Restored & Enhanced: 1937 International Harvester Pickup
A Rare Pre-World-War-II Truck
Does anyone remember the International pickup? As owner and restorer of this lightly customized example, Arnie Gervasio certainly does, and he isn't shy about it—he proudly displayed the 1937 International Harvester at the 2019 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance among a range of custom machines modified by Posies, Inc.
"I found it about 15 years ago sitting in a gas station," he says. "It came from, I believe, Oklahoma and didn't have a lot of rust but was in pretty rough shape with farm damage. The fenders were dented, and the grille was caved in. I thought it would make a sharp truck because you don't see many '37s, especially Internationals, and I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff, so I bought it. But I didn't realize how bad it was."
The history of the International Harvester Company (IHC) dates back to 1830, when Virginian inventor Cyrus Hall McCormick designed and built a horse-drawn reaper. He field-demonstrated it throughout the next year and earned a patent for it in 1834. Then he grew a successful business around building and selling reapers and other farm equipment through the rest of that century and into the next.
In 1902, the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company and Deering Harvester Company (along with three smaller agricultural equipment firms) merged to create IHC. And IHC grew to lead the market in tractors and related equipment through much of the '40s and '50s, despite tough competition from Ford, John Deere, and other manufacturers.
But those of us not knowledgeable about farm equipment may recall IHC as a maker of pickup trucks and other "light" working vehicles that competed directly against the Big Three of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler for nearly seven decades, beginning with a Model A Auto Wagon (aka "Auto Buggy") in 1907. That Auto Wagon— renamed "Motor Truck" in 1910 and branded "International" after 1914—was a forerunner of today's highly popular pickup trucks.
Some may also recall International's Travelall, a wagon-like enclosed truck similar in concept to the Chevrolet Suburban; Travelette crew-cab pickup; and Scout, a small, Jeep-like two-door SUV introduced in 1961. Each was available with off-road-ready, rugged four-wheel drive. The Scout became Scout II in 1972, and after IHC's pickups and Travelalls were dropped in 1975, longer-wheelbase Scout Travelers and Terras were offered until IHC gave up on passenger vehicles in 1980 to concentrate on commercial trucks and school buses.
And the few International Travelalls, Travelettes, Scouts, and pickups (like Gervasio's beautifully customized 1937 example) that survive today have become not just automotive orphans but also minor cult vehicles. One Scout we know of—a lime green convertible—is regularly driven by one of the stars of TNT's Animal Kingdom TV series.
"I had another project going at the time and didn't have enough money to put into both of them," Gervasio tells us, "so I let this one sit for a few years. Then I put it on a flatbed, took it out, and tried to sell it. But I couldn't get anybody to buy it, so I brought it back home and decided to get on with it and finish it."
For starters, he says, he had to put a whole new floor and seat risers into it, while his brother Michael was busy doing the frame and engine work. "We put in a four-barrel-carbureted 383 stroker V-8, a five-speed Tremec transmission, a Currie limited-slip axle, and 3-inch stainless-steel exhausts, all with stainless-steel bolts and nuts. I think it's good for about 450 hp."
Working on this truck at his farm in Ringoes, New Jersey, Gervasio widened its rear fenders by 3 inches to accommodate larger wheels and tires while retaining their center crease, which he says was "quite a job." And it now rolls on original-look (but wider) Artillery wheels. "I had a new tailgate made with 'International' stamped on it," he continues, "and I had to make all-new stainless-steel pieces for the grille, because we couldn't find any."
One of this restoration's toughest challenges was reproducing its crank-out windshield. "It has two stainless-steel rollers on each side that were cracked and broken, and we couldn't find new or used ones—even from a junkyard," Gervasio relates, "so we had to make them. The process of getting the right stainless steel that wouldn't crack or bend took about a year, but we finally got it done. The trim around the headlights is original, and that's the original International badge, since I couldn't find another one. The running boards and everything else on the exterior are original except the split bumpers, wider rear fenders, and character lines."
After a couple years of work, Gervasio took it to Posies in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, to finish the bodywork, and the crew added character lines on the fenders for "a bit of an art deco look. And because the grille was so pretty," he adds, "we decided to split the front bumper so you can see the whole nose and grille, as well as the rear bumper for the license plate, which came out really well. Then we picked a color and he painted it. All that took another two years."
The International's next stop was R.P. Interiors in Horseheads, New York, where Rich Perez gave it a nearly new interior. "I kept all the stainless steel on the dash and redid all the gauges to make them look original because I liked the look of them," Gervasio says. "And the steering wheel and column are not original. All that took another year. So the whole thing was about a 12-year project after waiting on everybody through the process."
Gervasio's garage also houses "a real fancy" customized 1937 Chevy pickup—chopped a little bit with suicide doors, a tonneau cover, and an LS6 engine. But this rare and special 1937 International pickup is Gervasio's current pride and joy, as demonstrated by his wide smile whenever showgoers stopped to admire it at the prestigious Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. And, finally, Gervasio asks us to give a shout-out to his brother, Michael, for all his meticulous work and attention to detail on the restorations of his street rods.