Box On The Back: 1948 International Harvester KB5


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What exactly is this truck? Well, the underlying chassis is a 1948 International Harvester KB5 truck, but I have no idea what the box-shaped body is. The seller calls it a “paddy wagon” and I guess that’s as good as anything. It’s located in the Pacific Northwest and is advertised here on the Reno, Nevada craigslist for $6,000, or, as the seller says, “will trade for just about anything that doesn’t eat, s__t or squawk!”


It looks like someone has begun stripping the paint on part of the box. The seller calls this a Montana barn find, but apart from telling us that there’s a crane just inside the back door (which they don’t show in pictures), we really don’t know what the former use of this truck was. Apart from a mobile repair shop, I can’t think of anything either. Maybe one of our readers has an idea?


I wish they hadn’t primered the entire front end. There are some shiny pieces to the grille that are included, though. I like the style of those two bulges on each side of the hood!


This is what the front should look like! This is another 1948 KB5, obviously with a different bed. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t find any pictures of KB5’s with any type of box structure, although I’m sure they exist somewhere. As you can see, this could be a pretty classy looking vehicle!


The seller doesn’t include some of the pictures I’d like to see, like the 6-cylinder engine that they say is there and turns over but doesn’t have a carburetor, or the inside of the cab! They do show some of the underside, though, and it looks both massive and solid. I’m not really sure what I’d do with this one, and until I know what it was originally intended to do, I’m not sure I’m willing to commit to a single plan. What would you do with this unusually configured truck?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Dairymen

    Glorified paper weight.
    Someone will buy it and have it sitting in their backyard till he (or his wife) gets tired of it and it will hit the market again.

    Like 1
  2. Neil MacDonald

    I have no doubt that this was a Railway Express truck. RE was the UPS back in the day and regardless what the make of the truck was the body’s all looked pretty much alike.

    Like 0
    • Jamie Palmer JamieAuthor

      Neil, I think you are on to something there! Look at this:

      Even the red frame and structure are the same :-)

      Like 0
      • Neil MacDonald

        Yes, that’s what they looked like. A beautifully restored one of 50’s Chevrolet vintage is at the Owls Head Transportation Museum here in Maine every summer a the annual truck show. I just tried to find a picture of it to post and couldn’t find it. I know I have one somewhere. I did find an inside picture which shows the exact green color that they were.

        Like 0
    • Layne

      My grandpa has one out at out cabin he drove it till he parked it. It was used as a mail truck

      Like 1
  3. Neil MacDonald

    I might also add that if one Googles Railway Express truck you will many of them in all different shapes and sizes. I remember them so well.

    Like 0
  4. van

    What a fantastic delivery truck
    With your company logo on the side
    You will be noticed

    You want it we got it
    We ant got it you don’t want it

    Like 0
  5. JW

    Would make for a nice sign for a old school speed shop that is if there are any left open for business. Heck if I still had my landscaping business I would trade him a few old tools for it then throw an old snowplow on it and paint the name of our business on it and set it out front. It would have to be local though as shipping would make it unrealistic for that purpose.

    Like 0
  6. HoA Howard AMember

    Good work, Neil. You beat me to it. REA was kind of the “UPS” of it’s day. They dealt with small package delivery and I believe, would pull right up to a RR car and unload directly into the truck ( hence, those sliding doors) eliminating the need for a loading dock. After the 50’s, REA was renamed REA Express, and branched out into other facets of delivery, and was gone by the mid-70’s. Same as with most old trucks, these were mostly city delivery, and not much for highway use, so to adapt it for today, would require a different drive train. Wouldn’t want to go too fast, though, it’s still a box on wheels.

    Like 0
  7. van

    I know you guys hate this But go To Copart Find An 07-08 Escalade
    Engine, trans, interior, gauges, mattress in the back. In high school it would have said on the side
    Call me Dr. Love

    Like 0
  8. Terry J

    Wow! Probably a Black Diamond six under the hood (OHV inline). The tranny looks stock anyhow. They painted over the stainless steel on the grill, so it should be well preserved under that primer, missing only the upper main hood chrome piece. Drove many KB-1 through KB-6s growing up in Eastern Ore. farm country and at different times owned 2 KB-1s, one a pickup the other a windowless panel. I like’em. This one would make a great car show/swap meet camper. Terry J

    Like 0
    • HoA Howard AMember

      Hi Terry, according to one site, the 1948 KB-5 came with the 233 Green Diamond, L-head, 93 hp.( another site sez the BD came out in ’49) The picture Jamie posted of the REA truck shows a painted grill as well.

      Like 0
      • geomechs

        Hi guys. I’m sure the Black Diamond was introduced with the L-series in the fall of ’49. The only K-series to use an OHV engine was the K/KB-6 and up. The 6 & 7 used a Blue Diamond 269 while the K/KB-8 and up used the Red Diamond 401/450.

        Like 0
    • jr23

      most likely the flat or l head version of the diamond. great engines my dad and I had a 65 and a 69 the 69 9000gvw metro body got 12 mpg local city driving. the fords 6 cyl got 10 the chev v8 8 on same routes

      Like 0
  9. van

    How about a DJ
    Mount speakers in the door
    Swing them open and rock out

    Like 0
  10. Ed P

    That mystery was sure solved quickly.

    Like 0
  11. VetteDude

    I worked at REA Express, as a college job, back in the 1960’s in Houston. The trains still came into the depot almost downtown. Several jobs: driving a smaller truck than this for Christmas deliveries; unloaded freight cars, drove a local 18-wheeler. It’s all gone now, including the magnificent passenger depot. One of many jobs that I had, that the company is no longer around.

    Like 0
  12. van

    Ok so I’m a rail fan also. But I would make it look like a Southern Railroad maintenance vehicle Survivor Class. Southern Crescent paint scheme.

    Like 0
  13. charlieMember

    Found one, Railway Express, behind a barn three years ago, estate of gentleman who owned it sold it for $500 to body shop, badly rusted body, particularly the box, no idea if engine would turn over, but all there, including a stretcher hanging on the front wall of the box, and all the graphics of Railway Express. Guess I need to check up on if shop turned it into something else – rugged drive train and chassis, plenty of room for a V8 under the hood.

    Like 0
  14. Rotag999

    The tv show IRONSIDE had some thing like it to haul the boss around in a wheel chair

    Like 0
  15. Bob Mackie

    I think it is an old Rail Express Truck or may be a US Mail wagon.

    Like 0
  16. Bryan Curlett

    I’m about to by a 42′ Ford with that box. This particular box was made by checker cab co. There may still be a plaque on the body if it is. I believe there were less than 500 made by CC. Mine is#454

    Like 0

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