CC Outtake: International S-120 and Cadillac XLR — Do Those Go Well Together?

Welcome to Curbside Cafe; may I take your order?

Yes, I’d like an obscure 1950s pickup and one of those futile Cadillac two-seaters from ten years ago.

You mean an XLR?

Yeah, one of those.

You want those together?

Yep, is that available?

Um, I guess so, but you’ll have to wait in the parking lot.  We’ll deliver them out to you there.

Did such a conversation actually take place?  Doubtful… but is there any more likely explanation for this odd pairing of Curbside Classics to be parked next to each other in a fast-food restaurant’s parking lot?

I saw this unlikely pair of classics as I fueled up my car at a gas station about 100’ away.  While watching, I got to see the drivers of both vehicles – the truck was driven by a young man in his early 20s, who was soon joined by a group of friends driving relatively new trucks.  The Cadillac was driven by a man of about 60 wearing a golf shirt and shorts… as different as the cars themselves.  Let’s take a brief look at these two uncommon vehicles.

If I’d count on seeing an International pickup anywhere, it would be in the rural Midwest, where these pictures were taken.  Internationals were popular with farmers when new, and even in recent decades it wasn’t completely unusual to see examples roaming around farm country, since they were fairly indestructible. This is an S-series truck – made only for 1956 & ’57 – and even by farm country standards, seeing one of these in regular use is exceedingly rare.

International’s postwar trucks are an alphabet soup of confusion, with prewar-based KB series superseded by the L series in 1950, followed by the R series in 1953, and then the S series (essentially an updated R) in ’56.  The very next year, International started the alphabet anew, as the A series replaced the S.

This rear view provides a good shot of IH’s “Comfo-Vision” cab.  S series trucks came in numerous configurations (including a Travelall wagon), but my best guess with this one is that it’s a ¾-ton S-120 4×4.  Power came from International’s “Black Diamond” 240 cid 6-cylinder engine, making 131 bhp and 208 lb-ft of torque.

Survivors like this 60+ year-old truck have plenty of stories to tell, likely of a life full of work.  Its parking lot neighbor has undoubtedly led a vastly different existence.

Produced between 2004 and 2009, the chiseled XLR was an attempt to inject excitement in Cadillac’s model range in the form of an expensive two-seater.  That was a questionable move, coming only a decade after the Allante failed in a similar mission.  Selling in the $70,000-$80,000 range, the XLR was never meant to be a big seller, but even so, Cadillac’s initial goal of 5,000 to 7,000 units per year was never realized.  Just 16,652 were produced over the XLR’s six-year model run, with 76% of those coming from just the first three years.  Our featured car is one of only 1,542 XLRs to have left the Bowling Green, Kentucky assembly plant for 2008.

Part of the XLR’s claim to fame was that it was built alongside the Corvette at Bowling Green, and shared many ’Vette components.  The two cars were not quite twins – XLR buyers were treated to more luxurious driving environment, and also to one of the Cadillac’s notable features, a retractable metal hardtop.  And while the XLR did not use Corvette’s engine, with its own 326-hp 4.6-liter Northstar V-8, the XLR could certainly xlr8 quickly.

XLR’s angular and flattened design was inspired by Cadillac’s 1999 Evoq show car.  One GM designer called this a “contemporary industrial design;” regardless of labels, it was a significant departure from the Eldorado, which bowed out of Cadillac’s lineup when the XLR debuted.

Taken individually, these two vehicles yield interesting perspectives from vastly different angles of automotive history.  Viewed together, they yield… bewilderment.  It’s hard to imagine ordering up a more divergent pair of curbside classics.  But if one did order such a combination, what would be for dessert?

Maybe this: A 1993 Volkswagen Fox that was parked directly across the street.  I can’t remember ever coming across a more varied sampling of unusual cars in one small area.  So, these vehicles go well together?  I think they do — consider this a Curbside Classic Combo.


Photographed in Monroe City, Missouri in April 2019.