Big Lug: 1968 American Coleman Aircraft Tug

This is your next daily driver! It’s a 1968 American Coleman Aircraft Tug and it can be found on Craigslist in Aurora, Minnesota. The seller is asking $4,100 for this big lug. The seller doesn’t list the exact model, but I’m hoping that one of you (Howard, Geo, Dave, etc?) may know? I’m assuming it was an air force vehicle at some point, being white? And, that it’s an MB-4?

Coleman made some amazing towing rigs, or, lug vehicles. This one looks like it could fairly easily be restored back to like new if a person were interested in having a mint-condition lug vehicle for shows or.. for lugging something. The seller is throwing in some 54″ military tires, a heck of a deal.

I seem to be finding a lot of I-have-no-use-for-it-but-would-love-to-have-it vehicles lately, hopefully you don’t mind. I can’t imagine how fun it would be to have this vehicle if a person owned a few acres. Some of these had four-wheel steering, but I don’t know if this is one of those models or not. I do know that it’s four-wheel drive.

The seller says that there’s a slow brake fluid leak that’ll have to be fixed, and I’m guessing that the next owner would want to just replace all of the brake and fuel lines to make sure that it’s safe. It should be fairly easy to work on with most things being out in the open. I don’t know if this one would have had a cab on it or not? I do know that those fabric seats wouldn’t be original and the next owner will want to change those soggy things out. But, I could be wrong, maybe the Air Force wanted plush, fabric seats for their team of aircraft luggers.

This is a Continental six-cylinder but I don’t know what size or what the horsepower would be. This listing is almost a blank slate as far as specific information goes. The alternator sure looks new’ish as do a few other parts. They also say that it has an automatic transmission. Geo, Howard, Dave, anyone? Any ideas on what the specs on this combo might be? An even better question: would any of you have a use for a unique 4×4 like this one?


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  1. Don

    It can drag a 747 it’s a strong rig .Don’t no what you would do with it.

    • the one

      45 mph 5th wheel hauler!.

  2. DrinkinGasoline

    Talk about a serious land rig ! The local farmers would be rubbernecking me like they just drove by a 7 car, mangled metal, blood splattered vehicle accident !
    What in tarnation is that ?!

  3. JW

    I don’t know what use I would ever have for it but it would be cool to own. Wait maybe pull tree stumps out with it.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      Put a canvass cab on it. Wire in a cab heater. Rig up a 6′ snow plow and proceed to collect $60.00 per driveway (20 minutes time) during the winter months clearing out folks way to work before dawn ! Between 3 and 5 a.m., you could make more in two days than most blue collar folks make in a week working 40 hours.

      Like 1
      • Russ

        I have 2 of these coleman tugs and run 10 foot power angle snow blades on them. They don’t travel down the road a 40 mph but do a great job . Crab steer is neat to use. Have a good day

    • Alex

      It would definitely do that they are some powerful machines this one looks pretty similar to mine but it doesn’t have the cab but they are a blast to drive and have more than enough pulling power

  4. Grid Member

    A friend who owns a marina has a large electro-hydraulic trailer for hauling boats up to about 40′. He was using a Volvo tractor (as in tractor-trailer) but didn’t have the traction needed for anything over 30′. Then he got one of these tugs–problem resolved.

  5. David Zornig

    Our Cadillac-Buick dealership was a 1920’s 4 story building with winding ramps.
    We had one of these, and it was the only way to get those pre-`77 dinosaurs up the ramps to the service dept. from our service lot.
    We would hook a chain, and have someone steering the disabled cars.
    The ramps turns were too tight for anything on a tow truck.
    Due to how close they were to each other.

  6. David Zornig

    Here’s the building in the background, when it was still Bill Elsey Cadillac in 1974.
    Photo credit Lou Gerard.

  7. mtshootist1

    I’d put a snow plow on it, and use it up in the mountain roads where I live in the winter.

  8. JohnD

    Aurora, MN is not far from Duluth, a long-time USAF air defense command base, now home to the MN ANG. The buyer can drop by the base museum and no doubt find plenty of pictures of these things for reference. I bet there’s even a volunteer or two who either drove this one or worked on it.

  9. Glen

    I don’t think I want to be doing 45mph in this thing!, but I’d love to own it. I wonder how old these pics are, that’s a lot of green grass for Minnesota in March.

  10. geomechs geomechs Member

    That thing would be geared low enough to farm with. Some of those big bombers were heavy; like flying a train locomotive, if you can imagine seeing a locomotive with wings. They would have their work cut out for them. Continental engine? I’m disagreeing with that one; it looks more like Chrysler industrial six to me. The Continental motor had the distributor coming out through the top of the head. The Chrysler six had the dist. almost horizontal because it passed completely through the block where it drove off the external oil pump on the camshaft (right) side….

  11. Dave Wright

    Coleman used mostly Chryslers when they wanted gas engines. Bigger ones had 361 industrial V8’s but also many slant 6’s and even 2 Lttr k car 4 cylinders in later machines. The Coleman name became synonymous with flightline tugs in many places.

  12. Mark in WNC

    When I was in the USAF in the early 70s all towing tugs were yellow and the MB4 that Scotty mentioned was tall enough you had to climb up into it. Fully enclosed cab,Diesel engine and air brakes. These towed B52s. MB2 tugs were gasoline powered and had 4 wheel steering…do not remember what engine…but sure was fun to drive around in the parking lot of Vehicle Maintenance! We also had smaller tugs with Mopar Slant 6s and automatic transmissions

  13. Howard A Member

    Great find. Coleman ( no relation to the camping stuff) was made in Littleton, Colorado. They were pioneers in 4 wheel drive/4 wheel steer applications. I can’t tell, but I think all Coleman’s had 4 wheel steering. One site says this is the 265 Chrysler industrial motor. If you’ve got a-pullin’ to do, this will do it,,,on flat ground, that is. I don’t think it would do well in hilly, uneven terrain, nothing like tracks for that. Coleman did make an all steer semi, that didn’t fly too well. Called the “Space Star”, it was touted as the “anti-jacknife” truck. Not sure I’d care to test that out. Just try and back up this thing.

    • John H

      Hmm. Not too sure about that thing. There’s probably a reason we don’t see these on every interstate today!

  14. John

    Make a good home made tractor out of it. It’s probably fairly heavy though.

  15. Jake S.

    I’ve got an application for it!! You could use it to haul a dirt pan. It’d look super cool with an old piece of construction equipment behind it. Then you’d just need a back hoe and a bulldozer, and you’re in the vintage construction business!

    • Glen

      Does that mean you only build old buildings? (sorry for that, I’m a little warped)

  16. George

    Chrysler Flat 6 not a Continental I’d bet. I got a header pipe from motor pool for my 53 Plymouth (no parts store could get one in 72) Also betting that one was at a Naval Air Station.All of ours were painted yellow. they could pull a B-52 anywhere and a hot-rod F4 was no match.

  17. Doug Towsley

    At Mt Home AFB I worked on the flight line mostly, (Some of the support/specialist shops as well) I was also part of the AR Shop and our on call status job was Acft crash recovery and In Flight Emergency response team (IFE). That meant when the horn went off we dropped everything and responded. Job-mission #1 was to keep Operations operating and that meant if the acft took the barrier (Emergency cable) due to hydraulics failure or other calamities or if a plane bellied in we would clear the scene and restore the runway and taxi ways ASAP. We tag teamed with the Base Fire Dept & EOD.
    Each member of the Crash Recovery team was expected to be trained and able to operate ALL the equipment. We had several Tugs (Called a TAMB2) As well as an Aero Crane (Capable of picking up a C5-C141-KC135-KC-10-B52 or any of the tactical acft.
    We had a lot of F4s that dropped out of the sky. (Idaho ANG-there was a story behind that one) and our primary acft were F-111 Aardvarks. And EF-111s.
    None of those tow vehicles would go over 15 mph that I recall, but I think some had a Hi-Low range trans so possible but I doubt it.

    Nothing will ruin your day like a Mk 84 bomb going off in Danger Close.

    When you are moving an Acft It can take a lot to stop one once inertia is in play. I can personally state from experience the Air Force REALLY gets upset if you have an accident of any sort.

    One of my more haunting incidents was a death I witnessed and was on duty for while Overseas. I wont name the Airman but it was tragic. We were on a deployment support site. (39thCams,Incirlik Turkey) And some folks were TDY from Spain for training. Some of the ADMINS were tasked with grunt work loading Mobility boxs for the return flight back to Spain. These folks dont have a lot of experience in equipment. (Admin Pukes) so sadly badly supervised they were having problems closing a Hangar door. These doors were easily 60-80 feet tall and weighed 20-40 tons and rode in steel railroad tracks. They took a tug like this and pushed the Door. It got moving (Remember that Inertia issue I mentioned?) well the door got moving allright.
    And it got up a head of steam and kept going. Right thru the stops exited the guide tracks and then hung in the air before coming down on end.
    All those Admin pukes started running. Most,,,, ran to the sides and clear of the falling door. One poor soul tried to outrun it lengthwise. Poor bastard caught the top of the door in the lower abdomen, And not like the cartoons. It took a lot of equipment to get it off him. I think pretty much all of the people involved got a healthy dose of PTSD on that one. At one point they shot him up with Morphine to keep him comfortable until he died several hours later. Literally nothing we could do. Ill never forget a young lady airman holding his hand and trying to tell him he would be okay. There was a literal S**t storm over this incident. I was senior controller for Maint Operations on duty and had to go brief the DCM of Maint and Ops as well as Morning Briefing. A lot of pissed off people. Be VERY careful what you do with heavy equipment. I think of that poor guy & also my friend Steve who also died a year later tragically. 2 people I think of often. RIP.

    • Howard A Member

      Wow, Doug, that’s a pretty intense BF’s memory jog, because of the Coleman. ( which is one reason I’m here, to hear the stories) My life wasn’t nearly as colorful, hauling gravel from one side of the pit to the other (27 times) among 35 years of other trucking tasks, with equal repetitiveness, but not without any road stories of my own. I guess if you are going to surround yourself with dangerous things, and by the sound of it, looks like you’ve had your share, you will come across these situations. Not much happening in a gravel pit, but I don’t have scary memories like that either. We live in a free country, thanks to people like you, and we can’t forget, that doesn’t come cheap.

      • Doug Towsley

        Well Howard, Around heavy equip there are many pucker moments. I live in a community now with a lot of people in the logging and timber business. LOTS of stories in THAT career field. But accidents happen. My grandfather served in WW1 and I have his wings here and his flight grad certificate. (Ironically,, he graduated from Berkely in Calif which used to be a military training school) While he only flew one mission over France then the war ended which is remarkable on its own. But as he said,, He felt he was lucky to have survived the Influenza epidemic in 1917-18. All those troops packed into ships crossing the Atlantic? Did you know we lost more US service members in WW1 to Influenza than to combat?
        I got a ton of stories but back to Tugs and flightlines,,I dug out some of my old photo albums, Not great quality (Sorry,,i was young and poor) but right before going overseas I climbed on top of the flightline hanger and took some pix of the line. In this one you can see some of our crash response equipment,. The crane, the 40 foot semi truck and trailer with a lot our response gear and off to the side some our tugs. We called them TAMB2s and could be the same thing. This was a long time ago so forgive my foggy memory.

  18. Doug Towsley

    So heres another from my vantage point on top of an acft hanger. These are 2 typical Acft vehicles you would find in the 1980s on a AF base. A LOT of Mopar products. Partly because of the Chrysler bail out, … I also did EOD augmentee and drove a number of Chevy 4x4s on the bombing ranges looking for Ordinance.
    The 6 pack truck was our AR shop truck (Aero Repair) We specialized in landing gears, flight controls, flight surfaces, throttle systems, canopys, windscreens and tail hooks. We also sometimes would load up with tools and techs and drive out to the taxi areas to assist with launches. (Some of the guys were gassy so we would be hanging out the windows). The expediter truck was a Yellow section guy I think (EF-111s),. They would ferry crew chiefs in and off the line as well as parts or supplies as needed. Many hours sitting in one of those. One of my buddies used to make his own DJ tapes of a fake radio station and load it up with classic rock. People would say…Damn! What station is this? Best I heard. He would make his own Ads too and predicted the new Boston album coming out and coming on tour, tickets for sale this weekend!… If you recall the early 1980s that is really funny. He used to drive a truck like that. When Its freezing its good to jump in any vehicle thats warm but if he had good tunes you wanted into his truck.
    So one more flight line story. We had a Tsgt who was our lead guy for a while. Nice guy I will add. I would love to find him again to say hi. But he was Tsgt Colonel Pope. First name was Colonel. Not his rank. So, We rarely called him Sgt Pope. We had a few names for him but usually just said Colonel. So if you were in a jam you might say..”I work for Colonel Pope” and things would happen. Sometimes Colonel Pope would make a call to another dept and say “This is Colonel Pope, I need that part right NOW!” So, we short of trucks and one day Colonel Pope decided to expedite using the TAMB2 Tug as it was enclosed. Here he was,, driving around, Radio in One hand, Coffee cup, clip board and swerving all over in that Damn tug. It would only do 15 mph or so and made a lot of noise. It was quite a sight. We had an IFE and it took Colonel a long time to respond to the ready line in that tug so he got an Ass chewing over it. Someone said,,, “Its okay,,its the Colonel!” This was the DCM who was a REAL Colonel. He was confused and not amused. I dont think he fully got the joke or what people meant. All he knew was a crazy Tsgt was driving the TUG all over as a dispatch/expediter and not on the ready line quick enough.
    So theres my flightline stories for the day.

  19. DAYTONA500

    That is one powerful tug someone can use for there aircraft collection great find

  20. Dustin

    Does anyone watch Ice Road Truckers on the History Channel? If so, you know how they sometimes get stuck in deep snowbanks and have to use front end loaders to get out? If this can pull a plane, it can pull a loaded big rig out of a snowdrift!

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