Restoration Road

There have been glimpses of some truck other than Rolled Gold or Purple Rain in a couple of my recent posts. The collision shots and my new female companion on the road were hints of something different. I can now reveal and review my latest addition to the company’s truck fleet – The Freightliner FLB.

The FLB differs from all the other trucks currently in my company by being a ‘Cab-over’ rather than a conventional vehicle. Historically vehicles were built in the conventional layout with the engine in front of the driver. The reason for the move to a Cab-over design is illustrated by London’s buses. After WWI bus operators in London needed to increase the number of passengers they could carry and wanted to operate longer and wider vehicles. The Metropolitan Police would not allow such an increase in vehicle size for public safety reasons (we need to recall that buses and trucks had very poor brakes back then). The bus companies and their vehicle builders found a way around this initially by building the upper deck over the driver’s cab and later moving the driving position forwards to alongside the engine allowing the passenger areas to be extended forward again. Even as recently as the 1950’s London Transport was having a fight with the Met to get the permitted length of its buses extended to 30ft! This illustrates the struggle against legislation faced by PSV and Heavy Goods Vehicles.

In Europe the law limits the maximum weight of the truck and its length – with dispensation for specialist vehicles. The length is the thing that dictates the decision of whether a tractor unit should be conventional or of Forward Control type and it is normal in Europe for all tractor units to be in the Cab-over style. The US is different to Europe with Federal Law providing an overall guidance and State laws giving specific requirements. What drove the Cab-over builds in the US was again the maximum length of trailer and tractor unit stipulated by Federal Law. Then Ronald MacDonald – I mean Reagan – repealed the laws governing overall length and instead there is now a maximum trailer length (subject to state laws) of 53ft. This means that the tractor unit can now grow again and effectively that means the death of the Cab-Over designs in the USA. Of necessity this is just an overview of the situation but hopefully gives some idea of what lies behind some of the changes in truck design over the years.

The history of Freightliner’s trucks is not as well documented on the internet as I would like – finding when they were building the FLB is difficult. I have had to extrapolate from used vehicle sales! As far as I can tell these vehicles were built from the late 1980’s through until 1998 when the Argosy replaced them. Nowadays Freightliner build mainly conventional trucks like the Cascadia. But these older Cab-over designs seem to be gathering in popularity with the restoration movement – there are some great examples documented on the web. So, you can view my in-game example as a company owned restoration. She does have to earn her living and I think it’s time to give a review of this truck.

I first came to know of the Freightliner FLB via Jnr-Snr gaming and MisterMoose’s videos of American Truck Sim. It seems that this mod by Solaris36 is very well liked by a lot of people and they were responding to requests to show it. My initial view of it in the dealers gave two options – 4×2 or 6×4 and I chose the latter as my US fleet is all 6×4. It’s easier to compare like with like!

Once in the screen for the version I have chosen I can see that the modelling of the prototype is very good. I can choose a good range of engines from Caterpillar or Cummins. My one complaint is that there are no Detroit Diesel offerings – an odd omission as DD are now part of Daimler Freightliner and quite a few of the second hand trucks I found on the web were fitted with Detroit series 60’s. I opted for the Caterpillar C-15 435HP engine with Eaton 13 speed box – a version based on another truck for sale ad I found.

The paint jobs available are huge in quantity with variations of almost every color. Also included are three skins featuring two old school style paint schemes and the colors worn by the FLB wrecker truck that starred in Terminator 2. This time, rather than designing my own metallic, I chose to use a brown original scheme and very handsome she looks in it! There are lots of things outside to upgrade to make the truck very much your own. When you turn your attention to the cab you can choose between having a low level small window and what type of steering wheel you would like – I opted for the version without the small door windows and with the traditional 3-spoke steering wheel.

There are a plethora of things you can do with the interior including adding toys, magazines and travelling companions – as per the young lady and playboy magazines in the image previously published. There’s even a hanging Terminator head available as a nod to the type’s film history. I’ve thrown out the Fanta can since that image was taken and my Good Lady thinks the Playboy mags should go too 😉

If you drive Euro Truck you may well think – Cab-over – Just like a Merc Actros… No she’s not! I look across the cab and suddenly realise that there is a mirror over there somewhere in the far distance… You could fit a Pool Table in the front of the FLB. There’s absolutely no danger of me touching that young lady’s knee with a stray hand – she’s yards away! The cab is the full width of the sleeper section of a Kenworth W900 – so it’s a lot wider than the cab on that worthy beast and any Euro truck you might have driven. That point made, some of the handling is very much like the MAN trucks and the Iveco Stralis I was driving. The cab dips forwards on heavy braking and there is a tendency to lean outwards on corners. Nasty speed humps will make the cab shake around like a jelly. Such behaviours are alien to the Kenny 900 and in keeping with the wisdom that conventional trucks offer a more comfortable ride than cab-overs. I did note that the Peterbilt 351 had a nose-dip when braking and a bit of side-lean but I’m back in Rolled Gold at the moment and I don’t think she ever notices the road (as long as I’m on it that is!). I must go back to one of the Peterbilt 579’s in the fleet and do a bit more handling comparison – I might be able to borrow one from my Ladies up in Elko – 5 garage slots and 5 Ladies driving for me up there, all with sleeper cabs :-) The trouble is – if I loan them Rolled Gold, will I ever get her back?

Parking with this truck is much easier than when driving the Kenworth W900 and also easier than using the shorter wheelbase Peterbilt’s. The steering feels precise and well modelled. I found the choice of 435HP Cat engine with 13 speed Eaton-Fuller box to act as expected – I can get to a good speed on the road but having 50 less horses than the W900 means slower acceleration, a lower change up speed and a lower best speed in 13th gear – around 55mph compared with 65mph in the Kenny. That’s only a problem if you’re on a tight for time job where being able to go close to 70 in Arizona would help you make time – I use my experience to try and avoid jobs like that these days 😉

I joked about falling in love with my lady companion – but the truth is I’ve fallen in love with this truck! She will definitely stay in the fleet because she looks right and she drives well. I struggled to think of a name for her but as she represents a dying breed I felt Autumn Gal suited, and here she is…

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