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1957 International Harvester S-120 Travelall - Backward Glances

Posted in Features on April 2, 2014
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The mighty four-wheel-drive version of the International Harvester Travelall was only a year old when a Gulfstream Blue ’57 S-120 Travelall rolled off the Springfield, Ohio, production line. The International Harvester Travelall name itself dated back to 1953, and people-moving carryalls based on IH panel trucks had been built before that—but not with four-wheel drive.

The S-Line International Harvester trucks were built from the middle of 1955 into 1957. If those introduction dates seem strange to you, bear in mind that IH of that period wasn’t much concerned about the usual new model hoopla most other car manufacturers made in the October/November timeframe. IH did it when it was convenient, and some have said that’s what comes from a company building as many farm tractors as trucks. IH was simply on a different plane of existence in those days, but still riding pretty high as the nation’s third largest producer of trucks.

In this era, the Travelall was still a two-door and more a conversion of a panel body truck than a purpose built people-mover. A three-door configuration would come with the new A-line trucks that debuted in 1957, and four doors would come with the C-line for 1961. The ’57s sat on a 115-inch wheelbase and were rated as ¾-tons with a 7,000-pound GVW. No ½-ton 4x4 Travelalls were built in this era.

The S-Line 4x4 Travelalls are rare. We haven’t found production numbers for them specifically, but did find that a total of 10,941 S-120 4x4 trucks of all types were built between 1955 and 1957. Travelalls of this era used upper and lower tailgates and it doesn’t appear the side swinging doors used on the S-120 panel trucks (some of which were built with four-wheel drive) were available for the Travelall. One of the few options not shown on this truck’s Line Set Ticket are chrome bumpers.

The ’57 S-120 Travelall came in two- or four-wheel-drive, but only six-cylinder engines were available. The base engine for 4x4s was the BD-240 Black Diamond six that made 141hp and 223 lb-ft of torque from 240.3ci. The option was a 264ci six that made 153hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. It wasn’t until July of 1959 that a 266ci V-8 was on the options list. The base transmission was the T-1 three-speed, which was a floor-shifted three-speed built by IH. Next on the options list was the T-15 four-speed, which was a rebranded Warner T-98A. Also available was the Warner T-9 (IH code T-10), which was a low-rent four-speed without PTO capability. The transfer case for all the S-120s, truck and Travelall alike, was the TC-140, a twin-stick New Process 201 divorced unit and one of the earliest ancestors of the NP205.

Axles were the usual International Harvester fare of the era, with the RA-10 IH dropout rear axle. It was a full floater and came standard with a 4.57:1 ratio, with 4.11:1 optional. Up front was the Dana 44F, closed-knuckle axle IH called the FA-15. It mounted 4.55:1 gears standard, with 4.10:1 optional to match the taller rear choice.

Comfort and style options were few. A heater topped the list, but things like chrome bumpers, deluxe interior items (armrests, sunvisors, ashtray and lighter, better seats, and so on), AM radio, clock, bumper guards, electric wipers, locking glove box, and two-tone paint were on the list. Besides the engine and trans upgrades, functional options included power brakes, 11-inch clutch, engine governor, engine oil filter (yeah, it was optional) and overload springs.

The truck you see here is a ’57 S-120 4x4 Travelall owned by Paul and Shirley Hammond of Ontario, Canada. Paul is an IH collector of some repute and has 28 IH trucks, the oldest being a ’28 and the newest from 1983. Many of them are medium-duty and above. No wonder, since Paul is the founder of Muskoka Transport, a big Canadian trucking company. Paul has retired to play with his old trucks, but Muskoka trucking is still in the hands of a Hammond—Paul’s son, Darcy.

Power comes from the IH Black Diamond BD264. It was the “big” light truck engine thru most of the ’50s, having debuted in 1954. It was a stroked derivative of the 220 and 240ci Silver Diamond (SD) engines which had been introduced in 1947. They all shared the same bore but different strokes. They became Black Diamonds in 1955 with a few upgrades. The “Diamond” moniker started in the ’30s and was used as long as these sixes were. The 264 faded away in light trucks after 1959, when the 266ci V-8 became the standard engine. The extra 0.100-inch stroke of the 264 over the 240 delivered a 12hp and 25 lb-ft of torque boost. These were physically big engines that held 7 quarts of oil and had an enviable reliability record. Peak power came at a low 3,800 rpm. In light trucks, the last of the old IHC sixes, the 240ci, was gone by 1969. You will note the hood tilts up from the side. You can open the hood from either side for access. This was a trademark IH feature that ended with the S-Line trucks.

The Hammond’s ’57 Travelall is in near original condition and is showing only 29,386 original miles. From its original sale, possibly to as late as 1991, the truck was a people-mover at a hunting camp near Missoula, Montana. Very few alterations were made, but one of them was a gun rack behind the front seat. When prepping the truck for paint, a hastily patched, large caliber bullet hole was found in the roof over the gun rack. If only old trucks could talk!

The S-line was soon overshadowed by the A-Line, which celebrated IH’s 50th Anniversary. With every evolution, IH light trucks went more mainstream. The S-Line Travelalls were one of International Harvester’s earliest steps into the very-small-but-growing recreational vehicle market. They were among the first to offer a factory installed 4x4 option on a light-truck chassis with a carryall body, beating the GMC Suburban by a few months but, unfortunately, always in pursuit of the Suburban on the sales number front. Most sales of Travelalls in this era had some sort of work motive behind them, but with each generation, more family-friendly options appeared on the options lists and the SUV was born.

The Details

Vehicle: 1957 International Harvester S-120 4x4 Travelall
Owner: Paul Hammond
Estimated value: $27,000
Engine: 264ci OHV inline six, IH BD-264
Power (hp): 153 @ 3,800 (gross)
Torque (lb-ft): 248 @ 2,400 (gross)
Bore & stroke (in): 3.69 x 4.12
Comp. ratio: 7.5:1
Transmission: 4-spd manual, IH T-15 (Warner T-98A)
Transfer case: 2-spd divorced, IH TC-140 (NP201)
Front axle: Closed knuckle, 2,800lb GAW, IH FA-15 (Dana 44F)
Rear axle: Full-float, IH RA-10, 4,800lb GAW
Axle ratio: 4.57:1
Tires: 7.00-16 Goodyear 6-ply
L x W x H (in): 181.25 x 69.88 x 87.13
Wheelbase (in): 15
GVW (lbs): 7,000
Curb weight (lbs): 4,765
Fuel capacity (gal): 15
Min grd clearance (in): 7.5
Approach angle (deg): 36
Departure angle (deg): 28
Ramp breakover (deg): N/A

PhotosView Slideshow

Special Thanks To:
Muskoka Transport

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