The International Harvester Sightliner Definitely Fits In The WTF? Files, But Visibility Was Great!

The International Harvester Sightliner Definitely Fits In The WTF? Files, But Visibility Was Great!

(Words by Greg Rourke) From the WTF? files comes a truck International Harvester designated the ACO and ACOF series, better known as the International Harvester Sightliner. 

    First question that comes to mind is, why? Several reasons. First, in the middle on the twentieth century we had strict length laws on trucks. Often it was 50 feet over all, compared to todays common 53 feet for just the trailer. Since one doesn’t carry freight in the cab, it was reasoned that a shorter tractor would accommodate a longer trailer. More payload, it makes sense. By putting the driver above the engine, we could get a cab length of 48 inches. Yes, only four feet.


Driver comfort wasn’t a consideration.  Most cabovers of the era still has some semblance of a hood, restricting vision directly in front of the truck. I can tell you from personal experience that even a short hood, like on the Mack R688ST I once drove things can disappear in front of you. City-wise pedestrians in Chicago would often raise their arms or an umbrella when making their way across a crosswalk in front of a big truck so the driver could see them. Also note the bars in front of many school buses to prevent the little tykes from crossing directly in front of the bus where the driver cannot see them.  IH decided they had a better idea.


   The cab appears to be the same as the conventional IH medium and heavy trucks. Basically chopped off at the firewall, and a couple of windows mounted in it’s place to give the driver an unobstructed view. Well…mission accomplished. I think we can agree this is one ugly mother. Drivers complained of the greenhouse effect on sunny days, and wearing short pants resulted in sunburned legs. At night oncoming headlights resulted in glare directly into the drivers eyes. Many Sightliners ended up with the lower windows covered with sheet metal, or simply painted over. This model only lasted from 1957 to around 1962.

   While we all like a little diversity in our mechanical endeavors, I’m guessing no one misses this answer to the question no one asked. 

 sight7 sight6 sight5 sight4

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6 thoughts on “The International Harvester Sightliner Definitely Fits In The WTF? Files, But Visibility Was Great!

  1. Loren

    Those short-wheelbase tractors have got to be the most brutally-uncomfortable vehicles to drive ever created. Maybe if you made the driver seat some sort of hanging swinging baby-bouncing chair so you could just cool it while the cab was thrashing around you in all directions over bumps. Probably those drivers also painted out the low windows so everybody in front of them couldn\’t see where their can of Hamm\’s was stashed…

  2. RK

    Yep. I rode from Oshawa to Montreal with my Uncle Andy back in the seventies with a load of cars from GM. One of those early sixties GMC cabover rigs. The driver had a spring loaded suspension seat but not me! Rough ride indeed.

  3. geo815

    That last truck pictured is a Whatoff Trailer Toter. It had a retractable frame, hence the multiple driveshafts. Most were Studebakers, until Studebaker came out with their own version (non-retractable frame), what’s known as the 96 BBC.

  4. Crazy

    Back when a truck was a truck, they didn’t design them for good looks..
    Hope that was safety glass, as a rock hitting that at speed might get painfull fast..
    I find it odd that today people love the look of cab overs, they clearly never drove on for a job. as those that did have a compressed back because of those bull rides

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