Work Ready: 1981 Ford L9000


As an enthusiast, I’m often saddened by how quickly vehicles are used up and thrown away. There’s little value seen in the older cars, which is why long-distance trucks like this 1981 Ford L9000 cab here on eBay are refreshing to see. Not only has it been kept in presentable condition, but it is still ready and able to work, pulling loads from coast-to-coast. It’s not too hard on the eyes, either, quite an accomplishment for a workhorse. 


It makes me wonder if truck drivers simply have a better appreciation for machinery, new or old. They know what’s required to get up and start every morning, even if it’s freezing cold outside. Their rig has many miles to go before they get to sleep, so reliability and durability are likely two qualities that rank up there with decent sleeping quarters. This Ford L9000 clearly has been working as of very recently, based on the company name on the doors.


The interior appears to be in good condition, which I imagine can be hard to do given the frequency with which you’re in and out of the cab. Since this example doesn’t have sleeping quarters, I suspect it was used primarily for short-haul trips, or at least jobs that could be done in a day or less. The seller says it still has working A/C and the Cummins diesel pulls hard, all channeled through a 7-speed transmission. The air ride likely offers up some decent ride quality as well.


And from this angle, you can see what I mean about this being a handsome rig. The various spoilers and aero equipment even make it look borderline racy, and those aluminum wheels round out the good looks. These tractor cabs are treasured by those who know what it means to have a rig that starts when it’s supposed to and digs its wheels in when the loads get heavy. I’m sure this one will continue its working life, but hopefully, it will remain in the condition it’s currently in.


  1. Mike

    Man this would take a BIG barn to put it in.
    There is a guy that runs around hauling between St Louis and Poplar Bluff that runs a 1979 Peterbilt 379, and it is always nice and clean, I have seen it up-close and he keeps it as clean as the day he bought it.

  2. Bill

    Not a lot of miles on it. Maybe a short hauler/city truck

  3. Dan

    LOL Coast to Coast.

    1) It’s a day cab, which is strictly local or possibly regional where the driver would stay in hotels every night.

    2) It would never be allowed in California with their strict diesel regulations.

    But yes it’s nice to see an oldie like that in such nice shape.

    • Bobsmyuncle

      Wouldn’t be allowed in, or couldn’t be registered in? They can’t control what vehicles operate from out of state can they?

      • Dan

        Get stopped at the bug check station or at the scale and face a hefty fine, thanks to CARB or the California Air Resources Board.

        This is SCREWING the small independent operators, many simply refuse to go to California.

        Civil penalties ranging from $300 to $10,000 per vehicle per day.

      • Dan h

        Lots of low mileage trucks for sale because of Cali’s super stringent emmisions laws. Most owners don’t want to spend the $25k+ to retrofit the exhaust on the older,non compliment trucks, so, there you go.

    • Wade Anderson

      I would never go coast to coast on a single drive tractor with no sleeper and I drove for 20 years

  4. mtshootist1

    Most of the leasing companies that do coast to coast haul require newer rigs, but this one would be a great classic car hauler because of the short wheel base, you could get into tighter areas. You could cruise around the countryside doing ebay pickups and deliveries.

  5. jim s

    costs less then an old pickup to buy. put a flatbed/box on the back and have fun. getting the correct driver’s license might take some work. great find.

  6. Bobsmyuncle

    I love the union pride! I want the deflector for my garage wall.

  7. Jeff Day

    If you have ever driven one you would not look at it seriously at all. Short wheelbase or not, air ride or not they ride like hell and those Ford’s have NO turning radius whatsoever. It takes acres to turn that thing around. It looks like it was well maintained and in decent shape but that’s probably because no one wanted to drive it!

    • Dave Wright

      There is a guy that knows what he is talking about. (Jeff Day) this is an example of a vehicle that looks good skin deep. Who knows what else is here. It is a city truck at best. We used to consider my 318 Detroits underpowered for real highway use and that was in 1980. I can’t figure out what is going on with the passenger steering wheel, it looks like a spoke? Whitch does not make sence with the 10 hole bud on the drivers side. It is also an eastern flat lander truck, with low horsepower it has way too few gears to run the mountains here in the west. It would pull a 6% grade at 80,000 lbs at 2 MPH but has to have enough gears to match the old narrow torque engine…. More later……my delivery is here.

      • Mike H. Mike H.

        Could he just be missing a simulator on that RF wheel?

      • Ed P

        I think this truck has simulator wheel covers not chrome wheels. Also this is not a class 8 truck. It has a single rear axle. I believe that makes it a class 7 and not rated to pull 80,000 lbs.

      • Dave Wright

        It is indeed a class 8 truck…….single axle trucks were used everywhere to pull 80,000 lbs, they just used double trailers or “joints”

      • Ed P

        Dave, I stand corrected. I was assuming a single trailer.

      • seth

        where it ran in the City it had enough horsepower. Strictly a local truck or a yard truck

    • Bobsmyuncle

      LOL that’s so true! I drove a straight truck version for years a service truck of sorts that found itself in some very unique off highway situations that often required 8 or 9 point turns!

      • Ed P

        That is an interesting point. I drove several F350’s from the late ’60’s and the turning radius was huge compared to Chevy and Dodge. I thought it was because of the twin I beam setup, now I’m wondering.

  8. Dave Wright

    I am not a ford guy but commercial trucks are normally an assemblage of parts from other manufacturers. I think this cab was called a Louisville from the factory they were built in. They were used on everything from 1 1/2 ton trucks to semis. I am buying a few trucks this spring for a new endever I am setting up. Modern (the last 10 years) trucks have 400-550 hp and get 6-9 MPG this old girl is probably a small Cam 250, would get 2-4 MPG…….that is a big difference for an operator. Good 10 year old trucks can be bought for 10-20,000. Insurance and also be a problem with older trucks. You couldn’t find a commercial driver that would drive this more than a 20 mile radius, the front bumper is not straight…..has some road rash, the interior has been fixed up and the aluminum has been polished to sell. It was undoubtedly a fleet truck. On the road we keep trucks polished to make a good impression on the inspection stations and scale masters so they won’t look too deep. If this old girl was worth the money, it would not be advertised on EBAY. He is looking for an amature that doesn’t know what he is looking at.

  9. Martin

    It is a city delivery truck. The ad makes no claims to the contrary. Low power and a seven speed because that is all a fleet truck needs to haul reefer vans around the city.

    The wheels are dayton wagon wheels with three out of four simulators. They were the cheapest spec option (still are) and can be changed by the driver with hand tools if needed. Noisy, uncomfortable and probably not that reliable anymore. That’s why it’s for sale. But it will get 5-7 mpg all day long, even in town. Could see 8-9 on a flat stretch of highway.

    • Dave Wright

      Gunite or Dayton wheels are strong but troublesome, they lower the value of the rig. I have seen many trucks like this that had a bud wheel rear end installed as a replacement and left the Daytons on the front. That is what I expected here but could not see for sure. I don’t know that I have ever seen simulators installed on cast wheels but I suppose it is plausible. To the unfamiliar people reading…….if a tire guy doesn’t know what he is doing…..common these days……..these wheels won’t set correctly and will wobble going down the road, tearing up tires and wheel bearings as well as making it difficult to drive. In the west we have always avoided them. It will only get that kind of mileage if it has a Big cam engine that it might have.

  10. Howard A Member

    I spent a lot of time in various “Louisville” Ford’s, and they all were good city ( or dump) trucks. I disagree with Jeff Day, this, being the shortest hood conventional around ( half the engine was in the cab) it was a great turning truck and were very popular. It’s true, they didn’t ride the best, and my experience with air ride single axle trucks, is they tend to “pogo-stick” down the highway. The 250 Cummins and 7 speed are definitely city options, as the 250 was pretty gutless for any highway travel. ( Believe me, I know) The driver of this truck ( and his helper) probably had 30 stops and pickups in a day, so not a lot of miles ( 180k is nothing for these trucks) The wheels are Dayton, but at least they’re tubeless, and I always thought those “hub caps” looked corny.( and you’d always see them at the side of the road). I highly doubt this truck ever pulled 80K with that setup, but I have done it ( illegally, of course) Highly outdated, but still a nice dependable hobby truck. Certainly not cheap to repair, and like Martin sez, 6 mpg all day long. So, good luck with that.

  11. Slickimp

    Nice looking truck for being from new york

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