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Cabovers: A Brief History of a Mid-Century Icon

The year 1959 saw its fair share of world events. Hawaii became the 50th American state, Explorer 6 took the first photos of Earth from space, and White Freightliner introduced the first cabover semi-truck in the United States. The truck boasted the first-ever hydraulic system designed to allow the cab to tip forward, allowing access to the engine below.

From the late 50's to the mid-80's, cabovers shared American and Canadian freeways with their conventional counterparts. The 1978 film Convoy, based off the trucker anthem of the same name, premiered at the peak of the cabover trend, effectively displaying the diversity of models on the road during this era.

Cabovers brought their own unique advantages to trucking. Visibility was improved by positioning the driver over the engine, allowing them to see directly ahead through the windshield. In addition, cabovers had a much more precise and tighter turn radius than their conventional counterparts.

Unfortunately, the advantages of cabovers were also met with some challenges. The same design that brought improved visibility also decreased driver safety with almost no buffer for the driver. Engine placement also meant a rougher and louder ride. By the 1990s, the cabover had fallen out of fashion and bonnet-style trucks once again dominated the roads.

While cabovers have become somewhat of a novelty on North American roads, they continue to be the preferred styling of semi-trucks in Europe and Asia. The popularity of cabovers across the pond can be attributed to fuel efficiency and easier navigation, which is crucial for traveling on the narrow and often sharply curved foreign roads. However, many North American trucking enthusiasts continue to embrace the cabover as a symbol the glory days of trucking in the mid-20th century.

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