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.

July 20, 2009

Allis-Chalmers ACP 80 Lift Truck

The Allis-Chalmers ACP80 is a heavy-duty conventional type forklift. I’ve owned this one, a 1980 model, since 2007 (see the ACP80 project page here) and have been pleased with its performance and dependability. Below are the specs and information I’ve accumulated for the ACP80. I’ve also posted some pros and cons based on my experience with the machine.

1981 Allis-Chalmers ACP80 Forklift

  • Produced by AC’s Industrial Truck Division in Matteson Illinois
  • Model: ACP80
  • Fuel Type: LP
  • Engine: 6-cylinder Continental F245
  • Horsepower: 76
  • Transmission: Borg Warner Oil Clutch w/High and Low Range
  • Approximate Weight as Equipped: 12,322 lbs
  • Attachment: 42″ Forks
  • Load Tires: 8.25-15 14-Ply
  • Steer Tires: 7.50-10 12-Ply
  • Mast: 3-Stage
  • Lift Height: 182″ (Approx 15 feet)
  • Lift Capacity: 8,000 lbs
  • Mast Backtilt: 8 Degrees

-Industrial Truck Division

Allis-Chalmers first entered the material handling industry when it purchased the Buda Company in 1953. Buda was a manufacturer of engines and material handling equipment. I believe the main interest in the acquisition of Buda was so AC could produce their own diesel engines for their crawler tractor line, but it proved to be a two-fold blessing. Until that time, the diesels used in AC crawlers were GM diesels, also called Detroit diesels. The acquisition allowed AC the capability of controlling the manufacturing of their own diesel engines, which was a major plus, but their entrance into the material handling industry was also very profitable. Later, AC lift trucks were produced under the Industrial Truck Division of Allis-Chalmers. AC did well in the material handling industry for a number of years and despite financial hardships faced by many capital equipment manufacturers in the late 70’s/early 80’s, AC managed to hang on to their industrial truck division until 1986 when it was sold to AC Material Handling Corporation, a privately-held company.


I’ve found it very difficult to obtain information specifically for the ACP80 unit, so this part is basically from my experience and may or may not be completely accurate. To summarize the dissection of the model number, I believe the “AC” in ACP80 refers to Allis-Chalmers, the manufacturer. The “P” appears to refer to the model being pneumatic tire equipped. Some have said it refers to the fuel type, propane. This is likely derived from noting other models, such as the ACE which is electric. However, I have seen many ACP’s that were gasoline and diesel. If anyone has more detailed information, please feel free to post it. The “80” refers to the lift capacity which is 8,000 lbs. The smaller and more common sibling, the ACP60, is a 6,000 lb lift and the ACP40 is a 4,000 lb lift, and so on. AC also made conventional types even larger with the ACP 100, 120, and 140.

-Fuel Type

LP or LPG (liquid petroleum gas) is my preferred fuel type for lift trucks. It burns clean, which allows engines to last much longer. This also minimizes noxious exhaust gases which serves well in close quarters where forklifts are commonly used. However, I would have to say the main reason I like it is its convenience. The system is sealed and easy to deal with. I don’t always use my forklift regularly, and with the LP system, I don’t have to worry about the carburetor gumming up or the fuel going bad or perhaps accumulating moisture between uses. Another plus.


Continental engines are in a wide range of lift truck brands and applications as well as various types of industrial equipment. The Continental L-Head engines are old technology flat-head, points ignition type engines but are typically solid, bullet-proof power units. My ACP80 is equipped with a Continental F245 6-cylinder engine, which I believe produces 76 horsepower.


The Borg Warner oil clutch transmission, another common item in lift trucks, seems to be a solid unit. Borg Warner has long been a producer of industrial clutch and transmission related components. I’ve never had any trouble with mine. The ACP80 is equipped with a 2-speed unit that is handy when driving from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, just shift it up in high range and it cruises at low RPM. When you get back to business, drop it down in low and it is responsive and powerful. At my place, I never really get into a position to use the high range. Low does pretty much everything I need, but the high range is a nice option to have when it is needed.


A lot of weight is required to move heavy objects with stability. The ACP80 is a very weighty machine. I stuck mine the first day I used it. Even on a very hard packed dirt surface you have to be careful if you drive back through your tracks. The weight is concentrated on four narrow tires and you can literally feel the ground moving under you when operating the machine off-road. Even on concrete floors you need to take note of the slab depth; this thing will break concrete. Some models came with dual wheels on the load axle which would serve well off-road. My machine was intended to be used in tighter quarters and has the single drive wheels for better maneuverability.

– Attachment

The forks on this machine are heavy, 5 inches wide and 2 inches thick. The factory equipped forks are approximately 3.5 feet in length. The forks on my machine appear to be closer to 4 feet. Overall, they are adequate for this unit. In fact it could easily handle longer forks. I recently installed fork extenders on mine, making the length 5 feet.

– Tires

The data plate shows the factory equipped tires to be 12 ply. The load tires (drive tires) on my machine are 14 ply wide-walls. The wide wall design is to protect the wheel rims. Forklifts are often operated in tight areas and the rims can get scraped and bent. This is especially true on machines like mine that utilize Dayton wheels. The lugs tend to extend out a little bit further than rims with center lugs.

– Mast

A strong 3-stage mast is a great asset on any forklift. My ACP80 has a very heavily built but relatively short mast. The shortness makes it ideal for operating in a shop or warehouse where the unit may travel through doorways or under low ceilings, but to make up for the short height it has three stages. The overall lift height is about 15 feet. The lift capacity is 8,000 lbs, so it will handle quite a load. The mast tilts forward and backward but does not have side-shift, which wasn’t really common until later.

Unloading Two Paper Rolls Weighing 900 lbs Each

Transporting 900 lbs Paper Roll

– Pros

This is one of the most dependable machines I’ve owned. The great thing about the LP gas is it can set up for long periods of time and still fire right up when I need to use it, no matter if the weather is hot or cold. Another plus is the pneumatic tires. It can easily negotiate gravel and other hard surfaces in addition to paved surfaces. The ACP80 is actually considered an “all-terrain” forklift, not to be confused with “rough-terrain” forklifts which have much larger tires and are typically not of the conventional lift truck design. The transmission is smooth and the high and low range is nice. The 3-stage mast with tilt adds to the capability in service, especially when the machine can lift 8,000 lbs. Overall, very capable.

– Cons

For a conventional type forklift, it is somewhat large. You have to plan ahead because, compared to smaller units, it takes much more space for maneuvering than you might think. Also, it’s very heavy so you have to be careful where you operate it. If you get it stuck you’ll need something substantial to get it out. The tilting mast is great, but it was built before side-shift was common so you’ll have to be a good driver. One of the main drawbacks of having such a large mast is it severely limits visibility. It’s very difficult to see exactly where your forks are, so you need to have a good feel of the machine because you won’t be able to see everything.

Loading Scrap on 1979 Ford F-600 4x4

You’ll probably be seeing this forklift in the background of many other posts. At some point I’ll post some videos of it in action.

You may also be interested in the ACP80 project post here.

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