Vince Cissell, Buck Kamphausen and the name Coleman go way back to when, says Cissell, “Littleton was the country-bumpkin side of town.”
Cissell agreed to buy Columbine Ambulance from Kamphausen, his childhood buddy, when Kamphausen got drafted, and he still owns it today. And now Cissell is tending to another matter Kamphausen got rolling – literally.
Cissell ended up with Kamphausen’s behemoth orange Coleman snowplow in his storage building after last year’s Western Welcome Week parade, where it made its homecoming debut.
The Coleman is a Littleton native, born at the Coleman Motor Company on Nevada Street downtown. The company was founded in 1916 by Harleigh Holmes, who some say invented front-wheel and four-wheel drive, although it’s a matter of great debate.
As a kid, Kamphausen lived in Bow Mar near Fritz Noble, who had a large stake in the company. Kamphausen, Littleton High School Class of ’57, spent large chunks of his youth mowing Noble’s lawn and visiting the plant.
The company shut down in 1987. But about four years ago, Kamphausen’s sister, Dana Dunbar, found the orange beast sitting in a field near Minturn, Colo., full of elk antlers and petunias. Before it retired, it worked hard for the state clearing narrow mountain roads.
Dunbar called her brother right away, and he told her to get back there pronto. So she tracked down the owner of Battle Mountain Trading Company, where it had been resting for 30 years or so, and bought it that night. There was still air in the tires, and Kamphausen’s protégé, Josh Voss, had it running in a day and a half.
By creating such a splash during Western Welcome Week 2012, it stirred fond memories in a bunch of other Coleman fanatics. Now, Cissell, Jim Hatfield, Ken Kafka and 20 or so others have formed an official Coleman Club that will field about eight vehicles in the parade Aug. 17.
“Some guys play golf, some guys chase women, some guys rebuild trucks,” explains Cissell.
Hatfiled says they’re a loose affiliation of Coleman truck owners and enthusiasts under the auspices of the American Truck Historical Society. He doesn’t own one himself, but he did make an amazing find – the last vehicle ever produced by Coleman. It was a prototype American Coleman Railway Truck Inspection Vehicle that looks like no other vehicle the company ever made. It was still sitting in a shipping crate in a former Coleman warehouse in Sheridan, so Hatfield stopped in to visit with the new owner of the building.
“He got it out of the container and just kind of caught the fever and got it road ready,” said Hatfield.
Kamphausen’s dream for the snowplow was for it to live at Littleton Museum, joined by as many Colemans as can be found. But Cissell says museum officials wanted to keep it outside, so for now it lives on his family farm near Broadway and Orchard
Cissell says Coleman’s are a unique vehicle born in a unique town that used to make lots of stuff – think Heckethorn supply, Electron foundry, Red Comet fire extinguishers.
“So when you think back, you think about the history of the country, the little towns had the manufacturing, and that’s where things went on,” he said.