By on December 5, 2009

IH Travelette PU

Welcome to Truck Saturday at TTAT. I know a few of you might not be too keen about old trucks, but they are such perfect CC material: they’re old, still hard at work, lots of patina, and highly picturesque. How can anyone not just love this International Travelette PU? It’s just oozing with authenticity and testosterone; none of that sissified cushiness of its modern successors. And in case you’re wondering about the Travelette name, it’s International’s moniker for a double cab; a play on the name of its popular Travelall proto-SUV. Now there’s history with that name and style, because the Travelette was the first production double cab pickup in the land. Sadly, International bowed out just as double-cabs were finally becoming to catch on. CC 20 024 800

I’ve been following this truck’s comings and goings for the sixteen years we’ve lived here now. For a while it lived down the street from us; now its over on the east side. It seems to have slowed down a bit in its old age, but after forty-five years, it deserves a slower pace of life. I’m not sure what’s under the hood, but it’s probably one of the variations of International’s gnarly and beefy V8, which came in 304, 345 and 392 cubic inch  variations. There used to be a 266 incher too, but it might have been discontinued by this time. Of course, it could well be the infinitely rugged BG series six, which came in 241 and 265 CI versions.One thing we can be pretty sure of: it doesn’t have a Detroit Diesel under the hood like this International pickup.

International had a storied history, one of the great classic American industrial giants. It’s roots go all the way back to the 1830’s, when Cyrus McCormick refined and patented the horse-drawn reaper. A merger in 1902 with the Deering Harvester Co. (no relation to John Deere) and a few other agricultural manufacturers created the ag business equivalent of GM. The Farmalls of my youth were the crowning glory of International’s golden era, but trucks were an increasing part of the industrial mix, beginning in 1907. International had a very strong position in the mid and large size truck market; their Loadstar series was ubiquitous for decades.

CC 20 017 800International stumbled, starting in the sixties. Pickup production ended in 1975. A combination of labor issues and the recession of 1981 practically wiped out the company. It sold the flagship ag products division, and retrenched as a mid-large size truck manufacturer, which it continues as today. But I can’t but believe that it’s a matter of time before the now-called Navistar gets swallowed up in the global truck consolidation already well under way. My guess: VW, which has just increased their MAN holdings and will likely consolidate it with their Scania and VW truck ops. Another vestigial American icon from the golden era ripe for plucking.

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32 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1964 International Travelette Pickup...”

  • avatar

    I remember the Travellete’s were popular with the railroads, the used them for the repair crews.  It was fairly comon to see one with railway wheels and axles.  International pickups were probably a good choice for fleet use as their chassis always seemed to be much heavier than their big three counterparts.

  • avatar

    …and if VW doesn’t pick up Navistar, Daimler or PACCAR (owner of DAF, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Leyland) will.
    Great find, too. I love old ‘survivor’ trucks. It’s almost funny to think that there was a time when people didn’t own trucks specifically for personal transportation, and manufacturers competed to have the lowest load height.
    What sad times these are for pickup trucks.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    50 yrs ago, back  when my parents took us to  church, we 8  rode in  the Brewster Green Chevy Suburban. The Banners , all 10 of  them, piled into  a 50 Ford  woody  wagon. The  DeLaDeniers had a green Travelall.  It was huge, about  the size  of  a modern Suburban.  IH made a darn fine utility vehicle.  They are getting rare because there aren’t plentiful parts sources.

  • avatar

    Sexy little El Camino in the background of the one photo too!
    My grandmother’s second husband was a guy who was forced out when International stopped making trucks, he worked at there Fort Wayne, IN factory.  The think that I was always told in my youth was that International stopped making trucks because they were too damn good and no one ever had to buy a second one!  Only so many farmers were out there to buy one.
    Don Laughlin’s Casino in Laughlin, NV has John Wayne’s Travelall hunting rig on display.  Nice truck and definitely very utilitarian.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    In the 1960s and 70s International made the same mistake in the light-truck market that Kaiser, Hudson and Nash did in the passenger-car market of the 1950s — they split their meager resources between a full-sized and a compact offering.  International wasn’t ultimately big enough to stay competitive in both fields.
    Only AMC under George Romney figured out that you needed to put your eggs in one basket. He dumped the big Nashes and Hudsons in favor of what effectively turned out to be the first “mid-sized” family car:  the 1956 Rambler.  That saved the company.
    I wonder if International might have survived longer if it had tried Romney’s gambit and put all of its focus on a new market niche:  the mid-sized light truck and SUV (recall the Travelall wagon, which was available in two and four wheel drive).  Hard to say if there was a sufficiently large market, but at least International could have afforded to keep its product line more up to date.  Even in the light truck field that started to matter in the 1970s (e.g., a switch to more stylish exteriors that offered the likes of curved side glass.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, the final generation of International pickups (and Travelalls and Scouts) were only a year or two older than the Chevy counterparts which lasted into the late 80s (and early 90s for the Suburban.)
      The final Travelall was way ahead of the Suburban, particularly in 1971 when it came out (remember that the Suburban still only had 3 doors).  It was 1973 before Chevy had anything near what the Travelall was.  Even then, I spent time in both and would have taken the Travelall hands down.
      I think that the biggest problem was that International was one of the most vertically intetrated manufacturers and had a very high cost structure.  Trucks were not its core business.  Farm equipment, construction equipment and heavy trucks were.  The bad economy in much of the 70s and stiff competition from Deere and other heavy truck manufacturers had International in a very weak position by the end of the 70s.  Even though they had very competitive products in pickups, Travelalls and Scouts, they had a small dealer network and a small market share.  They chose to make their investments in their core businesses, and did not have enough leftover to stay competitive in the light trucks.  Also, tighening emission and safety regs had a disproportionate impact on the smaller players.  It is a shame. 
      Hindsight tells us that if International had stuck with the Travelall into the 80s when CAFE forced the Airstream Trailer crowd out of Cadillacs and into Suburbans, things may have been different, at least for awhile.  How GM managed to get by with absolutely ZERO competition in this very lucrative segment all through the 90s has always been a mystery to me.

  • avatar

    Ahh, yes.  A time when men were men and trucks were trucks (and the latter were driven only by the former).   I once owned a 63 F-100.  With the single I beam axle, the long-throw 4 speed stick and the classic Ford steering gear with a 45 degree arc of free play, it was a chore to drive.  That truck taught me why nobody drove trucks for personal transport back in those days.  I imagine that this Travelette isn’t much different.

    I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where IH had a big assembly plant (which everyone called “the Harvester”).  There were a lot of IH Scouts, Travelalls and pickups roaming around in the 60s and 70s.  Like Educatordan, I knew several folks who lost their jobs when they closed that old plant, which went back to the 20s.

    Those old cornbinders were durable old trucks.  These seemed to resist the tinworm more than the generation that followed.  I also seem to recall that Dodge offered a crew cab in the 60s as well.  And it was no better looking than this International.

    Thanks for Truck Saturday.  Shiny restored pickups offer no attraction for me, but I love an old, durable workhorse still doing its thing out in the wild.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr Lemming

      To your reply, the IH’s designs grew obsolete really quickly because they did them on the cheap. For example, by 1973 each of the Big Three’s full-sized light trucks had curved side glass. Dodge and Chevy had then-trendy “fuselage” styling. International’s truck and Travelall looked pretty old in comparison. And the Scout was one of the few SUVs that still had a flat windshield. Not ideal for taking it upmarket to compete with the much more car-like Cherokee-Wagoneer.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    Y’just gotta love an old IH…unless you’re in the used-parts business, which I briefly was as a counterman at a large wrecking yard outside of Denver. In that industry, they are known as “Intertrashionals”, reviled for the short interchange of their components. Brake drum for a Ford, GM, or Dodge pickup? No problem, there are maybe three interchange groups over a 30-year span. Brake drum for a ’67 IH? Uh…maybe, was your truck built 9/66 thru 11/3/66, 11/4/66 thru 12/31/66, 1/1/67 thru 3/13/67, 3/14/67 thru 5/25/67…
    (Also, PN, the fondly remembered—and truly international—IH medium-heavy truck and chassis cab platform was called Loadstar. It’s a pun on the word “lodestar”.)

  • avatar

    When I came into the world my dad was splitting his time between an MG and a Travelall, which were perfectly paired for enjoying Minnesota summers and going anywhere one wanted to go in the winter (provided a gas station wasn’t too distant).  He managed to keep it when he and my mom divorced (I’m sure my mom wanted nothing to do with it), but eventually sold it on when he started racking up 300 miles a week in commuting.  The Pontiac T1000 that he bought for that commute didn’t last more than a couple years, but as late as the mid-1990s our old International was still in my hometown.  I’m not sure if it is still around today.
    Dad’s fire department still has a Lodestar in service as a reserve tanker, and it’s become my favorite truck in the department since they got rid of their M-715 five-quarter Kaiser Jeep brush buggy, which they replaced with a new Silverado.  Good luck with that, guys.

  • avatar

    When I was little, It thought double cabs were the coolest trucks in the world, up there with Tonka trucks.  I was sad and scared that people where too clueless to buy more of them. Now as an adult, I don’t care about them as much partly cause I want more car than truck ie. tall wagon. An X1/3/5/6 works best.  Thank you travellette (fiminine name)  though.

  • avatar
    Andrew F.

    I’m looking at one just like this right now, out my kitchen window. It’s my neighbor’s pride and joy, the same color as the one in your pics and in only slightly-better condition (only apparent  difference is the grille, a year one side or the other I guess). There is some rust in the bed, but like a battleship repeated layers of paint will hold it together indefinitely. There is a big V8 under the hood, no surprise considering the bombproof stump-puller AWD system, though I’m not sure of the displacement. My neighbor believes this model was a custom order for the forest service here in the Pacific NW (I’m also in Portland) and not available to the general public in crew cab configuration.

  • avatar

    Absolutely loaded with character, and speaks volumes, yes, but I just don’t see any surfeit of testosterone, any more than one would see that in an 80 year old veteran.
    In the ’60s and ’70s, friends in Seattle had a Travelall. The father was an academic nuclear physicist, the mother a mathematician. One of the kids had a Chevette, for which he constructed a very attractive wooden dashboard. They also built with their own hands a cottage on Whidby Island. The parents were practical, but they also once had the worst case of misaligned wheels in any car I’ve ever driven on an old Chevy wagon they had in the early ’90s. I had to tell them to get the thing into the shop pronto.
    The headmaster of my Quaker elementary school, Tom Waring, had a dark green Chevy Suburban for the family in the early-mid 60s. When not driving that, he rode around Cambridge on a 3 speed Raleigh.

  • avatar

    When I graduated from college in 66,  I went to work for IH. In their truck division. I got to drive scouts and travelalls while on business trips. The scouts were bare bone 4 cylinder manuals and the travelalls were great for highway driving. The biggest problems for IH were their gas trucks were real ‘Gas Hogs’. And they were relatively heavy. And the scouts/travelalls were not the most reliable trucks on the market. Their management personnel were hard drinking/ partying and not very professional IMO.  But their medium and heavy trucks were competitive and fairly reliable. They never really updated their light duty retail products to make them really desirable. They were still just trucks with lighter frames/bodies.  When families/women started buying family vehicles, they were most likely not at all that desirable for most families. And with their poor gas consumption, the energy crises in the  70’s spelled the end of these products. I can’t imagine the problems facing IH Customers trying to get parts for these vehicles. It always amazes me to still see them in use.

  • avatar

    I had a one-ton ’76 International-Harvester crew cab with a step-side bed. It had seen 100,000 miles of Texas Highway Dept. brutality before falling in my lap. You couldn’t kill the truck if you wanted to.  I’ve no doubt if you’d handed it over to the Top Gear crew to give it the Toyota Hilux treatment it would have easily held up.  Only problem for me was that vinyl seats and a metal steering wheel made for lots of scorched skin in the summer.  In the winter the first ten minutes truly revealed its IH birth…it drove like a tractor until it warmed up.  Reliable as the sun in the time I had it, and no one cut me off in traffic with that TxHD yellow paint and a cattle guard.

  • avatar

    In the early 1970’s I had a best friend whose parents owned a Travelall they used to pull a camper. In addition to the Travelall they owned a big Chrysler Town & Country wagon with the fake wood siding. My family also had a camper which my parents towed with a Ford Torino wagon.

    As a kid I always liked the long, crew cab Dodge and International pickups. I still enjoy seeing surviving examples. I haven’t seen an International in years, but the 1970’s era Dodges still turn up from time to time. Here are two examples I have seen in the last year or so.[email protected]/3080224273/[email protected]/4141325000/

  • avatar

    Let’s see more trucks in CC – they are part of the automotive culture.

  • avatar

    I bet you could drive that monster through a building, forwards or backwards, with nary a bit of resistance. Look at that rear bumper and admire the railroad tie on the front.
    Let’s see a 2009 impala take on this beast.

  • avatar

    There’s an IH museum about 30 miles from me.Very Impressive. It’ s set in a farm style setting and has some world class examples of Cornbinders in it. They hosted a major IH meet in 2008 that was even more impressive.

  • avatar

    My only International experience was with the school bus I rode in elementary school.  Loadstar chassis, Thomas body.  I haven’t seen one in a long time.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J. Stern

      Loadstar chassis on Blue Bird (and the occasional Superior) bodies, for me. And nothing but nothing sounded quite like those IH Loadstars! Combination of the peculiarities of the IH V8 engine, the compressor for the air brakes, and the cooling fan.

  • avatar

    Sorry to say my International experience wasn’t a fond memory. We had a ’79 Scout, which, among myriad mechanical issues, was an evil-handling pig that would lock its (drum) brakes and go into a spin with the slightest amount of water on the road. We had the problem investigated by our mechanic, who said the brakes on this car were “touchy.”  Yeah, so was the throttle on the X-1 Yeager broke the sound barrier in, but I digress.
    My youngest brother inherited the beast, and on his first day out as a newly licensed driver, he spun it out in a light rain. The Scout spun off the road, diving ass first into a ’73 Ford Torino, which was wiped out, along with the Scout’s removable hardtop. Then, still spinning, the car went through a chain link fence, and nailed a phone pole (which had to be replaced), destroying what was left of the hardtop. But the trip wasn’t done yet. Then the Scout spun into a KFC parking lot, destroying the sign, and taking out all the foliage. It came to rest, front end up, on a two-foot-tall concrete stub, and that’s how I found it when I rushed to the site after the cops called home to tell us about the accident.
    It’s a miracle my brother wasn’t hurt, much less killed, but damned if that evil POS Scout wasn’t still alive. It actually started up (at which point the tape player started up, blasting George Thorogood at eardrum-annihlating volume), and was driven down the street to the repair shop, which bought it as a push vehicle. Good riddance.

  • avatar

    In the mid 1970’s, some friends and I traveled (drank, bribed, ate) around Mexico in  an older-model international Travelall. It easily swallowed all our gear, and gave us room to sleep when we switched off drivers on some of our long-distance, around-the-clock runs.

    And Oh! for the days of the Powerwagon! Last year I saw one parked near here… split front window, flatbed… brutal and tough as an old boar it was.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    My parents had a white Travelall from this era for a few years. They nicknamed it the BUMF (big ugly mother…). Reverse gear broke on it one winter day, so they had it hauled off as 1979 was not a good time to rely on a vehicle with $75 fillups. The pictures of the truck don’t show it, but in addition to the usual saddle tanks, there was a third filler neck in the front passenger fender for the tank under the cab.

    I see the occasional Loadstar chassis around as farm trucks, but I remember them best from my school-bus riding days. Floor shifter manuals, super stiff rear springs, belchy diesels, (and steel treadplate for the seatbacks!) but by my day they were starting to break down a lot and the state eventually forced the county to retire them.

    • 0 avatar

      When I was in elementary school (mid-late 80s), my town was still using a handful of Loadstar buses, too. Even as a kindergartner, I thought those things were cool trucks.

    • 0 avatar

      The one I rode had an automatic, but there were a couple of older spares that had manuals.  I remember the steel treadplate too, and some of the old ones with bars above the padding at the top.  I was sitting in the last row of old number 34 one day when we were rear-ended by another bus at low speed.  No injuries.  I remember thinking, too, that those Internationals sure looked a lot better than the Chevys and GMCs (and the one Ford) that the county was buying to replace them.

  • avatar

    IH had the same problem as the D3: decades of prosperity left it fat and complacent. I recall reading back in the day about an engineer that went to work for International and found his only duty was to design door latch mechanisms. Well, the payroll was good for Fort Wayne while it lasted.

  • avatar

    It’s definitely true that Cornbinders were strongly built. I had a 1950 half-ton pickup whose engine had a ten-quart oil sump. It couldn’t go fast enough to hurt itself. My father and I shared a 1965 900 pickup, which was IH’s try at a compact pickup. This rig had the standard cab, a short narrow box, and a Scout 4-cylinder engine and 3-speed manual transmission. I pointed out to Pop more than once that a Chevy V8 engine weighed the same as the half-a-V8 Scout engine, but he thought he’d do better with the stock setup, and to him “better” meant “drive it 150,000 miles with no maintenance”. He was probably right, it did last that long for him, and under those conditions. I’ve always kind of wondered why I’ve never seen one of those that someone had put a V8 in.

  • avatar

    1978 International semi-truck.
    With so many components from outside sources it was tough, at times, to know who made what.
    Cummins “shiny 290” diesel engine.  Ten speed tranny by… Eaton??? Fuller?
    Rear end differentials were outsourced.
    I’m pretty sure the cab and frame were International.
    A basic nuthin’ fancy semi with a sleeper roughly the size of a coffin.
    No power steering on that stripper model.  Backing up to a dock, especially when loaded and it was hot and humid led to more sweat than a full day of boot camp in the hottest part of summer.
    However, the resultant arm and shoulder size surely kept neer-do-wells at bay, as many as 5 against one, in later days.
    The following effort of unloading 38,000 pounds of onions in their 55 pound bags, completed in 2-1/2 hours,  assisted in adding to the Schwarzenegger-like appearance minus the steroidal effect.
    You folks had better appreciated those damn onions and other comestibles and sundry items, brought to thee by America’s working-poor who have steadily been shoved down into a near-2nd-world life-style over the decades.
    Just doing the jobs “Americans will not do” folks.
    And the class war continues and the anger grows.
    But that old “Cornbinder” got the job done and fed a nation.
    But, damn, why couldn’t some engineer or corporate cubical wimp have demanded all Internationals come with power-steering standard?

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Thanks for sharing. Your efforts have not gone unappreciated. And I felt the same way about power steering when I got a job in the early seventies driving a big city bus, that spent all day going around street corners. What! These things don’t have powar steering? How much more would that have cost?

  • avatar

    Back in the early seventies my late uncle was a salesman for IH in the San Diego suburbs. I remember his family had two cars; one unknown (to me), the other a Travelall. I still have vague memories of cruising to Disneyland in that thing. Ugliest SUV ever; no wonder the Suburban is still around.

    Someone who lives a few blocks over from me has an (I think) late-60s vintage IH pickup in nice restored condition. I’ll try to send some pix at some point.

    I work for my state’s Division of Parks and Recreation. Our crew truck is a 2006 Ford F350 Super Duty crew cab 4×4 dually with the Powerstroke (International) turbo diesel V8. It reminds me of the subject of this article, only much, much badder.

    It will tow 12,000 lbs at 70 mph, has four doors, we clean the cab with a shop vac and a pressure washer, and it goes like a bat out of hell when unloaded. Don’t tell the governor this, but if you spool the turbo while power braking, you can break all four rear wheels loose off the line. On dry pavement. Just barely.

    Your tax dollars at work. You’re welcome.

    On the down side, the standard bench seat sucks. Oh how I wish we had ordered the split bench. Our old Chevy 2500 had the split bench seat and speakers in all four doors. That was nice. Everything else was awful, though. GM deserves everything bad that happens to it. That truck was absolute proof. How are you gonna f**k up a pickup?

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