1954 International Harvester R190

R190 logger
R190 logger

The R190 is the truck that made IH famous. Around 1950 IH produced first the L series followed by the R series which are essentially the same. The running gear wasn't new, but the cabs were. Until then IH was using the prewar cab as seen on our D-35 truck, with an updated fender set. The early post war models (late 40's) were of the "K" series. The older cabs are readily identifiable by the fact that they have no fly windows, a 2 piece windshield that can be cranked open, and a square instrument cluster.

The L and R cab used throughout the decade of the 50's was rounded everywhere. It had a rounded dash, two round instrument clusters, a rounded curved windshield and the like. It was also a very sturdy cab as compared to the Ford and Chevrolet competition. The most important thing was the doors. If the doors won't close or stay closed the truck is pretty well done. I've drive a lot very tired trucks of this vintage, and the doors always worked---not something that I can say about the newer 1960's vintage Loadstar series which always seemed to have door problems.

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R190 Getting Logs

In understanding the model numbering of IH, Pickups usually had a 1,2 or 3 in the model number somewhere,while the mediums used 4 thru 8, and the heavies used 9 and above. Thus the R190 was a 'heavy'. I used 'big block' engines and the only bigger was an 'West Coaster' which was an R-200 with diamond plated fenders and a Cummins Diesel.

Of all time popular trucks the R190 was 'the' truck of the 1950's. You saw them everywhere doing everything. They were made in both single and tandem axle models and with all sorts of running gear. The one we ended up with as our first log truck, had spent its first life as a tractor pulling a chip trailer. It was one of the heaviest duty I've seen. It had the biggest engine made for the truck, a Red Diamond 501. (Cu. in). It had a 5 speed main box with a 8041 (4 speed with a deep low) brownie. this was the the highest torque rated brownies. There were also 70 series and 60 series for smaller trucks. It had 150 gallons of ICC certified gas tanks (heavy steel in stead of sheetmetal), but did not have the ICC lights on top of the cab suggesting it was not run in interstate commerce. The rear ends were Eaton 34,000 lb on a Hendrickson spring/walking beam construction which was the heaviest common of the time. It even had a big front axle --- 12,000 lb rated.

The heavy front axle was a really good thing. It took a while before people figured out about the front axles. Standard was a 6,000 lb axle which is what you got unless you ordered a heavier one. Those axles when abused a bit would actually bend by sagging in the middle. This in turn messed up the camber of the front tires and made the trucks hard to steer. (There was no power steering). In my time I saw a lot of dump trucks that suffered from this problem. You see with a dump truck if a rock sticks in the tail gate, or the tail gate doesn't open when it should, the front of the truck when dumping will rare in the air about 8 feet until the rock spills over the top of the tail gate, and then the front drops back on the ground---a great way to bend axles that aren't strong enough in the first place. As a consequence many a truck driver cursed these trucks as being 'hard to steer' without knowing what the problem was.

Another curse of these trucks was the electrical system. Early models had 6 volt systems. The big gas engines would get tight when warm and then the starter wouldn't turn them over. To this day, the truck driver training manuals insist that you should never shift gears in an intersection for fear of getting stalled there. This truck is likely the reason for the rule. If you made a bad shift and killed the engine with one of these trucks with a 6 volt electrical system, you weren't likely to get it started again right away. Later versions, including ours had a 12 volt system which was a lot better in this regard. Others have reported that part of the problem was in the starting motor itself. It seems that the starting motors used on these trucks had a place for a 3rd bearing (between the Armature and the Bendix drive), but the bearing was usually not installed. It is reported to me that because of this in high torque applications such as tight engines, the shaft would flex enough that the armature would rub and short out on the field assuring that nothing (good) happened.

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