Truck Trend Letters to the Editor
Cummins Field Find UpdateHey guys! I’d love to know what’s been going on with that ’39 Cummins H-Series engine that you found in the field in South Dakota. Any updates would certainly be appreciated!
Thanks for writing, Steve! We actually just returned from a visit with our friends at Cummins. The truck and engine from “Unearthing a Legend” (July/Aug. ’16) is currently housed at the Cummins History and Restoration Center in Columbus, Indiana. While we were in town, a team of extremely dedicated volunteers, all current or former Cummins employees, set to the task of disassembling the old engine in an effort to see if it’s possible to get running again. After all, old diesel engines are very simple machines. Fuel and compression are basically all it takes to get running.
Cummins is also documenting the entire process, and hopefully we’ll have a video series to share with you shortly. We learned a lot from the teardown process. First, the engine is definitely from 1939, there was no doubt of that. A casting date of June 20th, 1939, was found on the block and matches the documentation that had been found.
Next, it was discovered that the engine was likely rebuilt in or around 1955. The heads were found to have a 1954 casting date on them, and the aluminum intake manifold was from a 1955-or-newer over-the-road engine. Based on this, it can be surmised that the engine was rebuilt and installed in the International truck when it was new, in the mid-50s.
After sitting a field for more than four decades, the team at Cummins was quite eager to see just what condition the engine was in. They first noted that the head gaskets had been replaced at some point, which was not surprising. And the fuel injectors were in remarkably good condition, leading them to believe they had also been replaced. The valves and accessory drive components were all free and moved as designed. The fuel lines were found to still have fuel in them, and the non-original fuel pump was seized, but salvageable.
Unfortunately, the cylinders were seized. They were unable to tell at the time if it was one or more, but the crank would not move freely. The pistons and sleeves will need to be replaced before the engine can run again. This wasn’t a surprising find though, as years of rain and snow had filled the oil pan with several gallons of water. Rust and corrosion was inevitable.
Overall, the engine was found to be in great condition, given the circumstances. The team at Cummins is confident that with a little work and some parts scrounging they can get the old engine running again. The only question that remains is what to do with it exactly, so keep sending us your ideas, and we’ll keep passing them along. Hopefully we’ll see this glorious old hunk of iron out on the road again soon!