by Jim Allen IN THE EARLY PART OF THE 20TH CENTURY, Harleigh ?? Holmes knew what sort of truck was needed in the sparsely settled, largely roadless Colorado high country. Four-wheel drive trucks existed but were not common. Many of those early 4-bys were ill-equipped for the grades and the altitude. Holmes got a new idea for front axle and applied for the patent in 1919. By the time the patent was granted in 1921, Holmes had a working prototype that had acquired quite a stalwart reputation around his home in Littleton, Colorado. Harleigh was encouraged enough by its performance to form the Holmes Motor Company. Short of cash for growth and development, Holmes went into business with the Pains Iron Works in Denver and built his trucks there for a time. Part of his work included the development of a four-wheel drive conversion kit for Ford trucks and resulted in a 500 unit order from a Canadian distributor. In 1922, brothers Alfred and George Coleman bought 51 percent of Plains, moved truck production back to Littleton and renamed the company Coleman Motors. Things really began to roll regionally when it became apparent that Colemans made excellent snowplow trucks. Holmes had discovered the best form of advertising was to have the trucks constantly performing feats of derring-do. The Colemans continued this practice but added national advertising and a larger sales department. The feats included rescuing stranded miners in blizzards, towing stuck trucks, winning a public
The Mile-Hi Four-By
photos courtesy Ken Kafka and the National Archives 66 Off-Road Adventures tug-o-war with a Caterpillar tractor and a never-collected $5000 reward for any truck, four or two-wheel drive, that could exceed a Coleman?s off-road performance. A particular 1924 feat attracted the attention of the Artillery Branch of the Army. A mining company had heavy equipment that was needed at a remote mine. A 22-horse team had tried and failed to deliver it. Four-bys of other makes had trouble on the route with ordinary loads and clearly weren?t up to the task. A Coleman truck was pressed into service, carrying 5.5 tons on its back and towing a further 8.5 tons on a sled built from logs. It hauled the 14 tons from 7,450 feet near Idaho Springs, to the mine at 10,840 feet. There were sections of the road that no motor vehicle had been able to drive under any circumstance and the Coleman did it with a 14-ton load. By 1925, the Army Field Artillery was testing a 5-ton Coleman against their standard 4x4 truck, the Militor M1918 TTL. The Militor was designed as a standardized military 3ton 4x4. It came on just as WWI ended and production was stopped in 1919 after only about 150 were built. They were constructed of standardized components but used lower gearing than the available commercial 4x4 trucks. What put the Coleman ahead was its two-speed transfer case, a fairly new feature for the day, which gave it a 140:1 crawl ratio, versus 74:1 for the Militor, 35:1 for the still common FWD Model B military and 40:1 for the few military Nash Quads still in service. The Artillery Branch was particularly interested in the Meet Charlie, a 1929 Coleman Model DD-40, 2-1/2 ton 4x4. This truck has a storied history working in the Colorado high country, including recovering a long-lost experimental submarine from a lake. Ken Kafka, of Pierce, Colorado, acquired it in a form that was one step above scrap metal and almost let it go to that last stage before accidentally discovering the truck?s local history and arduously restoring the truck to like new. Charlie powered by a 400ci Buda BUS engine that makes 104 hp.