Nicholas Fluhart

July 25, 2009

Project: Allis-Chalmers ACP80 Forklift (Part 1)

Filed under: Project: AC Forklift,Trucks & Equipment — Nicholas Fluhart @ 9:35 pm

Here’s one of my favorite projects. I love Allis-Chalmers equipment. AC has a rich history in industrial manufacturing that spans far beyond the classic orange farm tractors that rolled from West Allis until the 1970’s. It’s a history I’ve studied extensively and I’m a big fan of Allis-Chalmers construction machinery and industrial equipment. This old ACP80 is currently the crown jewel in my Allis-Chalmers collection.





If you consistently do any type of physical work, you have to have a forklift. And once you’ve had one, you can never go without one. Simply put, it’s as handy as the button on your shirt. It wasn’t long after I had gone into business I knew the first piece of equipment I needed to buy was a forklift. One day my brother contacted me from an employee-only surplus auction at his workplace and described this unit over the phone. It sounded interesting so I gave him a max bid. As it turned out, we won the bid at $1000 which was a few hundred more than my max that I initially wanted to give for it sight unseen and not running. I was a bit nervous, but scrap prices were very high at the time so I figured worst case scenario I could sell a few parts off of it and scrap the rest to recover my investment. It was bound to have some good parts, and weighing in at almost 13,000 lbs it shouldn’t be a problem.

Just unloaded

Just Unloaded

My Initial Take

We had it hauled in on a lowboy and that was the first time I saw it. I was excited. It didn’t run and it looked like trot-line weight, but I was excited. I could see potential in the machine. The hour meter showed only 1600 hours which isn’t bad for a 1981 model. The levers and pedals showed very little wear, another sign of low hours. It has large pneumatic tires so it wouldn’t have any trouble negotiating the gravel area in front of my shop. It has an 8,000 lbs lift capacity and a 3-stage mast which should handle just about anything I would need it for. I was somewhat optimistic.

Diagnostic Inspection and Repair

One thing I noticed was all the fluids were crystal clear and the filters were marked with service dates which indicates it was fleet maintained. I learned it was kept and used at a storage facility and was not used on the daily production lines. This explained the low hours. I was told the unit gradually became hard to start and when they tried to fix it, the problem became worse. They parked it outside and left it for about two years before I purchased it in 2007. When I opened the engine compartment I noticed two immediate issues. 1) The electrical wiring had been butchered. Apparently they must have thought the problem was electrical or ignition related so they began rerouting wires without hesitation or qualification. 2) There was a small hole in the main LP gas line. This might have been the initial problem. It was primarily due to age, but the hose was also misrouted which caused it to rub on other components.

Before going much further I wanted to run a compression test so I wired to the starter directly in order to spin the engine over. The Continental F245 6-cylinder engine had excellent compression. This disbanded initial concerns that low compression may have been the cause for hard starting. This gave me the encouragement I needed to move forward, so I began rewiring the machine. Once rewired I installed new plugs, wires, ignition points, condenser, resistor, cap, rotor, etc. I replaced the LP gas lines and installed new fittings. I disassembled the converter regulator to clean and inspect, and I finished the final odds and ends such as brake fluid and tire pressure.

The moment of truth arrived. I pressured up the fuel system and turned the key. It started right up! The engine ran smooth and quiet and maintained over 30 psi oil pressure at idle. I immediately began testing the hydraulics. It took a few seconds to prime but everything worked. Finally, I put it in gear and it began to move. It wasn’t long before I was driving around the lot and picking things up. I was very happy. I had a good, functional lift truck for a little over a thousand bucks.

See Part 2 of this project for the cosmetic restoration.

See the Allis-Chalmers ACP80 page in the Equipment category for the specs of this machine.



  1. You have done a nice job on this forklift. I have a acp 80 that im trying to find a service and operators manual for and i’m not having much luck any suggestions.

    Comment by Leroy A Harris — August 11, 2011 @ 8:51 am | Reply

    • Thanks for the comment. I have recently found a source for the service and parts manuals at the link below. These are reprints, but they are pretty good. I have not seen an operator’s manual as of yet. You’ll note the manufacturer as “Kalmar AC” instead of Allis-Chalmers, but it is the correct manual for the ACP80. In 1986 Allis-Chalmers sold their industrial truck division to a company called AC Material Handling who subsequently sold two years later to Kalmar, which became Kalmar AC.

      A couple of things to note about these manuals: They do not cover the mast or its components. Also, the service manual focuses more on the diesel engine models as opposed to the gas engines. The LP Continental F245 engine is not in the manual at all, but those engines are common enough to find manuals elsewhere. All the other components such as the brakes, transmission, hydraulics (minus the lift cylinders), are in these manuals. I actually used my parts manual today to order a seal kit for one of my tilt cylinders.

      Comment by nfluhart — August 16, 2011 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

  2. Hey, I used to drive one of these every day at work for years! In Denmark. It looked exactly like yours, except for double front wheels (with wider fenders), and a closed cab with heating. It was painted army green, probably came from some army surplus sale somewhere. It also had the Continental inline six cylinder engine, originally gasoline powered, but was converted to LPG later on, with a pressure tank mounted behind the cab. At one time the exhaust gave up from corrosion, so I mounted a stainless steel pipe to the manifold outlet and it went straight up into the air, without a muffler. You could hear that truck coming from miles away after that. It was strong and sturdy and never broke down, only trouble we had was some rear wheel steering links (not sure if that’s the right word for it in english) that wouldn’t hold up, and the occasional blown head gasket. I remember blowing at least two of those. Nice paint job on yours. I never knew what the original colors were supposed to be.

    Comment by Ole D — August 18, 2017 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for commenting. You probably know these old lifts backward and forward. The original colors were yellow and black. At some point, dealers were refurbishing them and painting them off-white and black like mine was when I bought it. I’ve also seen a lot of them online in those colors. I painted mine bright white and black because it was inexpensive verses trying to match a particular color. I regret not putting a catalyst/hardener in my paint…it still looks pretty good, but it won’t be long and it will be due another paint job. It needs a few other things, but it doesn’t get used much…just when I’ve got to lift big/heavy stuff. I have smaller forklifts for the day-to-day work. Anyway, this one’s never let me down. It’s always been there when I needed it.

      Comment by Nicholas Fluhart — August 18, 2017 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

  3. Where do you find parts for the acp -80 at. Have purchased one and have several things to do to it before putting it into service. Looking for a muffler and seat and a few other minor things.

    Comment by Eric Scheller — October 19, 2019 @ 8:53 pm | Reply

    • I generally just search the web for parts. I haven’t ordered parts for it in a long time, but the last few things I think I found on eBay.

      Comment by Nicholas Fluhart — October 29, 2019 @ 3:17 pm | Reply

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