Most machinery buffs from Middle America likely have a soft spot for the products that bear the “IH” logo, the man seated upon a tractor, and I am no exception. At a nearby car cruise last year, this ’70s International pickup attracted my attention not for its clean, purposeful look, but for its distinctive clatter. No International V-8 lived under the hood of this long-bed 1970s workhorse.
As you may have guessed from the title, I could hear the sound of a rumbling Diesel from far off as the International idled through town. In this case, it was a 4-53 Detroit Diesel, the nomenclature indicating that this particular Detroit was a four-cylinder with 53 cubic inches per cylinder.
Charles Kettering rightly deserves much of the credit for designing the Detroit and its iconic “blower,” and although the old two-stroke has been superseded by traditional four-stroke diesels, the Detroit is still a fascinating piece of Americana from a period where companies were free to try new concepts (with varying results). The video above gives a quick explanation of two-stroke Diesel operation.
I talked for a minute with the gentleman who owned this International, and he mentioned that he purchased it post-conversion and had been enjoying it as a conversation piece. While Detroit conversions are not unheard of in Chevy and GMC pickups, this is the only International I’ve found with one. Of course, the engine swap isn’t really an “upgrade,” per se, over an International V-8, but seeing that Detroit Diesel apple green paint under the hood is a pleasant surprise.
That’s cool as hell. Great find! My godfather spent almost 60 years working in the Wichita Mountain’s for the Gov’t. And when I would spend my two weeks every summer at grandma’s, I’d spend two days with the godparents. So I have some seat time in the 4dr Crew Cab 60’s and 70’s versions of these. They held up ok, but man was the ride hard!. Oh they would beat you up. But that’s the mark of a TRUCK, not some pansy ass Ford or Chevy 1/2 ton.
Very cool, but that’s a 4-53. Someone did a very nice job from the looks of it.
So I know in the future, what are the visible differences between the two?
The 4-71 is a larger, heavier and considerably taller engine. It really doesn’t fit very well in pickups and such (see image below), and it weighs 1800+ lbs!
The 3-53 and 4-53 are relatively common swaps into pickups and Suburbans, but even then there are issues, like weight (they still weigh 1250-1350 lbs), matching to transmissions, gearing, etc. And these engines are not generally happy at low rpm, due to their design. They were designed for more continuous higher-speed work. So issues with glazing on the cylinders and carbon build up are not uncommon.
Folks do it for obvious reasons (sound), but it’s not really all that practical. A guy in my neighborhood had a 4-53 Suburban when we first moved here. It was noisy, and he said it was pretty slow too. It would have needed the turbocharged version (4-53T) to move a bit better.
Thanks for amending and explaining, Paul. My memory from my conversation with the owner failed me in this case.
That 4-71 is a HUGE engine.
Guess I should have pointed out the differences in my original post, but that picture does it better than any words!
1800 lbs for the 4-71? Wow. I had no idea how heavy those big diesels were, unless the DD 2-strokes were beefier than most.
That is dimensionally huge too.
I love these IH pickups, and was really surprised when the company pulled the plug on them after 1975. Unlike the final Studebaker trucks, these seemed completely modern when they were killed.
I am agnostic on the diesel conversion, because an IHC 392 is just so cool. A Navistar/Ford 7.3 Powerstroke seems a little more “right” in something like this if a guy is really set on a diesel. But I do admire the nice job that was done with the conversion.
And of course the big reason behind the all new chassis under the 74-5 trucks was to be able to take the new but delayed MV 404 and MV446 gas engines that shared the basic dimensions, bellhousing and mounting holes with its co-developed diesel version the 6.9. Since it was delayed so that it wasn’t ready when the production started for the 74’s it never came to fruition since the energy crisis reared its ugly head at just the wrong time. Had they survived I bet the 6.9 would have eventually made its way between the wheel wells and who knows if they would have been willing to sell them to Ford.
Yes yes yes! IH spend a bundle on the MV’s and the new light duty chassis to accommodate them, and ironically they never came together. The MV was a response to the GM 454/Ford 460/Dodge 440 necessitated by the fact the 392 couldn’t be made any larger. The MV446 did, however, come close to being in a pickup. Plans were underway for Dodge to offer the 446 in the D/W series trucks to replace the 440 which had been dropped in the late summer of ’78. The 446 very briefly made it into Dodge motorhome chassis in 1980 (with a very cool air cleaner that said ‘Chrysler Super-Torque 446’ on it), but with the high price of gasoline at the time and Chrysler’s worsening financial situation the idea was dropped. Along with the motorhome chassis!
From my understanding the MV also made it into some MD Dodge trucks too. I guess turn about is fair play since Chrysler sold IH all those 727’s, CN-33’s and at least a few Rochester Products Carbon Canisters with the Pentastar logo instead of the RP (I’ve got Scouts with both versions).
They were so ready for the MV in the 100/200 that there are wiring diagrams that reference the MV 404/446 engine with a note at the bottom of the page stating (MV 404/446 not offered) in the 1975 version of the service manual I have.
IH also sold a few V-549 gas V-8’s to Chrysler for the Dodge C-900 heavy trucks in the early 70’s.
Nice truck .
Two smoke Diesels ~ gotta love ’em .
Almost the green of a 1500cc Hillman engine but with massively more grunt this is a good conversion it would pull like a train and in a light vehicle like a Scout make it go quite well if the gearing is suitable, Nice.
For those that might be wondering this is a 1973 having the two tone that goes so high on the sides that started that year but not having the hood with the enlarged bulge or steering column mounted ignition switch which started in 1974.
I’ll amend my title to identify the truck as a ’73.
Nice find! I agree a 7.3 Powerstroke would be an ideal swap. The thought of putting a 7.3 Powerstroke in a mid ’70s Ranchero has even crossed my twisted mind 🙂
Got one better than that. I thought about putting the BMW Turbo Diesel from a Lincoln Mark VII in my 76 Maverick. It is physically the same size and weight of the 250 thats in there now. Don’t know how much bigger the ZF automatic is though. It might not fit in the transmission tunnel. It also makes more hp so it would actually be faster.
I came across this picture a while ago and figured here’s the perfect place to put it – It’s a picture of Casper, Wyoming taken in 1973 that includes an IH dealer.
Is that a 64 Galaxie behind it? Looks like one.
Kind of interesting in that International was the first major truck manufacturer outside of G.M.C. to use Detroit Diesel engines, starting in the early 60’s. For many years after that began, Detroit’s in G.M.C.’s still said ‘General Motors Diesel’ on their valve covers, while the engines installed in Internationals said ‘Detroit Diesel’ for obvious reasons. Eventually they all had ‘Detroit Diesel’ valve covers.