Retired Firefighter: 1978 International Cargostar

The Cargostar was a forward control, cab-over-engine medium-duty series of fire prevention equipment built from 1970-86. They were especially maneuverable for their size and the 1950B model, like the seller’s unit, was used to broadcast a wide range of water. This unit was retired from firefighting duties and has more recently been used to hose down dusty fields at a local fairground. Located in Granger, Indiana, this Cargostar is ready for yet a third career, perhaps as a transport for off-road expedition tours. It’s available here on Barn Finds Classifieds for $8,000.

International Harvester was once involved in the production of these kinds of vehicles, but Waterous Company of Sr. Paul, Minnesota built this unit. Waterous has been in business since 1886 making products that are focused on fire suppression. When this truck was built – and is still the case today – Waterous is focused on assembling equipment directed at moving water from municipal lines to a burning structure, vehicle, or wildland area.

This Cargostar 1950B is a 4X4 truck that looks like it can still get the job done. We’re told it’s in good running order, holds 90 lbs. of pressure in both air brake tanks, and measures 22 feet in length. It’s said to have just 5,000 miles on it, so the geographic area where it was previously deployed likely required little commute. While there is probably no reason this truck couldn’t keep doing what it was built to do, the seller suggests it could be repurposed, perhaps as a marketing attraction, or refitted to be a mobile BBQ grill.  If you had this specialized piece of equipment, what would you opt to do with it?


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  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Now that’s a “Highboy”! Assuming that it is diesel powered, DT466?, I would love to own this. I would drive it to work occasionally and use it as a parade truck. The neighbors probably wouldn’t like it sitting in my lawn though, since it wouldn’t fit in any of my garages

    Like 6
    • bry593

      The water cannon may prove useful in our current political dystopia.

      Like 11
  2. Driveinstile Member

    I drove many Internationals from the 80s on up with the DT466. From medium duty wreckers and flatbeds, to straight jobs. They were always reliable. Never let me down. One of my favorites was a 24 ft straight job, DT466 with a Rockwell 10 speed. One of the nicest shifting transmissions i ever had in a truck, ratios were very close, even though there were no syncros ( it was a crash box) but shifted like a hot knife thru butter. You were better off slip shifting than double clutching. This brings back a lot of great memories.

    Like 5
  3. geomechs geomechs Member

    Lots of Cargostars (and even the Loadstar COE that came before the Cargostar) still in service today. Protect that windshield because they are very difficult to come by. Driveline parts not so bad. If it’s running a 466, parts are available. If it’s running the V-537 gaspot, or one of the DV-550 crowd you’re in for a challenge as parts have dried up considerably. Smaller V8 gaspots aren’t that hard to find parts for. It will take a dedicated enthusiast to keep this one performing but it will be worth it…

    Like 5

    The company I worked for in my 20’s was a highway construction company. The company had a world class machine shop. In the late 1970’s they branched out to installing plowable road reflectors in the highway. Life lights. Back then it was done with a walk behind clipper saw with a water tank in tow to wet the diamond saw blades. This method cut 40 a day.

    Many different ideas were tried to increase productivity. Then a Heavy duty Cargostar was purchased in 1979. The frame was reinforced and a saw head and hydraulics were installed on a custom I beam front bumper. The radiator had a square removed from the center enough to install a PT0 shaft on the crank to power the head.

    A huge water tank with pumps was installed on the rear custom bed. On the first time out the blades would jam in the ground from the water in the tank sloshing from stopping and starting. The guys at the machine shop then added a super structure around the cab. Special heavy steer tires were needed. It solved the issue. With that truck productivity went to a whopping 400 on a good day. The installation at the time was $50-$60 each. That IH DT466 powered truck was a game changer. It was an odd looking rig for sure. Three were eventually built. There were companies driving by filming and taking pics when we were on the road trying to figure out how it was done. By the late 1980’s the competition caught up.

    We could work as many hours we could equipment withstanding at prevailing wage. As a kid bringing home $1100 a week wasn’t shabby. Those trucks although really tired were still being used in the mid 1990’s last I heard. Wish I had pics to share. Fun times

    Like 11
    • Don Eladio

      Now THAT is a cool story and, well worth the read. Thanks AMC dude.

      Like 3
    • Mike W H

      I know exactly what I’d do with this. I have a place in N. Idaho, 5 acres up a dirt road on a ridge. I’d fill it with water, maybe drive it into town or the supermarket. But most of the time leave it on standby for the inevitable wildfire. Climate change , you know. Expect more and larger fires in the Pacific Northwest.

  5. Tom Bell

    This one’s an airport crash truck. The big deck gun on the cab roof was intended to deliver firefighting foam as its original purpose although would certainly be effective for dust control as stated. Waterous builds fire service pumps and related systems, still around and one of the finest. The bodywork was most likely built by another company. An interesting rig.

    Like 3
    • dudleybeyler Member

      Tom, you are right! When I did some research on this truck. I talked with the county commissioner, and he said it was used at the Petosky air port. Some of the other guys thought it was originally for the DNR, but your description of the deck fits the puzzle. It was later retired to the fair grounds and used only a couple weeks a year
      Thank you for your comments, I never have seen such a truck and could not pass it up, but now it’s time to share it with others.

  6. Howard A Member

    Crowd control? An asphalt co. I worked for had these cabovers for their distributor trucks. Not AWD, but for the job intended, tight turning, it did everything the C series Ford did. Pure speculation, but diesels just weren’t as popular as today, and many of these medium duty trucks were still gas jobs. For these types of non-road applications, a gas motor did just fine. Like the old fire engine, with climate change, it doesn’t rain for weeks here, and “dry” lightning causing many fires, it could save the farm. The only other use, is out here, there are the folks that think the world is upon chaos( and could be right) and have these awd “apocalypse” camper vehicles to escape in. I hate to tell them, unless they have a tanker of fuel, in a situation like that, fuel is the 1st thing to go. To us folks that don’t care what happens, something like this is pretty useless, as is.

    Like 6
  7. charlie Member

    Our small community has a ’66 Loadstar COE still in service as the last out of 4 vehicles. It has 2 diesel engines, one to go, one to pump. Most of the plumbing and the control valves are exposed, and manually operated so it is a good training device. It is absolutely reliable, maybe 80,000 miles (this is a rural area so it is a long way to some fires), it misses the California air pollution rules by a mile (pre-’93 diesel engines are forbidden for more than 1000 miles/year) and so when it goes to pasture, that is about the only place it can go, unless some less environmentally friendly state resident takes it. It has an automatic transmission, so is driver friendly as well. The steering, for those who have only had rack and pinon, is loose as a goose, and takes some getting used to, takes constant attention since the thing, despite a rebuilt front end, wanders to and fro if you let it go.

    Like 8
  8. Jonathan Q Higgins

    I always said if I hit the powerball the one extravagant purchase I make would be to get one of those giant MANN or Kamaz trucks like they use in the Dakar rally. This is the same ballpark but cheaper. Probably illegal for the road though.

  9. Jay McCarthy

    Do a full Roadkill and remove the fire fighting body and mount a drag along RV to the cab and chassis

    Like 2

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