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An Amazing South Bend Lathe Company Traveling Machine Shop

Updated – Earlier in the summer, a pair of South Bend Lathe Company traveling salesman’s cars were featured that turned out to be popular with readers. The best was saved for last, and today this impressive International tractor and traveling display trailer are presented. This set of four images appear to post-date the earlier photos, but when the photographs were taken is not known; hopefully a reader that has a knowledge of IHC tractors will be able to tell us when this model was produced.

The trailer has been specially outfitted to enable South Bend to take its product line on the road and let prospective customers see, touch, and operate its range of machinery that includes, lathes, a milling machine, drill presses and a grinder. In addition, tooling and attachments for the machines are displayed in glazed cabinets on the walls.

Mounted behind the cab on the tractor is an engine-driven generator that produced electricity which illuminated the interior of the trailer with ceiling lights and spot lamps and allowed the machines to be operated. It also appears to have a heating and air conditioning unit built into the front of the trailer. The rig apparently was run year round as it is fitted with sanders in front of the drive axles for winter traveling.

The salesman’s cars posted earlier can be viewed at Before The Internet – South Bend Lathe Co. Salesman’s Cars. The photos courtesy of Jason B are via the Practical Machinist.

Update – Ace Zenek discovered an ad in the “Tuscon Daily Citizen” (AZ) on December 11, 1956, promoting an appearance of the South Bend Lathe Demonstration Unit. Wilson Machinery Corp. a local machine tool dealer sponsored a two-day showing of the “Mobile Demonstration Unit with South Bend machine tools in operation by Factory representatives.” Ace has also determined that this particular International tractor model, shown in the lead photo was first made available in 1956.




20 responses to “An Amazing South Bend Lathe Company Traveling Machine Shop

    • I’ll take a guess and say that this is more likely a circa 1958 model based on the placement of a single horn in the center roof position. If I recall correctly, the horn in that placement was available from 1956 – 1960, and the blacked out grille, instead of the white trimmed grille, was also available in 1958 .

      “Andy R.” below wonders if it is a VCO, but it probably is not since there is not a “V” below the “IH” logo in the center above the grille. More likely this is a CO or DCO.

      The mattress in 1958 was 23 1/2 inches wide by 74 inches long.

    • That floor actually makes me nostalgic. It’s the same kitchen floor pattern that I grew up with in the 1960’s. Dark green with yellow inserts. And with all those wonderfull tools, I want to live there, too!

  1. The truck shown is a International Harvester, the model is a VCO-??? Part of the V series of trucks.
    This cab came out in 1956 and was produced until 1972

    • I believe this cab was designed by Diamond T. It was used by IHC and Diamond T used some IH R model cads on their conventional trucks. I have never seen it any where but this cabover appears to be the basis for the IH Emeryville cabover.

  2. It seems the drill press is a cut-away model. Maybe the milling machine, too. My brother has a South Bend table top drill press. I should try to swipe it, but it’s too heavy to lift, let alone run with. A fine machine for sure. ( Incidently Don, the cot is in the cab of the truck!)

    • The open area on the side of the milling machine allows the operator to move the v type drive belt up or down to change speeds.

  3. Its a shame what happened to the domestic machine tool industry in this country.So many great names.
    The so called South Bends you see advertised in magazines these days are of course not made in this country.
    Its been said that a country that cannot make things cannot defend itself in wartime.

  4. I have a South Bend, Heavy 10 like the one against the left wall in the first picture. I just wish mine had all the attachments, and accessories. If you read Popular Mechanics of the ’50s and earlier, they had many articles on home machining, and usually featured South Bend machines. It’s remarkable how ambitious, and productive hobbyists were in the days before the widespread scourge of television.

  5. South Bend also made a fine small shaper (9″?)
    I wonder why this wasn’t given floor space, on place of one of the small lathes? Probably because the lathes were a better seller–but the mill didn’t seem to attract many customers VS Bridgeport.

    • Even by the time this picture was taken metal working sharpers were falling out of use in favor of milling machines. There are a couple of reasons for this, the first is efficiency: by the nature of how shapers and planers work, half the time they are running they are doing no work. The second reason is safety. Though its really nice that all you need is a lathe toolbit for your shaper, that is also what is dangerous. If a tool bit or a tool holder comes loose it will either slam into the machine vise or other fixture and break something. Or it will drop just enough to hit the side of the part you’ve machining and send it flying across the shop. Also if the stops are not tightened enough or worn the whole thing can slam fully forward or backward. Ive used sharpers big and small. Ive used the South Bend 9″ shaper and it was a nice little machine but it has no where near the capacity precision or versitility of a Bridgeport style vertical milling machine.

  6. Note that the lathe in the left front of the trailer appears to have some sort of a hydraulic tracer attachment. Don’t remember seeing that advertised, and not in any of the brochures that I have.

  7. I see what looks like a 9″ engine lathe, a 13″ toolroom lathe, a small turret lathe, a hydraulic tracer lathe, acouple of drill presses, a cutaway drill press, verticle milling machine and a pedestal grinder. All in all a nice machine shop on wheels. The beauty of it is that if you found any of these machines, they could be remanufactured and would work as well as the day they left the factory.

  8. Many many years ago I worked at a small shop that did mold and pattern making. We set up that style of small shaper as a slow power sander, and used it with excellent results. We used wet and dry sandpaper glued to the one half and then the other. I recall we moved the whole rig outside and used a garden hose on trickle. Made short work out of a menial job.

  9. South Bend equipment was very common to AUTOMOTIVE machine shops. South Bend Turret Lathes (among their other products ) were common to all levels of Automotive, Military Carriers, munitions & Aircraft shops in any US CONFLICT that the company has been in business during said conflict!

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