Photos by author.
After Tim Havens brought his 1957 S-120 International Civil Defense Rescue Vehicle to our August 18 Cruise-In and drove off with Favorite Truck honors we had to know more. So we tracked him down in Hudson Falls and got him to give us all the details, complete with photos of this carefully restored Cold War relic, inside and out.
A full feature will appear in the February 2017 issue of Hemmings Classic Car, but here’s the backstory…
“The Cold War is kind of a mysterious part of my life,” Tim told us. “The Air Raid Warnings and Duck and Cover is very interesting to me because I lived through it. It was a very scary time – when one of those Emergency Broadcasting things came on the television, I would be scared to death.”
Tim, now 54, grew up and built Falls Farm and Garden Equipment Inc. where he sells and services John Deere machinery, among other things. His knowledge and passion for agricultural equipment and trucks runs deep so it’s not surprising that he still holds a candle for that American Independent that once built both — International Harvester.
And when Tim spotted this Cold War era International standing tall at the American Truck Historical Society National Show in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in 2012 he was immediately smitten.
“We were at the show with a bunch of my trucks and a group of people,” Tim said. “One of my friends said, ‘Havens you’ve got to come with me — you’ve got to see this truck. It’s everything you love. It’s an International four-wheel-drive with a winch and it’s a Civil Defense rig with all of the gear.’”
Tim tried to buy it on the spot, but its owners Donna and Ed Baldygas weren’t ready to part with the truck.
“I asked Ed if he’d ever consider selling it, but he said it was a labor of love and they’d worked very hard on it,” Tim said. “I told him I understood, gave him my business card and let him know, if he ever wanted to let it go, to call.”
In June 2015 the call came and Tim became the truck’s new owner. It now resides in his collection of old commercial vehicles and makes occasional show outings.
The truck served in Civil Defense until it was repurposed by the Southbridge Massachusetts fire department. The Baldygas, bought it with very low miles on it but in need of a complete restoration, which they performed.
This International panel is actually an example of the light-duty CD truck, perched on a ¾-ton chassis. (Three types of trucks were offered to local CD teams: light duty with a gross vehicle weight of up to 10,000 pounds; medium duty with a 10,000-20,000-pound GVW and Heavy Duty with a GVW over 20,000-pounds – the Calamity Janes.) Its original compliment of life-saving gear might’ve included equipment like self-contained breathing apparatus, axes, crowbars, asbestos blankets, rubber boots, chains, sledge hammers, first aid kits, stretchers a 1,500-watt generator, radios, resuscitators and more. Much, much more actually — anything and everything that organizers could imagine might be needed to help people survive in a catastrophe.
Under the hood of this S-120 is International’s optional 264-cu.in. Black Diamond six-cylinder engine, good for 153 horsepower at 3,800 rpm and 248 lb.ft. of torque at 2,400 rpm. A four-speed crash box kept things simple and rugged as did the truck’s unassisted steering and brakes. Speed was definitely not this truck’s forte, but reliability would be.
Had the worst occurred, Civil Defense teams would’ve rolled into action in rigs like this, based on procedures set forth by the Federal Civil Defense Administration. After the Soviets tested their first nuclear weapon in August 1949, local and state officials around the U.S. called on the Federal government to outline a course of action in the event of a nuclear attack. As a result, the Federal Civil Defense Administration was formed in December of 1950 through an executive order issued by President Harry S. Truman. The Civil Defense force’s boots on the ground were volunteers who were locally organized following policies set by the Feds. This formed a sort of “self-help” emergency force. There was little Federal money allotted to the program through the presidencies of Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower so often state and local funds were used to purchase all of the necessary equipment. When the trucks outlived their usefulness they were sold off or scrapped. Fortunately, a few like this excellent example have survived.
“It’s an absolute privilege to own,” Tim said. “It’s been painstakingly restored and fully outfitted with everything it would’ve had as a response vehicle for an unspeakable emergency. It represents a fascinating part of American History.”