Maxon Industries, a successful manufacturer of truck lift gates since 1957, acquired Western Body & Hoist Company of Los Angeles in 1969, and thus entered the refuse body business with an established regional brand. Owner George Morrison sold Western after the untimely death of his business partner, who had been killed in an automobile accident, but remained with the company as its chief engineer. The Western line was anchored by their front loaders, the Top-Pak/Half-Pak/Full-Pak and Wesco Jet, as well as roll-offs, transfer trailers, stationary packers and transfer station equipment. Western also manufactured the Shu-Pak, a revolutionary drop-frame side loader which was widely used in California.
Maxon initially operated Western as a subsidiary, still using the same identification badges, but with the Maxon name added as well. In late 1970, Maxon announced that the refuse products would be launched nationwide, beginning an expansion of the company out of its traditional California market. With the purchase of Western, Maxon obtained the Barrel Snatcher, a heavily modified Wesco Jet with the world's first automated residential can loader. Designed by George Morrison for the City of Scottsdale, Arizona, only a handful were ever built. Although Maxon advertised the experimental model in their literature, they had no plans to build any more once the Scottsdale contract was fulfilled. In retrospect, it may seem like Maxon had missed a golden opportunity to mass-market the first automated refuse truck. However, there wasn't anyone to sell them to in 1970, other than Scottdale's Public Works Department, which still had years of de-bugging to do on their "Son of Godzilla", as the project was called. The time had not yet come for the ASL, and Maxon let the Barrel Snatcher (and the Jet front loader) quietly fade away.
Maxon wisely concentrated its national ambitions on the Shu-Pak, which had been built by Western Body & Hoist under a license agreement with its inventors. They were most often mounted on a modified drop-frame chassis with right-hand stand-up drive. First used in Southern California in the late 1950s, these were light and simple, and appealed to municipalities and contractors alike, which claimed more tons collected per man-hour than with 2 or 3-man crews on a rear loader. Operators generally liked them too, with a few short steps from cab to curb, a low 41" hopper, and continuous packing. With an optional Ford auxiliary engine turning the pump, it could even pack while the vehicle moved between stops. The mechanism and hopper was located behind the cab, and the body was basically and empty box. The 37-yard model weighed in at a mere 8,000 pounds, which was thousands of pounds lighter than the biggest (31-yard) rear loader body. Maxon pushed the concept nationally beginning in the early 1970s, and the Shu-Pak would embark on an eastward march to the Atlantic.
1970 Maxon ad featured a big Western Full-Pak for Midway City, California
Full-Pak had a horizontal telescopic ejector ram protruding through the panel, and by 1970 had over-the cab lift arms
Half-Pak represented the most popular style of front loader in the western states
Half-Pak was fairly conventional, for California, with twin vertical packing cylinders and tilt-dumping
The short-lived Jet Barrel Snatcher was anything but conventional, having been designed specifically for the City of Scottsdale
Maxon obtained Western's line of roll-off frames and stationary compactor units
Within a few years, the license-built Shu-Pak would be the last remaining vestige of Western Body & Hoist
© 2017 Eric Voytko
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