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Coleman truck with Four Wheel Drive, Four Wheel Steer, and a Trailer

Look Ma – Four Wheel Drive – Four Wheel Steer and a Trailer

Thanks to reader Douglas Gotham we have yet another unusual heavy-duty four-wheel-drive and four-wheel-steer truck to share with you. According to American Semi Trucks by Stan Holzman: “It was named the Space Star”, as can be seen on the side of the top of the cab. It was “powered by an 8V71N Detroit Diesel that was backed up by a Fuller transmission”. The license plate is dated 1968, and that appears to be the first year it was put on the road. The Company actually used it for sometime moving its own freight over long distances.

Holzman also reported that it featured: “A Coleman chain drive and power-dividing transfer case with a differential”. Apparently the rear steering axle could be left in the straight ahead mode and turned into a steering axle “by flipping a switch”, and the “cab-over had two sleepers, one was located over the cab, and the other was in the rear of it.” The tractor unit was backed under the trailer “and was locked into position by eight pins” The truck and trailer then became one unit that did not pivot.

The second photo (below) found at JustOldTrucks shows a mid-1950s Coleman front-drive axle used for a FWD conversion that may have been of similar construction to that used in this truck. The earliest reference found to a Coleman Truck was as back in 1911, but it is not known if it was the same company. What is known though is that the Coleman FWD Truck was manufactured as early as the late-1920s.

Take a minute to look back at The Fageol 1950 TC CargoLiner – A Trailer Without A Tractor and a much earlier eight wheel Goodyear experiment. 

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10 responses to “Look Ma – Four Wheel Drive – Four Wheel Steer and a Trailer

  1. Note the early use of what are known as super singles (rather than duals.)

    How about Coleman race cars? Coleman thought about entering the passenger car business.

    In 1929 the three Unser brothers drove FWD Coleman Specials in the Pikes Peak race. Photo available online at the Pikes Peak Library District Digital Collection with the caption: “Unser brothers in Coleman front wheel drive. Car #4 driven by Joe Unser, came in second, 19:07.2. Car #5 driven by Louis Unser, came in fifth, 19:34. Car #6 driven by Jerry Unser, Sr., came in 6th, 20:42.4.” This was the fourth consecutive second place finish for Joe Unser at Pikes Peak, and his last.

    On Feb 20 1930 Joe Unser was killed while driving #4, thus not being the first Unser at the Indianapolis 500 in one of the two Coleman FWD Specials built for the 500 and entered in 1930. They were #15 driven by Phil “Red” Schaefer finished 7th and #14 driven by Lou Moore and finished 29.

    • Frances, Well that is aways a possibility, with a higher-resolution and enhanced photo that is much larger than you can see here in the post, the rest of the numbers are easy to make out but the last one it looks like a zero.

      Stan Holzman in American Semi Trucks, seems to think the truck was developed in the mid-to late sixties.

      Perhaps a reader will be able to come up with more information about exactly when the truck was first put on the road?

  2. Tinindian took the words right of my mouth about the super singles. Also, if the combination doesn’t pivot, the tires on the two center axles must have wore out real quick, dragging sideways at every turn . They don’t look like self-steering axles like we use today.

  3. The “SpaceStar” was the personal design of American Coleman president E.L. “Ted” Martin, and was known within the company as the “ELM,” named after the company president’s initials. Design began in 1965 and the “final” plans were drawn up drawn up in early 1966. Within two months, two of the company engineers had also perfected the locking rail device for the dedicated trailer, and the prototype tractor was then fully developed, tested and kept on the company property, but not announced publically until late summer of 1968. Only the one prototype was ever built, and while it drew much interest due to its many very innovative features, the major (and deciding) drawback was that it was a dedicated tractor-trailer combination — all big trucking companies that looked at it did not want to give up the flexibility of being able to mix & match tractors and trailers in any way they wished. Said another way, once a load was delivered, the tractor became utterly useless unless there was another locking-rail trailer ready for pickup. Conversely, the trailers would also become useless until a dedicated tractor became available. This total lack of dispatching flexibility was an absolute deal-breaker. Trade magazines and potential buyers “raved” about the innovations, but just wouldn’t buy.

    With zero sales, the company soon relegated the unit to company runs, delivering front-drive-axles and parts orders, or picking up castings and such. It was usually parked between runs on Curtis Street next to the “West Plant” in Littleton, Colorado, and while I have seen the pup trailer in various company publicity photos, I never actually saw the pup trailer at the American Coleman plant, only the tractor/dedicated trailer combination without the pup.

    My father worked at Coleman for 30 years, and while I was growing up, I was a Coleman “brat,” hanging around the assembly lines and erecting floors whenever I could. I am currently the primary researcher helping Don Chew with his pending book on the history of Coleman Motors.

  4. I found a truck today that had rear steering,4wd,ton or two ,flathead v6 AWESOME VEHICLE WOULD LIKE TO DRIVE IT. CAN SEND PICTURE CONTACT ME WHEN U GET THIS

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