When most people think of Internationals, they think of 18-wheelers barreling down the highway or perhaps an old fire truck in a parade. The fact is these trucks are to utilitarian transportation as to what Colts are to firearms. Its history screams workhorse and is going as strong today as it was some 80 years ago. As much clout as it has in that area, its line of classic pickups has a very devout following compared to its Big Three counterparts. You just don't come across many of them nowadays, but when you do, it's nice to see something different.
It's even more rewarding when you see one as nice as Al Knapp's '55 R-100 and get to hear the story behind it. Al's truck has been a part of his family since he was a kid. Actually it's a '54, but as the family tale goes it was purchased late that year and the dealer felt he was doing them a favor by titling it with the following year. Eventually, Al's father took possession of the truck and let Al drive it during high school.
It was around that time that the truck was smacked pretty badly while dad was driving it and was then on the verge of being junkyard bound. Al was too connected to this truck to see it disappear and bought it off his dad. Fate also enabled him to get a hold of a '57 R-100 that he transplanted parts from, such as the doors and front axle to fix what was damaged on his '55. Al drove it all through college, and among friends and classmates his name became synonymous with his old Harvester.
Eventually he gave it back to his parents and it became his brother's high school ride. From that point on the truck went through a period of various sabbaticals until 2007. Al got wind of Jeff Truan over at Auto Artistry and decided to turn the project over to his capable hands. Al's intention was to make the truck an homage to what it looked like in college albeit with some street rod aggression.
For one thing, Al always felt the truck looked a bit top heavy and obtrusive with its bug-eyed grille. The roof was chopped 3 inches and aftermarket headlights with built-in turn signals were flushed in to give it a more balanced look. The running boards were sculpted in underneath the doors while the rear was fitted with a roll pan and tubbed to accommodate the massive 181/2-inch Weld wheels. Taillights are '42-48 Fords and the bed has been given a beautiful oak finish. As a nod to the color it was while Al was in college, it was shot in DuPont Yellow.
As for the drivetrain, Al wanted something big enough to turn those fat Hoosiers-and turn them it does. Out came the old but reliable Silver Diamond inline-six, replaced by his choice of powerplants: a Ford 390ci FE. It was bored and stroked to 428 ci, topped with an Edelbrock manifold and Holley 780-cfm carb, and mated to a C6 tranny. A tilt front makes getting to the motor a bit easier than having to stretch over the huge fenders. To make the stance a bit lower, a Heidts Mustang II frontend was installed along with a '75 Ford 9-inch rearend and triangulated four-link with coilovers.
Like most trucks of that era, the International's interior was pretty sparse. You'd never know that by looking at it today. Al couldn't find a bench that'd fit the way he wanted. Instead, buckets from a '99 Olds Bravada were installed after being stitched up in leather and ostrich, as were the door panels courtesy of Troy Gasper at Gasper Upholstery. Jeff Truan fabbed the center console to hold the B&M shifter and Vintage Air controls. Since the Auto Meter gauges reside where a radio would be, an overhead console now holds the Pioneer stereo.
And you're probably asking yourself what the meaning of the illustration on the tailgate is. Al says it's easy to lose your way in this world and he put a lot of money in this truck so he felt it should honor the man upstairs. He and his pastor came up with the adage you see now. But whether it's paying it forward in his personal life or through his taste in unusual pickups, this '55 is a working metaphor for how Al lives his life. And taking the road less traveled doesn't sound like a bad way to go. Not when you're driving something this sexy.