Sunday, June 6, 2010


The last Sterling rolled off the St. Thomas, ON assembly line just over a year ago, in March 2009. The plant was closed and the Sterling brand was eliminated by parent Daimler when sales did not reach expected levels. At the same time Daimler also rationalized Freightliner and Western Star production, shifting some from US plants to Mexico.
Sterling was reborn in 1998 when Freightliner bought the Ford medium and heavy Aeromax truck line. A previous Sterling brand was bought by White in the 1950s but had been eliminated soon after and Daimler bought the rights to the name from Volvo.
The St. Thomas plant, which was built in 1992 had produced Freightliners, but was shifted to build all the Sterlings.
In its brief history (new) Sterling produced 257,330 trucks in St. Thomas, and when the plug was pulled it was not only the end of Sterling, but the end of heavy truck manufacturing in Canada.
What follows is a brief view of the early Sterlings:

1. September 2, 1998: the first Sterling I photographed. It had to be a foggy Halifax day. A letter "S" filled the old Ford oval over the grille and a nameplate on the door simply said Sterling.
2. September 26, 1998: this lighter duty Sterling was similarly almost anonymous on an even foggier day.

3. I caught this highway tractor September 3, 1999 in the Maritime-Ontario yard in Burnside. It certainly showed its Ford Aeromax ancestry. It also carried a Nova Scotia dealer license plate, so it was a demonstrator.
4. By 2000 the Sterling name had appeared on the grille, but this set-back axle model was otherwise little changed. At the dealer's in Burnside February 27, 2000.

5. Simard Suspensions in Baie-St-Paul, QC had just added a steering axle to this set-back axle model. They also fitted the tarp roller and hydraulics for the slider bed. The dumpsters would be supplied by the owner!

6. An owner-operator had this big highway unit leased to Midland Transport of New Brunswick to run on its guaranteed delivery service. Trailers out of Brampton, ON swapped tractors at the Ontario/Quebec border to run this fast freight operation. It was fueling at D├ęgelis, QC, August 8, 2000.
7. Some Sterlings were a little out of the ordinary. This highboy was rebuilt by Simard Suspensions with AWD and plow hydraulics, and was ready for delivery in Baie-St-Paul, QC, August 9, 2003.

Sterling's will become rarer and rarer, and so I am keeping my eyes peeled.

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