Grandpa’s International Pickup (or, One Man’s Trash…)

 

Grandpa’s 1971 International 1110 pickup (before detailing).

My grandpa died in 1974 at the age of 90. A year or two before he died, he bought a used 1971 International 1110 pickup at a farm sale in the Oklahoma Panhandle, where he had been ranching for nearly seven decades. It’s a little surprising that he bought an International because he was a Ford man all his life. But perhaps the price was right or perhaps he simply took a fancy to its square-rigged look.

International Harvester started producing pickups in 1907, and its vehicles were known for their ruggedness and adaptability. They served as delivery vans and light trucks in the city, as farm and ranch trucks in rural areas, as buses, and even as mining and logging trucks. It even created the Scout and the Travelall as the first SUV-type vehicles. Despite their advantages, they were always the little brother to the Big Three of Ford, GM, and Dodge in the light truck/pickup market. Their last light truck was produced in 1975, and today International is Navistar, which produces semi-trucks and diesel engines. So my grandpa’s pickup was part of the last line of light trucks that International produced.

After my grandpa passed away, my dad inherited the pickup. We used it to haul hay and cake to the cattle, to go out and break the ice in the stock tanks in winter, to haul things around the ranch. It was a four-wheel drive, so my dad loved to use it smash through snow drifts. I remember one time when we went to pick up hay in winter and got thoroughly stuck in deep snow in the hay lot. We had to shovel and go back and forth to break out. It was getting dark, and I was getting worried that we might have to spend the night out there. But my dad calmly kept shoveling and working it forward and backward until we finally broke out. We never made it to the haystack, so the cattle had to go hungry, and it was dark when we made it home. But the pickup took us home.

I learned to drive on it in 1980 when I was just nine years old. It was a stick shift with a four-on-the-floor shifter. No power steering or power brakes, so you turned and stopped with your muscles. I wasn’t allowed to drive on highways then, but as a pre-teen and teenager, I drove it all over the pastures and country roads. Today that would be considered child neglect, but it taught me independence and responsibility.

Fast forward several decades. Now my dad is 91, and the pickup wasn’t getting much use. We live in a small town, so it has left its ranch roots behind. Dad still drives it to the city tree dump to dispose of branches and bags of leaves. Since it was only being driven a couple of times a year, it had become a major project to get it started each time. It burned so much oil that a cloud of blue smoke followed my dad every time he drove it. I was sad to see the old pickup slowly deteriorating, and I am nostalgic about it because it was manufactured in the year of my birth.

But what to do with it? It has more than a few dents and dings from years of hard work on the ranch. We had to add a quart of oil every time we drove it, so it needed an engine overhaul, and its top speed was 35 mph. When you braked, you had to grip the steering wheel firmly because the right brake didn’t activate right away, so it veered left. And then suddenly, the right brake would catch, and it would veer right. Not a pickup for the faint of heart or weak of muscle. After driving it, a cloud of blue smoke would emerge when I opened the hood because oil was leaking onto the hot exhaust.

After a wash and wax.

A mechanic told me that it needs to be driven, not just a mile to the tree dump, but on long drives that will burn out the carbon and sludge. He told me to drive it a hundred miles and then change the oil. I added some transmission fluid to the oil to speed up the engine cleaning and started taking it out on 20-mile drives. I put Marvel Mystery Oil in the fuel tank to clean up the cylinders; and when I added oil, I used high-zinc Shell Rotella diesel engine oil – most modern oil has low zinc to keep heavy metals out of the environment, but old engines need a coating of zinc to reduce wear on moving parts. Miracles started to happen. Now it hardly uses any oil at all. It starts on the first try. It drives smoothly at 50 mph. The right brake catches better, although you still have to be ready in case it doesn’t. A rugged old pickup like that was meant to be driven.

Then a guy driving by saw the pickup and asked if he could make a video about it. I was embarrassed by how dirty it was, so I decided to detail it for the video. My dad said it had never been washed, but I washed with auto soap and polished it with carnauba wax. I washed out the interior and shined it with Aerospace Protectant. I cleaned the windows with a clay bar and even put tire black on the wheels. I’m not sure what my grandpa would think of his old truck all shined up. Take a look at the video:

Our society disposes of old things too quickly. Many people would have said the pickup is just trash; but step by step, I am uncovering the treasure in it. International made a rugged pickup 51 years ago, and it still has a lot of miles left in it. Grandpa made it to 90, my dad to at least 91, so I’m sure the pickup has at least another four decades in it.

Dad proudly behind the wheel.

International Harvester logo.

My project for tomorrow is to change the oil, maybe for the first time in a decade, now that I have driven the hundred miles. One more step in restoring the treasure.

Published in Science & Technology
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There are 33 comments.

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  1. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    If you’re not already using no-ethanol gasoline, you probably should.

    • #1
  2. She Member
    She
    @She

    Great post. Looking forward to an update on the truck in another 50 years. I wish my grandmother’s 1947 Rover was still in the family. 

    • #2
  3. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    My first auto was a ’71 Chevy Pickup; “3 on the tree”

    It was older than Me. Long sentimental story why I got that truck.

    No power steering, huuuge tires, racing engine. I had to stand up to push the clutch down. By the end of the first summer driving Him My left thigh was bigger, more toned than My right.

    He was old, rusted, missing parts. His name was Dumpster.

    • #3
  4. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    I’ve always wanted to fix up an old International Scout.  Thought that would be a cool project.  Great trucks.

    • #4
  5. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    On the financial front, I hear (and some of the automobile websites seem to validate) that those old simple trucks are extremely valuable. Especially in “unmolested” (unrestored, unmodified) condition. Not that you’re in the mood to sell the truck.

    On the sentimental front, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal (A.J. Baime) has a weekly column “My Ride” in which people describe a car of special meaning. Often those are cars that have been in the family for a long time. The column’s usual focus is the intersection of family and the car.  And some past columns have featured farm trucks. Your story is the type that the column features, and thus may be of interest to him.  (edited to correct contributor’s name)

    • #5
  6. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Steve Fast: I wasn’t allowed to drive on highways then, but as a pre-teen and teenager I drove it all over the pastures and country roads. Today that would be considered child neglect, but it taught me independence and responsibility.

    I watch farm videos from family farms on which I see several early and mid teens driving farm trucks (including large grain trucks) around the farms and between fields. 

    • #6
  7. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Great post and a great truck!!!

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I so enjoyed your post! What a classy truck! Good for you, rejuvenating it, and bringing it back to life.

    • #8
  9. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Although I am far more interested in modern performance cars than old farm trucks, I thought this was a terrific post. 

    • #9
  10. Mad Gerald Coolidge
    Mad Gerald
    @Jose

    What a treasure!

    I learned to drive on a Ford 9N tractor (~1940).  I wish I had it now.

    • #10
  11. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    My wife had an International Harvester refrigerator in the garage of the first condo she owned . . .

    • #11
  12. Steve Fast Coolidge
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    kedavis (View Comment):

    If you’re not already using no-ethanol gasoline, you probably should.

    Thanks – I had not thought about that.

    • #12
  13. Steve Fast Coolidge
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Steve Fast: I wasn’t allowed to drive on highways then, but as a pre-teen and teenager I drove it all over the pastures and country roads. Today that would be considered child neglect, but it taught me independence and responsibility.

    I watch farm videos from family farms on which I see several early and mid teens driving farm trucks (including large grain trucks) around the farms and between fields.

    In Kansas, farm kids can drive vehicles less than 26,000 lbs. on the highway at age 14. I’m sure they drive larger vehicles (18-wheeler grain trucks) on country roads and between fields.

    It’s ridiculous how we coddle kids today. In 1860 Billy Tate was a 14-year-old Pony Express rider who was ambushed by Paiute Indians. He killed seven of them before they got him. They didn’t scalp him because he fought so bravely. Are there any kids today who could handle themselves so well?

    • #13
  14. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Stad (View Comment):

    My wife had an International Harvester refrigerator in the garage of the first condo she owned . . .

    My parents have a full size freezer that has been in nearly constant operation since 1967 or so. Last time I saw it last year, the first time since the corona; the surface had started to rust, which shocked my sensibilities.  

    • #14
  15. Steve Fast Coolidge
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    Although I am far more interested in modern performance cars than old farm trucks, I thought this was a terrific post.

    My daily driver is a 2005 BMW 325, and I’ve done all but the most major repairs on it for the last ten years. And it is an entirely different beast to work on than an old farm truck. For one thing, many BMW owners are engineers, so they love to post detailed, step-by-step procedures with photos for every repair on the car. The online “procedures” for the International are pretty sketchy because their owners are a bunch of gearheads who have taken apart and put together dozens of engines and don’t need a procedure. Even the service manual for the International is pretty general.

    On my BMW, you have to remove ten things to get to the one thing you want to repair. On the International almost everything can be freely accessed. On my BMW, only a racing jack will fit under the car. On the International I can do a lot of work underneath without jacking it up at all.

     

    • #15
  16. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    So much for planned obsolescence.

    Why can’t a car run for 40 years?  I remember the first talk about planned obsolescence, what, 40 years ago?  There were a lot of seemingly rational arguments for it, but I didn’t buy it.  Now look.  Regarding cars, they’re trying to make everyone go to EVs in which the battery is the main drive component and is as important as an ICE engine and lasts, what, 70,000 miles and has to be replaced?  That is in cost, necessity, down-time, more than the equivalent of replacing a car engine at 70,000 miles.

    And sooner or later they will prohibit the sale of gasoline, making every ICE car obsolete.

    I know a guy who bought a hybrid and after something like 40,000 miles the battery went up.  And instead of spending thousands of dollars to replace it, or buying another hybrid, he bought and ICE car.  And ICE cars, even at the functional end of their lives, will still run and can be repaired enough to get around without the expense of replacing the engine.  And the same thing happened to his brother, and he made the same decision.

    And hand crank window!  I’m tired of paying $400 for a new motors for electric windows.

    • #16
  17. BastiatJunior Member
    BastiatJunior
    @BastiatJunior

    When I was in High School (1975 -1978), I knew a family that had an International Travelall.  They didn’t call them SUV’s in those days. 

    • #17
  18. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    I will buy it today  :)   Excellent truck, have some memories about IH trucks as well, although I learned to drive in an old Ford with a “3 on the tree”.  

    Just kidding about buying it, that truck should never ever leave your family.  

    • #18
  19. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    I had a friend I taught with years ago who had a IH truck he absolutely swore by. He called it his Cornbinder. I always remember that. I would bet that if he is still alive, so is his truck.

    • #19
  20. Illiniguy Member
    Illiniguy
    @Illiniguy

    Did you notice that the only rust on it was where it’d been scratched and not re-painted? The rocker panels look solid, there didn’t appear to be rust around the wheel wells and there was no rust showing through above the front bumper. I wish my 2013 F-150 was in as good shape.

    • #20
  21. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    The old IH symbol is one of the cleverest logo designs. It’s a small “i”, so it looks like a man riding a high-wheeled tractor. 

     

    • #21
  22. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Stad (View Comment):

    My wife had an International Harvester refrigerator in the garage of the first condo she owned . . .

    A whole bunch of auto and truck companies had subsidiaries that made refrigerators. GM had Frigidaire; Nash had Kelvinator; Ford had Philco; in the UK, Morris had Prestcold. Chrysler made Airtemp commercial equipment. 

    Why did they do that? Unlike cars, refrigerators were relatively immune from model changes, or boom and bust cycles. Like cars, they are heavy metal boxes made of deeply pressed steel. 

    • #22
  23. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    My wife had an International Harvester refrigerator in the garage of the first condo she owned . . .

    My parents have a full size freezer that has been in nearly constant operation since 1967 or so. Last time I saw it last year, the first time since the corona; the surface had started to rust, which shocked my sensibilities.

    We both were sad we didn’t remove it when she sold her condo.  I just hope the new owners kept it . . .

    • #23
  24. Steve Fast Coolidge
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    My wife had an International Harvester refrigerator in the garage of the first condo she owned . . .

    A whole bunch of auto and truck companies had subsidiaries that made refrigerators. GM had Frigidaire; Nash had Kelvinator; Ford had Philco; in the UK, Morris had Prestcold. Chrysler made Airtemp commercial equipment.

    Why did they do that? Unlike cars, refrigerators were relatively immune from model changes, or boom and bust cycles. Like cars, they are heavy metal boxes made of deeply pressed steel.

    Fascinating! The things you learn on Ricochet.

    • #24
  25. Steve Fast Coolidge
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    My wife had an International Harvester refrigerator in the garage of the first condo she owned . . .

    A whole bunch of auto and truck companies had subsidiaries that made refrigerators. GM had Frigidaire; Nash had Kelvinator; Ford had Philco; in the UK, Morris had Prestcold. Chrysler made Airtemp commercial equipment.

    Why did they do that? Unlike cars, refrigerators were relatively immune from model changes, or boom and bust cycles. Like cars, they are heavy metal boxes made of deeply pressed steel.

    And later on the refrigerator subsidiaries could make air conditioning for cars.

    • #25
  26. Steve Fast Coolidge
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    There really were International Harvester refrigerators. I found a pic of one online, complete with the iH logo!

    • #26
  27. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    My wife had an International Harvester refrigerator in the garage of the first condo she owned . . .

    A whole bunch of auto and truck companies had subsidiaries that made refrigerators. GM had Frigidaire; Nash had Kelvinator; Ford had Philco; in the UK, Morris had Prestcold. Chrysler made Airtemp commercial equipment.

    Why did they do that? Unlike cars, refrigerators were relatively immune from model changes, or boom and bust cycles. Like cars, they are heavy metal boxes made of deeply pressed steel.

    Fascinating! The things you learn on Ricochet.

    Gary is the automotive historian of Ricochet.

    • #27
  28. Randy Hendershot Lincoln
    Randy Hendershot
    @RicosSuitMechanic

    If you want an old vehicle, buy it.  It is just money, and it won’t aid you after you stop breathing. I have a 1965 Lotus Elan, a 1967 Morris Minor convertible, a 1980 Mercedes Diesel, four  BMW 2002s (model, not the year), a couple or three old trucks, and a BMW 740i.  I have zip mechanical ability, but I cultivate people who do, who are glad to help me.  Get in the game!  Some run, some are still dead, but they are in the queue, as my Brit friends say. Modern cars are reliable and soulless. Fast but boring.  Say, anybody know where my silver 1951 Ford business coupe might be? My Dad sold it in Hutchinson, Kansas circa 1974 (?)(?)

    And yes, there is a reward. 

    • #28
  29. Steve Fast Coolidge
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    Illiniguy (View Comment):

    Did you notice that the only rust on it was where it’d been scratched and not re-painted? The rocker panels look solid, there didn’t appear to be rust around the wheel wells and there was no rust showing through above the front bumper. I wish my 2013 F-150 was in as good shape.

    You have a good eye! There is amazingly little rust on the body and under the wheel wells. The bed has some small holes where it has rusted through, but we still have the tail gate. All the lights original except one tail light has been replaced. Interior is still in good shape with a good original bench seat. Windshield is original with NO cracks or chips. I like the panoramic windshield. Even though it was used on a ranch and got dinged up, my dad took good care of it. If I can find and fix the oil leaks, it should run for quite a few more years.

    It’s disappointing how the quality of American manufacturing has deteriorated over the years. It would be interesting to find out what exactly made Internationals more rugged than modern Fords.

    • #29
  30. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    Illiniguy (View Comment):

    Did you notice that the only rust on it was where it’d been scratched and not re-painted? The rocker panels look solid, there didn’t appear to be rust around the wheel wells and there was no rust showing through above the front bumper. I wish my 2013 F-150 was in as good shape.

    You have a good eye! There is amazingly little rust on the body and under the wheel wells. The bed has some small holes where it has rusted through, but we still have the tail gate. All the lights original except one tail light has been replaced. Interior is still in good shape with a good original bench seat. Windshield is original with NO cracks or chips. I like the panoramic windshield. Even though it was used on a ranch and got dinged up, my dad took good care of it. If I can find and fix the oil leaks, it should run for quite a few more years.

    It’s disappointing how the quality of American manufacturing has deteriorated over the years. It would be interesting to find out what exactly made Internationals more rugged than modern Fords.

    The requirements for fuel efficiency and emissions, and just plain weight.  Which is also largely because of fuel efficiency.  If you can make something heavier, it’s a good bet that it’s also stronger.

    • #30
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