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Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck

The Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company

Recently we featured a photo of a street scene taken in Los Angeles, California, in the mid-twenties. A truck in that photo has been identified as being a Kelly-Springfield, which was built by the Kelly Motor Truck Company of Springfield, Ohio. The Company was started in 1910 when E.S. Kelly, the owner of the Kelly-Springfield Tire Company took over the Buckeye National Motor Car Company. That company was a successor to the Frayer-Miller car company that had come out with a line of air-cooled trucks late in 1909.

Kelly-Springfield Motor Trucks

Kelly-Springfield built air-cooled trucks through the early teens when it switched over to a water-cooled engine that was manufactured in house. At the same time, the Renault-style radiator and hood was adopted and was retained until the last of the heavy-duty trucks was built in the late 1920s. Though the years a range of units of between one to six ton capacity were offered. The smaller line of trucks changed to a conventional front-mounted radiator in mid 1920s.

The photos of the Griffith & Graeber logging operations (above), based out of of Eatonville, Washington, were found via Gene Herman, who along with Park Olson both identified the Kelly-Springfield truck in Los Angeles. The top image was taken in 1923, and the photograph of the fleet seen (above) was probably taken at the same time. Information on the trucks is hard to find, but the page (below) from one of the makers brochures dating to the late-teens, shows a Five-Ton unit that is similar to the logging trucks. Two more of the heavy-duty logging trucks can found here.

Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck

9 responses to “The Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company

  1. Anybody have any ideas why the renault-style hood was used on heavy-duty trucks like this and the Macks? I understand that they were retained on the Renaults as a sort of styling cue, but I would imagine that any desire to add panache or style to a commercial vehicle would be outweighed by the inferior cooling performance of a dash-mounted radiator, especially considering that truck engines would regularly be under heavy strain and slow speeds would result in considerably less airflow through the fins.

    • John, I could be wrong, but I believe one of the ressons for using a rear-mounted radiator was for protection and a stable mounting. Both would help to keep an early and fragile radiator protected and damage-free.

      • It does look likely that the Kelly-Springfield trucks might have a cooling problem, but not shared by the Macks with the same rear-mounted radiator, since from photos I have seen of Mack AC’s, the warm air exits at each side of the radiator, indicating fins oriented laterally and possibly with a centrifugal fan. AC models made from mid-teens to about 1940, I doubt if a cooling system with “issues” would have been used all that time.

  2. I found an old postcard featuring a 18 passenger, hard rubber tired, tour bus based in Portland OR. It has a right side , straight up and down steering wheel. It has the word “Kelly” on the side of the touring bus.

    Any thoughts?

    Gary Zehren
    Oak Creek, WI

  3. Today I picked up a really old farm truck. The owner said the frame and rear end are from a Kelly Truck, does that mean they are from a Kelly-Springfield? The engine is from a 1926 Chevrolet. The front end is from a 1920’s Dodge and the radiator and shroud is from a Erskine.Any way to identify the frame and or rear end?

  4. I have a picture of my Grandfather and his Brother Roy Dickerson taken in Cleveland TN in 1918 with their Kelly Springfield truck. They operated the Dickerson Transfer Co.

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