Truck Restoration Projects

Transtar shines again

Every time we called in on Alby Twyford at Candelo in southern NSW there was another old truck under restoration – this time it was a 47-year-old International Transtar he’d just completed putting the finishing touches on a couple of weeks before we arrived.

Alby bought the COE Transtar from a mate in Melbourne with the nickname ‘Woody’, who’d purchased it from another bloke, who’d bought it from another… and so on. The upshot was that Alby had no idea who originally owned it and said: 

“It’s an unusual spec for a big prime mover, being a single drive, with a non-sleeper cab. 

“Woody loved the truck and wanted to restore it, but after some family problems arose he had no option but to sell it, so, I bought it from him.

 “Mechanically it was pretty good, but the cab had obviously had a fight with a trailer and needed repairing. 

“The engine was a Cummins NTC250; the transmission, a Roadranger 15-speed direct and the diff, a whopping Inter RA57 unit.

“The mechanicals were good, as you’d expect in a 4×2 with that spec that wouldn’t have been too overstressed.”

Alby told us that the engine was a ghastly red colour, so thinking he was painting it the correct colour, had Shane his painter, blow a coat of Cummins faun (turkey-turd tan) over it. 

He said with a smile: “You wouldn’t want to know, but Ron Kirk our expert on all things Cummins, saw a photo of it, rang me and said: ‘Mate, it should be oxblood red, as all International powered Cummins were.’ 

“And I said: ‘Well Ronny, it’s going to stay like that, I’m not changing it now.’”

Armed with the chassis number and build date of April 1971, we set about finding out who originally ordered this unusually spec’d truck and, with the help of an old mate at Iveco who had also worked at International Harvester in the old days prior to the 1992 Iveco takeover, and we were able to trace it. Listed on the build sheet were an additional four chassis numbers built to that spec in April/May of 1971. 

However, some archival information had been lost, so we weren’t able to trace exactly who the buyer was. Nonetheless, an educated guess by a couple of old truck-ologists who’d been in the industry for many decades narrowed it down to a possible Rapid Transport purchase. 

Rapid Transport was a large Sydney-based operation owned by Bill Marinic, employing some 700 people at its peak and operated a fleet that consisted mainly of Internationals. Mayne Nickless bought the company in 1988.

Rapid was a volume IH buyer back then and had a Lysaght-Brownbuilt contact for the cartage of long, lighter-weight roofing materials on extendable trailers. Apart from our research, Alby had been surfing the net and found a photo of the culprit with Rapid’s colours and signwriting – bingo! 

Just how many of these 4×2 spec’d 4070s were ordered by Rapids cannot be confirmed, unfortunately.  Alby’s could be one, but of course there were other Transtar 4×2 users – for instance Knights at Kilmore. 


The Transtar story

In 1965, International Harvester in the U.S. introduced the CO-4070 ‘forty-seventy’, replacing the DCO-405 ‘Emeryville’ product line of cabovers that ran from 1957 to 1964. The DCO-405 cab was based on the Diamond T cab of the CO-180/CO-220 series, but was mounted much higher, to clear big-bore diesel engines with their larger radiators. Why ‘Emeryville’? The City of Emeryville, California was where IH built the DCO-405s, in the days before it morphed into Navistar and the trucks were called ‘Emeryvilles’.

However, its replacement had a larger and wider cab, and the CO-4070 was distinguished by a large trapezoidal grille; a design feature that was be used on International cabovers into the late 1990s. 

Colin McKenzie was the Chief Engineer of the truck division of International Harvester Co. of Australia and has written a book titled Inter to Iveco and in chapter 25 he writes about the Transtar 4070 saying: 

In 1968 in the USA the 4070 set a new standard for high, tilt-cab-over premium duty trucks, compared with the market leading Freightliner FLA model and the flat and riveted-panel Kenworths and Peterbilts. A more aero’ shape was a feature of the design. The chassis was all-new and attention was given to light weight options that were attractive, particularly to the West Coast operator.

With the Australian length laws still requiring a cabover to haul a full-length trailer and provide a sleeper’, the new Transtar was a good fit for the Australian market. Right hand drive had not been engineered and Fort Wayne engineering was reluctant to provide resources to make the option available for what was a relatively small volume market. 

A compromise was reached, with the Australian company sending over its leading engineering design draftsman – Andre Abasa – to engineer the changes to the cab and the RHD steering. 

Andre had joined International after having spent some time with Chrysler Australia. He had played a major role in the design of the Dodge chassis, cab and front-end share with the International AB series program, and was very skilled. His main task was to work with McLaughlin body works in Moline Illinois, which manufactured and supplied the fully assembled International-designed cab to the Fort Wayne Works. 

In 1968, the CO-4070 was given an update, with the standard engine being the turbocharged IHC DVT573 petrol V8, with optional diesel Cummins and Detroit Diesel engines. The new truck was marketed as the Transtar. 

For 1970, two new models were introduced in the USA:  a Super Transtar featuring a Detroit Diesel 12V-71 engine, allowing for loads of up to 144,000lb (65,317kg) and the quirky all-wheel drive Unistar. This latter truck was fitted with a free-wheeling front axle, that powered up when the rear wheels lost traction, but it was only sold through to 1972.

Meantime, in Australia, International trucks obtained 22.68 per cent of the total registrations in the ‘over-two-ton’ vehicle market in 1970 and became sales leader in the Australian truck market.

With the demand for bigger highway haulage trucks on the increase, IHA introduced the Transtar C-4070A to Australia in 1971, following previews at truck shows in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne during 1970.

The new truck had undergone widespread test programs, both at the company’s Anglesea Proving Ground and in applications on-highway, hopefully to ensure its durability and suitability under Australian conditions.

To further enhance Transtar’s appeal a 24-hour truck service – an IHA first – at company branches in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne was offered to operators who couldn’t afford downtime during daytime working hours.

The new COE Transtar joined the conventional 400 series model. The 4070A 1971 brochure showed that it was offered in several configurations of two- and three-axle chassis, with a choice of 50in (1270mm) non-sleeper or 83in (2108mm) sleeper tilt cabs. The 90-degree tilting mechanism had hydraulic cylinders at each side, to equalise lifting forces and lowering effort. 

Cummins’ sixes in naturally aspirated and turbocharged spec’, as well as Detroit Diesel’s 8V-71N power, were available to order. A range of RT series Fuller transmissions was also available.

Transtar 4070’s curved cab contours made it possibly more aerodynamic than its contemporary, the Kenworth K100. However, it stood in the shadow of the K100, which had carved an enduring place in the COE linehaul market during the 1960s that is still evident on our roads today.   

The IH dealer group was a formidable force in the marketplace and sold 4070s to traditional and non-traditional IH users. However the 4070 aluminium cabs had durability issues that showed up as cracks in the floor and at chassis mounting points, as well as the tilt hinge mounting points – particularly with the heavier sleeper cabs. The section on the front of the cab by the radiator filler cover also cracked, eventually spreading radially across the cab.

There is a report of a driver putting his boot through the floor of one and having to get another driver to release him, by levering the floor apart with a length of four-by-two!

The 4070 just couldn’t handle some rough 1970s Australian roads. 

The lightweight aluminium cabs were built for the USA’s boulevarde road network, and it became obvious that not enough durability testing had been done by IHA prior to launching it in Australia.

Rapid Transport, Johnston’s Transport, ACE Gutters, Switzer’s Transport at Eden, Hancock’s Transport at Lakes Entrance, Panucci Transport, Linfox and Knights at Kilmore had 4×2 and 6×4 configurations, having operated DCO-405 ‘Emeryvilles’ prior. 

Whitelaw Transport in the Southern Highlands operated iridescent-blue slimline 4070s for Ansett on the Sydney to Adelaide ‘rocket’ service.   

We spoke with Don Anderson, principal at ACE Gutters, who told us they ran two on interstate and the only problem they had was with the Cummins engines breaking crankshafts.   

We knew that Knights at Kilmore had operated International DCOs and had updated its fleet with some Transtars, so we spoke with Jack Reeves who’d looked after the fleet maintenance back then. Jack said they ran them in 4×2 and 6×4 guise and even extended the chassis on some of the 4x2s, adding a lazy axle. There was a mixture of slim and factory sleeper cabs, and some of the slimlines had a half-sleeper fitted by Recar.   

He told us the aluminium cabs were quite weak in general and, in particular, the weight of heavier drivers sitting on the seat would crack the floor around the seat base area.   

IH dealers had much more COE success, following the 4070’s issues, after the release of the ACCO 3070 in the mid-1970s. Launched in 1975, the 3070A, with its Cummins V-903 engine, brought confidence back into the IH camp. Its dealers had first of all been crucified in the marketplace by the ACCO 2150 with its underpowered Cummins 555 (triple nickel); then along came what they thought to be their saviour in the 4070 Transtar.

As well-known and respected ex-IHA executive, Lloyd Reeman, put it: “The 3070 was a real game changer and put us back on the map.”  

In 1975 Ford had also released its V-903-powered Louisville LNT9000, so it, and the similarly-priced ACCO 3070, shared a large slice of the interstate linehaul market. The Cummins V-903 had set a new standard for reliability and durability over long distances. 


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