In our quest to keep boredom at bay this summer, my family has found lots of low-cost or free activities in the Hamburg area. This week, however, I had the chance to do a special outing with just my middle-school son, and he was set on venturing a little farther to tour the Mack Truck Museum in Allentown. Since his sister was away at camp, and since tours of the museum are free of charge, we decided to go for it and pointed our car eastward
Full disclosure: the museum is hard to find. My usually trustworthy GPS took me to the wrong spot, a business park with no Mack anything to be found. I entered the address manually and did eventually find the museum after circling around closed bridges and one-way streets. The museum is tucked away down a back road and is connected to a larger Mack truck facility.
You must make an appointment for Mack’s guided tours, and the person I contacted earlier in the week advised me that summer tours fill up quickly. I was nervous when we arrived at the museum more than 30 minutes late, but the friendly receptionist welcomed us, noted that lots of people get lost and cheerfully fit us into the next tour group starting in a few minutes. She also handed each of us our own Mack the Bulldog pin to keep, also free of charge.
Mack is the longtime mascot of the Mack Truck company. The legend of the icon dates back to World War I. At that time, soldiers were impressed by the trucks’ tenacity and likened them to the English bulldog. The name stuck and, several decades later, company legend says a Mack executive carved the now iconic bulldog image out of a bar of soap while recuperating from an illness. By 1932, the image was trademarked and it is installed on Mack products to this day.
While Mack the bulldog was a big presence in the museum, the real stars of the show are the vehicles themselves. We saw the oldest Mack truck in existence, a 1905 bus in a shiny, restored red. Like all of the vehicles on display, it is still driveable. Others included classics from the 1930s, vintage road trucks from the 70s and 80s and gleaming displays of modern Mack machines. The collection also included company memorabilia, models and artwork. Our guide, Bill, has been with the museum for several years and fielded all questions with ease.
My son was most impressed by the Megatron truck, the actual vehicle seen in the popular Transformers movie franchise. Coming in a close second was the 605-horsepower MP10 engine on display. This massive engine is only used in the Titan truck. We ended our tour in a small, in-house museum which showed this massive vehicle in action on a cross-country haul.
A modern, bare-bones Mack truck costs a minimum of $85,000, but tours of the Mack Museum, 2402 Lehigh Pkwy S, Allentown, are free. As mentioned, visitors should arrange for tours ahead of time; we emailed our request to firstname.lastname@example.org and heard back the same day. Photos in the museum are allowed, but may be used for personal purposes only. The tour takes about one hour, and visitors are free to browse displays longer. There is also a small gift shop with items ranging from inexpensive pens and dog toys to high-end replicas of Mack the Bulldog. We splurged three dollars on a plastic Frisbee embellished with Mack’s image to play with our dog at home.
After our tour, we were pretty hungry and decided to check out the Queen City Diner (1801 Lehigh Street, Allentown), less than a mile away. If you like old-school diners and no-frills but friendly service, this is a great place to stop for lunch. My son picked an oyster sandwich from the special board, and I enjoyed a BLT on a croissant. Both came with delicious, homemade soups and plenty of chips and pickles. The diner also had delicious pies and cakes on a rotating display, but we were simply too full to be tempted. Since our total bill, with tip, came to $15, we used our change to select songs on the working, table-top jukebox and to play a game of classic Ms. PacMan before heading back to Berks County.