Four-door pickups are so popular these days that it’s actually hard to find a regular-cab long bed. That wasn’t the case before the new millennium, and certainly not in the mid-1970s.
In early 1974, an oil executive in Oklahoma ordered a new pickup — that’s right, a pickup, not a luxury car. You don’t show up to the oil fields in a limo if you want to command respect from roughnecks, but oil execs sometimes needed to carry VIPs. So he ordered a special pickup: a Travelette crew cab from International Harvester.
Showing up to an oil rig in a limo-long, two-tone IH 200 series pickup is a base hit with the roughneck crowd. Since it’s a rarely seen 166-inch wheelbase crew-cab long bed, perhaps you get a double. And since it’s powered by IH’s biggest light-truck V-8, the 392-cubic-inch four-barrel with factory dual exhausts likely gets you to third base. The fact that you sign the paychecks probably brings you to home plate. Ordering every possible comfort option is just for yourself.
In early 1974, IH trucks were on the way up. The new D-Series pickups that debuted in 1969 were light-years ahead of the previous generation for technical features and the available comfort and convenience features. IH fell far behind the Big Three in bringing its trucks up the comfort-option food chain. The company had long built some of the toughest light trucks available, but they were farmers’ trucks, workman’s trucks — trucks not well-suited to the American pickups’ growing role as the ordinary family’s recreation vehicle (the second or third “car”). The new D-Series included options to address that deficiency while maintaining the go-to-work aspects for which IH was legendary.
Visibility was another reason for IH’s single-digit light-truck market share. Farmers and commercial people knew where to find an IH truck, but John Q. Public’s usual reply was, “International what?” You found IH trucks and Scouts at tractor dealers on the outskirts of town, not on Main Street where people window shopped Chevys, Fords and Dodges. And that’s where the throngs of prospective truck owners caught the pickup bug.
When the ‘70s began, IH began thinking about how to bring its trucks to Main Street, but the moves in that direction would soon hit a screeching halt. When our Oklahoma oil exec was delivered his ’74 IH truck, only a few people knew that these light trucks were headed toward extinction.
For the 1974 model year, IH adopted new model designations. From the previous 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300 models, IH down-numbered to a more modern-sounding 100 and 200 series, the 100 being the half-ton line available in several wheelbases and gross vehicle weight configurations, and the 200 line being the three-quarter-ton and one-ton range with similarly variable wheelbases and GVWs. All the trucks got chassis improvement and a wider stance. Power disc brakes became standard, and the engine was moved back in the chassis to improve cooling.
At the long, long end of the 200 line was the 166-inch wheelbase Travelette 200. Travelette was IH’s marketing term for a four-door truck cab. In ’74, Travelettes came in 149- and 166-inch wheelbases, the shorter with a 6.5-foot bed and the longer with the full 8-foot Bonus Load bed. In this year, the Travelette came only on a two-wheel-drive chassis; previously, a Travelette was also offered on a four-wheel-drive chassis. The standard engine was a 258-cubic-inch six sourced from AMC, but 304, 345 and 392 IH V-8s were options, too. Due to a shortage of 392s, which were also used in the medium-duty IH lines, a 401 V-8 engine from AMC was sometimes substituted.
Our oil exec picked only the best options. The Camper Special with air conditioning delivered a batch of functional stuff, including an 8,200-pound GVW, front and rear sway bars, underslung spare tire carrier, auxiliary 16-gallon fuel tank (for 32 gallons total), high-output alternator and battery, heavy-duty cooling, dual exhausts, dual oversized mirrors, camper wiring and a sliding rear window.
The Custom Exterior Trim Package included lots of chrome and bright trim, and for $71 more you got a rear step bumper with hitch. Inside, the Custom Cab interior included carpeting, special trim, padded door panels, cigarette lighter and a clock, but the high-back bucket seats with folding armrests cost more money on top of that. The tinted glass and AM radio set our exec back even more, but for whatever reason, he didn’t order the $59 tilt steering column.
The 392 V-8 was a $255 option, and with the dual exhaust it made 193 horsepower and 305 pounds-feet of torque. The 392 was unlike the big blocks offered in other makes of light trucks. It was more a Clydesdale and less a thoroughbred. The 392 was no revver — it was pretty much done by the time it reached 4,000 rpm, wheezing pretty hard at that point. But from idle to 3,000 rpm, the torque curve climbed like a rocket and delivered a long, flat plateau. It was the kind of engine with which you could accidently start off in 4th gear and barely notice.
The standard transmission for the 392 in a 200 was a heavy-duty four-speed automatic from Warner Gear, but two Clark five-speed manuals were available, one a close-ratio unit with a direct 5th gear and the other with a wider ratio box with an overdrive 5th gear. Our exec ordered the three-speed Borg Warner automatic and an auxiliary cooler. The truck came with its standard axle ratio of 3.73:1 (4.10:1 was optional), but the oil guy also ordered the optional Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential for the Dana 70 HD full-float rear axle. By the time the oil exec was done ordering, there weren’t too many more boxes on the order form to check off.
By the end of 1974, the happy days were over for IH light trucks. The gas crunch was in full swing, and the economy was spiraling down. Corporate schizophrenia ruled the IH boardroom, where the agricultural, commercial truck and light lines all competed for diminishing resources.
History shows us who lost that battle. Sales materials were printed for 1975 trucks, and 1975 model-year trucks were produced with a number of improvements and changes, but not many rolled off the line. Records show just over 6,000 trucks were built, and by the end of 1975, after almost 70 years of production, IH light trucks were a thing of the past. The Scout models continued, and a new Scout Terra pickup became the de facto IH light truck, but even the Scouts lasted only up to 1980 before economics and boardroom infighting killed them off as well.
The truck shown here belongs to collectors Rick and Paulette Riley, who have a thing for IH products but also for Jeeps and AMC muscle cars, tractors and a number of other things. They’ve owned this rare truck for about 10 years. It was restored by a noted IH light-truck expert, Larry Buckland, who used mostly new old stock (NOS) parts to bring the already good truck back to showroom condition.
Very little is known about the truck beyond the fact that an oil exec was its first owner. It passed through several hands before being restored by Buckland and owned by the Rileys. Travelettes from this era are common, but decked-out ones like this are very uncommon, according to John Glancy at Super Scout Specialists.
“Most of International’s light-line markets were commercial,” he said, “so the majority of the Travelettes were built to work. Few tricked-out ones were built, and even fewer remain.” Glancy estimates the value of this truck on the collector market to be in the $25,000 to $30,000 range. Glancy should know, since he purchased the legacy parts business from Navistar International for all the IH light-line products, truck and Scout alike, and he owns the rights to many of its trademarks and tooling. Super Scout Specialists also inherited a tremendous database of information with that purchase and has added to it in the decades since.
1974 International Harvester 200 Travelette
At 20 feet long, this truck is definitely in the limo-long category. The Glacier Blue main color must have been popular because many remaining IH trucks and Scouts from the 1970s are seen in it. The Bimini Blue Metallic is a good highlight color with the optional two-tone motif. The 1974 model year brought a lot of small upgrades, not the least of which was a new grille that has since been dubbed “the electric razor grille.”
A full 8-foot bed allows for a big load or a large overhead camper. It did stretch the wheelbase out a fair bit and made the turning circle only slightly smaller than the Queen Mary. This truck originally had dual exhausts, and there were two styles: those that came straight out the rear like these, and those that exited to the sides. The rear-exit exhausts and a factory receiver hitch are likely why the spare tire is in the bed rather than under the truck.
The 392-cubic-inch four-barrel V-8 was International’s most potent light-truck engine. It made 193 horsepower and 305 pounds-feet of torque with dual exhaust. It seems modest, but it was a slow-turning, medium-duty truck engine mounted in a light truck. Durability and low-rpm performance were exceptional. IH engines used high-nickel-content blocks with extremely durable bores, as well as forged crankshafts, sodium-filled valves with rotators, hardened valve seat inserts, high-flow cooling systems and high-volume lubrication systems. About the only thing missing on the light-truck engines from the medium-duty realm were governors. The 392 had two- and four-barrel versions over the years. The four-barrels were Holleys early on and Carter Thermoquads in the ‘70s.
The fill point for the fuel tanks on IH trucks mount in an unusual place compared with other trucks. With a single tank, the filter was here, on the driver’s side. With dual tanks, a second filler appeared on the opposite fender.
There’s plenty of beef to show off here, including a Dana 70 HD axle with a limited-slip differential and a rear sway bar that was part of the Camper Special package. The chassis was beefed up for ’74 as well.
This was about as plush as it got for International Harvester. The center console is not original, according to John Glancy of Super Scout Specialists. It appears to have come from an ‘80s-era Chevy Blazer but it works stylewise, and even the color matches.
There’s seating for five, which would have been for six with the standard front bench seat. Rick Riley says this is a very comfortable truck on a long drive despite the heavy suspension. The modern radials help, but so does the wheelbase. The truck is sprightly, but not thrifty — about 10 to 12 mpg is as good as it gets.
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