International’s building pickups again. Perhaps we should say PICKUPs, as the smallest one comes in at 14,000 lbs. GVW. They’re a far cry from the K-1 “Cornbinders” my generation saw on the road when we were growing up.
Actually, it’s not out of character. Although the first International trucks were light duty high wheelers, from 1915 to 1931 International Harvester built nothing smaller than a 3/4 ton truck. The S (for “Speed) series of 1921 became popular, culminating in the Six Speed Special of 1928, with four wheel brakes and a two-speed rear axle that doubled the ratios from the three-speed transmission. At the dawn of the 1930s, the 3/4-ton A series chassis was the smallest truck in the catalog.
The first half-ton International was the Model D-1, introduced late in 1932, essentially a “badge engineered” Willys C-113. International’s own C series debuted in 1934, and remained the mainstay of the light-duty line until introduction of the stylish D-series in 1937. The new barrel-front K series bowed in mid 1940. The K-1 at the top of the page was offered at the Mansfield, Massachusetts, swap meet a few years ago for $750, a reasonable price considering the rare “man on a tractor” IH-logo grille guard.
After the war, the K became the KB, with the addition of some chrome trim and higher prices. The first postwar redesign came in 1950 with the more muscular L-series, now with overhead valves. With minor styling changes the L became the R in 1953 and the S in 1956.
To mark its first half century, International returned to the beginning of the alphabet and rolled out the A-Line Golden Anniversary trucks in March 1957. To keep up with Chevrolet and Ford’s flush-sided pickups, the A-Line was available with a cab-wide pickup box, two-toned if desired. A quad headlight B series was produced in 1959 and 1960, and a C series from 1961 to ’63. A succession of new grilles distinguished the 1965 D series through 1968. V8 engines became available in pickups in 1959.
The last new “full size” light duty International was introduced in 1969. Cued from the slab-sided Scout, it remained in production through 1975, after which the stretch-tail “Terra” version of the Scout became the sole International pickup.
One can wonder why, with pickups in the ascendant, International chose to exit the market at that point. Perhaps they could see that mass production would be the province of the Big Three and they couldn’t compete. Why, then, these big pick-em-ups now? At 14,000 lbs. GVW the MXT rivals Ford’s F-350 and F-450; the RXT and CXT, at 25,000 and 25,999 lbs. respectively are in a class by themselves. Or are they trying to head off DaimlerChrysler’s Freightliner?
CarPorters interested in International trucks should visit the Old IHC Special Interest Group, from which some of the illustrations are linked. Those who need to know more should seek out Fred Crismon’s book International Trucks, published by Motorbooks’ Crestline imprint in 1995.