipped with twin auxiliary packer panels, here highlighted in white.


Europress LP-901 manufactured and sold by RAVO


Australian-model Heil Formula 5000 features slant-pillar body similar to the original Gar Wood LP-900

Note that there is an Australian company called Garwood (one word) which sells refuse trucks,
and is entirely independent of Gar Wood USA or any of the licensees of the Sargent patents.


FAUN acquired Swiss manufacturer J. Ochsner & Cie. AG in 1990, which resulted in
many FAUN models bearing the Ochsner name, including the Powerpress shown here


© 2014 Eric Voytko
All rights reserved
Photos from factory brochures/advertisements except as noted
Logos shown are the trademarks of respective manufacturers