Classic Cabovers

By on March 11, 2011
RoadKing Mag

For you regular readers of Road King, this column and my written and video blogs at roadking.com, you know I’m a cabover fanatic. What you may not be aware of is that my fascination with these noseless trucks began when I was a youngster, and it has continued uninterrupted ever since.

I can recall with great clarity the occasion when I spotted a cabover for the very first time. It was during outdoor recess time at my elementary school. My classmates and I were playing Greek Dodge when all of a sudden we heard a loud, strange noise. Turning toward that sound I saw what, to me, was a strange-looking vehicle pulling a flat trailer that carried a large bulldozer. I was puzzled by the truck. I had seen trucks before, but never one without a hood.

I asked my teacher about the unusual rig. He told me it was called a cabover tractor because the cab, and driver, sat over the engine.

The first semi-tractor I drove was a late 1960s model International Emeryville. That was the truck I learned to drive big rigs with, and the one I used to get my CDL. I moved on to drive all makes and models of cabovers.

Sadly, it has been many years since I’ve piloted a cabover. They’re getting scarcer and scarcer. And I’ve about given up on my quest to find a cabover for my project truck.

Thankfully, there are photographs, truck literature and books that document cabovers and their history. I have a number of them on my bookshelves, and am always on the lookout for more.

I relish learning all I can about these vehicles, especially notable dates. Here are a few good ones. Peterbilt introduced its first cabovers, the Model 280 and Model 350 — commonly referred to as “bull-nose” tractors — in 1950. Thirteen years later, Marmon Motor began building road trucks, offering only cabovers.

In 1972, White Trucks introduced its Road Commander cabover. The trucking industry’s first raised-roof cabover sleeper, the Kenworth K100 Aerodyne, came onto the market in 1976. Freightliner introduced its Century Class Argosy cabover in 1998.

I was excited when Road King managing editor Nancy Henderson informed me of a newly published book on cabovers, White-Freightliner Trucks of the 1960s, by Ron Adams. I immediately secured a copy and read it from cover to cover. The book is a terrific walk down memory lane, plus it provides some interesting historical information.

The 130-page book begins, appropriately, with a history of White-Freightliner, explaining how the company and trucks evolved from an arrangement with Consolidated Truck Lines and White Motor Company. The remainder of the book is black-and-white and full-color photographs.

These portraits of various models of White-Freightliners show the many different customers and the hauling jobs they did in the peak of the popularity of the trucks — the 1960s. There are also details about the tractors and the trailers they are pulling, including a number of specs and add-ons.

I may be dating myself, but I recall actually seeing a few of the rigs pictured in the book.

It’s my guess that the author, Ron Adams, had a very difficult task in deciding what photos and information to include in this, his latest book. He has amassed a huge collection of material.

Adams started collecting pictures and photographs of trucks in 1959, at the age of 12. Since then, he has contributed to many books and articles in trucking magazines, and has authored a handful of books himself.

Contemplating the book’s many photographs, you can see how far along trucks and trailers have come since the 1960s. Suffice it to say, they sure don’t make tractors like those sturdy, boxy cabovers from days gone by.

White-Freightliner Trucks of the 1960s is part of the At Work Series from Iconografix, a publishing company specializing in books for transportation enthusiasts. Also in the series are similar photographic archive-type books on International, FWD, Autocar, Reo, Brockway, Ford and Mack trucks, among other truck manufacturers.

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