THE INTERNATIONAL/NAVISTAR DT466
Legend! That’s a powerful word that might be used a little too often these days. When it comes to the DT466 diesel, though, it fits. Especially, when you consider it came from users in the field before International’s marketing department got hold of it. The DT466 legend crosses into the industrial, agricultural, and truck realms, but it was the medium-duty truck world where it made the biggest impact.
Development of the International Harvester 300 and 400 series engines started in 1967. The prime mover for the project was the VP of the Construction Equipment Division of International Harvester, Bill Wallace, who saw a need for a new line of in-house designed and built engines. The Construction Equipment Division had its own engine section and that put them a little at odds with International’s main engine plant in Indianapolis. Reportedly, Wallace had an uphill struggle to get money allocated for the program but lobbied hard and eventually succeeded by expanding the idea to cover the other IH divisions, many of which needed a diesel upgrade.
The 300 and 400 lines are inexorably locked together, since they shared the same basic architecture, many parts and were built on the same tooling. The 300 line was more compact than the 400’s and shared a common bore of 3.875. It included the D312 (4.410-in stroke) and the D (Diesel, naturally aspirated) and DT (Diesel, Turbo) 360 (5.085-in stroke) diesels. The 400 line shared a 4.30-in bore and included the D and DT414 (4.75-in stroke), D and DT436 (5.00-in stroke) and the D and DT466 (5.35-in stroke). While the DT360 is a legend in its own right, we’ll save the details for another time.
Design features of the 300 and 400 series engines included grey iron blocks set up for plateau-honed wet sleeves of cast iron with a high chrome content. Plateau honing was relatively new for 1971 but added a lot to the durability and longevity, plus ensured a rapid break-in. The induction-hardened, forged steel crankshafts were supported by seven main bearings. They were direct-injected, looking ahead to the ever-increasing limits being placed on smoke and emissions. They were thoroughly modern and built on new tooling in the Melrose Park, Illinois, plant that was the home of the Construction Equipment Division. When they came on the market, it was an, “in your FACE” moment from International to the diesel engine manufacturing market.
“THE DT466 WAS THE RIGHT ENGINE AT THE RIGHT TIME”
By the time the engines started production in 1971, the initial plan was for the 300 line and the 414 and 436 to be used mainly in the ag division, tractors and combines. The 466 was held back mostly for construction equipment, though that would soon change. Both naturally aspirated and turbo engines were offered, but Tom Lisak, who started as a test engineer on the 300/400 program and was later a Project Engineer, says the NA engines attracted little attention beyond the tractor market and few were built.
Back To Trucks
Plans for the DT466 soon turned to the truck market and after a $500,000 tooling investment, it became an option for the Fleetstar, starting with January 1975 production. Later in the year, it became available in the Cargostar (COE) and Paystar. The DT466 was added to the Loadstar options list in the summer of 1976 as a premium upgrade over the naturally aspirated D150, D170 and D190 9.0L V8 diesels. The DT466 was more powerful, economical and reliable than the big V8 diesels and it could be overhauled in chassis.
The medium-duty market had been evolving towards diesels but the “just-right” engine had not yet been offered to make much of a stir. International had been offering a range of in house diesels over the years, like the D301, D358, DV462 and DV550 (later known as the 9.0L after some updates). Others came from outside, including Perkins, Cat, Cummins and Detroit Diesel engines. The idea of offering a premium wetsleeved turbo-diesel in a medium duty line that could be overhauled in-chassis like a heavy-duty truck was a new one and IH hit paydirt with it. The DT466 soon became the engine to beat in the medium-duty arena.
Going back to tractors, the 414 and 436 found immediate homes in the International tractor lines. The D414 debuted in the 1971 966 tractor. The DT414 debuted in the 1066, while the DT436 appeared in the 1466 and the 4166 four-wheel drive. The DT466 first appeared in the 1973 4366 four-wheel drive tractor, a co-development of IH and Steiger. All three of these engines had a history of stellar service in the IH tractor lines, even a little past when the ag side of IH was sold off and became Case IH. International Harvester was broken up into its component parts, with the truck and engine sections becoming Navistar International.
The DT466 had a large number of upgrades before it evolved completely away from mechanical injection in 1997. There were so many designations and power ratings that we’d need half the magazine to cover them all, so we’ll stick to the most common. The original DT466 iteration was built in 1977 and had a AMBAC Model 100 rotary pump. The two common ratings were 185 and 210 hp in trucks. When the DT466B appeared in 1977, the earlier engine became the DT466A by default.
The DT466B emerged with some internal changes. One of them was a revised ring pack to reduce oil consumption using average quality oils. The compression ratio was bumped from 15.5:1 to 16.3:1 in the process, which was useful in cold starts for truck applications. Wider main and rod bearings were also added. Emissions controls entered the fray and the DTI466B (the “I” for intercooled) emissions certified engines for California 466B used an air to water intercooler. The DT466B and DTI466B still used the AMBAC 100 pump and the number of ratings expanded to span 160-210 hp.
In 1982, the DT466C was introduced. There were numerous small internal updates including larger diameter lifters and a higher-flow lubrication system. The injection pump changed to a Bosch MW inline and both turbo and turbo intercooled engines were offered. Two intercooled engines were offered in this line, the new air to air (DTA466C) and the precious DTI466C air to water system.
The original DT466 family underwent a major transformation for 1993 after several years of development. DT466PLN (NGD) was a major redo of the line. “NGD” stood for New Generation Diesel. The “PLN” in the designation stood for “Pump Line Nozzle,” which is a fancy, more technically correct name for a mechanically injected engine. Why the need to designate that? A new electro-hydraulic fuel injection system was about to debut.
The NGD PLN engines had a high mounted pump and a cast, squared off valve cover with notches for the injectors. They used either a Bosch P3000 or P7100 inline injection pump. In this era, 1994 specifically, the DT466 mechanically injected family would see the highest rated output of 275hp and 800 lb-ft. The NGD update was accompanied by a smaller DT408 variant (4.301 x 4.680-in bore and stroke) that replaced the DT360 and a larger I530 version (530ci, 4.59 x 5.35- in bore and stroke) was added. All three engines were almost indistinguishable visually from each other. The new engines were mechanical initially but were mostly phased out by 1995. There were small numbers of PLN engines as late as 1997. What replaced them?
Emissions standards hit the diesel industry very hard in the late ‘90s. Navistar International had earlier joined forces with Cat to develop Hydraulic Electric Unit Injectors (HEUI), which were made famous in the Navistar/Ford Power Strokes. As a result, in May of 1995, the DT466E was introduced, complete with a new head and HEUI, plus all the applicable NGD evolutions. In 2004, the G2 “Generation 2” injection system debuted, which was an improved and updated HEUI system. These morphed into the Maxx Force engines in 2006, but we aren’t going that far in this story.
The 300 and 400 Series, the DT466 in particular were solid engines. When introduced, they weren’t so far ahead of the technology curve to be glitchy but they were leaps ahead of the many legacy, old-school diesels still on the market. As a result, they started earning street cred immediately. More than anything, it was timing. The DT466 was the right engine at the right time. That it was so long lived, adaptable and upgradable gave it serious legs in the market and that’s why it’s descendants are still in production and so many DT466s are still earning their keep today. DW
NATIONAL AUTOMOTIVE AND TRUCK MUSEUM
SOUTHLAND INTERNATIONAL TRUCKS LTD.