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Searching for clues in MAN’s historical archives

Anyone on the hunt for historical MAN documents will find themselves in MAN’s historical archives sooner or later. This is where any document relating to the MAN Truck & Bus company and product history is preserved.

Old and new operator’s manuals, company newspapers, photos, brochures and files – the MAN historical archives contain around a million documents. They are stacked together in several rooms, upon hundreds of metres of shelves that are lined up to the ceiling with boxes and slipcases. While a sweeping glance may detect nothing but stacks of dusty files, a closer inspection reveals some true gems, which invite you on an exciting journey back through the history of commercial vehicles. The archive and its manager, Henning Stibbe, receive between five and ten requests per day. He is also often approached by vintage enthusiasts, such as Marek Ciesielski from Poland. He is restoring an old MAN F4 truck from 1936 and thought the MAN historical archives might contain some information.

The F4 adventure begins 

The adventure shared by the vintage aficionado and the old MAN truck stretches as far back as Marek Ciesielski’s childhood. “In the early 1990s, I often travelled through Upper Silesia with my family. When I think back to this era, I remember that I saw a large red truck standing high up on a platform somewhere in the area. I started working in the region in 2011 and, from time to time, I went on bike rides to various destinations. To my great surprise, I stumbled across the MAN F4 on one of these trips, still standing on the platform, just the way I remembered it from my “early childhood memory”. 

It soon became clear that this truck was one of only three surviving vehicles

Marek Ciesielski

In 2013, Marek Ciesielski heard the news that the MAN F4 was being sold to a local railway museum, where it was to be repaired and returned to working order. From this point forward, he set about trying to find out more information about the vehicle and, through his research, ended up at the MAN historical archives. “It soon became clear that this truck was one of only three surviving vehicles,” explained Marek Ciesielski. 

A search request specialist

Henning Stibbe knows every single item housed within the MAN archives. When the qualified art historian started managing the collection in 2011, he had to modernise the entire contents. This meant inching his way through each and every paper, sorting photo after photo and document after document. However, an even more time-consuming task involved digitalising all the photos and documents. These days, he knows exactly where to look when he receives a request. And it’s no different in the case of Marek Ciesielski’s MAN F4. He found an operator’s manual and a spare parts catalogue, which he was able to send to the vintage aficionado via a download link. They have helped Marek Ciesielski to determine which parts of the truck are still in their original condition and which parts have been exchanged over the course of the vehicle’s extensive life. 

Tracing history

“We still didn’t know a great deal about the history of the vehicle, other than the fact that it was found in Bytom after the 2nd World War, where it was in operation until the 1980s.” Then came a monumental discovery: the MAN F4 diver’s cab and vehicle identification number plate were still in their original condition. Thanks to the vehicle and engine numbers, the archivist was able to track down the original sales list from 1936 and, with this, the original owner – a certain Mr Frischbutter, who owned a brick factory in Rosenberg (today: Krasnoflotskoje). He purchased the MAN F4 model from the former MAN branch in Königsberg on 22 December 1936. “More than 80 years ago,” said Marek Ciesielski in amazement. “What happened after that and how the MAN F4 ended up in Upper Silesia we’ll probably never find out. It will still be a good while until the old MAN F4 is in full working order again. I am delighted that at least I was able to find out a bit more about its history, with the help of the MAN archives.”

Useful information: 

  • MAN F4 diesel heavy-duty truck 
  • Production period: 1936 – 1942 
  • Production: 1,325 units until 1942 
  • Length x width: 8.1 m x 2.5 m 
  • Payload: 6.5 – 8 t 
  • Engine: MAN D3555, 150 hp, 6 cylinder, 1,700 rpm, 13.3 l capacity
  • Tank capacity: 200 l 
  • Maximum speed: 40 km/h

Anyone on the hunt for operator’s manuals or brochures about vintage MAN vehicles will find what they are looking for in the MAN archives. This includes a number of historical documents relating to the MAN F4.