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Van In Black: 1947 Linn Step Van


The Linn Trailer Company, founded in 1929 by Holman Harry Linn had an interesting history that began with the “U-Can-Back” one wheel trailers. Along the way, the company built many configurations of trailers and vans, including motor homes and the first mobile television studios. An interesting history of the company can be found on the Coachbuilt website. The Linn vans are unique in that they are chain driven front wheel drive. Front wheel drive makes a very low floor possible. The complete drivetrain is easily removed for maintenance and repair. Thanks to Peter R for finding this one here on eBay. It’s in Windsor, New York and the bidding is at just over $1,500 with the reserve unmet. It’s served as a shed for some time but the current owner has gotten it running and driving.

inside drivers

That body is all there without major damage. Inside is what you would expect with a Hercules six under the dog house. Perhaps this could be made dependable enough to be useful. You wouldn’t want to drive it very far, but it could be useful.


Here’s that Hercules engine. It would be interesting to study to chain drive system and all the parts that make it work! Having the engine powering the front wheels gave them a lot of flexibility with how they could set up the rear suspension. This one has torsion bar rear suspension which was latter changed to leaf springs to improve the ride.

right front

While it is a bit odd, it is actually a cool looking van. There are endless possibilities here, but what ideas do you have for this big black box?


  1. Avatar photo john

    …I suppose the bulk of them were bought by bread companies…the volume vs weight ratio would dictate that.

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    • Avatar photo James HGF

      Bread companies? Not at all. Read the “illustrious” history of Linn Trailer Corp and Linn Coach and Truck Corp:


      Television and radio stations – the Military – Libraries for Book Mobiles – Manufactures for mobile sales display units and even telephone companies for mobile phone units (in their larger versions) were among the buyers for the Linn Vans. Like this “smaller” Linn Speed Van.

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      • Avatar photo Puhnto

        That was interesting stuff! Thanks.

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  2. Avatar photo MH

    Cut a few holes in the floor and use it for ice fishing. My buddy does that with a old 50’s chevy panel van. That’s how we do it up here in MN.

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  3. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    I’m familiar with the Linn “truck-tractor”, with the front end of a truck and crawler tracks on the back, but never knew about this division. The drive system is pretty straight forward, kind of a “V-drive”. What’s cool, is the whole shebang could be removed for service. They apparently, were competing with Gerstenslager, who went on to become a huge van maker.( remember the “Bookmobile”?) Just amazing all the spin-off AMERICAN industries that were involved in building this. Kept the country humming. Not sure what to do with this, aside from a static display with the motor and drive system partially removed. The link claims these had a top speed of 70 mph, although, I think that’s optimistic, and I certainly wouldn’t try it. Thanks to David for the history lesson.

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