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Nuts & Bolts: Vintage Cab Swap

Posted in How To: Body Chassis on May 26, 2017
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Vintage Cab Swap

I have a 1938 International Harvester. It was originally a logging truck. It has been sitting for about 30 years and at one point it went through a fire, but it is complete and original. I have been considering a cab swap and putting that cab on a late 1970s or early 1980s 1-ton truck. Do you think it would be worth doing that or trying to do something with it as-is? It has two dualie axles in the back. It would need new tires and a new bed plus all the other things related to restoring it.

Ethan L.
Via nuts@4wor.com

We are all about breathing new life into vintage iron, and by the looks of it the cab and front sheetmetal are reasonably solid. In terms of work, putting the vintage cab and sheetmetal on a more modern chassis is going to be easier than trying to revive or modify all of the obsolete components on the prewar chassis. Parts for the original suspension, steering, axles, and so on are going to be very hard to come by and are not going to be up to modern performance standards. By adapting the old cab to a more modern chassis, you take care of all of that stuff at once, and parts are much easier to come by. It’s still going to be a lot of work, but the result will be much more reliable and drivable.

We don’t have the overall dimensions of your cornbinder, but the nose appears to be plenty large enough to accommodate a modern engine. While a 1970s or 1980s 1-ton chassis would be OK, you might spend a little extra and go for a later-model diesel truck chassis. A 1990s to early 2000s donor Dodge truck with a 12- or 24-valve Cummins would be an excellent choice, as would a Ford chassis with a 7.3L Powerstroke Super Duty. Both chassis would net a solid front axle, while the engines are well supported to make anywhere from mild to wild amounts of horsepower and torque. Diesel grunt also means a truck that can be used for heavy hauling and towing.

If the existing flatbed on the International is in good shape you could shorten it to fit, or you could simply build or adapt a newer stake bed for a modern but vintage-looking work truck. With a flatbed you don’t really need to worry about the wheelbase matching, and a period-correct bed is going to be extremely difficult to find anyway.

You could restore the truck, but honestly it looks like it already has pretty good patina that would be a shame to cover up. We would probably do the cab swap and then just drive the heck out of it.

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