Road Trip Outtakes: Back Alley Binders

Several years ago, I bought a 1950 International L-170 grain truck as a future project to use for hauling hay. As it is with most hobbies these days, there’s a great web forum for these old trucks ( When one of its members posted a request to borrow a cab-mounted sun visor to use as a reproduction pattern, I offered to send him mine, which I wasn’t using at the time.

During our road trip, we took the opportunity to drive up and meet Mike and his family in person. I shot a few photos of the trucks in his shop yard while we visited.

Eventually, this KB-8 will be fitted out with a rollback deck and modern power plant and used for wrecker service.

Mike’s son is working on a KB as well—it has a Cummins diesel in a fairly recent heavy-duty truck chassis. Jeff is quite the panel beater–this truck’s lower fenders and front grille were pretty smashed up when he got it, and you can’t see a ripple in them now.

When you peek inside the tiny KB cab (width: 60″, or 1.5m), you quickly understand why the Comfo-Vision Cab introduced with the 1950 L Series was such a huge hit. It measured almost 70″ (1.78m) across!

These cabs were sold to at least a dozen other OEMs and were produced as late as 1971, on the M Series IH trucks. I have no idea where they hired the guys for the photos in the ad—either one might have weighed 90 pounds soaking wet.

Mike’s other favorite is the R Series, which were face-lifted versions of the previous 1950-52 L Series of trucks. IH offered the R Series from 1953-55, and after that the S Series, which was the last truck designed completely in-house by IH. The S Series name continued in various forms through 2001, while 1957 marked the end of the “light duty” line based on the L/R/S Series platform. This example is an R-160.

Here’s an R Series (evidently an R-180, judging from the badge ‘shadow’), with an aftermarket extended cab—a pretty rare animal to find these days. Mike told me that a truck like this would be built with a standard cab and then sent to a refitter who would modify the cab according to the buyer’s requests. This particular truck, which started its working life in Georgia, went through several owners before alighting at Mike’s shop in Canada.

Here’s another R-160. Now, Paul, what could be cooler than this? Vintage looks with all the modern amenities!

The L, R and S Series trucks were offered in a variety of sizes and configurations, from 3/4-ton L-110 pickups  to L-180 trucks rated at 21,000 lbs. (equal to 14 Volkswagen Beetles) GVWR. The R Series ran as large as the R-205, which was rated at 24,000 lbs. (toss on a couple more Beetles). They all used the same cab along with very similar fenders and hood sheet metal.

We had a great visit–in fact, it kind of makes me want to bump up my L a bit on the priority list!

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