Curbside Classic: 1973 International Transtar – The Star Atop A Busy Week Of Fun With Cars

Pessimism has had it made over the past six months, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that good times are in the doghouse.  For example, I’ve had an excellent car week, one that culminated this past Thursday with the less-organized-than-normal “Old 27 Tour” stop in Clare, MI.  I have never participated in the tour, but I almost always attend one of their overnight stops.  This year’s tour offered no police escort and no closed streets in Clare, but a surprising number of old car owners did their own thing anyway.  Parallel parked, looking for all the world like it was just a normal day in a small town, was this International Transtar, short-wheelbase edition.  Call me crazy, but I instantly imagined myself daily-driving a Detroit Diesel powered cabover.

I mentioned that I had already had a wonderful week with cars.  First, my lovely bride and I drove our ’53 Special on a 200-mile tour of the “Sunrise Side” of Michigan.

Almost nothing makes me happier than driving my old Buick, and it was made for two-lane highways and warm summer days.  All day, people were extremely happy to see it, perhaps because there seem to be far fewer old cars on the road this year than there normally are, understandably.

A few days later, we drove down to the R.E. Olds Museum in Lansing, one of the handful of Michigan car museums that I try to visit every year.  That’s another 200 miles in a different old Buick, but this expressway trip was less relaxing than our seaside jaunt.  The Skylark, however, handles freeways as effortlessly as the ’53 eats up two-lane roads.

Finally, we got to drive our Firebird to Clare, adding another 100 miles to my weekly odometer, and that’s where I saw our featured truck.

Admittedly, I’m a dilettante when it comes to big old trucks – I enjoy them, but I have very little experience with them.  With a little investigation, however, I was able to find out more about this old International.

An easy clue is this “retro” sticker on the passenger front corner, indicating an old two-stroke Detroit under the “hood,” one of the best sounding engines ever made.

Sure enough, a Detroit is easily visible behind and underneath the short little cab.  This is an intriguing truck for several reasons: it’s powered by a Detroit, it has one of the shortest cabs I’ve ever seen, and the wheelbase is similarly truncated.

Transtar information of any substance is fairly difficult to find online; even finding a brochure took a little doing.  Luckily, the Wisconsin Historical Society has uploaded this 1972 Transtar brochure, which is probably close enough.  Our featured truck wears a 1973 Michigan front license plate, and 1974 Transtars apparently have windshield wipers mounted at the top of the windshield rather than the bottom.  Therefore, I’ll label the featured truck as a 1973 model; if you have any evidence to the contrary, please discuss it in the comment section.

The standard engine in the Transtar was a Cummins inline six, but there was a dizzying number of driveline options available.

The available rear axles alone would take a trucking specialist to decipher, but it’s easy to see that International offered options for most contingencies.

Then there are the engine choices.  It seems plain that our truck is outfitted with one of the two Detroit 6-71N engines, but several 8V-71s were also offered, along with myriad Cummins options.

As I mentioned earlier, the inline Detroit is just one reason why I was drawn to this handsome truck.  It must have the 50″ cab on a 142″ wheelbase, which team up to make this Transtar one of the most maneuverable big rigs around.  With no sleeper cab, this rig was obviously ordered for short run duties.

Although I’m an antique car guy at heart, my heart was won by this bright red big rig, and it was just one of many reasons to smile during my busy August week with cars.

Any time I am able to drive my old cars and hang out with my wife, I’m pretty happy.  Seeing other people enjoying their old machines in this uncertain year made my week even better, especially when one of those machines was a ’63 Riviera, one of my favorite cars.  I normally attend quite a few car events, and their overall absence this summer has made me realize how much I enjoy them, even when the “same old cars” attend.  It’s nice to see event organizers and museums doing their best to offer safe, thoughtful options for car people to enjoy their hobby, and I hope that next year offers more reasons to be optimistic.