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1958 International Harvester Receives A Technology Transplant (PART II)- Extracurricular Projects

Today International Harvester lives on as Navistar International Corporation building heavy-duty, segment leading, Class 4 through 8 trucks but back in 1957 the Motor Truck Division of International Harvester was just celebrating their 50th anniversary as a truck builder and followed their S-Series trucks with the A-Series models (A stood for Anniversary).


1957 International Travelall

The mid-to-late 1950s were a big time in automotive history, especially in terms of styling. When GM restyled their cars and trucks in 1955 the industry followed the fashion trend. Wraparound windshields became essential and being bold was definitely in vogue. International Harvester was still producing light-duty trucks at the time and although they knew that they would not lead the industry in terms of volume, they intended to make sure that their styling cues would qualify for some strong competition. In 1957 International Harvester copied GM’s wraparound windshields and secured greater visibility than their GM counterparts through greater glass surface area. IH dealer salesmen were also able to point out the segment leading three doors in 1957 and fourth in 1961. GM would lag behind, having only 2 doors in the full-size truck based wagon segment until 1966.

1955 Chevrolet Suburban

Unfortunately, in 1958 industry wide truck production hit a twenty-year low and fell about 20%. International’s truck sales were hit hard and dropped to 81,213 units across the board, the lowest number in International’s post-war history. One of the trucks built in ’58 that did sell was an International Harvester Travelall A-120 (3/4 ton, 4-wheel-drive). This particular truck was purchased to help survey the land surrounding Twentynine Palms, California. Throughout the late fifties and on into the 1960s it earned its keep, carrying geological equipment and supplies, checking on surveying crews, and pulling countless vehicles out of the sand. The truck was even used for a search and rescue mission where three men had gone missing. After almost fifty years of faithful service in the same family’s fleet the Travelall was finally parked…but not for long.
Before explaining the ‘restomod’ that this particular Travelall will experience we thought it best to set the stage and put to rest any reservations purists may have had in bringing the truck back to stock specs.


1958 International Travelall ready for restoration

First of all, once built this truck is intended to perform as a ‘daily driver’ and as such refinement is somewhat important. As it turns out International Harvesters farm equipment heritage could definitely be seen in this particular Travelall’s driveline. With stump pulling torque, solid axles and leaf springs this vehicle would be down home on any family farm. The original ‘Black Diamond’ 264 c.i. inline-6 engine had not seized but it only produced around 140 horsepower when new and was not fuel efficient by today’s standards; especially when pulling around the vehicle’s 7000 pounds. Another characteristic of the inline-6 was that it sat ahead of the front axle centerline, placing more weight out front giving it ‘heavier’ steering and poor handling characteristics. The three-on-the-tree manual transmission along with the Borg-Warner ‘divorced’ transfer-case were also inefficient and forced two imposing shafts up through the passenger side of the floorboard.
Donor Vehicle
It was time to take this serious road tractor (originally only capable of a top speed around 55mph) and give it a technology transplant. In search of greater efficiency, capability and convenience at a respectable price a ‘donor vehicle’ would be needed. This donor vehicle would need a few important features:
– Familiarity (A general technical knowledge of components is a must)
– Dimensions (Driveline fit may never be perfect but measurements are important and should be taken – Choose a vehicle with like dimensions)
– Proven track record (A vehicle that has been in the marketplace for a while)
– The Great Multitude (The more vehicles produced the more readily available parts will be now and in the future)
– Cost Efficient (A Mercedes Benz G500 would be an example of a cost inefficient donor vehicle)

The vehicle chosen was a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD (3/4 ton, 4-wheel-drive) with nine miles on the odometer. The 6.0 Liter sequentially fuel injected V8, 4L80e transmission, and New Process transfer-case along with the computer, TAC module, body module, brake master cylinder, steering wheel (and box), push button 4WD controls and heater box/HVAC system were procured for the transplant…
Let the shipment arrive and the games begin…


  • jehova lopez| November 15, 2008 at 7:45 am

    i have a military international but i have no clue if the parts in it now are the parts that came with it or if those are parts military put in….any help?

  • Wanda| June 19, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    We were just wondering if there was an update on this story? Any information would be appreciated. Thank You
    Hi Wanda…
    Yes, there have been two updates to this story. See VehicleVoice entries on the following dates.

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