The truck in the movie Real Steel was a 1963 International Harvester (IH) COE (cab over engine). The truck in the movie, utilized to carry Hugh Jackman’s character’s fighting robot, Noisy Boy, was an example of the Sightliner series built between 1957 and 1964. Although they look really cool, the extra windows built into the cab of the trucks were actually considered to be dangerous by operators who drove them because they created unsafe glare from headlights while driving at night. Most of them were either replaced with sheets of metal or painted over.
History of IH
International Harvester got its start in 1830 when Cyrus McCormick developed a new horse-drawn reaper. With his brother Leander, he formed the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company. By 1902 the company had been sold to J.P. Morgan who merged it with Deering Harvester and three other small agriculture companies to form the International Harvester brand. The height of the company’s success came with the introduction of the Farmall tractor series which gave IH a sales edge throughout the 1970s. Despite its success in agriculture, IH continual added non-farm related businesses to its portfolio, depleting its profit margins.
Due to ever dwindling profit margins, IH introduced many cost saving strategies in 1979. After several months of production restrictions, wage reductions, and other measures, the IH workers represented by the United Auto Workers went on strike. The strike lasted for six months and fatally crippled IH. The company sold its agriculture properties leading to the formation of the Case IH brand. Left with the truck and engine brands IH changed its name to Navistar International Corporation which still produces heavy duty trucks today.
COE (cab-over-engine) trucks were introduced by the Sternberg company in 1907, but production only lasted for a few years. Sternberg reintroduced the design in 1933, though it remained a rare sight. The COE design saw its heaviest use during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s because of nationwide truck regulations on overall length. Once those regulations were repealed at the end of the 70s, heavy truck manufacturers began to move away from the design, but it remains popular today among light and medium duty trucks. While the COE is fairly rare in the United States, it is the most popular design in nearly every other part of the world.
The Sightliner remained in production for a very short time. The main downsides were a very rough ride, extra heat generated by extensive glass, glare from headlights through the lower windows, and poor aerodynamics. Today, these trucks are highly sought after collector’s items and have been known to fetch a handsome price on the rare occasions that one comes up for sale.
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