IH Loadstar 1850 Service truck with HIAB crane

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1977 IH 1850 Loadstar
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Two years later
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1977 IH 1850 Loadstar

Everyone has their ideas of what a service truck should look line. Many including this one are designed by mechanics and assembled out of available pieces. We started here with a collection of ideas and just started building. The truck had been a flat bed farm truck with a hoist under it. It has served us well in that regard but it was retired from that role when we acquired an IH 4900 which was 20 years newer. The basic truck here is one you could sort of love to hate. Powered by an IH 466, it is followed with a traditional 5 speed and a 2 speed rear end. However, it has a stump pulling rear end ratio which allows it to get up to about 50 MPH with the engine at redline. Wonderful for off road work, but you really have to flog it to get it over about 45 MPH. It just doesn't want to go any faster than that. Other things that make the truck undesirable include the fact that it has California wheels (the spoke wheels) and hydraulic brakes instead of the preferred air brakes. It is however a heavy rated truck happy with a load up to 30,000 lbs gross.

We bought it second hand and it has served us well. Once we replaced it with a newer truck for our general purpose flatbed we had to think of something to do with it. we had purchased the articulated crane some years previous with the idea of putting it on this truck but had never gotten around to it. This particular crane had actually be a 'traveling crane' in its previous life but we removed the traveling features so it could be attached in one place. In case you haven't seen them, a 'traveling crane' of this type is on a track imbedded in a flat bed truck. It can run the length of the truck implying that if the truck is pulling a trailer, it can get back to the back of the truck and reach the trailer. This type of a folding crane is popular in Europe and is usually associated with the name HIAB. There is no label as to who made this crane but I assume it is a HIAB. It has been around for a while. As originally configured it had its own gas engine and hydraulic pump on its base making it completely self contained. The gas engine was dead so we dispatched it and the pump and instead plumbed it to the wet kit that we had on the truck for the hoist that used to be under the flatbed. Our vision here was to make an off highway service truck that would support our logging operation.

If you are to drop buy the friendly corner specialty truck maker and say you want a new service truck with a crane on it you need to take a $100,000 or so with you when you have the discussion. Our goal here was to build a functional service truck out of parts largely on hand. The first item, of course was the truck. It was a $7000 truck when we got it second hand 15 years ago and hadn't increased in value during its service as as flatbed for us. It was either find a use for it or scrap it so we decided to use it as it runs fine, but is just old and ugly. I think the doors on Loadstars (not one of IH's better trucks) sagged when new and after 30 years they still sag, but they work and that is sufficient for an off highway service truck.

The next thing we did was to round up a service body. Service trucks often have short wheel bases, but this truck had a really long wheel base so there was a problem. We took a pocketful of cash and visited a local truck wrecking yard and came home with a service body that had belonged to a utility company (it had been a bucket truck). It Is a Reading Box. It had a heavy floor as the bucket assembly was bolted to the bed floor, but otherwise the utility box was not reinforced for the traditional mechanics crane. That was fine with us because we didn't have a traditional mechanics crane to put on it. We were a little worried about tire clearance so we put a 3 inch subframe on top of the truck frame. We scrounged one of those from a retired log truck and ultimately ran it full length of the truck. This left us with about 6 feet of space in front of the service body.

As you can see we then split that space up installing the articulated crane in part of it and building a welder deck on the rest of it. We were a bit perplexed as to which order to install the items. In fact we first installed the crane behind the cab planning on putting the welder next to the service body. After We looked at it we decided to put the welder first and then the crane. This let the crane reach the back of the truck and also reduced the risk that the crane would damage the welder in some respect.

This particular crane has manual outriggers and will pick up some where around 3,000 lbs about as far as it can reach. Unlike a traditional mechanics hoist which uses a winch and a cable, this crane has no winch or cable. The boom reaches out horizontally and you simply attach what you want to lift to the end of the boom. As we received it it was a 2 function crane. Besides swinging on a rack and pinion, it had a boom and arm function. As presented the arm had a manual telescope where you had to pull the pin and slide it by hand. We added a hydraulic cylinder to that function since you needed to adjust the length of the arm to stow the crane. Because of its history as a traveling crane it had a 6 function spool valve but only 3 functions active so adding a function was not difficult. I believe the prior owners had the extra spools because they used a hydraulic grab to load things.

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Prepared to stow Crane Stowed

The main issue we have had with the hydraulics was that we over achieved a bit with the pump in that the pump moves a bit too much oil for this crane. We resolved that with a flow divider. We planed on the flow divider anyway because we wanted a tap in case we installed future hydraulic driven equipment off the truck, but it also became useful in reducing the oil flow to the crane. Some how it was a little jumpy with the kind of flow that will tip a dump bed.

As I mentioned the swing is a rack and pinion. The crane will rotate 360 degrees. This is accomplished by a gear on the boom base(the pinion) and a rack with a hydraulic cylinder on each end of it. This provides positive swing which doesn't creep on you like the motor swings do. It will stay right where you put it. The boom cylinder is a one way displacement cylinder which goes up under power and down on gravity. This implies you can't jack up the side of the truck with the crane but that probably is just as well. The arm is a 2 way action, and of course we put a two way action on the arm telescope.

The crane pedestal is in the center of the truck so the crane has equal reach over either side. Fully extended it reaches just beyond the back of the truck so you can load things in the back, but for most purposes to use the crane you will need to work over the side.

In the photos it sort of looks like a lot of space between the welder and the crane but in reality it is just about enough to get in there and check the oil in the welder when the crane is stowed. Since these photos were taken we have built a small protective cage around the welder to guard it a little from the possibility of getting slapped by an errant crane boom.

Finally we decked over the area between the cab and the crane and mounted the welder against the cab. The welder is a Lincoln Vantage 400. It is reviewed separately, but the mounting is significant to the truck. Though it is the lightest 400 amp welder around at 1250 lbs. it is still heavy. Lots of people set Miller Bobcats or Lincoln Rangers up on the top of the service body but they weigh only around 600 lbs. A big welder needs to be mounted crossways behind the cab for balance. I'm not even sure about a 600 lb welder up on the 'rail' as I call the top of the tool box, but a 1200 or 1500 lb welder in such a location is out of the question. IN reality, they are much more usable behind the cab anyway because you can reach the thing from the ground. You do have to climb up on the welder deck to service the welder, but you can operate it from the ground as all the controls are end within easy reach.

Since this truck was intended to be a welder truck above all else we wanted the welder convenient. One could I suppose put the welder in the bed of the truck, but then nothing else would fit in there. This big welder though expensive is incredibly nice. We thought a bit about how to provide air for this service truck, and finally decided than an electric compressor was the solution. Often service trucks have hydraulic compressors driven off the truck engine, but we didn't see the need to have the truck engine running as well since we had a hefty diesel engine turning the welder. If we had thought of it we might have powered the crane electric over hydraulic as well, but since the truck already had hydraulics on it, we never got to that decision point. The cord you see plugged in the end of the welder in the bottom right photo is the 3 phase power cord that feeds the air compressor and the plasma cutter. The first door on the left has the welder leads and the plasma cutter is behind the second door.

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