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Preserved Patina: 1938 International Harvester


For most of us, pulling a great find from its resting place is half the fun. The other half is the thrill of taking it on its first drive after getting it running again. While that maiden voyage is one of our favorite parts, getting the car to the point where it is safe to drive can be a massive undertaking. So, sometimes the benefits of buying a car that someone else has already done the dirty work can outweigh the excitement of finding one and fixing it yourself. This 1938 International Harvester listed here on eBay is a good example of that.


To get it back on the road, the seller pulled the cab and box from the chassis. They prepped and painted the frame, rebuilt the engine and carburetor, and reinstalled the body and box back onto the frame. They also converted the electronics over to 12 volt and installed an electric fuel pump. We are starting to see more and more barn finds preserved in this fashion, but we aren’t sure if this is the perfect patina like the seller claims. While it appears that the body is solid, we are a little concerned about the amount of rust this truck has. It came from a barn in North Dakota, so we would be sure to check the underside very carefully for any cancer or thin spots.


This truck is powered by International’s Green Diamond series inline-six and the seller has already had this one rebuilt. The Green Diamond came in three sizes, 2.9 liters, 3.5 liters, and 3.8 liters, but the seller doesn’t state which size this one is. In the late ’30s and early ’40s, International trucks were some of the toughest and best built trucks you could buy, which could explain why so many have survived all these years. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise though, seeing as International started out as a Tractor manufacturer. Making the leap to light and medium duty trucks was a slight adjustment for the company, but with their well known durability and some great design work by the likes of Raymond Loewy, they were able to compete with the best the Big 3 had to offer.


This truck looks solid, but we think the rust might be past the point of just being considered patina. We do love the originality and we hope that it will be preserved, but we want to treat that rust right away so that it doesn’t turn to cancer. So what would you do to preserve that “patina”?


  1. David Reeves

    Oooh… I like this

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  2. Dan Farrell

    I have seen 15 year old trucks with way worse beds than this old I-H.

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  3. jim s

    yes i like this a lot. most people need a truck but not full time and most of us want an old car to play with/drive. this is both. as long as the frame is good the rest is just replaceable parts. some of the parts may be hard to find but upgrades would be ok. great find.

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    Why do people list the engine size in liters, instead of cubic inches, like they were originally described?

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    • Charlie V.

      Because they think we should all know the metric system. As far as I am concerned, any of the cars I still own that were built PRIOR to 1990, better have labels that read “HORSE POWER” and “CUBIC INCHES”. Not some snot nosed kids telling an old guy like me that he thinks metrics are the AMERICAN way. Kiss my…I was born american just like my MOPARS or the GM’s, Ford’s, AMC’s, Nash, etc. of the 70’s on back.

      Like 3
      • Robert C

        Cranky old men should be glad that “snot nosed kids” will be around to carry on the hobby. BTW, Nice truck!

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    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I’m with you and Charlie V. If the engine came out with CID, it should remain that way. I’ve actually had people refer to the specs on my old cars/trucks in metric. Like, my old flathead V-8 is 3.9L (?). It’s 239 cubic inches last time I checked. I realize that new stuff coming out is metric. OK. Fine, for the new engines, etc. I refer to them in metric. At least the outputs for the most part is still in horsepower.

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  5. jim s

    this is a HD old truck. it has what looks like full floating rear axles and look at the spring stacks. bring a kidney belt for sure. it would turn heads at a car show but more so in the lumber yard parking lot. carry everything you need home in one trip. with no PS/PB/AC this would be a better workout then a gym membership. i wonder if any of the gears in the transmission have syncos!

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    • geomechs geomechs Member

      It’s going to be rough, no doubt about it. It’s a 3/4 ton with big leaf springs. Learn to double-clutch because it’s sure to be a Crash Box, possibly a Warner T-9.

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  6. jim s

    i would look real hard at the brakes, upgrade the master cylinder, then keep it from rusting any more. either clearcoat or a good but cheap paint job in a stock IH color. i would also paint/clearcoat/seal the underside. what fun this truck would be. and yes i would put a period correct seat and some seat belts in it also.

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  7. geomechs geomechs Member

    Looks to be powered by a Green Diamond 213. The 233 looks similar but the head has sharper corners if I remember the engines correctly. The trim on the grill and hood is going to be a challenge to find but worthwhile. If it were mine, I’d go the restoration route; it’s to the point where it needs everything. Those old trucks rode very rough so things would be shaken loose. One real nice hauler there!

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  8. Jim-Bob

    I like it, but I think I would paint it. However, I would document the lettering on the doors so that it could be reproduced after paint. For the color, I would find a solid sample of the original green and have it matched when I ordered the paint. I’d also locate an original bench seat and have it upholstered in black or off white vinyl (old pickups don’t need no stinking leather!) and cut some vinyl mat stock for a floor covering, after bedlining the floor. I would also do all of the body seals and caulk when I did the body work. In the end, it’s a work truck and should look like a work truck. Even though it would now be fairly nice looking, it would be put back to work hauling things to the dump, garbage picking (Something I do to save cash), hauling car parts to the paint booth I sometimes rent, and generally doing the things that a pickup truck is meant to do. Anything less is a disservice to the truck and a waste of it’s existence.

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  9. scot

    ~ severe rust and corrosion should not be a great worry. North Dakota = no salt.
    the cab corners, door sills, and running boards all appear solid.

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  10. Alan

    So, no photo of the “Driver window has a crack, panel under tailgate is damaged and cracked from use…”? Basic courtesy of eBaying: If you mention a flaw, include a good photo of it!

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  11. Andrew Minney

    Oh what a nice little truck.Love it!

    Twickenham, England

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  12. Charlie V.

    You need to understand one thing about North Dakota. Unless they changed the laws since I was stationed up there in the 70’s, the use of salt on state highways or even your own driveway is prohibited. That’s why my 69 Road Runner was in such perfect shape when I bought her in 1974, and the 70 Super Bee I purchased almost 6 months later. Both for under $550 each. Those were bargains back then.

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  13. paul

    I would go with a flat clear coat to preserve the patina without putting a shine to it.

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    • Brad

      Yup! DO NOT PAINT – plenty out there for that. There’s a photo of this truck next to the definition of “patina” in the dictionary.

      I’d treat it to flat clear coat, tune it up… and drive it weekly. Jim S is right: you’d get as much attention at a lumber yard as the local cruise night. I absolutely love this truck. All the rounded goodness of a Power Wagon, but even more unique.

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  14. jim s

    listing has ended with high bid of $4200 reserve not met on a BIN of $9500. i wonder what happens to the truck now!

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  15. Alan

    @ jim s: Someone who has been watching will swoop in and snag it for $4500-5000. ;-)

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    • jim s

      i hope that happens and the new owner uses this site to keep us updated.

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      • Alan

        Ya, me too. That’d be great. Maybe we could all get a ride in it!

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  16. Alan

    Hope the original drivetrain stays functional with the truck.

    But, for some which look this great, but are missing motors, etc, here is an idea:


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  17. JJ Ballard

    I have this same model. Straight body and runs. Where would I start if I want to sell? I have no idea.

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      You could always post it on craigslist or put it up for auction on eBay.

      Like 0

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