International Harvester "L" and "R" Series

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Early 1950's self loading log truck

By 1950 the "L" series was appearing, quickly followed by the 'R" series. The example shown on the left is an 'L190' now used by the Van Natta Family as a Fire Truck. Loggers, you see, worry a lot about fire. In truth, very few fires are started by loggers, but loggers are most particular about being ready, just in case.

IH has always made their trucks to order and you might find anything under the hood, but they have long had a medium and a heavy class. The medium class used the 6-cylinder engine mentioned as being in the D35 above, and later used a small block V8 with either a 304-345 or 392 Cu. In displacement, the same engines that appear in IH pickups and Travelalls. The heavy series such as the one shown here shared the same cab, but had a different fender and grille combination and used IH's 'big block' gas engine. This 'big block' gas engine began life as 372 and over time grew to a 406, a 450 and finally a 501. The Red Diamond 450 is perhaps the best known configuration is believed to be the engine in the example shown here. The first VanNatta logging truck which joined the family about 1965 was a slightly newer(1954) R-190 with an RD-501. It had been king of the road in its day. It had a split manifold with dual header pipes (quite unusual on an inline 6 engine), 34m Eaton rear ends and an 80 series brownie. It had spent its first life pulling a chip trailer. Gas consumption was another thing. It had 40 and 60 gallon saddle tanks and an 80 gallon extra tank mounted behind the cab on top of the frame. IH eventually produced a larger and more powerful gas engine-the V-8 549 in the 1960's but alas, the conversion of the trucking industry to diesel was then well underway. Few have ever disputed the claim that IH made the most popular and reliable 'big gas' truck engines in the United States.

In terms of appearance the R and the L series are almost identical. They were made in all configurations and just because I show th L as a dual drive and the R as a single drive do not assume that this was the way it was. They came both ways. The R-190 photo (Below--taken an an auction in 1999) is of a far more 'stock' looking R-190. The butterfly hood is complete and a standard front bumper is present. If you ever drove one of these you you know WHY the side skirts on the hood are often missing. The Side skirt was on a piano hinge and could be fairly easily removed. In hot weather when you had to operate at slow speeds you learned to remove the skirt to provide better cooling. It saved a lot on vapor locks. Our favorite was to remove the right one only. That was the manifold side and also the side with the carburetor. This let some extra heat out. You kept the left one on so you could roll down the drivers window without having all the heat blow around the corner and into the cab.

These trucks were often sold with a 'standard' 6,000 lb front axle. The R-190 looks to be of that type. Notice how far under the fenders the tires are. When grossly overloaded as they often were, those axles would bend in the middle. This was particularly a problem with dump trucks. This would in turn cause the tires to have way too much camber and would make the trucks almost impossible to steer (unless you were very strong), as power steering was not the norm. I've seen many of these trucks with an re-enforcement bar welded underneath the axle creating a truss from side to side to keep the axle form sagging in the middle. You would wonder if they wouldn't break spindles also, but actually only once in my life have I ever heard of a truck breaking a spindle.

The advent of long haul trucking resulted in a class of trucks bigger and heavier and more powerful than every before. Unfortunately for International (Now called Navistar) there had always been other manufacturers who specialized the making the heaviest of highway (and off highway trucks). On the east coast there was Mack, White and Autocar and in the Pacific Northwest there was Freightliner, Kenworth, and Peterbilt. IH stumbled with their first diesel engine, and in the beginning were hardly in the class 8 market (the largest of the highway rigs) so when the class 8 market exploded and diesel conversion became a serious goal, the premier maker of medium and medium heavy trucks was left scrambling. Somehow 'built like an International Truck' doesn't have the same ring as 'built like a Mack Truck'!

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