Cars Of A Lifetime: 1973 International 1110 – There’s A Rebel Under That Hood

After I sold the DJ5 I started looking around for something else. I found an advertisement in the newspaper (remember those days?) for a 1973 IHC 1110 pickup. I had a memory from childhood of walking down the sidewalk and seeing a yellow 1110 parked in a driveway. The tailgate proudly proclaimed “International”. I had a sudden epiphany that this was one of the true examples of classic American engineering. That memory has stuck with me all this time. So of course I had to have it!

When I got there to look at it I found it to be a faded turquoise metallic a bit lighter than the one pictured, with low profile tires, and in great condition. However the owner said it needed the carburetor rebuilt. He also said it had an AMC 401 engine. It was the first time I had heard of it but International used the AMC 401 and the 258 six for a time during the 70’s. It’s a bit mystifying since their own 392 and 264 were some of the finest examples of light truck engines ever produced. My guess is that it might have been quite a bit cheaper to use the AMC motors. [Ed: Maybe emission regs?]. And cheaper they were, but more on that latter.

We fired her up and it popped and spit at low to mid RPM. I figured it was fixable so I drove it home. I rebuilt the Motorcraft two barrel car but it still did the same thing. A trip to the old fellows at the good ol’ auto parts store (not a franchise box store) and some brain picking got me the info I needed. It was decided that it needed a new distributor.

Ah, but what distributor did it have? Being that it was an AMC motor it could be any one of either, AC-Delco, Holley, Delco-Remy, or something else I can’t remember. An awful lot of the parts on all things AMC were like that. It seems they just shopped around for the best deal on whatever parts they needed and then bought a bunch of them and stuck them in until they ran out, and then repeated the process regardless of model year.

With the new distributor (Holley, by the way) it ran like a champ. I took to driving that truck everywhere. It was far more road worthy than the DJ5 and had a lot more room. Sure it ate gas like Fat Albert eats french fries but gas was still pretty cheap back in those heady days.

I was still hanging out at the coffee shop even though I had quit because the boss couldn’t pay us. When I got the truck it had an AM eight-track deck in perfect working order. One of the hippie girls saw it and wanted it really bad. So I sold her the deck and put in a more modern unit. She proved to be a jinx. One day after tuning out, turning off, and dropping out, I offered her a ride home to Independence so that she would not have to ride her bicycle all the way back from Salem. So we threw the bike in the back and set off down Hwy 22. I stopped and got some gas. I religiously checked the oil and water. Both were up to snuff, so on we went.

We were coming up to a bridge over a cattle pond and were in the right lane behind an RV. Well with that 401 under the hood, I could not be bothered with such things. So I mashed the gas and set to pass. But it seemed a little weak. I dropped back and then… You know that feeling you get just before you hit something really hard with your face? Well, I suddenly got that feeling.

A cacophony of expensive noises spontaneously erupted from under the hood. I instinctively looked at the gauges (which I had been regularly doing any ways). The oil pressure read zero, the temp was pegged in the red! I pulled over and as I did, I could hear parts hitting the ground. I figured I would get as close to the next town as possible so I kept going on the shoulder. I knew what the writing on the wall spelled, and I knew I couldn’t make it any worse. It only took about ten seconds to lock up. And then we coasted for about a mile. My passenger said, “I know enough about cars to know that it’s broken isn’t it?” “Yep” I said. When I got out to walk to town I saw a big black oil and debris field stretching back down the road behind us.

I got it towed home and she rode her bike the rest of the way. Of course in the time between, someone had stolen my battery, the only good part left on the truck. I sadly put a sign on it that said “for sale $300.00”. I would have taken ten cents for it though. One day a ratty looking guy on a bike came by and asked about the truck. I told him what was wrong with it and he said he wanted it. He said he would have the money next week when he got paid, yeah right, I thought.

To my surprise he returned the next week with the money. I had to give him a ride and call a tow truck. He said he was going to put an engine in it and use it for a small engine repair shop he wanted to start, yeah right, I thought. To my surprise I saw him some time latter running a little engine shop and using the truck every day. It just goes to show, sometimes you never know. I for one am very glad that truck saw a renaissance and I would like to believe it is still out there serving someone well.

[1973 IH 1110 shots by PN, who just happened to have them handy]