The "starter is weak" comment would make me want to check the battery cables, as others have suggested.
Your symptoms point to weak injectors.
An injector firing at too low a pressure, or leaking off instead of atomizing fuel properly will not start well cold.
Two thousand hours is a normal service interval for mechanical injectors to be pulled & tested.
If your compression was low enough to cause white smoke/hard start conditions, you would notice a LOT of blowby out the vent.
Took a few minutes and looked at it myself today. No glow plugs and no wiring to the manifold indicating a preheat grid. The engine says "manufactured by consolidated engine, an affiliate of Case Co" but the design has Cummins written all over it. The tag is even riveted on the timing gear housing in the same place where the ID tag is normally placed on a Cummins. Mark said it might be a 3.9, and, curiously enough, the model # is a B390. Looks to me like someone went to a lot of trouble to conceal the identity of the real manufacturer.
Anyway, the battery and cables have already been ruled out. We did that a while back by hooking a paralleled pair of 4D's to it, with their cable connections attached directly to the points where the battery cables normally connect. No difference at all as compared to the normal single battery which appears to be in good shape.
Probably do need to pull the injectors and have them tested. Used to be, that was a real simple matter as there was a real good injector shop here in town. Unfortunately, the owner and his wife got heavily into gambling at the Cherokee casino near here, and lost the business, business property, and their house Business property alone had a tax valuation of $800K, and was debt free before the gambling started. Nice guy, and did excellent work. Still hard to believe they coulda done something so dumb. Now, its probably simpler to just get an exchange set of injectors from the dealer.
Thanks for all the suggestions so far, and if anyone has others to add, please feel free.
I also own a 580K with about 2700 hours. It does not get real cold around here, but if the battery will turn the motor over it will always start. It has no cold starting provisions. So I would say you have a definite problem.
There is a prime lever on the fuel pump. You could try pumping it prior to starting to see if it has pressure to the injector pump. You should be able to see if the paint around the injector pump mounting is aligned with the pump to verify the timing has not been changed.
There is a wire to the injector pump that must be energised to allow fuel injector pump to operate. If the valve operated (or what ever that wire controls) by that wire is sluggish it could cause that problem. I know that wire has fallen off on mine and it dies immediately.
Not that this is the problem, but it could be a contributor. The ground cable from the battery is connected to the battery box. The battery box is connected to the frame with several bolts. Those bolts can and do come loose and result in reduced voltage to the starter. I rerouted the ground cable out of the box and directly to a bolt (can't remember where with out going and looking) that was directly connected to either the engine or frame.
I looked real closely today for any evidence of prior work on the engine, and the paint is undisturbed at the bolt heads and component joints. Looked at the paint for evidence of someone fiddling with the pump, and its totally intact. I pushed the prime lever you mention and it felt tight, as if there was good pressure between that pump and the injector pump itself. Dad recently changed the fuel filters and he said the manual prime pump seemed to work fine in pushing the air out of the filters prior to restarting, so I assume the tight feeling was indicative of pressure.
I was wrong previously about the cold start aid. This one doesn't have it either. Although we do get some cold weather here, it doesn't have to be cold for this thing to not start. When the temp is 55-60*, there's not one chance in ten that it'll start if it hasn't been plugged in.
Honestly, this thing acts like it would start if it would just turn over a bit faster. I hadn't paid attention to where the ground was connected since my main job in adding the other batteries was that of battery toter. The battery box also doubles as a step, and IIRC its been "streamlined" a bit by the previous owner where something undoubtedly musta jumped up and got in its way I'll definitely take a look at that because there's no doubt a ground passing thru 3 or 4 loose or dirty joints pretty much negates the fact of whether or not the cables are in good shape. I fixed a start problem on a JD 410, another member of "the collection", a while back by cleaning the ground attachment point and putting a new end on the cable. Thanks again for one more thing to check out.
I had a hard-starting lift years ago. Tired old engine, which isn't quite your case. I added cetane booster to the fuel, and it was remarkable how much difference it made in starting. I could get by without the block heater way way more after using this stuff.
Also, make certain your starter and battery are strong. Just swapped a starter on Allis Chalmers diesel forklift and it starts much more easily.
I should know the answer since I have an 1840 with the same answer, but I don't. If it has a rotary style injection pump, the hydraulic head is likely failing.
My 1840 starts even when it barely turns over, and is 15 degrees. I can't believe I don't know what style pump it has.
There is no conspiracy about concealing the manufacture of the engine. It is a CDC (Consolidated Diesel Company), a joint venture of Cummins and Case. That's why it has so many names on it, and looks like a Cummins. The company was formed when Case bought out IHC, and IHC kept their engines.
My old IH 2544 w/239 Diesel doesn't like to start the first time-after that it fires right up the rest of the day. Had the big starter rebuilt, no help. Big batteries and it still cranks slow. So, I park it close to my Lincoln 250 roundtop welder. Set it for ~150 amps, Clip electrode holder to a flat copper strip I attached to the starter terminal. Set welder for DC reverse. Hold ground clamp in one hand and hit starter button. As soon as it's cranking, I momentarily jam the ground clamp to the tractor frame and it's running! Only takes about 2 seconds of faster cranking to fire up.
My friends cummins had a hard start problem, after a while it turned in to a hard start and surging idle. Turned out it was a bad seal on the injector pump, where the tach drive come out no less. A few o-rings later, good as new.