Suburban Alternative? 1961 International Travelall

Before there was the Suburban, there was the…we’ll there wasn’t much before the Suburban, but this 1961 International Travelall would be a valid competitor from an independent manufacturer. This one has a pretty long story associated with it but I’ll try to condense it down in manageable bites. It is located in Windsor, Colorado and is available here on eBay for a current bid of $3,550, twenty-one bids tendered as of this writing.

The Travelall was produced in four generations, between 1953 and 1975, and this ’61 marked the beginning of the third-generation. Being a C120 model, it has a 3/4 ton carrying capacity and rides on a 119″ wheelbase. As with the Suburban, the rear opening was courtesy of either a fold-down tailgate or double opening doors.

This Travelall spent its first 58 years in Oregon (mostly) and California. The current owner purchased it in 2019 and moved it to Colorado. Besides the obvious patined (that dreaded P-word) finish, the seller states, “As for the body, paint and trim; original, rough and full of character! The Travelall has significant rust in the floorboards (both sides overtop the fuel tanks), in the roof beltline, rear quarters behind the wheels, and in the tailgate. Typical rust on the driver’s side cowl leading edge of both fenders and lower fenders behind the front wheels. Surprisingly rockers and doors are relatively rust-free.” Gotta’ give him points for full disclosure! He further adds that he thinks this truck was repainted at some point in the past, not that it matters now. There are some other issues with the front door hinges, rust around the rear gate, and the driver’s side glass. At least the patina is real and not posed.

The seller claims that the 120K mile, 193 HP, 304 CI, V8 engine “runs and drives great“. He further adds that $10K has been spent on mechanical fixes since 2007, check the list, it’s extensive. This Travelall is equipped with a “rock-solid” four-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive so basic, off-road operation should be no sweat. He does mention that there is a minor leak or two, i.e the oil pan gasket, front differential seal, things of that nature.

Moving inside, we find recovered seats with the original rubber floor mat. The steel surfaces have a light surface rust coating, somewhat matching the exterior vibe. The seller states, “As far as the instrumentation and gauges go, the oil pressure gauge, volt gauge and fuel gauge (when operating on the right hand, passenger’s side tank work. The speedometer and temp gauge do not work. Windshield wipers lights, blinkers, and dash lights all work. Horn is functional via an auxiliary button. Dome light works when activated off of light switch but not when the doors are opened. Radio does not work. Heater works fine but cables need lubricating to get defrost to fully open.” So it’s a bit of a mish-mash going on, sounds like there could be some wiring problems in addition to other non-functional bits. My experience with horns working via an auxiliary button is that button is never right where you want it, exactly when you need it.

I’m not sure what to make of this Travelall, they are rare today, but not necessarily in a valuable way. And 120K miles tells me that, in spite of “runs and drives great”, the engine will need more than just minor attention at some point before too long. As for the body’s condition, it’s real wear and not faked but the rust is pretty notable. There’s someone for every seat and, I imagine, a buyer will surface for this interesting old International. If you were that buyer, would you keep this Travelall as is, go for restoration, or take it in a completely different direction?

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Great find, BUT, “character” could mean rusted body and frame mounts. Actually, Dodge tried getting in on the action with the Town Wagon, with little results, and IH wasn’t much better. IH just didn’t have the dealer network for these, as I remember, IH parts could only be had at tractor dealers, and Joe Suburbanite didn’t want to stand next to Farmer Brown in his stinky overalls, waiting for an oil filter. IH used weird plugs and filters, it was almost like a foreign car and farmers had little call for a vehicle like this. Those that did go for it, got the best 4×4 wagon made, BAR NONE. IH made the best trucks, too bad it fell on deaf ears. Same thing, if you think this will perform and drive like a new Suburban,,,well, I don’t know how to finish that politely.

    Like 8
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Howard – C’mon, give me some credit, I meant a Suburban of that era, not a new one.

      JO

      Like 6
      • Howard A Member

        Simmer down now, Jim, I have a lot of respect for ALL the writers. Not sure what your point is/was, I was saying someone that has never driven these, shows up in their new Suburban for the test drive, will be in for a big surprise. Thanks for the truck stuff.

        Like 3
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Where I grew up there were four farm equipment dealers and four car-truck dealerships. Half of them were combined. I worked for a John Deere/GM dealership. So it really didn’t matter where you bought your tuneup/maintenance parts, or in the grocery store, you either WERE the one in the smelly coveralls or standing next to him/her (yes girls knew how to work with livestock too).

        Back in the day, there were a lot of Binders out west. We had an aggressive IH dealer and he sold a lot of trucks with the ‘Three Diamonds’ or the ‘Man On Tractor’ symbol. Starting at around THIS era, Travelalls appeared. I don’t recall any 4x4s but there were lots of the 2WD variety. They earned a good reputation for being tough. Saw lots of them roll the odometers over twice and still going.

        Binders have got to have the hardest blocks I’ve ever seen. You cannot effectively break the glaze with one of those candy-assed three stone deglazers; you have to use a full-fledged parallel hone. And understand that you’ll be pouring a few extra quarts of oil through it while seating the new rings. Timing gears, not chains, so you won’t need to get inside that engine all that often. Distributors work OK but hard to get parts for unless you’re lucky enough to be running a Delco; most of them run a Holley or Prestolite. We’re trying to find someone who can make the drive gears for an affordable price so we can adapt Delco HEI to them.

        I’d keep the entire driveline. It’s likely running a Warner T-98 transmission which is reasonably easy to find parts for. I’ve had to shake some bushes to find synchronizer rings but they’re available.

        The body on this one is pretty rough. Set yourself up for the long haul to get it back to its original glory with all that rust to fix. That Marlin Blue is a nice color; I would be tempted to paint it the same. Overall I wouldn’t mind having a truck like this. Of course it being similar to a station wagon my better half might object, even if it’s running a granny-gear four speed…

        Like 3
    • Jost

      Wow, thanks for the reminder on the dodge townwagon, I had forgotten about them. Growing up outside NYC we didn’t have many of these vehicles, but they were around.

      Like 2
  2. alphasud Member

    I like this over a old Suburban. Nice stance and rugged looks like the old Gladiator trucks. Rust scares me as I’m stronger with mechanicals than body work. Owning one you will get a lot of thumbs up and smiles for sure.

    Like 3
  3. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    This is cool. It would be great to see it restored but I’m not sure that is feasible or practical. Maybe keep it running and just enjoy it as-is, like the present owner has done.

    I love the shift lever, it has that “I mean business” look.

    IH’s of this era (light, medium, and heavy duty) were part of my growing-up-in-the-oilfield background, so they bring back good memories.

    Kudos to the seller for a thorough, interesting ebay ad. And, good job Jim.

    Like 3
  4. Josh

    Suburban might have come first, but the Travelall was the first to figure out the 4-door 3-row SUV arrangement as we know it today. Chevy didn’t figure it out until the ’70s.

    Like 1
  5. Jim C

    Kind of takes the word “patina” to new heights.

    Like 1
  6. DeeBee

    Many moons ago, I had a ’67 Travelall with that ’61grill grafted on. I’ve always regretted letting that truck go. Absolutely bulletproof! but, in the old days of “smog testing” in Calif. I always had to let the wizards at the smog station know that the engine timed on the NUMBER 8 cylinder, not 1, which they automatically hooked up to!

    Like 1
  7. Francisco

    Anyone who has read the apocalyptic adventure novel “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell will remember how the IH Travelall was featured as the ultimate survival vehicle in the story. I desperately wanted one after reading this book.

    Like 3
    • Skorzeny

      Francisco, thank you for bringing up Niven and Pournelle. I needed that.

      Like 2
  8. Phlathead Phil

    When I was a young, (a long time ago,) us neighbor kids rolled out to meet an I.H. Travelall that would mysteriously appear on the streets of San Fernando, Ca to pick us up for summer camp. As I recall, they were 9 passenger & school bus yellow. They NEVER broke down, always started, never failed and went ANYWHERE. Whenever I see one, my mind takes me back to the good old days of little league, flag football and sack lunches.

    Like 4
  9. G Lo

    Always really liked the greenhouse on these and that front grille. Add in the pizza cutter wheels and those old hubs and it’s a win. Lots of talk about the “old Suburbans” and I always think of the old Pontiac wagon and not the GM SUV.

  10. Patrick

    Super cool.Would make a great resto-mod. A good metal man could fix the rust. It would take a while to do. Drop-in a late model engine & you would have a great unique ride.

  11. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Where I grew up, Cornbinders were the least favorite of all trucks. Lots of Chevy, Ford and dodge pickups and wagons. You might see a Suburban now and again, but seldom a Carryall. We had very mild winters so 4wd was not needed. Country Squire wagons and Ranch wagons were popular vehicles in the 50’s and 60’s in my neck of the woods. That by the way was the far north end of the Central Valley in Shasta County, California.
    Still, I like this vehicle, but as a flat lander now in Houston, Texas I would have zero use for it.
    God bless America

    Like 2
  12. chrlsful Member

    “…I imagine, a buyer will surface…”
    yup,
    “…twenty-one bids tendered…”
    too big for need AND restoration. Only time
    for one more (lill one). When finished I can
    ise or use a lill and sell for what might be my
    final rig (I hope).

  13. dogwater

    junk

  14. RD Harbison

    We bought my son a 1967 Travelall 3/4 ton 5 speed manual with a 345 back in 2011 for his first car. He drove it through high school. Parked it while in college, driving it when he came home. Recently got married and bought his first home and the Travelall is now back in the road. Amazing vehicle!

    Like 1

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