One Tough Truck: 1950 International L120

For those of you who love patina, you’ll find this truck listed on eBay in Belle Mead, New Jersey. Bidding is over $2,000 with the reserve unmet. This pickup was running over 30 years ago when it was parked, but now the motor is stuck. Overall, it’s solid with the usual surface rust. This “L120” is a couple of steps up from the “L110”. It has an 8 1/2 foot bed, suspension upgrades, heaveyer axels and is rated to haul over a ton.

This is the face of International trucks from 1949 to 1952. It appears on everything from pickups up to their largest trucks with variations for bigger tires and engines. This is a big change from the previous “K” series with the rounded fenders and pointy nose. It’s a more modern look, but I prefer the styling of the earlier pickups.

Inside is just what you’d expect, an old work truck. It’s all there and original, what little there is. That threadbare Naugahyde might even be the original upholstery. As I recall, all International seats came in green, no matter what color the truck was.

This engine was all new for the L series trucks. It’s International’s “silver diamond” 220 CID overhead valve engine. The engines in the previous “K” series were L-Head (flathead) engines.

The steel bed looks to be in good shape. Hopefully, the tailgate is usable. This truck wasn’t designed for highway speeds and for you folks accustomed to power steering it might not even be fun driving it around town. Sadly, this old truck might be headed down the road to resto-mod land with a clear coat and a new chassis with modern suspension and engine. Unless you have plans to haul or tow something, a shorter and lighter L 110 might be a better idea than this L120. It will be interesting to see what you think of this old truck. (besides “no”, of course)


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  1. Fred w.

    Engine doesn’t look all that crusty. Wonder if a session of “Marvel Mystery Oil” in the cylinders for a few days would loosen it up?

    • Beemoe

      I did exactly that with a ‘54 R-112 with the same engine. I bought it with a locked up engine. Put MMOil in each cylinder, let it sit for a few days, then bumped it with the starter. Sure enough, it turned. Put some gas in it and it started. A week later, after only timing it, I drove it from Baltimore to the IH Nationals is Springfield OH.
      That was a fun trip!

  2. Derek

    At what point does “patina” become worn out old paint, dents, and rusty metal? In my book this truck is well past that point.

  3. BarnfindyCollins

    I just love IH products, they harvested our food, delivered the Coca-Cola, took us to school, and I don’t have to see Calvin watering its logo. Speaking of that, I bet our heroes from the Red Dawn movie could christen that motor and get it purring in no time. I’d drive it just as it looks.

  4. geomechs geomechs Member

    Nice truck! Kind of reminiscent of one my dad had back in ’52. In 1951 my dad bought a new L-160 which he picked up at the factory in Fort Wayne and drove back. There was an Apple Green L-120 strapped to the frame of the three ton that Dad ferried back to the home dealership. The 3/4 ton was sold then immediately traded back in for a new three ton. That green truck would spend the next 34 years inside the welding shop of the dealership with a Hobart welder in the bed. When the dealer turned the franchise over to his nephew in 1975 that 3/4 ton had less than 4K miles on it. I’m curious as to where it went.

    • Rube Goldberg Member

      Isn’t the kid on the left one of the “Little Rascals”? :)

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        There’s a resemblance. He’s 6’2″ now. He’s my older brother. I think he was wearing my sister’s (on the right) hand-me-down hat….

  5. Beatnik Bedouin

    Like Barnfindy, I’m also a fan of Cornbinders.

    I had family in Navajo, AZ who had one of these – same colour – that they asked me to get running for them. I think I must have spent all of 30 minutes to do so, most of which was adjusting the lash on the very worn steering box and trying to free the throttle shaft that ran through the engine (seized bushes).

    It was a sweet runner that a few months later was offered to me FOC. Unfortunately, before I could get to AZ to pick it up, it had been caught in a flash flood which virtually buried it.

    It would be nice to see this one restored.

    • glen

      You have a metal detector?, go find it! We’ll call it an Earth Find.

      • Beatnik Bedouin

        Sadly, there won’t be much left, methinks, glen. The flash flood was in 1972…

  6. Mike

    That stamped front grill makes it a bit frumpy looking.

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I often heard the term: ‘Moustache Grill.’

      • Mike

        I think the Studebaker trucks of the late 40’s had more of a mustache grill.

  7. Rock On

    Hey Beatnik, are you a fellow Canadian 🇨🇦? I see you are using the British spelling of colour.

    • Dick Johnson

      Howz ’bout ” heave-yer axels”? My wife’s uncle, named Axel, was quite a stout man, never did ‘heave’ after a night of celebrating. He drove a 110 for decades.

      He never talked about needing heavy duty ( heavier ) axles.

  8. LAB3

    A full blown restoration would be fun, pretty simple machine all round. The seats would be the only hold up since the importation of Naugahyde was banned back in the 80’s, it just wouldn’t be the same without it. Hopefully rangeland protection and restoration efforts can bring them back someday!

    • Whippeteer

      Save the Naugas!

  9. Ron Tyrrell

    It’s a split window, must be worth more

  10. Rube Goldberg Member

    I had a hard time believing this truck had a 2400 lb payload capacity, but that’s what the specs for the L-120 called for. The 2 windows in back were only for a couple years on pickups, but stayed for larger trucks for a few more. I had a ’53 R-110, very similar to this. The SD 220 was bullet proof, and it actually cruised at 55 mph ( but not much more) It was my DD for a couple years. Tailgates are extremely rare, as most farmers took them off. If this was closer, I’d be all over it.

  11. Allen Member

    I loved the K-series – especially the bigger trucks with their robust chrome grills and cloisonné badges. By contrast, the L-series looked stripped down; cheapened: bare bones. My own experience with IH was not til years later; I bought a ’72 Travelall back in the late ’70s. It was a fabulous, robust, reliable, super-comfortable family vehicle. ‘ Loved that thing.

  12. Metoo

    This truck looks to have already been clearcoated at some point……….And not too far back.

  13. Beemoe

    There are a couple of notable things about this truck. First, notice that there are no door hinges visible? That was a one-year only style. For whatever reason, they went back to exterior hinges. The hidden ones weren’t as robust, which may have been the issue. I hope the hot rodders don’t catch on to that or what few of this style that are left will get ratted for sure.

    The second notable thing about the truck is the bumpers, particularly the rear, which was an option and even when purchased, didn’t often stay with the truck, let alone straight.

    The grills on both the L and R series were noted for rusting around the running light and this one is no different and will be tough to salvage.

    • Rube Goldberg Member

      Those parking lights often were gone. It was a bad spot for all these models.

  14. BarnfindyCollins

    Great pic of the kids, where’s Life magazine??!!

  15. T Post

    Love it! Have a 1951 myself, L120.
    Step dad bought it new in 51. I’m the second owner @ 61k miles on the clock

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