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Rare Truck: 1931 Kleiber 2.5 Ton Flatbed

Over the past decade of running Barn Finds, we’ve only ever come across one other Kleiber truck, which is rather astonishing considering we’ve featured nearly 40k vehicles and reviewed twice that many tips in that time period. If Kleiber had been based in a small country on the other side of the world, that might not be all that surprising, but these trucks were built right here in the United States. Sure it was a small manufacturer, but it built trucks from 1913 until 1938. In their final years, they were manufacturing several hundred trucks per year. While not a massive number, it’s enough that there have to be more of these trucks out there waiting to be rescued. Speaking of rescuing, this one needs a full restoration, but really deserves to be saved! If you are the one to save this rare truck, you can find it here on craigslist in Newport, Oregon with an asking price of $5,500 or best offer. Special thanks to T.J. for another great tip!

Kleiber was known for building heavy haulers and while this 2.5-ton example isn’t the biggest truck they offered, it was certainly no slouch. Its Waukashaw flathead inline-six engine was paired to a 4-speed manual transmission that was connected to a 2-speed rear end. The seller claims it’s the all-original drivetrain and that it was still running about 10 years ago. It’s been in their or their brother’s possession for the past 45 years, but that’s all the history they offer in their ad.

The seller also states that the truck is going to need a lot of components. The hood, cab doors, and roof are missing and I’m sure there are a lot of other parts that will have to be sourced to make it complete. Finding parts will likely prove difficult though, you aren’t going to find parts at the local parts store for this one. Thankfully, these were dead simple trucks, so as long as the mechanical systems are complete, you should be able to restore it back to original condition. It might require fabricating things like the doors and hood yourself, but there aren’t any complicated curves here. And on a positive note, it appears the side dump flatbed still works, although it’s a manual mechanism so you might not be using it that often.

Vehicles like this truly fascinate and puzzle me. It’s an important piece of automotive and American history, but there isn’t much interest in them. Restoring it will be a labor of love, but it’s a task that I really hope someone will undertake. Enough of our history has already been sent to the recycler that I’d hate to see this one end up being melted down. Outside of a museum or a serious Pre-War truck enthusiast, I’m not sure who would tackle a project like this? Are any of you up for this project? Let us know in the comments below and if you end up buying it, please keep us posted on the restoration!


  1. Avatar photo Stan

    Cool truck, never heard of them. Good one Josh.

    Like 3
  2. Avatar photo Gunnar

    That would be a Waukesha engine.

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo Lou Rugani

      Waukesha also built engines for Crosley between 1939 and 1942, and is still in business.

      Like 0
  3. Avatar photo DON

    I suppose its possible it never had doors , but the hood is another story .

    Like 0
  4. Avatar photo gaspumpchas

    Side dump–hmm wonder if it was a railroad truck? Sure is neat, would love to see it come back! Good luck and happy motoring.

    Like 3
  5. Avatar photo TimS

    I think we’re all waiting for Howard and/or Geomechs to chime in here.

    Like 6
  6. Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

    My restoration shop was involved in restoring a late 1920s Kleiber truck’s drive line, don’t remember the model number or year. I did a lot of research into the Kleiber truck co. Harrah’s car collection library was a lot of help in getting photos of the drive train, and I think they still have a Kleiber truck in the National Motor Museum.

    One problem we had was torqueing the nuts on the head studs on the dual cylinder heads. We had to find a hi-strength narrow wall socket for the head nuts along the matched line where the heads are side by side, so we could properly torque the heads after the rebuild. Those head studs are practically side by side.

    Paul Kleiber was a very interesting figure in San Francisco’s history. He was known as “The Honest Blacksmith”, and his trucks were said to be almost indestructible because they were so massively overbuilt. The trucks were designed to be driven up and down the steepest S.F. streets. They also built automobiles until 1929. The cars were built on the same chassis as the trucks, but had balloon tires. I read the cars were over 4,000 pounds when finished!

    I read this account in a local S.F. historical brochure: Seems word got out that Paul Kleiber was buying up an entire block of Folsom St to build his new factory. One local property owner had a 3 story apartment house right in the middle of the block. So he demanded several times the property’s worth. Mr Kleiber ignored his demands, and built the factory around the little building, locating the casting foundry adjacent to it. Within a year of the factory opening, the noise of the foundry was so loud, the apartment building became vacant. Mr Kleiber bought the building for a fraction of it’s value, and at least into the 1990s it was still there.

    As for this truck, I do know the S.F Fire Dept still has a similar truck & cab that was used for lighting up large fires with portable electric lights. I suspect if a new owner was to contact the SFFD, they may be allowed to take measurements and photos of that truck’s hood and doors. As Kleiber trucks never were intended to be sold except on the west coast, I was told their cab doors didn’t have any windows, nor did the windshield have wipers. So replicating these doors should be straightforward.

    I’ve heard there are about a dozen Kleiber trucks worldwide, but only one car, and it’s owned by the Kleiber family.

    Like 32
    • Avatar photo Richard

      Great history. I had never heard of these.

      Like 2
    • Avatar photo Yooper Mike

      Any photos of that car ?

      Like 1
    • Avatar photo mark chatigny

      That particular truck had roll-up windows

      Like 0
    • Avatar photo Cory Bottimore

      I have one that my great grandfather bought new. Not 100% sure of the year. I believe it’s around 1926.

      Like 0
  7. Avatar photo geomechs Member

    Quite the beast there! I don’t think I’ve ever had the opportunity to get up close and personal with one of these. That I knew of their existence is about the best I can do. It looks like Bill McCoskey has said far more than I could offer. The engine was used in other applications and I can remember older mechanics talking about having to fabricate special sockets to be able to torque the headbolts…

    Like 6
  8. Avatar photo Raymond L Saunders

    Cab looks like a phone booth….

    Like 1
  9. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    Being a member of ATHS( American Truck Hist. Society) for many years, I’ve heard of, but not seen, just about every truck ever made. Kleibers I heard of were generally fire trucks out west, but some road trucks did make it east. Coming from Milwaukee, I’ve seen just about every spelling of “Waukesha”, and I read Kleibers used Continental motors, but Waukesha was just as popular. Kleibers, like many trucks, were “assembled” trucks, meaning, they used all parts from other suppliers, and weren’t cheap. I don’t see any evidence of a dumping mechanism, I’ve never seen a “hand side dump” before, and they claim a “Brownie”, but see no evidence of another transmission or a 2 speed rear for that matter. Years ago, this would have been a great project, as a parade float, today, I doubt there will be any interest for even that.

    Like 4
  10. Avatar photo Phil Poburka

    Wheeler’s RV in Las Vegas use to have a big bunch of old Trucks out back, and one of them was a BIG latter 1920’s Kleiber…it seemed complete and in good condition…last time I saw it was around 1998 or so, so, likely all long gone by now…

    Like 1
  11. Avatar photo Troy

    Never heard of this brand looks like it would make a nice hauler for someone well experienced with metal fab. There are similar looking trucks sitting in some farmers fields near me I only thought about trying to get them for the scrap but never took the time to contact the farmer about selling

    Like 0
  12. Avatar photo Phil Poburka

    The one I remember admiring had Yale Locks built in to the Hood, like 1920’s House Door Locks, and Hood was locked closed, so I never got a look at the Engine.

    I am sure it was for sale, like everything they had back there was, but it was one of those places where if you picked up a bent, rusted Cotter Pin off the ground held it up and asked “How much?” The old guy would rub his chin like an old Vaudeville skit, and reply with “What’s it worth?”

    It was extremely difficult to ever buy any loose parts, vehicles, etc there, and no one I knew ever succeeded…

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Lou Rugani

      Ah, yes, that. old trick: No matter what you offered, the guy would burst into loud laughter. I’d laugh even louder and longer and slap the tabletop and my knees until the tears flowed. Still chuckling, I’d hand him what I’d just offered.

      Like 0
  13. Avatar photo Bob the ICEMAN

    Usually a side dump, correlating with it’s location could indicate this truck was used in the logging industry. If it was checking the flatbed frame for locations where hinged side gates/rails (on the low side) may answer how it was used.

    Like 2
  14. Avatar photo PeterfromOz

    I just googled Kleiber Cars and there are plenty of photos of cars & trucks to see what the doors and bonnet look like,

    Like 1
  15. Avatar photo PeterfromOz

    Dear Bill McCoskey,

    Do your comments about dual cylinder heads apply to the engine shown in the photo here. It looks like a very flat one-piece in the photo, in fact, it is the flatest cylinder head I have seen.

    Also, I googled Waukesha engines and found the company is still in business making fine looking engines.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member


      If you look closely at the engine photos in the original craigslist ad, you will see it’s a flat-head in-line 6 cylinder. However the “cylinder head” is actually 2 heads, one for the front 3 cylinders, the other for the back 3 cylinders. The 2 heads literally butt up against each other, and along that joint line can be found 2 closely spaced lines of head studs topped with head nuts.

      As these heads are fairly thin cast iron pieces, I suspect trying to cast a single long and thin cast iron 6 cylinder head would have had a tendency to crack and break, hence the decision to use 2 castings. This was quite common in the early part of the 1900s.

      Waukesha made gasoline engines in 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 cylinder configurations. I suspect the 3 cylinder engine cylinder head is likely the same as the 2 heads on this engine.

      Yes, the company is still in business, however it’s part of the INNIO group, and the product lines are mostly European and Asian motors built under license.

      Like 1
    • Avatar photo mark chatigny

      dual cylinder heads on that truck

      Like 1
  16. Avatar photo mark chatigny

    If anyone is considering purchasing that truck and would like more information about its history feel free to contact me. I was the second owner of that truck and sold it to Mr. Lundie (current owner) in 1977. I did a partial restoration and drove it all over the Pleasanton Ca. area. It doesn’t appear that the current owner has done anything at all to the truck since he bought it, in fact, it’s in considerably worse condition. I supplied the doors with the roll up window mechanisms intact and operating but he must have misplaced them.

    Like 0
  17. Avatar photo mark chatigny

    I can answer many of the questions about the early history of that truck. I was the second owner and sold it to the current seller in 1977. It has deteriorated a bit since then.

    Like 0
  18. Avatar photo Richard Chatigny

    My brother used to own this truck before the current owner. It had the hood and doors back then. It was a beast. My brother bought it from the original owner. An old farmer named Gunther. He used this truck to haul sugar beets. It was probably 1975 when we got this thing cleaned up and running. It was fun to drive for sure. I wish it had fared better over the years but still fun to see it on wheels.

    Like 1
  19. Avatar photo mark chatigny

    I can’t see that my comments are posted so I apologize if several of them show up in a couple of days
    I know quite a bit about this particular truck (I was the second owner and sold it to the current seller) and if someone from here buys it I will be happy to provide background information

    Like 1

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