A 1929 Waco biplane and a 1929 IHC Six-Speed Special. Photo from John Glancy’s collection.
Editor’s Note: Jim Allen and John Glancy’s forthcoming book, the International Scout Encyclopedia, promises to cover everything a Scout enthusiast would want to know (and more). Octane press has sent us a few more bonus stories that didn’t make the book’s final cut; this one focuses on the brand’s “Speed” trucks.
This is the generation where the International Harvester Company truck really reached its stride. In this era truck production moved to Springfield, Ohio, from Akron, and a large truck factory was opened in Fort Wayne, Indiana. All parts of the company were doing well in this era, despite a recession, and the success was contagious. The Speed (Model S) Trucks set several benchmarks, including being one of the first light trucks to offer standard pneumatic tires and standard electric starting. Most importantly, they lived up to their name and could run in the 25-30 mph range on the road, and that was hauling tail for a truck of that era. The first Model S was in the 2,000 lbs., three-quarter to one-ton category. By the time the Slope Hood trucks were retired, a line of similarly styled heavier trucks were being sold from 1924 as Models 33, 43, 63 and 103 with capacities up to five tons.
The early Speed trucks were powered by 192 ci, 35 hp Lycoming KB four-cylinder engines. Later 3-series trucks also used a Lycoming engine, the 4SL, but the lightest duty Special Delivery pickup trucks in the line used a 173ci Waukesha Model XA. The S-26 model, and others, used a 224 ci, 50 hp Model SLH Lycoming six. The Speed era was an important one for International Harvester Company (IHC) trucks because it really helped lay down a fundamental reputation of reliable performance for the marque. That encompassed light and medium duty but also, increasingly, the higher capacity trucks.
One of the highlights of the Speed era was the Six-Speed Special. This one-ton rated truck debuted in 1927 and used a two-speed rear axle, another industry first for IHC. It proved to be very popular and sold almost 50,000 units in just over two years of production, through 1929. The two-speed axle, reportedly built by Eaton, utilized a high range ratio of 5.285:1 but offered a stump-pulling 15.461:1 ratio in low. This combo offered the best of both worlds, speed and grunt. The Six-Speed Special used the smaller Waukesha XA engine.
One of the most talked about of the many early International Harvester Company (IHC) trucks came in the Speed era, the Red Baby. IHC built a number of Model S trucks with a 124 in. wheelbase, full cab with doors, and a pickup bed. They painted them red, added big IHC logos, and, after painting on their own signage, dealers used them as shop or delivery trucks. The trucks were sufficiently whiz-bang enough to help focus attention on IHC in the rural areas where they were seen. They were built only in 1921 and 1922. It isn’t clear exactly how many of them were built, but likely only in the low hundreds. Today, an original Red Baby is a big deal!
Another hallmark in the International Harvester motor truck line was the Speed 1921-29 truck. Perhaps this line did more to establish IHC as a mover and shaker in the truck biz of the time. They combined the ability to work with the ability to move down the highway at what were then passenger car speeds.
In 1923 a significant event happened that relates directly to the Scout. That year IHC opened the Fort Wayne Assembly Plant for building the heavy lines of trucks. A test track was also built there and, many years later, International’s engineering and design facility would be located there, as would Scout assembly.
Another hallmark in the International Harvester motor truck line was the Speed 1921-1929 truck. This line did a great deal to establish IHC as a mover and shaker in the truck biz of the time, because they combined the ability to work with the ability to move down the highway at what were then passenger car speeds. Pictured above are a 1929 Waco and a 1929 IHC Six-Speed Special. Marc Sheafer’s ’29 is a largely unrestored truck that has been in the family since new. The Six-Speed Special became one of IHC’s most popular trucks of the era. With a two-speed rear axle it had the grunt to move a heavy load in low gear, but in high it could run 35 mph. The engine size was smaller than what IHC was putting in similar trucks so the truck was very economical, but the gearing choice gave the truck the tractive force of a bigger engine.