Isn’t this truck just oozing with authenticity and testosterone? None of that sissified cushiness of its modern successors here. 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 beginning to catch on.
I’d been following this truck’s comings and goings for the sixteen years we’d lived here when I shot it back in 2009. 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 the two V8 choices that year were the 266 (154.8 hp) and 304 (193.1 hp). Of course, it could well be the infinitely rugged BG series six, which came in a 241 CI version rated at 140.8 hp. You know International was primarily a big truck and tractor outfit, given the hp ratings in decimals. No inflated numbers here.
A look at the interior, especially the driver’s compartment, also confirmed that. Just plain round gauges, but plenty of them. A farmer hopping in after a day in the fields on his Farmall was going to feel very much at home. And that goes for that extra-long shifter too.
International had a storied history, one of the great classic American industrial giants. Its 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.
International 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.
Update: that was written in 2009. In September of 2016, VW announced that it was acquiring a 16.6% share of Navistar. it’s probably just the first step.