Adding my first full-size International to the fleet only increased my IH addiction, and less than a year later I needed another fix.
One night during another trip to North Dakota to visit my wife’s family, I checked eBay for any interesting IHs up for sale. I came across another full-size truck on my wish list, a 1972-73 Travelette. When International introduced the new three-door Travelall, it didn’t take long for them to figure out that they could easily mix in some pickup parts and create a crew cab pickup. Since some of the parts were borrowed from the Travelall (and the name”Crew Cab” hadn’t yet been coined), they called it the Travelette.
I found this one listed by a seller in Seattle at a starting bid of $200, which was certainly in my price range. I emailed the seller explaining that I was on vacation and asked him if could I pick it up in about two weeks if I won it. He didn’t have a problem with that, just as long as I paid promptly after the auction ended. The listing was pretty limited in terms of pictures and a description. Actually, most of the specs didn’t really do it for me: It was an automatic, and the owner had started putting a flat bed on the short wheel base chassis but hadn’t yet bolted it down or hooked up lights. On the plus side, it was a 1210 4×4 and he claimed that it ran, although not very well. He was fed up with trying to make it run right, which was why he was selling it. Since the starting bid was less than the scrap value, I figured what the heck–and besides, I’d probably be outbid anyway. As it turned out, mine was the only bid. Thus had I had bought my first (and so far only) vehicle on eBay.
Once we returned home, I arranged to go pick it up at a time when my brother could come with me. The seller had stated repeatedly that I couldn’t work on it there–why I don’t know–and that Id have to tow it. When I got there, his father-in-law handed over the keys and title and then took off. I rigged up some lights to make it arguably legal to drive home. I threw a ratchet strap across the loose deck boards on the flat bed, stuck in a battery and toyed a bit with the idle setting to get it to idle right. As I was putting in the battery I discovered that this wasn’t a 345 as advertised. You see, to make the 345 (and later, the 392), IH raised the block’s deck height; consequently, those engines also had a wider intake manifold. However, with full-sizers it’s easiest just to check the dip stick. There are two mounting bolt holes to secure the tube to the head; if it’s in the lower hole as this one was, it’s a short deck version with either a 266 or 304.
It did not want to idle in gear but I set out for home anyway. Once I got out on the highway, it started running very badly, and then the transmission started dropping out of gear. I pulled into a parts store lot and checked the transmission fluid; the stick came up dry. I purchased a couple of quarts of Dexron, fashioned a funnel out of a fast-food cup and poured in the fluid. It was enough to register on the stick, so we took to the road once more. Fortunately, we’d made it to where we could take back roads with lower speed limits, and since it pulled pretty severely during braking I didn’t want to take the freeway anyway. Despite all the surging, backfiring and attempts to die, it did get us home with no more issues.
Once there, I started gathering some info. I lifted up the inner fender splash shield and cleaned off the ID pad to verify it was a 304. Next, I flipped down the glove box and found a mini copy of the Line Set Ticket. It revealed that the vehicle had been ordered by Puget Power, the former local electric provider, and the 304 was factory-fitted. That also explained why its massive front bumper had a spot for a large winch and showed evidence of vises previously mounted at each end. Presumably, Puget Power also added the roof-mounted spot light and had ordered it specially painted in Puget Power yellow, some of which can still be seen around the interior. It had been ordered as a cab and chassis, and its original equipment included the IH-built single-speed transfer case and a special-order 13-gallon fuel tank instead of the standard 16-gallon version. The guy I bought it from had removed and scrapped the service-style body before starting the flat bed project. It is hard to say when it got the two-speed transfer case, but the job had been done using factory parts.
Next up: Trying to make it run right. My first thought was that the carburetor was at fault, since the seller had stuck on a used carb he’d purchased on eBay. However, in the back seat were the original carb and a NOS genuine Holley carb kit, so I did a quick-and-dirty rebuild and slapped it on. That helped some, but things still weren’t right. I also found that someone had swapped the coil for a Bosch unit and run a new power wire that bypassed the factory resistor wire. I grabbed a used genuine IH coil and bracket from my stash and hooked it up to the factory resistor wire. After popping off the cap and inspecting the points, I saw they were barely opening, so I dragged out the dwell meter, set the points correctly and then adjusted the timing. After I readjusted the carb it was purring like a kitten, and the backfiring and surging were gone.
Next, I mounted a permanent set of taillights, transferred the title and got new plates. Since the parking area at my house was pretty full I took it to my storage yard. It’s sat there ever since, although I do fire it up and move it around the yard every once in a while. As required by city regulations governing my storage lot, I do keep it licensed. The canopy resting on blocks protects and conceals spare axles and quarter panels from a Scout I dismantled.
I keep going back and forth regarding my plans for it. Due to its IH modular design, making it into a six-door Travelall or pickup would be pretty easy–just a matter of taking my parts Travelall, drilling out the spot welds on the B pillar of one and the C pillar of the other, and then joining the two. The Travelall version is in the lead since the Travelette’s 149″ wheel base is 30″ longer than the Travelall’s, which also happens to be the length of the rear doors. That means the new body would fit on the existing chassis simply by adding rear body mount brackets from the Travelall. Either way, it will get a different Dana 44 up front, one from a GM with disc brakes, and I’ll probably swap in a four-speed from another parts truck to replace the leaky 727. Of course, if I had the money I might consider a Power Stroke 7.3 and a five-speed, or an adapter to stick a 4L80E behind a 392 and use GM fuel injection to control both the engine and transmission.
Above is a six-door Traveall that was created in a similar fashion. It’s running a turbo 7.3, albeit the pre-Power Stroke version, mated to an automatic. It is the daily driver of a former president of a local IH club. I wouldn’t do the flares, and I’m not sure what color I’d go with, but I do know it will be fitted with some old-school aluminum slot mags.