Classic International Harvester Pickup Trucks

1946 International Pickup
1946 International Pickup. Mark Gittelman

Have you attended a classic car show or auction recently? If not, I can tell you the truck segment is currently booming. This increase in popularity is also supporting a steady rise in evaluations. There's a good reason for this growing fan base and positive outlook on market values.

For more than 100 years when it was time to get something done people often turned to the light-duty truck to perform the task in style. People look back at what they accomplished through the years and reminisce about the truck they did it in. I remember two classic trucks from my childhood. A Chevrolet 3100 series pickup from the 50s and an International Harvester from the 40s. 

Why an International Harvester

When you make your way to the truck section at the local car show you'll find plenty of examples made by the "big three" car manufacturers. When it comes to American automobiles the pickup has been a bestseller for Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge for a long time.

In fact, after reviewing the year-end total sales figures,  Ford trucks have held the number one position for 34 consecutive years. This includes the 2014 and  2015 F-150.

Often when you speak of classic cars it's a supply and demand scenario that drives prices. Models with large production numbers tend to be less collectible. If you're thinking about adding a classic truck to your collection let's talk about taking a road less traveled. Owning an International Harvester pickup can set you apart from the competition and add value to the investment.

Harvester Pickup History

One of the most interesting facts about the company is when and how it came into existence. J.P. Morgan pulled a total of five companies together. These manufacturers were successful in the agricultural and machine products industries. Together they formed International Harvester (IH) in 1902.

The company built pickups from 1907 to 1975. They designated the first trucks to roll off the line as the Model A Wagon but nicknamed them the auto buggy. Packing a potent 15 hp engine with high ground clearance the truck garnered favorable reviews. It became the perfect vehicle for navigating the poor road conditions common at the time.

International Truck Models

IH built some of the most sought-after collector trucks from 1940 to 1947. They called these the K-series trucks. The company offered models K-1 through K-14 with the omission of k-9 and K-13. International offered a total of twelve different configurations through this eight-year time span. The number designation after the K related to the load carrying capabilities.

From a casual collector’s point of view, the K-1 model is the half-ton version and most common. The K-2 is a three-quarter ton and the K-3 a one-ton heavy-duty truck. In 1949 the company made many improvements when they released the L-series pickup. The two main improvements included bigger engines and a beefier suspension set up.

Engineers redesigned the sheet metal to accommodate a more modern look. The L trucks received larger wheels and tires. They also added creature comforts like an optional radio and variable speed wiper motors. Technology advancements and fierce competition sent the designers back to the drawing board in the early 50s. IH replaced the L-series with the R-series in 1952 and the S-series launched in 1955.

IH Truck Restoration Resources

Owning a classic International Harvester pickup truck is a road less traveled. However, a lot of support is available for those who embark on the journey of restoring one. Don't forget that this company is still in business. It's now called Navistar International. When you're looking for parts for these older trucks, consider IH parts America, a knowledgeable and friendly resource. They're able to provide detailed, model-specific support and information.

These classic pickup trucks aren't as popular as the ones built by the big three. Nevertheless, the small groups of dedicated fans have a strong sense of community and welcome new members with open arms. Many local and national clubs exist for IH fans to congregate. They share pictures of their projects, tell stories and share lessons learned in the restoration process. There's even a growing group of classic International truck fans on Facebook.