Mafia Secrets
The resurgence of the cabover craze

By Bryan Martin, contributing writer

What do the terms FLT, 4070, K100, 352, Astro and Road Commander all have in common? You’re right – all old cabover models from yesteryear!

When I was a pup, running around Dad’s truck stop back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, these “flat-nosed,” “skillet-faced” rigs outnumbered the hoods on most parking lots. To me, the COEs (cab-over-engine) were the rugged pioneers of long-haul trucking. What they lacked in comfort and convenience they made up for in cost and reliability.

It was undoubtedly a pain in the butt having to raise the cab to replace a fan belt; having to secure every heavy item in the sleeper before you tilt the cab to prevent it from crashing thru the windshield; and then having to suffer through hot and often miserable cab temps in the summer, even with air conditioners functioning at their very best. The “smooth ride” never existed since you were sitting right above the steer axle, and changing your clothes while lying down on the bed was always a hassle.

We all did it because it was all we knew and what we had always done.

On the other hand, one of the best “perks” I recall about the cabover trucks was that due to the easy access you could remove and replace a clutch assembly in about two and a half hours if everything went just right. I am sitting here continuing to ponder the various other perks that cabovers offered … but nothing comes to mind. Ha!

Here lately, with the “retro revival” and with vintage styling coming full circle, what was trendy in the ’70s is now trendier than ever.

We are starting to see a few more cabovers being dragged outta the fence rows, and put back to work. Surprisingly, it was just the other day I read an article that stated a national mass merchandiser was ordering some custom-designed new Freightliner cabovers to accommodate longer van trailers for transport in certain regions. Don’t quote me on this, as I am just a meager “parts man,” but if my sources are correct, Freightliner is likely the only OEM still offering a Class 8 cabover truck, the Argosy model.

If you are all about truckin’ and want a good family project, perhaps you can locate an old forgotten cabover somewhere in your neighborhood, pick it up for $3,000 to $4,000, start renovating it as you see fit, and give it a cool and unique look all your own. They still seem to be readily available. If not on the Internet sites, you can generally find them by simply asking around, or taking a weekend drive out on some back roads.

While not all of us may wish to ride in a cabover rig 4,000 to 5,000 miles each week as our “every-day driver,” they are a ton of fun to run now and then, just to turn a few heads and get the ol’ blood a-pumpin’ again.

Try to find your COE, get the project started and build a piece of American history and engineering. It’ll be fun, trust me.

But, let’s be honest, now that we are getting a little older, er … huh, I mean wiser, these late-model conventionals with easy entry, tilt steering, cruise control, smooth riding suspensions and frosty cold air conditioning are indeed a step in the right direction for today’s trucker.

Who agrees? LL