Roadside Find: An Awesome International Harvester Wrecker With History

Roadside Find: An Awesome International Harvester Wrecker With History

(By Greg Rourke) – International Harvester has been building trucks since 1907. From light duty pickups, Travelalls, Scouts, and all the way up to the biggest of the big rigs, International built them all. To many, myself included, the R series was the “face” of International Harvester trucks.

Built from 1953 through 1971, they were available all sorts of weight ratings, wheel bases, single or tandem axles, and even four wheel drive when that was unusual for an OEM. Snortin’ six cylinder gas engines were found under the steel butterfly hoods, from 372 cubes up to a monster 501. Diesels from Cummins and Buda were available as well.
While wandering through the wide-spot-in-the-road Lisbon, Illinois I saw the familiar nose of an R 190 IH sitting in a yard. It was a closed truck dealer’s yard, resting along with a few other refugees. It was equipped with a proper, old school wrecker body. Whereas today they have all sorts of wheel lift, rotating, high zoot wreckers for heavy truck work, these were as basic as it got. A pipe boom, a bazillion ton winch, and a big steel plate that butted up to the vehicle being towed’s bumper and you were on the road. Imagine pulling off that trick on today’s plastic covered aero big rigs. Crude, but they got the job done.
I’m digging the single, center mounted air horn, the “ding ding ding” axle mounted backup alarm, and the half inch plate push bumper. And the IH logo on the hood, which I once attempted to paint on the snow blade of my Cub Cadet tractor.
I also knew right away that I knew this truck, and had ridden in it. Holsteins Garage in Wheaton Illinois was still using this as their only heavy wrecker in the mid 80’s. Holsteins is still around, in the same building from the 1920’s, staffed by fourth and fifth generation mechanics, all named Holstein. I wonder if they want this truck back.

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