My sister sent us a Christmas care package filled to the brim with amazing, thoughtful gifts. The highlight for Finn was a Kanken backpack covered with cool metal and cloisonné pins; she immediately ditched her black LL Bean backpack and moved everything over to the new one. One of the things she gave me was a 4-pack of AirTags, which I’ve been curious about for years but haven’t ever pulled the trigger on. Intrigued, I set two of them up and put one in my travel messenger bag and the other on a keyring.
Since then I’ve been getting messages on my phone whenever we leave to walk the dog to tell me I’ve left my messenger bag, keyring, iPad, AirPods and Apple Watch behind (I don’t wear my Apple Watch all of the time). Somehow activating the AirTags kicked off a bunch of notifications for all of the location-aware Apple gear I own; my phone vibrates constantly. I’ve got to figure out how to turn off all but the essentials, I guess.
As part of our remodeling in the Living Room, we’re opening up the space for new furniture and a new layout. Now that the built-in bookshelves are installed, it’s time to remove the bulkier furniture we don’t need or that doesn’t fit. I broke down the IKEA Expedit bookcase we’ve had in there since before I changed jobs and listed it on Craigslist for $20. The next step will be to disassemble Jen’s oak library table and store it safely in the basement, and move my carpenter’s trunk upstairs in the blue bedroom. There’s no way we’re getting rid of either of those items, but they are too big for our current living room. The West Elm chairs could be here anywhere between this Friday or the middle of March; we have no idea but want to be prepared.
On Saturday we drove down to Bob’s to bring food and spend some time with him. The three toilets I delivered two weeks ago are now all installed, including the one in the bathroom I’ve been working on. While the plumber was in there working we arranged to have him lower the flange to floor level, so that wrinkle has been ironed out. We’ve got a new 36″ vanity on order and waiting to be delivered this week. The plan is to head down on Sunday, set that in place and hook up the sink. I may rope my brother-in-law in and have him come in to help; we’ll see.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve begun to notice an appreciable difference in my teeth. I’m in Week 37 of 70 Invisalign trays, and I can finally look in the mirror and see the changes in my lower teeth—they’re spreading out and beginning to fall into place. The biggest change I feel is in my upper eyeteeth, which are being pushed forward and outward to make room for my molars behind; on the first and second day of new trays I need to wait about a half an hour after taking them out to eat anything, due to the soreness. I’m beginning to get excited about a straight, even smile, and even looking forward to some kind of whitening treatment. My teeth have been yellow since I was a boy, and having done some research on Diazinon, it turns out exposure to the herbicide can trigger all sorts of health effects, including yellowed teeth. Dad used to spray that shit around the house, and I spent a good portion of my childhood on the floor directly in contact with it.
The shelves are painted and complete save for one small area at the bottom left where I need to fit a section of wood. I’ve been waiting for a day when Hazel is outside to run up the saw; she gets very nervous when I use power tools, especially now that she’s got the ear wrap on again. We’ve already started putting books on shelves but I’m waiting until Jen organizes it the way she wants to snap a picture. I’ll say this: it makes a HUGE difference, and it really anchors that entire side of the room. All that wasted physical and visual space is now fully utilized, and we can move on to Part 2 of the plan: getting rid of some old furniture. Meanwhile, I got a notice that our two West Elm chairs are shipped and on their way.
I’m trying very hard not to continually obsess about working on the red truck. The weather has been unusually warm this week and it’s all I can do not to ditch work and go attack something with the angle grinder. I’ve got a long list of tasks to accomplish before I can really get into things, but the important stuff is being handled: I sent a package of documents to the Vermont DMV so that I can get a registration back from them; with that (and the Vermont plates) I can then go to the Maryland DMV and transfer the registration to a legal Maryland title.
I had some time between the end of the workday and sunset today to get into the Travelall and start cleaning things out. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to get rid of and how good things actually look underneath. The first order of business was to put some new shoes on the front; she’s been sitting on jackstands since Tuesday and it really makes the whole place look redneck. I picked up the tires and had them back on the hubs in about ten minutes; a set of General Grabber LT’s in the correct size really make things look much better.
In an effort to make it look better sitting in the driveway, I reached out to a guy on Marketplace with a 1965-66 grille in really good shape and arranged to buy it and have it shipped from Buffalo. With some clean chrome it’ll look much less derelict. It’s not the correct grille but it’ll do for now until I can source the right one (which is concave and which I actually prefer).
I’d started last weekend tearing out all the upholstery and it was pretty easy to continue. First I bagged up as much of the loose crap as possible and made a pile of the bigger stuff on the driveway. Continuing up to the front of the cabin I got the rest down off the edges of the cab roof and pulled the headliner down in sections. The carpet over the wheel wells came off pretty cleanly—I’m lucky it was cold this evening because the glue basically just gave up. The rear carpet came off the floor in one sheet. I unscrewed and removed both of the trap doors behind the front seats.
Up in the cab I used a utility knife to cut the rubber floormat out completely to get my first good look at the cab floor. Both sides have been patched at some point; the passenger side is worse. It’s rusted through in one place that I can see, right in the center. I used a shop-vac to get all the loose paint and rust out. The driver’s side has some kind of patch material over the metal that I can’t identify, so more research will need to be done there. The transmission tunnel looks to be in great shape.
Travelalls have wooden floors over the rear section—it’s a sheet of (probably) 3/4 plywood covered in rubber sheeting of some kind. This rubber is disintegrating in strips of 1″x3″ or so and will need to be scraped out, probably with the aid of some heat.
As I mentioned earlier, the wheel well is in fantastic shape for an East Coast truck: there’s some rust there and I can see daylight through one of the seams, but it’s not completely missing.
When that was all done I washed the rest of the grime off the windows and got all the debris ready for a trip to the dump. It’s good to see what we’re dealing with and now I can start listing and subdividing the tasks.
I’ve been organizing a work day at the house and reached out to a bunch of local IH friends. There are several who can’t make it but want to get together this year, so I’m going to take on the role of coordinator again and see if I can get some regular meetups happening. The core group of Bennett, Brian, and Brian will be here for the day, and an old acquaintance Will will stop by with his kids for a quick visit. Will was the guy who had a gorgeous 1968 Travelall he offered me back n 2014 when I wasn’t ready to take it on, but look back upon and wish I’d bought.
I also joined a Facebook group for 1957-1968 Travelalls (called Round Body Travelalls) and I’m waiting to be approved; hopefully there are some good leads on parts and tips for working on them to be found. I posted a new build thread on the Binder Planet but haven’t gotten much response yet; I think I’ve got to show some progress.
Doing some more research, I’ve identified two key components of the engine.
The carb is a Holley 2300 with a manual choke, sitting under a gloopy oil bath air filter. A manual choke! I was half-shocked to find this, but I continually have to remember this thing is from 1964 and I’m actually lucky it doesn’t have a magneto instead of a generator. The carb is crusty and covered in mud dauber nests, but complete. I wonder which control on the dash feeds to the choke? I’ll bet a couple of dollars that’s one reason she didn’t start when we tried it. An inexpensive rebuild kit is sitting in the Rock Auto basket, along with new Autolite 85’s and wires.
The mystery distributor is a Delco cast iron body unit, according to Mike Mayben over at the IHPA forums. In his words, “I personally think that these distributors were the best units used, extremely durable as compared to a Holley.” Well, that’s good to hear. Where I can find parts for this remains to be seen; I think I’ll test it first for spark before throwing parts at it.
I got in touch with the owner of the blue truck with the gas tank in back and asked him if he was interested in parting it out (it’s been up since October and he’s dropped the price once). I inquired about the big stuff—the windshield, doors, power steering unit, and bench seat, as well as the gas tank. He’s still got it and gave me a price for the tank but doesn’t want to part the truck. I looked back at the video I shot, and reviewing the footage I notice it’s not in the perfect shape I remember it being. New poly tanks are $~350. I figure five hours in the car to save $250 probably isn’t worth it unless I can grab a bunch of other stuff, so I think I’ll pass.
From the research that I’ve done this morning, I think I’ve got some vague information on the new truck. Looking at the JDPower site for a valuation so that I can apply for a title through Vermont, the best match for what I’ve got is a 1964 C1100 Travelall Custom Wagon. In 1963 the model numbers were in the 100’s, and in 1965 the models changed to D prefixes. My truck has Custom badges directly below the windows, and there was a 1100 emblem on the driver’s side fender, which checks out. Single headlights continued up until 1968 but the grilles were restyled every year, and my style (single headlight with a trim ring surround) looks like it was switched in 1968.
The title situation is a bit confusing but I’m working my way through that process; I may consider using a professional service just so I don’t fuck it up, but I think I just need to slow down and take my time. From all accounts it’ll take a month or so to get results back.
I wrote to the Wisconsin Historical Society this morning and they say the backlog is about 4 weeks, so that ball is in play. Usually I go through one of the Light Line dealers, so this will be a new approach.
As near as I can tell, the paint code is simply just IH 2150 Red, which IH painted every tractor and combine up until they were bought by CASE. Which is a bonus for me, as I can walk into any Ace Hardware and buy a spray can of IH Red off the shelf; I’ve actually got one sitting in my stash downstairs to test this theory out.
Meanwhile, I ordered two new tires from Tire Rack to be delivered to a local NTB, where I’ll drop the old ones off to be mounted properly. The truck is currently up on a pair of jackstands under the front axle, and I’ll hopefully have the tires mounted and on the truck by Thursday afternoon. One thing I noticed pulling the studs off the tires is that the driver’s side studs all spin backards, like my father-in-law’s ’66 Chrysler (and strangely one is a smaller diameter than the others). So I’ll have to mark the reverse studs somehow and make sure I’ve got some spares.
Finally, I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do about a separate weblog for this truck. I could just create a category called “Travelall” here and call it done, but it helps to have things subcategorized, and Scout brakes are completely different than Travelall brakes, for example.
Saturday we decided to get out of Dodge and do something fun as a family. I’ve had the green couch in the living room since my house in the city, and it’s served us faithfully through the years in the living room as our main seating area, but it’s super long in the tooth and doesn’t fit our style anymore. It’s been under a brown cover for years because the original IKEA upholstery is stained and torn. Jen bought new legs for it and had me put them on last fall, and that made a visual difference but raised it up off the ground too much to be comfortable. So we started looking around for alternatives.
There are several wholesalers online that have generous return policies but we really wanted to be able to sit on something and look at it before we bought it, so we drove down to DC to 14th Street and hit up a long line of houseware and furnishing stores. Used to be you’d go to the mall for that kind of thing; funny how those stores have all closed. It was lovely to go back to the Big City and walk down the block to see the sights.
We started at a place called Joybird, who have beautiful Midcentury Modern designs with contemporary fabrics, and tested out a couple of couches with a salesman who was extremely helpful and patient. When we’d settled on a loveseat that we liked, we then spent about a half an hour worrying over fabrics. Deciding to think it over, we got our salesman’s card and continued up the street. There were a bunch of homeware stores available, and after some Shake Shack for lunch we hit the West Elm, where shades of white or off-white seem to be the only color choices. After looking on both floors, we came down to where Finn was waiting for us, Jen sat in a leather chair next to her and immediately said, “Ooooh! This is comfortable!” Looking it over, we both tried it out and realized it was pretty perfect for what we want to do with our room. So we took notes on that and continued on our way.
After stopping for a drink at a beautiful bar/restaurant, we crossed the street and hit a small shop next to the Black Cat called the Outrage, which is a combination storefront and meeting space for social justice/racial/feminist events. So many cool things there. Jen bought a couple of T-shirts and Finn got a ring from some local artists. By that point it was getting late and we needed to get back to the dog, so we hit the road and headed home.
This morning we both took advantage of the President’s Day sales and we’ve got a couch and two chairs coming; this marks the first time we’ve bought major furniture for the inside of the house since the yellow couch in the den. It will be great to make big changes to the living room—more on that to come.
On that note, I think the built-in shelves are done. Well, there are two small areas along the bottoms that need to get patched up. And then it’s done. I spent most of Sunday actually finishing the install process; I’d started screwing the two side units into the wall on Thursday night but had to place the two top shelves, mill down the side pieces, tack in the moulding, and then nail everything into place on Saturday. With that done, it was a lot of caulking and painting and painting and adjusting and painting; then I had to run out to Columbia to the only Lowe’s in the area that sells the toekick moulding I needed to finish off the edges. But that was just an excuse to get a couple of good hours in the Scout, which ran like a top and put a smile on my face.
Yesterday afternoon, after spending much of the day working around the house, I sat on the couch and checked my email with the dog curled up next to me. I hit Marketplace and did my usual search, figuring I’d see the same ragged out Scouts and a couple of trucks before signing off. Cycling through my search terms, a new listing caught my eye, and the location made me sit up on the couch: Middle River, about 20 miles from here. The picture was of a red IH Travelall of unknown vintage sitting in the side yard of a house, listed for a tantalizingly low price. I immediately messaged the guy and about five minutes later added my phone number, then continued about my day.
A few hours later the seller called me and we set up a meet for first thing Monday morning. I got my usual kit together: a magnet, a flashlight, a strong screwdriver, a 15/16″ socket on a long bar (to put on the crank bolt to see if the engine is free), my $30 borescope, and some gloves. At 8:45 I was sitting outside his house with a cup of coffee, and he waved me into the yard to look it over.
What I found was, as always, worse than the pictures showed, but strangely better than all the other rigs I’ve seen around here. It was a mid-60’s C1100 with Custom badges on the doors. The seller told me his brother had bought it years ago and had it towed from Virginia to his house, where it sat outside for years before it was moved last week and put up for sale. The paint was rough all over the outside; there were blooms of open rust on the doors and fenders. The driver’s rear quarter was crispy around the wheel arch. There was obvious bondo in several spots. The passenger’s rear corner was crunched at some point. And the grille was completely missing. One thing that didn’t show in the photos online was that the passenger’s rear glass—the most unobtanium part of a Travelall—was cracked in several places. The windshield also was cracked in several spots. There were no brakes, but he transmission and clutch weren’t frozen.
Inside, someone had pulled all the seats out and replaced the rear bed with a custom carpeted platform, then bolted two seats of indeterminate origin in the cabin. There was custom upholstery bolted to every surface—walls, ceiling, over the rear doors, and over the windshield. But the dash was clean, the dashpad was in one solid piece (also a shock) and the switchgear all looked to be in decent shape. Under the floormats, the front floors were intact but very damp.
We talked for a good long time about cars and health and life as I looked it over, and he brought a battery out to see if it would catch. It had an International V8 of some size with an aftermarket AC unit plumbed in, and all the moving parts were present. It cranked right over, which was a good sign, but we couldn’t get it to fire with two different coils. The distributor was like no other I’ve seen on an IH motor; I was dumbfounded as to what make or model it was. As we talked, his phone beeped and beeped; he sheepishly showed me a list of 30+ inquiries beginning with mine from the previous evening. He said he’d been swamped with messages since he posted it, one guy even calling at 5AM.
I thought about it for a few minutes and asked him if he was flexible on the price; he thought for a minute and brought it down $250 less than the listed ask. I shook his hand and a deal was struck. This truck has no title, so I did a bill of sale purchase; I’m going to have to do the Vermont title thing to get it registered correctly here. But this came in at a fraction of my budget, so I couldn’t pass it up.
I’d done some research on towing companies the night before so I had a good one to call, and within 1/2 hour a rollback was beeping down the street to where we’d pulled it out of his yard. After heading back under the tunnel to the house, I moved cars out of the driveway and the tow operator dropped it to the side of the garage where it’s out of the way. The rear bumper on this thing is gigantic, and there’s a heavy duty hitch welded to the frame below.
After getting some lunch and work done in the house and giving the dog a well-needed bath, I figured I’d take advantage of the 60˚ weather while I had it and busted out the pressure washer to blast off several years of grime, moss, and flaking paint. This also removed one of the crumbling aftermarket trailer lights mounted above the barn doors. As I cleaned black gunk off the roof, I found a 1″ diameter hole in the center from some kind of radio aerial and figured I’d better cover that before tomorrow’s rain hit. I sanded the edges down with a wire wheel and used some basic painter’s caulk to seal it with a plastic lid. Temporary, but effective.
The passenger’s front tire is garbage—it would never hold air—so I jacked up the front of the truck, put it on a stand, and pulled the tire off. It’s a 16″ rim with a LT215/85 R16 mounted, so I threw it in the back of the Scout for a weekday dropoff. Tires this size are pretty plentiful, so I’ll see if I can find something inexpensive.
Because one of the barn doors wasn’t closing all the way, I got a screwgun out and popped the screwcaps off the upholstered panels and removed them. I was shocked to find both doors in almost perfect condition; the metal looks as good as new, even underneath. They don’t close perfectly, but they’re not held shut with a ziptie anymore either. Intrigued, I took off the rear driver’s door panel to find that door in similar shape. The passenger’s rear panel was hiding some serious dirt and debris, and was wet to the touch—so I was glad to have that one off and not collecting more moisture. Then I got caught up in pulling a bunch of the upholstery off the walls and made a pile of smelly dusty crap in the center of the truck. By 5PM I knew I had to stop, because I had more work to do inside the house, so I buttoned everything up and called it a night.
I’ve got a long list of things to tackle now, but the first one is going to be writing to the Wisconsin Historical Society for the Line Set Ticket on this rig to see where it’s from and what it came with. Then I’ve got to find a new tire and get it mounted so that it’s off the jackstand and on its feet. And I have to start the titling process to get it in my name, plated and legal.
Meanwhile, I messaged the guy up in New Jersey with the blue pickup to see if he would sell the NOS gas tank he had sitting in the bed of the truck; hopefully he hasn’t sold it, because the ad is now down.
Pitchfork did a quick piece on a band called Crushed, using touchpoints like the Sneaker Pimps, the Sundays, and Ivy, which is basically a Venn diagram of music I love. Their EP is pretty good; I can see some of the influences, and I think with a little more work and editing there’s something promising here. The first track is the one I’m replaying the most.