Thursday, May 25, 2017

Life on the farm circa 1956

I was riding through Red Hook a while ago when I stumbled upon this hardy beast. It was parked in a delicious cloud of barbecue smoke behind Hometown. I asked some folks who were unloading firewood for Hometown if I could snap some pics and got something like a muttered "go ahead":
This is a 1956-1957 International Harvester S-120 in Chesapeake Grey. The S-Series was introduced in '56 and only lasted for 2 years before being replaced by the A-Series. This is not to be confused with the IH S-Series that came out in 1978 and continued on for a decade. The newer S trucks were much larger and have nothing to do with the truck here. They simply elected to reuse a name.
I realize this pic is inscrutable with the glare but rest assured there isn't much to miss. The grill consists of a simple loop with turn signals for molars. The grill actually looks like a mini truck front end jammed in a larger opening of the same shape.
This iH logo is known as the Man on the Tractor. The lower case i is the farmer and his square head while the H makes up the large tires of a tractor that he's piloting. This is a decidedly Jet-Age version.
On the lower rear edge of the hood you can see that piece of chrome about 3 inches tall by 1 inch wide. That is a handle and there is another just like it on the other side. Uniquely, the IH S-Series hood is hinged on each side and as a result can be swung open to the right or the left, or even lifted off completely. That basic school bus style turn signal is function over form to a T.
The two holes above would have had the INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER emblem originally.
This beast sports locking front hubs which means it is equipped with four wheel drive from the factory. IH started offering 4x4 as an option across its entire line in 1953 due to the popularity of aftermarket conversions. I have no doubt that in first gear with 4-wheel Low engaged this truck could pull stumps out of the ground or move a small building. Top speed in 1st Low is probably around 10mph.
I love how unforgiving these tires are. They look old as hell and meant for mud & snow.
The running boards under the doors are making their last appearance with the S-Series. The A-Series which debuted in 1957 stood for Anniversary to celebrate their 50th birthday as a company. The newer trucks were much more modernized and really some of the glitziest vehicles ever produced by IH. That cab was more of a cohesive unit, sitting lower on the frame with doors going down to where these running boards are. They also had heavily chromed front ends and stacked quad lights.
I don't know what is in this wooden box but I love it. This primitive beast is all utility so I'm assuming there are tools or jumper cables or something within.
This stake side bed may indeed be a dump truck. Some of the S-Series trucks of this vintage had dumping capabilities even in the normal pickup style bed.
This thing is ready to work!
The gas tank is ridiculously basic; a tank under the cab with a filler tube attached. Zero frills.
Well that's where I left this brute while it awaits instructions from its master. If you can keep the rust at bay and provide the most basic of lubrication and maintenance you can drive one of these trucks forever. I had a '79 IH Scout and even though they look very different the basic running gear of this and that rig were more similar than dissimilar. The engine blocks are massive, heavily cast lumps that are meant to stay in the lower RPMs. Measured, deliberate power is the name of the game for IH who made their name providing lifeblood machinery for farms. The original owner of a truck like this might come to town every other week and spend the rest of the time on their land repairing things themselves. To see a stalwart old rig like this in Brooklyn was a treat.

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