50s 60s truck/van

I’m tired of modern tight-fit engines with all the electronics, gadgets, bells and whistles. I’d like something old-time, where I can easily access the engine or any other part of the vehicle for repairs and maintenance. Also I’d like this vehicle to sit 6 people or so and have a cargo area. I would use it for occasional driving but year-round. I have looked at 50s and 60s International Harvester Truck with crew cab for an example. Would be nice to get this truck/van and restore it to the original beauty. With that said, what do you think I should look at (year make model)? Also, any downsides of owning those models i.e. hard to get parts, expensive parts etc. pictures wellcome!

I would stick with Ford or GM. Much easier to find parts and mechanics familiar with them. I have a friend who loves working on Ford F100’s. Not sure how to fit six people though, unless they sit in the bed.

Check out a 6th (1960/1966) or 7th (1967/1972) generation Chevrolet/GMC Suburban. The latter is a lot longer and may realistically be the best place to start. Ford built the E-series van but no SUV. Dodge had a smaller A-100 van and Chevrolet had a Corvair Greenbriar. I drove a Greenbriar one summer for work. Yuck.

In the 50’s and 60’s I don’t remember any pickups with “crew cab” options. Pickups were a bench seat and a bed in back, 3 people at most. IH did make some crew cabs , mostly for utility companies. If you find one it will “very” used. Your best bet might be the original Chevy Suburban’s. You might also be on the look out for the original versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

When considering a vehicle of this vintage, you have to remember that these older fuel systems don’t tolerate ethanol gasoline very well because of the corrosive nature of ethanol.

In Minnesota, we have access to ethanol free gasoline for our older vehicles for this reason. Here’s a list of gas stations that sell ethanol free gasoline. http://www.msra.com/NonOxygenatedFuel/January2012.pdf


Most trucks at 40+ years are basket cases. Those that aren’t are classics or street rods. Is an IH crew cab on the market in your area? They were quite rare in their day and parts are rare and difficult to find. I have worked on a few old Scouts and they were stone age technology and only for the cultish. Those 70 and later Suburbans really do look like the best alternative.

I’d go for a '73 Suburban, first year they had 4 doors. Pollution controls came later on trucks, so it shouldn’t be a problem. But drive it first, you may be spoiled by 40 years of progress.

Even in brand new condition, a truck from the 50s or 60s will come with

  1. abysmal handling
  2. zero energy absorption in a crash
  3. pathetic (drum) brakes,
  4. poor reliability; think vapor lock and lots of routine maintenance such as tuneups and grease jobs.
  5. and lots and lots of technology that’s better off in the past…such as carburators and mechanical fuel pumps.

A crash that you’d walk away from in a modern vehicle can kill you in a vehicle of that vintage.

The tight-fit engines with all their bells and whistles can be expected to last 200,000 miles or more with proper care. '50s and '60s engines did not.

I like the Suburban (you said 6 passengers) 72-74…A very simple, basic vehicle with half-way decent suspension and brakes…Put an HEI ignition in the trusty Chevy 350, cure all the rust or better still, find one with no rust, (AZ, NM) and drive it forever…10-12 mpg…

And a mid 70s Suburban’s parts are as common as Big Macs and any old gear head over 50 can usually diagnose and repair any problem with common tools. Because they are so reliable and easy to repair old Chevrolet pickups are worth as much today as when they were new in my part of the world.

Almost any station wagon from the 40s,50s, or 60s would haul 6 and have cargo room.

I agree with mountainbike. At best, buy one of these for a weekend toy and keep your modern vehicle for everyday.

I’d also add to his list:
-Poor acceleration, making it an adventure just getting on a highway.
-Poor fuel economy due to less efficient engines and less gears in the transmission, plus weight and drag. You may also have to use a lead substitute to keep the engine happy.
-Less comfort, especially if you choose a truck. Trucks from this era were not built for driver comfort, only basic utility. Possibly no seatbelts too!
-Minimal to no rust protection. Depending on where you live, your vehicle could be Swiss cheese in a few years if you drive it in the winter.
-And for the ‘tree huggers’, far more environmental impact with no catalytic converters, feedback engine management, or vapor recovery system.

I love classic trucks, but I wouldn’t want one for a daily driver these days.

“I love classic trucks, but I wouldn’t want one for a daily driver these days”.

I didn’t care for the trucks as daily drivers even in the old days. My 1950 Chevrolet 1 ton pickup rode like a wheelbarrow and had an interior that made a school bus seem luxurious. The solid front axles in trucks of this period did not give an easy ride. With the exception of the Ford V-8, the trucks of the early 1950s had painfully slow acceleration. The 1/2 ton Studebaker truck had the 6 cylinder 169 cubic inch engine–the same engine that was used in the 1959-60 compact Studebaker Lark. The Lark was slow enough–it took about 20 seconds to reach 60 mph. I’m not certain that the early 1950s Studebaker trucks could even reach 60 miles per hour.

I would go with any Chevy or Ford built after 1968. Like a Blazer,Bronco or Suburban. All parts are easy to find and can be found restored at a good price. They will haul people and cargo with no problems. With some upgrades they can be good daily drives too. Also if you do restore one yourself, you can have the motor built to get better MPG. Fuel injection can be added for not much more than a new carb. The aftermarket parts for these truck are endless. I have even put a late model Chevy Fuel injected 350V8 in a 72 Chevy pickup. It was just plug in the aftermarket wire harness to the OEM computer. The owner reports 18-19 mpg on the HWY. He drives it every day.

Looks cool
Easy to work on

Needs worked on a LOT more than a modern vehicle. The least reliable vehicle today is still probably more reliable than a vintage vehicle.
Unsafe in a crash
No emission equipment or primative at best(after 1973 for cars, not sure trucks/suvs).
Lack of safety equipment
Lousy fuel mileage
Poor handling
Almost useless brakes
Parts may be hard to come by
If you have a problem you can’t fiigure out on your own, you’ll need to resort to the internet to find anything out, you’ll be hard pressed to find a mechanic today who knows anything about points and distributor caps or even willing to work on the car.

While folks are making very good points about the reliability and driveability of newer vs. older trucks, I don’t ENTIRELY agree with some of the assessments here. The first vehicle I ever drove had: A) MANUAL brakes (drum type); B) MANUAL steering; C) MANUAL transmission. I have driven a number of vehicles with either all of the above or 1 or 2 of the above; with manual drum-type brakes, with good rotors, shoes, master cylinder, and wheel cylinders, plus good clean brake fluid, I NEVER had any problem with stopping when I needed to, except the rare time when I rear-ended another vehicle and it was MY FAULT, not my equipment; just keep in mind that manual brakes require more pressure on the pedal; And, in a “panic-stop” situation you’re more than likely going to hit the brakes hard regardless of their design. As far as reliability, today’s vehicles don’t require the same amount of maintenance as the older ones, and they’re great for peace-of-mind and ease of ownership; But, older vehicles are great if you like to tinker with them, because they’re simple and easy to fix. Personally, I would have NO QUALMS about using a well-maintained older truck as a daily driver. All that being said, If I were looking for an older truck to fix up and use daily, My choice would be a 1960-66 Chevy C-10; these trucks were very simple and very rugged, built with heavy-gauge sheetmetal bodies. Even though they had very Spartan interiors, by today’s standards, many did actually have seatbelts; some even had optional air conditioning, power steering, and healthy V-8 engines; a well-tuned 283-c.i. V-8, with the right gearing behind it, could deliver plenty of performance to keep up with traffic. A lady at the local library told me about a '64 El Camino she had, with a 283, and that it could “lay rubber” in all 3 gears; granted, an El Camino is lighter than a C-10, but still, a 283 was a strong little V-8. Anyway, that’s what I’d look for, an old C-10 with a small-block (283, 327). Also consider that the '64-'66 cabs had back-slanted (/) “A” pillars and wider door openings than the '60-'63 cabs, which had the forward-slant () “dog-leg” “A” pillars with a wraparound windshield. Also consider that the '63-'66 models had A-frames and coil springs up front, while '60-'62 models had a torsion-bar front suspension. These tips may help you decide what to get for good performance, easiest interior access and best suspension parts availability. And, be prepared to make a project of the truck at first, because unless you pay BIG $$$ for a restored truck, you’ll be getting one that needs work, and if you like to work your own ride, no problem. Best of luck in your search.

This might be an interesting compromise: Chevy ran the crew cab C/K truck from the 70s/80s through 1991 (as well as the Suburban/K5 Blazer), and by then they were TBI. They’re not quite the same as the old IH trucks in terms of character or uniqueness, but they’re tanks and parts availability/ease of service make them pretty straightforward. If you do 'em up right I think they look better than most of the newer trucks.

IH Travelalls were great in their day but ZERO parts availability now and they rusted out quicker than Suburbans,And besides, the OP never came back…

Thank you everyone for your insight–I will consider all your comments in my search.
Your experience and suggestions are much appreciated.