Coleman laid claim to ‘first practical 4WD system’

Coleman laid claim to ‘first practical 4WD system’

Story and photos by John Gunnell

Walk into the basement of Larry Maasdam’s rural home near Clarion, Iowa, and you will find yourself in a virtual toy museum. Over 6,500 toys fill the glass-shelf-lined walls. In all, there’s over 150 linear ft. of showcases for toys and the amazing collection, started only 10 years ago, is still growing. Maasdam’s may be the world’s largest private collection of farm toys, tractors and implements, construction toys and trucks.

Maasdam and his wife Melanie also own a full-size antique truck that they brought to the 2017 American Truck Historical Society (ATHS) Convention in Des Moines, Iowa. You may have seen their bright red-orange 1929 Coleman truck inside the main building at the big truck show.

Coleman trucks were made in Littleton, Colo. The company was founded by G.L. Coleman of Omaha, Neb., in 1923, but it did not start making trucks until it moved to Littleton in 1925. It was first operated as the Coleman Motors Corp. Later, the name changed slightly to American Coleman Co.

The first Colemans were 4×4 and 4×6 load carriers and tractors powered by four-cylinder Buda engines. Many sales were made to state highway departments, fire services and the United States Army.

In 1928, a 7-1/2-ton 6×6 truck was introduced to meet the needs of logging and oil companies for off-highway work. These trucks used a six-cylinder Buda Model GL engine, a Fuller four-speed transmission and a two-speed Coleman auxiliary transmission. One of these chassis was used for a very early aircraft refueling truck.

The Maasdam’s truck has Serial No. 2381. It features a closed cab, a split windshield, a stake body that Larry built and a six-cylinder Buda Model BA-6 engine. The Maasdams bought the truck about 30 years ago at a farm sale. At that time it had a fifth wheel and Larry was told it pulled a rock crusher from one gravel pit to another.

During the restoration of the truck by a local man and Larry, they put all-new wood in the cab and built the wooden stake body. “The metal body needed hardly any work at all,” Maasdam said in a phone call. “We just had to make the side shields for the engine. I had a parts book that I got somewhere and we just copied the shields out of it and they came out very nice.”

The cab interior is painted the same colour as the exterior with the steering wheel, steering column, pedals and brake and gearshift levers done in black. The interior roof is also black. The bench seat has a black vinyl cushion. An interesting feature is the transverse leaf spring used to support the seat and give a relatively comfortable ride.

The Buda engine is green on its top section and silver gray on the lower end. The carburetor is finished in yellow. A plate on the engine tells a lot about the truck, down to valve clearance settings and spark plug firing order.

Maasdam finished restoring the truck about seven years ago, but never showed it much to anyone. “The people around here could not believe it when I took it out of the shed and took off for Des Moines with it,” Maasdam emphasized. “It was the first time the truck was actually seen in public by a lot of people.”

   Maasdam said that he also owns a Mack pickup truck and a 1923 GMC, but most of his collection consists of vintage construction equipment and lots of toys. He and Melanie are also involved with the Heartland Museum, Highway 3 West and 9th Street S.W., Clarion, IA 50526. PH: (515) 602-6000. Email:

Categories: Features, Off-Road Plus