By Brian Earnest
The International Travelall — a big, durable, loveable lug of machine that IHC cranked out from 1953 up through 1975 — was certainly a vehicle that was never meant to be babied. Sure, you could check off all kinds of boxes on the options sheet and get yourself a jumbo wagon that rode really nice and had a decent amount of creature comforts if you were really so inclined, but most buyers of these big rigs simply wanted to haul and pull. No bells and whistles necessary.
So even though he owns one of the most well-appointed and wonderfully preserved 1967 Travelalls you’ll find anywhere, Bill Schabel just can’t bring himself to coddle his IHC. After all, the vehicle has the word “Travel” in its name, and Schabel figures there is simply no way such a machine ever deserves to sit idly in a garage somewhere living out its life as a shiny, clean, mamby-pamby showpiece.
“Hey, I got it in 2001 with 69,000 miles on it, and it has 106,000 on it now, so it’s been driven!” said Schabel, a resident of Lakewood, Ohio. “I’ve driven it to Vermont, I’ve driven it to Hershey … Heck, I drove it 600 miles yesterday (to Iola, Wis.). I’m not afraid to drive this thing anywhere.”
The IHC Travelall normally doesn’t find itself in a place of honor at car hobby events, but Schabel’s wagon has been getting its share of star turns as one of the best surviving examples of a trailhorse that was typically worked hard, put away wet, and normally given a short life expectancy. In addition to being one of the feature vehicles in the “Sensational Sixties” theme tent at this year’s Iola Old Car Show, Schabel’s International has made several other stops as an invited guest at various car events, including an unlikely bow at the Glenmoor Gathering of Significant Automobiles in Canton, Ohio.
“When I was at Glenmoor, I was one of I think four cars that wasn’t trailered to the show,” Schabel laughed. “It’s like an hour drive from my house, and when I came rolling out on the showfield next to the custom-bodied Lincolns and everything else, everybody turns and looks … ’cause nobody (has seen) one of these. They were all like, ‘What is that thing doing out here?’”
The Travelall was basically IHC’s answer to the Chevrolet Suburban. It was a burly machine that had room inside to haul people and their stuff — or just their stuff if you didn’t want anything in it but a front seat — and a good share of them found employment dragging horse trailers, campers and boats. Many also found work with fire departments and other government agencies. “[For 1967] 4,000 roughly were built, and mostly they were built for the government, highway departments … Instead of a Suburban, a fire department might have one of these. Really, the government was the biggest customer for these,” Schabel noted. "Dealers might have one of these on their lot for you to test drive. They didn't have four or five Travelalls sitting there waiting for you on the lot."
The Travelalls changed little between 1959 and 1968. The wagons from that period shared the same basic elongated high-roof, four-door wagon design. Engine choices ranged from a 220-cid V-6 to a 345-cid V-8 (which Schabel’s IHC has), to even bigger engines in the early 1970s. Buyers could order vehicles that were as bare bones as anything on the market, or load them up to make them the equivalent of today’s people-friendly SUV’s. “Everything on them was an option!” laughed Schabel. “If you just ordered the base model, you got a bench seat, six-cylinder, three-on-the-tree and not much else.”
Schabel admits that one of the biggest reasons he was so attracted to his International was that it was one of the rare Travelalls from the period that was “loaded.” When he spotted the truck for sale in an advertisement back in 2001, he was plenty skeptical that such a nice example could still exist.
“I bought it from the original owner’s grandson in Rapid City, S.D.,” he said. “It was always in South Dakota and they bought it to tow their Airstream on vacations. There are still state park stickers on the windows. They were towing with it as late as 2000. That’s pretty much what it was built for.
“I had a ’51 International wagon, and I grew up on a farm running International combines, tractors and trucks and when I saw this for sale I could not believe it. I called the guy and he said, ‘Yeah, I’ll send you pictures' … And when I saw the pictures I sent him a $1,000 money order and said, “Take it off the market.” That was in January of 2001 and I flew up to Rapid City, he picked me up at the airport and we did the deal and I drove it home. He had it for sale in Rapid City for six months, and no buyers… It was just another corn binder up there. Those ranchers just looked at it as another thing to go to rust or put in the barn.”
Schabel’s Traveall came with the 345-cid V-8, heavy-duty four-speed transmission,14-inch hydraulic clutch, a Positraction rear end with 354 gears, deluxe interior and chrome packages, dual sun visors, optional back seat, AM radio and dual mirrors. “These people went nuts,” he said. “The only option I think they didn’t get was the wheel covers. They spent all that money and got dog dish hubcaps. As an IHC collector and member of the club, no one — none of the judges, nobody — have ever seen one quite this loaded. Most of them have painted bumpers, or don’t have the two-tone paint… I have the original bill of sale and it was almost 6 grand, which in 1967 would have put you in with a Lincoln or an Imperial. It just has stuff on it that most IH collectors have never seen on [a Travelall].”
Aside from a factory-correct repaint of its turquoise and white two-tone exterior, some paint on the rocker covers, and the normal changes of belts, hoses and tires, Schabel says the IHC is exactly the same as it came from the factory. “I haven’t replaced anything,” he said. “You can see the cracks in the rubber around the windows and everything… It’s just way too nice to restore.”
Even if nobody else was ever going to appreciate his big IHC wagon, it was pretty much love at first sight for Schabel. He knew it would be the perfect vehicle not only to show, but to use as transportation for his various car hobby travels.
“I love it, and it’s utilitarian,” he said. “I throw a bag of mulch in the back. I go to Lowe’s. I haul furniture with it.
“You can have a Mustang, or you can have a Camaro, and I’m not saying that they’re not cool, but there are 5 million of those. When was the last time you saw a ’67 Travelall on the road, not sitting rusting away in some cornfield in Nebraska?”