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Languishing in Lansing: 1916 Duplex 4-Wheel-Drive

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Have you been looking to buy a duplex? No, not that kind of duplex, a 1916 Duplex 4-Wheel-Drive Truck kind of duplex. This incredibly rare truck is located in a field, unfortunately, in Lansing, Michigan where it was born. If it sits there for another few decades it will have come full circle when it melts back into the earth. It pains me to see vehicles being left outside like this, especially when they’re as cool and rare as this one is. The seller is asking $4,500 for this rare beast, and as you can see, it’ll be just a little bit of work.

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The Duplex Truck Company was founded in 1916 when a group of Michigan businessmen raised $1,000,000 in 48 hours and bought out the Duplex Power Car Company, which got its start in 1909 in Charlotte, Michigan, about ten minutes southwest of Lansing. Or, if you’re driving a 1916 Duplex truck, it would take a little longer than ten minutes to get there, maybe closer to an hour. The new operations were moved to Lansing. The company made trucks until 1955 when they were bought out and that subsequent company ended the Duplex legacy in 1975.

There were three versions of this truck available, a 2-ton, 3-ton, or a 3 1/2-ton model with prices starting at $2,800 for the 2-ton model! That’s $57,000 in 2016 buck-dollars. But, I guess a person could option up a new, posh 4×4 today and pay that much, so maybe it isn’t as expensive as I thought it was. I think that this is a 2-ton model because it’s the shorter wheelbase version and they were sure tough! The seller says that this isn’t the original engine, unfortunately, but that they last had it running in 1978 so everything will need a total restoration, as you can tell from looking at it.

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Some tv reality show must have owned this one, it has low-profile tires on it! No, these are solid rubber tires, of course. The tires were tough but they weren’t much in the comfort department. Of course, with only about 30 hp on board and such low gearing you won’t be going too fast anyway, maybe 10-15 mph. There are companies that can make new tires for you once you restore the wooden spoke wheels. There was a $150 option to add an electric starter and lighting equipment; the start of the pampered, latte-encrusted, Bluetooth-enabled-and-leather-swathed 4x4s of today, no doubt. This rugged truck is on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $4,500, or make an offer. Anyone who has restored a tractor or similar vehicle should be able to bring this one back from the doldrums. Would a truck like this fit in with your collection or is it too much work?


  1. Joe Gotts

    At least whoever buys the beast won’t need to air up the tires, its got the ultra rare run flats.


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  2. Howard A Member

    What a cool beast. Could you imagine driving this thing? I can’t seem to find a lot of information. Apparently, not to be confused with the 4×4 Wisconsin Duplex, which became the Oshkosh Co. Duplex made trucks in the 60’s, that used the IH “Comfo-vision” cab, ( yet another company that used that cab) not much else until what appears to be a merger and became Simon Duplex fire engines into the 90’s. I’m still trying to figure out what this truck was used for. Obviously, a spool of some sort, but not sure of that big housing. Believe it or not, this truck didn’t look much different when it was running. Belongs in a museum, even the way it is.

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  3. Lee

    Not many years ago there were Two Duplex Chain drive trucks near Jonesville Mich / Lee

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  4. Van

    I would happily restore this cosmetically as a static display. We know how pin stripes and contrasting colors look on machines of this age. Just sanding, blasting, and paint wouldn’t require experience or much cash. Once that’s done you have a lifetime to continue with a full restoration. I can see many organizations, business, municipalities, or schools happily put this on display. Even when you remove major components during the project for restoration it will still be a beautiful static display.
    Wouldn’t this be inspirational in a high school as the kids see the transformation over several years.

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  5. geomechs geomechs Member

    I’m not at all surprised to see that somewhere along the line the motor got changed. After all this truck is 100 years old; I could only dream of being in that good of shape when I’m 100. These were (largely) assembled units so an original-type motor could have been in a variety of applications. Restoring this is going to require a great deal of fabrication, but it’s doable. I know a guy who is putting the finishing touches on a ‘Redcliff’ of this same vintage. He started with a frame, front axle with hub, rear axle with hub and sprocket, cowl and radiator shell, and he’s about to drive it out of his shop. Unfortunately he’s recovering from a hip replacement so it will probably be summer before the motor clatters to life.

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  6. Dave Wright

    Interesting truck, shades of my 1920 Packard. Tires and wheels are close to 20,000 for the set rebuilt and restored. I know all the players in wooden wheel building and can not find them cheeper. They are very heavy, freight alone to the restorer is over 1000.00. The biggest improvement in this time was when Goodyear and Packard fitted the first pneumatic tires. They increased the speed from 20 to over 30 mph on the same truck. Unfortunately mine has the hard tires and wooden spokes. But mine is actually a one owner complete orignal truck. Bodies for this era trucks were built by coach or carriage builders usually near where they were sold. Most were custom designed for there intended use. I am not sure what this short wheelbase truck would have been used for. It looks to me like someone tried to make a farm tractor out of it at one time. That might also explain the motor change. I think the price is high for a truck missing the original engine. We are planing on spending a year or two on the restoration of my truck as it is important to do it correctly. These vehicles more than cars were the foundations that built our modern country. Cars were still novelties of great interest but there were still many more carriages and wagons being sold than automobiles. The conversations between the horse and automobile people at the time were fun, no one knew how to fix a car but a good mare could always replicate herself.

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    • Van

      All these young wiper snappers and their new fangled machines. 20 miles per hour. In my day 20 miles a day was just fine. The good Lord only went two or three miles a day and look where he got. If the good Lord wanted that kind of speed we would have been born with wheels dad burn it.

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  7. Scotty G Staff

    Thanks for the great, insightful comments on this great piece of history, folks!

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  8. steve

    You forgot to link to the ebay auction in the email.

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  9. Rick R

    It’s currently running a MoPar flathead six – not surprising considering the number of farm implements and industrial applications that used the 218/230 motors, besides Dodge trucks. (I just bought a ’52 Dodge 230 today!)

    Great piece of history!

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  10. Brad Huston

    What would something like this be worth if fixed and restored to its original glory. You get your money out of it????

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  11. John Gillespie

    I’m the owner of this truck and if it doesn’t sell, I think I will be donating it to a school or museum. It was used to move houses and barns. It has a huge gear driven winch on the back. It was put outside in 1998 when my dad passed away, but it was always inside before that. I bought the truck in 1972. And I drove it home 12 miles, what a ride. One I will never forget. Thanks for looking at an old classic. I have the original title to this truck as I am the 3rd owner.

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    • Keith

      John please reach me at the Museum of Off Road Adventure in Clay Twp, Mi. 877-FWD-MORA. We would love to have it!

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