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1957 International Harvester A-120 4x4 - Backward Glances

1957 International Harvester A 120 4x4 Front Three Quarter
Jim Allen | Writer
Posted May 8, 2013

Just 39,000 on the Odo

The ’50s was a defining decade in International Harvester light truck history, and 1957 marked the company’s 50-year Golden Anniversary. That anniversary brought with it a truck upgrade, a rapid move upmarket, and a push towards a more mainstream position for a company best known to the public as an agricultural and commercial equipment manufacturer.

It was IH custom to designate each new line of truck with a letter. They had worked their way through the letter S by the start of 1957 when IH management made a decision to turn the alphabet back to A. The exact reason for this has been the subject of a lot of speculation, since IH never really spelled it out at the time, but the most generally accepted reason was that A stood for Anniversary. IH even built special Golden Anniversary A-100 trucks and used the term, “Action-Styling.”

The A-Line trucks received significant upgrades that included a new wider cab with a wraparound windshield. Major improvements in heating and ventilation came with the new cab; two-tone paint in lurid colors, a ’50s must, was also available, and bright trim added a welcome bit of styling. A smooth-sided, seven-foot bed was optional on the short wheelbase trucks or three-door Travelette (crew cab) trucks. Called the Custom bed, it gave IH bragging rights in the new smooth-sided pickup style war that was just starting. It’s a rare IH option that’s even rarer on 4x4s.

Despite the cosmetic highlights, there was little mechanically to distinguish the A-Line from the previous S-Line, and that wasn’t all bad. Topping the improvements was a redesigned, canted-valve cylinder head for all the sixes, something that improved combustion and cooling and power output due to a higher possible compression ratio. IH went to 12-volt electrical systems on all the trucks this year. The body changes necessitated some chassis layout changes, and it moved the front axle back a little; this tended to make the steering feel heavier. This was significant because power steering in pickups was the exception in those days, and IH trucks had been noteworthy for their light manual steering.

At this point in time, IH was still offering only six-cylinder engines, though a V-8 was being developed at the time. The A-line 4x4s had two available engines, the standard 240ci or the optional 264ci Black Diamond sixes. There was a smaller 220ci engine for base 4x2s. The 240ci and 264ci cranked out 141 and 153.5 gross horsepower respectively, with the bigger engine (larger bore and longer stroke) making 25 more lb-ft of torque. A three-speed manual was standard but a couple of different four-speeds were optional.

The 4x4 truck configurations were severely limited compared to the 4x2. For 1957, you had two choices, the A-120 4x4, which was a ¾-ton pickup, and the A-140, which was a 1-ton-plus. The A-120 4x4 pickup came on a short 114-inch wheelbase or a long 129 inches. A short ¾-ton was an unusual offering from the other manufacturers, but was fairly common from IH over the years. The shortie had either a standard 7-foot step-side bed, or the new smooth-sided Custom. The longer wheelbase A-120 had an 8½-foot bed, but it only came as a step side. A crewcab Travelette with a shortbed was offered in the A-120 4x4 line, but few were built. The A-140s were offered in 129-, 141-, or 153-inch wheelbases. IH also offered their trucks as chassis cabs or with factory-installed stake and platform bodies on all the 4x4s.

The A-Line trucks were introduced in April 1957, so there are 1957 S-line trucks. Collectors sometime divide the two trucks as First Series 1957 and Second Series 1957. The A-line carried on only through 1958, replaced by the even more whizbang B-Line, so they are one of the shorter-run IH truck models. One IH production history chart puts the production of A-120 4x4s at 8,873 units, with a tantalizing listing of only 17 A-120 4x4 Travelette crewcabs being built.

This ’57 A-120 pickup belongs to Kara Herman and was seen at the ’12 IH Scout & Light Truck Nationals, where it was seen only days after the completion of a frame-off restoration. The truck originally came from Montana and shows an original 39,000 miles. Restoring the truck was definitely a family affair, with all members of the family, in-laws and outlaws alike, putting in time. Members of this family are experienced IH hands, with the restoration of a ’70 1100D 4x4 and ’53 R-122 already behind them.

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The Details
Vehicle: 1957 International Harvester A-120 4x4
Owner: Kara Herman, Bath, Ohio
Estimated value: $25,700 (per NADA value guide)
Engine: 240ci Black Diamond, I-6
Power (hp): 140.8 @ 3800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 223.5 @ 2000 rpm
Bore & stroke (in): 3.56x4.018
Comp. ratio: 7.5:1
Transmission: 4-spd, IH T-10 (Warner T-9)
Transfer case: 2-spd IH TC-140 (New Process 13140)
Front axle: IH FA-15 (Dana 44F)
Rear axle: IH RA-10
Axle ratios: 4.77:1 (OE, now 4.10:1)
Tires: 7.00-16 (OE, now 7.50-16)
L x W x H (in): 217x79.38x79.31
Wheelbase (in): 126
GVW (lbs): 7,000
Curb weight (lbs): 4,240
Fuel capacity (gal): 18
Min. grd. clearance (in): 9.13
Approach angle (deg): 37
Departure angle (deg): 27
Ramp breakover (deg): N/A

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