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LoneStar: Head-turner out of the gate

Dec. 19, 2008
FORT WAYNE. The engineers and designers who breathed life into the newest International flagship—the highly distinctive LoneStar highway tractor—told FleetOwner here at Navistar’s truck development center that they’re pleased as punch with the truck’s initial reception by the marketplace

FORT WAYNE. The engineers and designers who breathed life into the newest International flagship—the highly distinctive LoneStar highway tractor—told FleetOwner here at Navistar’s truck development center that they’re pleased as punch with the truck’s initial reception by the marketplace.

First delivery of a LoneStar was made to a Canadian customer last month and there are orders to date for over 300 more from a range of customers, according to marketing communications manager Heather Street. She noted the truck was rolled out early this year and the OEM began taking customer orders right on the show floor at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

The stunning exterior that projects a low-slung, prowling look brought out by a prow-like hood, one-piece aluminum bumper and chromed chassis skirts among other styling cues is complemented by a sleek cab/sleeper interior that is visually streamlined yet welcoming. The exercise is not complete without tapping into the wide array of custom options offered for both inside and out.

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Put it all together and what you are looking at is a “modern classic” design, said Navistar chief designer L. David Allendorph, who led the team that brought the LoneStar from conception to reality. “About four years ago we proposed the question of what would it look like to apply International design heritage to a flagship product? Our research with truckers indicated they were seeking originality and individuality as well as efficiency in a tractor,” he said.

“We went back into the archives and found inspiration from the C- and D-Series trucks we produced in the ‘30s. Starting with those styling cues we got the excitement of our executives behind it,” continued Allendorph. “From there we did extensive research with our customer and dealer advisory boards and with outside researchers to make sure we were developing a high-performing truck that was not just a styling exercise.”

“The whole idea was to develop a prestigious product without forcing customers to give up performance or efficiency,” pointed out Tom Harting, director of global vehicle engineering & validation. To that end, or front as the case may be, aerodynamics played a central role in shaping the look of the truck and its ability to deliver on Navistar’s LoneStar value proposition that style may neither trump efficiency or performance.

LoneStar was envisioned as a truck that would sharply raise the bar by offering classically styling without requiring the owner to sacrifice efficiency and ease of operation. To that end, its show-truck looks were honed in wind tunnels to allow Navistar to claim it delivers a 0-2% improvement in fuel efficiency over competitive aerodynamic models and a whopping 5-15% improvement over all “classic” long-nose trucks, according to Harting. He pointed out the even more aerodynamic International ProStar provides a 3.5% fuel efficiency gain over the LoneStar.

However, according to Harting, the fuel economy prowess of the LoneStar is just part of the story. “It’s not just aerodynamics, but also the ride and handling and ease-of-maintenance features built in that sets the LoneStar apart compared to other classic trucks. Our mission in developing the truck was not to compromise any of the performance attributes” important to both owner/operators and fleet owners.

Bearing that out was a two-hour ride-and-drive with Harting, which took us over long stretches of Indiana two-lanes and over the Interstate including running some pretty rough patches that the LoneStar’s front and rear air ride swallowed with aplomb. His guided tour of the cab and sleeper demonstrated the “Suite” interior option that is distinguished by a Murphy-style fold-down deal that turns a sleeper-wide sofa into a full 42-in. wide bunk as well as other creature features such as a fold-out table and driver and passenger “captain’s chairs” that swivel for socializing.

“The LoneStar of course appeals to owner-operators,” said Harting,” but we also see it as a fleet truck especially for specialized carriers seeking a truck that reflects a strong company image as well fleets that provides ‘reward trucks’ to their drivers and any fleet that wants to appeal strongly to drivers. “The thing is,” he adds, “with LoneStar, fleets do not have to pay the higher operating costs to get a ‘classic’ truck.”

The 195.9-in BBC LoneStar (www.internationaltrucks.com/lonestar) boasts a 73-in high-rise sleeper and a 96-in wide cab. It is currently powered by either a Cummins ISX (435 to 600 hp) or Cat C15 (435 to 550 hp) driven through a standard Eaton Fuller 10-sp. manual with 13, 15 and 18 sp. versions offered optionally as well as a 10-sp. Eaton UltraShift automated manual.

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