1959 International Harvester B-120 Travelall
November 2012 Backward Glances
Even people who don’t know much about SUVs, 4x4s, or International Harvester remember the Travelall. If not by name, then by the ’50s sense of all being good in the world—even if it isn’t.
The IH Travelall appeared for 1953 in the International Harvester (IH) R-Line of light trucks but its functional counterparts came earlier under the simple title of “station wagon.” The earliest of these were woody conversions and later came conversions of the two-door all-steel panel trucks. The Travelall name appeared for ’53 and a legend was born.
The Travelall was one of the earliest (almost the earliest) full-sized, civilized, all-terrain people movers. We now call them SUVs. Sure, the GM Suburban had debuted in the ’30s, but it was a 4x2. Jeep had been building a 4x4 station wagon since 1949, but it wasn’t full-sized. When IH offered the first production 4x4 Travelall for 1956 in their S-Line trucks (FYI: each new series of IH trucks were given a letter and when they reached “S”, they went back to “A”), it was matched only by the new-for-1956 GMC Suburban, which for the first time had four-wheel drive. A Chevy 4x4 Sub followed in 1957, but these GM products were built using NAPCO conversion kits. Dodge introduced a new “civilian” line of 4x4 trucks in 1957 to complement the original Power Wagon and it included a new two-door station wagon called the Town Wagon.
For 1957, when the new A-Line trucks appeared, the Travelall upped the ante by appearing with a third passenger side door. IH upped the ante again for 1959 by upgrading the options for the Travelall in the new B-Line trucks. Power steering, power brakes, V-8 engines, and other comfort, convenience, and visual appeal features were introduced to make the Travelall more mainstream and less commercial. The Travelall was offered in the B-100/B-110/B-112 ½-ton range only in 4x2 form. The B-120 was a ¾-ton rated model and that was the only Travelall to come in four-wheel drive in this era. A B-122 model featured uprated springs for a higher GVW. IH was riding pretty high at this point, holding over 12 percent of the truck market.
The B-Line trucks carried on into the 1961 model year, when another mild facelift transformed them again and the C-Line Travelall continued to evolve thru the ’60s. The D-Line appeared in 1969 with substantial changes in technology and appearance but the Travelall was not to survive the ’70s. A series of financial setbacks, labor trouble, corporate schizophrenia, and fighting over internal development resources resulted in the entire light truck line being discontinued before the ’75 model year was finished. The Travelall was still popular but it died with the trucks and the Scout II took its place. The Scout itself died in 1980 under the same general circumstances.
The ’59 B-120 4x4 Travelall here belongs to Marty Kleinhardt who is from a family that have been IH buffs for decades, if not generations. The family owned and operated an IH dealership back in the day and still operates a business selling Cub Cadets in the same building. Between them, they have enough IH rigs to fill the lot again.
Marty’s ’59 Travelall came from Wisconsin, where it was used as all-weather transportation (reportedly mainly to take kids to school) and as a snowplow vehicle. It acquired only 16,000 miles performing those duties before being retired. It languished and went through a couple of owners before Kleinhardt got hold of it. The snow belt had ravaged the vulnerable IH body panels but Marty scrounged up replacements, repaired what he couldn’t replace and set about a restoration. Mechanically, little was needed. Marty had doubted the odometer but inspections of the mechanical parts verified this truck was barely broken in, so the powertrain is still mostly untouched and the resto focused on bodywork.
The Travelall was moderately well equipped. It had been ordered with the optional chrome bumpers and trim, as well the Warner T-98 four-speed manual trans, uprated seats and interior, three-row seating and a nifty AM radio. Not ordered was the optional 153hp, 264ci big Six or the 155hp, 266ci V-8, power steering and power brakes. Late in 1959, the V-8 became the standard engine and one had to special order the Sixes.
Kleinhardt decided to go two-tone on the new paint. Originally, the truck had been all IH Red, but he deviated from that by “special ordering” the two-tone Whitecap White/IH Red from his body man, which was an option in 1959. The restoration process took about a year and a half, and the result is what you see here.
Vehicle: 1959 IH B-120 Travelall 4x4
Owner: Marty Kleinhardt
Estimated value: $32,000 (Per NADA)
Engine: 240ci, I-6, BD-240 “Black Diamond”
Power (hp): 141 @ 3,800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 223.5 @ 2,000 rpm
Bore & stroke (in): 3.56 x 4.02
Comp. ratio: 7.5:1
Transmission: 4-spd (opt), T-15 (Warner T-98A)
Transfer case: 2-spd divorced, TC-140 (NP 13140)
Front axle: Spicer 44-1F
Rear axle: IH RA-10
Axle ratios: 4.10:1 (std)
Tires: 7.00-17.5 (std)
L x W x H (in): 202.4x76.3x76.1
Wheelbase (in): 114
GVW (lbs): 7,000
Curb weight (lbs): 4,720
Fuel capacity (gal): 18