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1973 International Harvester Wagonmaster - Backward Glances

Comfort of a Car, Function of a Truck

Jim AllenPhotographer, Writer

When the ’02 Chevrolet Avalanche debuted, it was hailed as the wonder of all wonders. Upon the announcement, few of the salivating Bowtie buffs saw the one raised hand in the back of the room or heard the quiet comment, “What about the International Wagonmaster?” If you’re scratching your head in bewilderment over that, don’t feel badly. The ’73-’74 International Harvester Wagonmaster isn’t exactly four-wheeling common knowledge.

The Wagonmaster was International’s second take on the quintessential suburban utility vehicle, the Travelall. International’s announcement on August 21, 1972 said, “The Wagonmaster combines automobile-type styling and comfort with the durability and trailering capabilities of International’s popular Travelall wagon. Its design features a 5-foot pickup-type bed behind the roomy six person passenger compartment.” International wanted to offer the suburbanites a family pickup and capitalize on a new aspect of the RV market, the fifth-wheel trailer. With International’s legendary burliness combined with a carlike interior, this rig was positioned to be an RV mover and shaker.

The Wagonmaster was offered in ½- and ¾-ton, 4x2 and 4x4 configurations. Engine options ranged from a base 258ci six, thru the 304, 345, and 392ci V-8s. Transmission options abounded, from a base Warner T-89 three-speed, Torqueflite 727 three-speed automatic, two IH five-speed manuals, and two Warner four-speed manuals. Standard with the 4x4 option was IH’s single-speed TC-143 transfer case; optional were two-speed New Process units. In the ½-tons, Dana 44 front and rear axles were used, and the ¾-tons used a full-float Dana 60 rear. Axle ratios ranged from 3.45 to 4.10, and a rear limited slip was optional.

The Wagonmaster sat on a 119-inch wheelbase, just like the Travelall, and shared the same GVWs—6,000 pounds for the 1110 ½-ton and a standard 6,300 pounds for the ¾-ton 1210. The 1210 had an optional 7,500-pound GVW, and along with the expected spring upgrade, you got a HD D44 front axle with a 3,500-pound capacity. Towing capacity was substantial for the day, with the 1110 having a maximum 9,600-pound GCVWR and the 1210 was up to 12,000 pounds.

International had made significant efforts to move upmarket when the new D-Line trucks debuted in 1969 and the Wagonmaster carried them on. It came with standard, Deluxe or Custom interior and exterior trim levels. The Deluxe and Custom interiors shared the same color-coded nylon or vinyl seats, tinted glass, padded door trim and headliner and some miscellaneous bric-a-brac. Custom added full carpeting, extra interior lighting, dual horns and a few other goodies. A/C was optional. Outside, both the Deluxe and Custom trims shared bright trim and chrome bumpers. Deluxe came with bright hubcaps while Custom gave you full wheel covers and woodgrain side panels. Two-tone paint was optional.

By now, you’re probably saying, “Whoa, this sounds like a great rig. Why didn’t it survive?” The answer is complex. Primarily it’s because IH light trucks had one foot in the grave. Not many below upper level corporate management knew it, but the writing was on the wall and IH light trucks were discontinued in the 1975 model year. A contributing factor was a major departmental disconnect that resulted in a marketing faux pas that resulted in some bad press. According to John Glancy of Scout Light Line and Super Scout Specialists, the Wagonmaster was an idea that came from line workers at the Springfield, Ohio, assembly plant. On the surface, it was a good one and it was pitched directly to the sales department and passed for production without much engineering review.

During the long lead presentations to the auto press, its fifth-wheel prowess was touted, but it was soon discovered there wasn’t enough room to place a fifth-wheel hitch directly over the rear axle. You had to mount the hitch farther aft and that made for an ungainly fifth-wheel tow rig. An in-house marketing memo, entitled “Wagonmaster Publicity Situation” discussed the methods being used to counter bad press from that error because the motor press had latched onto the issue. In normal circumstances, most historians think the Wagonmaster would likely have survived the embarrassment.

The Wagonmaster was offered in 1973, and part of 1974, after which it quietly disappeared. Exact production numbers were being researched but hadn’t arrived by press time. Knowledgeable IH people say only a couple of thousand were made at most. Interest in this unusual product is growing, and the Wagonmaster is gaining a fair bit of collector interest.

Tom Thayer’s flawlessly restored ’73 1110 Wagonmaster 4x4 is a prime example of an “optioned out” rig. Thayer has owned it since 2001, having bought it from the second owner. It was in good condition overall, but he had Scout Connection in Fort Madison, Iowa, do a 100-percent authentic restoration which was completed in 2009. The restoration impressed die-hard IH fans enough to win Best of Show at the 2012 IH Scout and Light Truck Nationals (www.midnitestar.org). Even more tribute came in the form of the prestigious 2012 Triple Diamond award which is given by the expert show judges only to the cream of the crop.

The Details
Vehicle: 1973 International 1110 Wagonmaster
Owner: Tom Thayer, Fitchburg, Wisconsin
Estimated value: $30,000-$35,000
Engine: 392ci IH V-8
Power (hp): 193 @ 3,600
Torque (lb-ft): 305 @ 2,800
Bore & stroke (in): 4.125 x 3.656
Comp. ratio: 8.02:1
Transmission: 3-spd automatic, TF-727
Transfer case: 2-spd, NP205
Front axle: Dana 44F, 3,000-lb GAW
Rear axle:Dana 44, semi-float, 3,500-lb GAW
Axle ratio: 3.73:1
Tires: H78-15B, Firestone Town & Country
LxWxH (in): 203.9x77.6x70.3
Wheelbase (in): 119
GVW (lbs): 6,000
Curb weight (lbs): 4,820
Fuel capacity (gal): 20, plus 15 aux
Min. grd. clearance (in): 7.3