Final Parking Space: 1952 International L-130 Tow Truck

Murilee Martin

So far in this series, we’ve seen discarded cars from the United States, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Sweden, but no trucks (unless you count a Volkswagen Transporter, which I don’t). We’ll remedy that imbalance today with a serious truck, an IHC L-Series that spent its working years in northern Illinois and now resides in a car graveyard near Denver, Colorado.

1952 International L-130 Tow Truck badges
Murilee Martin

The Chicago-based International Harvester Corporation sold its first light trucks in 1907 and continued to build them until the final Scout Terras left the factory as 1980 models. You can still buy new International-badged trucks today, though their parent company is owned by Volkswagen.

1952 International L-130 Tow Truck info
Murilee Martin

This is an L-Series truck, the successor to the prewar KB design. The L-Series was built from the 1950 through 1952 model years and featured a modern, one-piece windshield.

1952 International L-130 Tow Truck door
Murilee Martin

This one appears to have toiled as a tow truck in Spring Valley, Illinois, for its entire career. That’s about 900 miles to the east of its current location in Colorado.

1952 International L-130 Tow Truck plate
Murilee Martin

The truck is very weathered, and the 1975 Illinois license plate indicates that it has been sitting outdoors for close to a half-century.

1952 International L-130 Tow Truck winch
Murilee Martin

How many stranded cars did this rig pull out of ditches and snowbanks during its career?

1952 International L-130 Tow Truck detail
Murilee Martin

All the equipment appears to be genuine 1950s–1970s hardware.

1952 International L-130 Tow Truck oldsmobile radio
Murilee Martin

At some point, an Oldsmobile transistor radio of the late CONELRAD era was installed in the dash.

1952 International L-130 Tow Truck engine
Murilee Martin

The original engine was a 220-cubic-inch “Silver Diamond” IHC pushrod straight-six rated at 101 brake horsepower, and that may well be the engine still in the truck today (you have to be more of an IHC expert than I am to identify these engines at a glance).

1952 International L-130 Tow Truck interior shifter
Murilee Martin

The transmission is a three-on-the-floor manual, with a grind-free synchronized first gear.

1952 International L-130 Tow Truck bumper
Murilee Martin

This thick steel bumper must have been just the ticket for pushing dead cars, which would have been plentiful in the era of six-volt electrical systems, points ignition, and primitive tire technology.

1952 International L-130 Tow Truck interior
Murilee Martin

As the theoretical owner of a 1947 GMC tow truck (which has been sitting in a field just south of Minneapolis since I was five years old), I understand why most of us are reluctant to restore such machines.


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    What a neat looking old rig. Yes, it’d be insane to try and restore it, but it’s still interesting to contemplate the ideas at a restomod. I love all the detail pictures – you can see how, for instance, someone had to cut about 1/2″ down on the original radio opening to fit the Olds faceplate (the top corners are radiused, but the bottom corners are square). That may not even be true, but my point is that we can look over an object like this and get swept up in imagining its history. Just like the article asks: “How many stranded cars did this rig pull out of ditches and snowbanks during its career?” – ah, if only it could talk and tell us the stories it holds!

    I would love to see this running around again but the amount of work would be insane. Very cool find!

    I see a lot more potential here than in a lot of the other ones we’ve seen. Air cleaner is intact so I bet that motor will turn. This is the type of thing you get going and ride in it without getting too fussy about interior and paint.

    Well Vern himself parked up in 1991, however his wife Carol Sue appears to still be alive and living in Colorado

    I live about 30 miles northwest of Spring Valley, ILL. Never seen this truck in action as I wasn’t born until 1953. I’m surprised it ended up in a junkyard in Colorado. Cool old truck.

    Tow mater was and is a Chevrolet 1956 I’ve seen every truck under the son except a Chevrolet depicting tow mater I know it’s not a big deal it’s a animated cartoon but they were very careful to get the cars right in the movie, 55 through 57 were hard to tell apart where the grill and hood were missing it makes it difficult but there should not be any mistake that it is a Chevrolet I’m really not trying to offend anyone

    Nothing offensive about being correct.
    But I do also agree with your saying, “I know it’s not a big deal it’s a(n) animated cartoon” – I too have seen plenty of Tow Mater representations made from all sorts of trucks, and I applaud them for creativity and making people smile. It’s all in fun! 😁

    Don’t crush Mater!! Put some tires on it, get it running, and roadworthy, so you can
    “ Gettttteeerrr, done!!!”😂

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