1978, Skateboard Industry News published a series of Product Primer
articles “aimed at giving the retailer a thumb-nail familiarity with
skateboard engineering.” S.I.N covered decks in their April/May 1978
issue, then wheels in June/July and then in Aug/Sept they covered “the
dreaded truck – and find they aren’t so difficult to understand at all.”
Rather than reprint the entire Product Primer, this Glossary of Truck Terms condenses all that knowledge.
A metal used in the hanger and other parts of the truck. “All of the
quality, top of the line truck manufacturers use what is termed ‘356’
aluminum’ in most cases ‘heat treated to T6.”
Angle: The angle
between the kingpin and the axle pivot point. If the kingpin intersects
the vertical plane of the axle above the axle, it will tend to be less
responsive – or squirrelly – whereas a truck with a lower angle will be
Axle: A metal rod – usually steel - that runs
through the hangar and provides a threaded mount for bearings and
wheels. Most axles are made of steel.
Axle nut: A threaded nut that screws onto each end of the axle to hold the wheels in place.
plate: A usually metal plate that is fastened to the bottom of the deck
with four or six holes. The baseplate has a pivot cup and a socket for
Bearing: Round metal balls that allow the wheels to
turn on the end of the axle. Skateboards in the 50s, 60s and into the
70s used loose bearings. Sealed bearings were another innovation of the
1970s that followed closely after the introduction of urethane wheels.
Doughnut-shaped pieces of rubber or urethane that surround the kingpin.
Each truck has two bushings, one above where the hanger fits onto the
kingpin and one below.
Cushion: Plastic bushings around the
kingpin. Formerly known as “rubbers” from the roller skate days, these
bushings were made of urethane and other plastics in the 1970s. In
general, a rule of thumb: the softer the cushions, be they urethane or
rubber, the more responsive the truck will be. Hard cushions will result
in a more rigid, but stable, ride.
Die casting: One of two methods for molding trucks parts. Molten
metal is poured into a machine where, under pressure, the metal then
forms the part. The mold opens up, and the completed part drops out.
According to Dave Dominy of Tracker: The gasses that build up during die
casting are trapped inside, whereas with sand casting, the gasses are
allowed to escape. This weakens a die-cast truck, and makes a sand-cast
truck stronger.” But Stephen’s of ACS claimed, “We’ve developed a
process that allows us to use 356 aluminum, which is aircraft quality.
We are also able to heat treat our hangers with the die cast process,
which no other die caster can do.”
Hanger: The piece that holds the axle and fasten to the base plate.
Most hangers have a socket which allows the kingpin to pass through and
be fastened/adjusted. The hanger also has a pivot point which is toward
the center of the board. Hangers are usually made of aluminum alloys,
with traces of other metals, such as magnesium. Some of the “price
point” trucks had hangers made of zinc. Many truck manufacturers stamped
their company name on the hanger – but alas, not all.
treated: Die cast metals tend to be porous. Air bubbles inside the part
come to the surface during the heat treatment process. Heat treated
alloys have a greater strength and ductility (or ability to withstand
flexing forces) than non heat-treated alloys.
Paraphrasing Steve Cave at about.com: “The name ‘kingpin’ gets used a
lot for a lot of things, but usually carries the same meaning - a piece
that holds the whole thing together. For skateboard trucks, the kingpin
is the threaded bolt that runs through the center of skateboard trucks,
and holds the trucks together. The kingpin runs through the hangar and
two bushings, and then directly into the baseplate. Most kingpins are a
fat hex-headed bolt, but there are many kinds of kingpins out there.
can loosen your kingpin to loosen up your trucks, or tighten your
kingpin to stiffen up the trucks. I recommend starting out with tight
trucks when you are a new skater, and loosening them us as you get more
Kingpin nut: A nut on the top of the
hanger, which keeps the hanger and bushings in place and can be adjusted
to make trucks more stable, or looser, as you wish.
Pivot cup: A
plastic-lined socket on the baseplate of a truck which supports the
hanger at the pivot point and allows a truck to be turned right or left.
Profile: Also known as “geometry,” the concept refers to the
design relationship between the various components. The profile is the
shape of the truck. In general, a narrower, taller truck will be more
responsive in maneuvering – desirable for a freestyle rider. A low
profile truck will be more rigid and stable for bowl or slalom.
cast: One method of molding truck parts. The molten metal is poured
into a sand cavity, allowed to cool and then the sand falls away.
Richard List of Lazer sand casts his hangers and base plates: “The
problem with die casting is that the higher grades of aluminum that we
use don’t work with die casting.” Sand casting is also slower than die
T6: ‘Heat treated to T6’ simply
refers to the fact that heat is applies to the casted part, enough to
the point where the part has a tensile strength equal to a standard unit
of measurement, in this case known as T6.
In the beginning,
there was Sure Grip and Chicago and Roller Derby and other trucks made
for roller skating, that skateboarders adapted in the 1960s. As steel
wheels became clay wheels, the trucks also improved, but those trucks
were still made for roller skating.
In the 1960s, there were
attempts to customize trucks for skateboarding. According to Old Was Out
and New Was In – It Was Time to Turn from Independent Trucks book Built
to Grind, C.R. Stecyk III freely admits “Certainly there were trucks
Petitbled patented the first inline roller
skate in 1819. James Plimpton brought out the quad roller skate in 1863.
Chicago and Sure Grip shoe skates were fixtures in the market from the
1930s on. Sidewalk surfers used to find those clunkers, cut them down,
and separate the trucks. Mark Richards was a skater from North
Hollywood, California who had the hubris to call up the Chicago Roller
Skate Company and suggest that they sell him separate trucks on mounting
plates. It took the Midwestern roller rink businessmen months to
understand what he was getting at, but they finally relented, and the
first designated skateboard truck came to the bazaar. This brilliantly
simple move in 1963 helped permanently establish Richards’ fledgling Val
Surf as an industry leader.
Along with Mark Richards and Val
Surf, there were other attempts to make custom trucks for skateboarding
during the clay wheels era – see Leesure Line - but the foundries of
industry didn’t really get bubbling until the urethane revolution of the
1970s demanded more!
As 70s skateboarders pushed urethane wheels
higher, faster, steeper, deeper and more vertical, they demanded more
from their trucks. And we all know what necessity inspires.
ad for Leesure Line from Quarterly Skateboarder in the 1960s breaks
down the basic components of a skateboard truck. Leesure Line did not
make it to the urethane revolution of the 1970s. But many other
companies reputable and fly-by-night rushed in to fill the void. Image
courtesy Surfer Publishing Group.
Craig Stecyk synopsized the truck evolution in Built to Grind:
the 1970s, trucks were beginning to be made with other specific
skateboard-centric design attributes. Mr. Bennett sold trucks out of his
Rolls Royce. The Bahne brothers made a truck. Dave Dominy created a
wider truck for slalom called Tracker. Gull Wing die-cast their lot and
used cooling fins that were highly reminiscent of 1930s Elgin bicycle
hubs. These were the leading brands in a rapidly growing market. Others
include Lazer, Excalibur, California Slalom and ACS. The circus of
skateboarding was well populated by a thousand other fly-by-night
jokers, toy makers and opportunists.
Bennett was the first in the 70s to make trucks for skateboards and the
new performance demands of urethane. Board courtesy Santa Cruz or Terry
Campion or Bill’s Wheels.
Ask just about any question in the
skateboard industry about “Who was on it first” and it will start
arguments/fist fights/lawsuits But there is almost no debate that Mr.
Ron Bennett was first to make a skateboard truck designed specifically
for 70s skateboarding.
According to an interview with Mr. Bennett
in Concrete Wave Magazine in the Fall of 2006, the story went like
this: Mr. Bennett’s son Brian got a skateboard for Christmas, 1974. He
didn’t like the way it turned. Mr. Bennett found the problem was “simply
a short wheelbase steering system on a long wheelbase vehicle.” He
wondered why no one had made a truck specifically for skateboards.
a background in architectural engineering and an interest in machining,
he researched steel alloys, rubber compounds, thermoplastics, aluminum
alloys and foundry casting – pulling information and talent from the
ailing, early-70s aerospace industry.
He called his product
“truks” as opposed to “trucks” to be different and save keystrokes. His
goal was to make a “truk” that was lightweight and heavy duty, and also
“unbreakable.” The base plates broke, but he replaced them every time.
Bennett named a long list of famous skateboarders who rode his truks:
“Tony Alva and that crowd, Stacy, Jay Adams... Steve Cathay, Ellen
O’Neil, Tom Sims, the Logans, Skoldberg, Hutson, Hester, Guy Grundy,·
Russ Howell… and Chris Chaput who won the ’76 World’s Championships on
Bennetts. It sounds funny today, but nearly ever single Pro was riding
so I never formally sponsored any skaters—although I tried to make sure
the Team captains flowed the stuff to their guys.”
distributed Bennett truks at first, and Mr. Bennett suggested that the
Stage I Independent was a sort of tribute to Bennett’s products: “I felt
betrayed at the time, but I am not bitter.”
Mr. Bennett also
began producing Alligator and Super Alligator urethane wheels. Bennett
got out of the skateboard industry in the 1980s, when the Hobie licensee
– one of his biggest accounts – filed for bankruptcy and NHS began
distributing only Independent trucks.
In the book Concrete Wave, Michael Brooke described the first product made for skateboarding:
1975 Bennett produced the Bennett Hijacker. It was truly different from
traditional trucks. The kingpin was placed well below the axle. This
meant that skaters would not have to worry about the kingpin dragging on
the ground. The parts were of high quality: Bennett used
aircraft-quality locknuts and a special compound for his “rubbers” (the
part that fits between the kingpin and the axle). The only area where
Bennett’s trucks seemed to have a problem were the baseplates – they
tended to break. Fortunately, the baseplates came with a guarantee – you
could mail them back to Mr. Bennett and he would replace them for free.