The history of International trucks began at the dawn of the 20th Century with the production of farm equipment as well as heavy trucks. By the 1940’s they were making some of the hardest working pickup trucks in America. These trucks built a reputation of ruggedness and high quality that made them highly desirable by many farmers not only in North America but all over the world. At first they looked almost like all the other trucks on the road.
By the late 1930’s they became much better looking, as we can see in this picture of a 1939 International pickup truck. This truck has been restored and customized but we can notice the round edges that weren’t so common at the time. Fords, Chevys and Dodges of those days were much rougher looking than this although they also had their own positive points in terms of design. Doesn’t this looks great, though?
All the other car companies built automobiles first and then adapted them into pickups. With International Harvester it was the other way around. They built pickups first and then adapted them into large station wagons of a model they called Travelall that really rode like passenger cars, large, comfortable and strong passenger cars. The company still exists, albeit completely changed. But unfortunately they don’t make Travelalls anymore.
For the owners of classic International trucks the biggest problem is where to go for regular repairs and maintenance of these old trucks. Restoration projects, on the other hand are close to impossible unless you buy another truck like the one you’re trying to restore and use both of them to make one. Not a very practical idea, of course. In this case, as well as in the case of old Studebaker trucks it is wise to find other owners of the same brand of truck in order for you to get information about the availability of parts.
The scarcity of parts is not such a big problem if you are willing to sacrifice the originality of the truck. You can modernize your antique truck and adapt parts from other types of pickups, maintaining as much of the original appearance as possible. There are good restorers who can suggest what you can do to your truck to have it riding well and looking great.
Once there was a man who needed a pickup truck for deliveries. He was in the business of recycling used tires and he felt a pickup truck would do fine. He was short on money and so he bought a used 1952 International L110.
The truck was drivable but had many problems. Little by little the old man worked on his truck and fixed the major breakdowns. The tire recycling business picked up and he decided to make some improvements to the old L110. A few months later somebody offered him almost twice as much as he had paid for it.
Before agreeing to the sale the old man looked for another old truck and found a 1951 International L110 for the same price he had paid for his, that is 1/2 of what he was getting for his truck. He sold the 1952 and went after the 1951.
The story repeated itself for 22 years. The old man would buy an old truck and restore it, sell it and buy another one. The tire recycling business was sold and the old man dedicated the rest of his life to the truck restoration business, doing almost everything by himself. He died two days before his 72nd birthday, in 1982. During the long years he dedicated to the restoration of old International trucks he bought and sold 18 trucks and made a small fortune with them.
This man knew everything about old International trucks and how to get parts for them. Too bad he isn’t around anymore.
Here are more links to sites with pictures and info on old International trucks: