The nineteen-twenties and thirties were periods of innovation and growth for International-Harvester. Their 1924 introduction of removable wet-sleeve cylinders that substantially reduced the time and cost of engine rebuilding was an industry first. The superior hill climbing ability that the two-speed rear end offered in the 1928 Six-Speed Special proved to be very popular. Custom extra heavy duty rock trucks built for the Hoover Dam project in 1931 ran twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The company was one of the earliest producers of diesel engines introducing the four cylinder D-4o in their TD-40 crawler tractors in 1933 and their first diesel truck, the D-80, in 1937.
But their modern thinking was not confined exclusively to mechanical systems. Our photos show a variety of “A” and “C” models from the nineteen-thirties and an “S” model from the previous decade. The handsome “C” model marked the company’s first foray into styling that would reach it’s peak with the streamlined 1937 “D” model. From that point until the present day, I-H has been in the business of producing trucks for both on and off-road applications, from half ton pickups to some of the heaviest mining and quarry equipment in the world. You will find more posts about unusual trucks, buses and equipment on The Old Motor. Photos courtesy of the City of Vancouver.
In 1919, Childe Harold Wills, metallurgist and chief engineer for Henry Ford’s first car, walked away with a reported $1.5 million settlement from Ford and $4 million he made in other investments, and set out to build a car of his own. It would be a luxurious and mechanically advanced machine, the opposite of the trusty but simple Model “T”. Wills used the relatively new alloy of molybdenum steel on almost every component of the car that would be stressed with the goal of producing an automobile of unequaled durability. To help the public understand the virtues of this new metal and also pronounce it, it was spelled out phonetically in advertisements the way it appears in our title.
- Mechanical details from “Automotive Industries” of November 10, 1921
The Model A-68 went on sale in the spring of 1921. Its revolutionary SOHC engine was one of just two in a U.S. production car at the time that we know of and the only V-8, the other being the six cylinder Leach. The Sainte Claire powerplant was a 60 degree, 265 cubic inch affair with integral heads that developed 67 horsepower. Cam drive was by spiral bevel gear and shaft, as seen in the center photo above. Good as the car was, Wills’ relentless perfectionism was problematic. The original target price of $2,000 was exceeded by fifty percent. The first year break even production goal of fifteen hundred units was never achieved, and the company entered receivership in 1922.
An early twenties Wills Sainte Claire Roadster photo courtesy of Shorpy
New financing allowed the development of a new 273 cubic inch inline six cylinder engine with a forged seven main bearing crankshaft and a removable head. Louis B. Miller and J.E. Wieber would set a coast-to-coast record time of 102 hours and 45 minutes in the new car in 1925 only to lose it to Ab Jenkins in a Studebaker in 1926. They would retake the title later that year by a margin of just over 3 hours, but such performances were not enough to make the car a financial success. The company did not survive the recession of 1926 and was forced into liquidation the following year.
The SOHC V-8 first used in 1921 and the SOHC-six introduced in 1925
We are actually on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge today, rather than in Boston proper. That is Hadley Street between the DeVincent Ford and University Motors showrooms. While our photos are always about the cars, the great signage in these two images appeals to us, too. All the neon here must have been quite a treat to see at night. Ford used those highly visible red, white and blue crests on their products between 1950 and 1958.
The instantly recognizable “Chief Pontiac” trademark is very much in evidence at University Motor Sales’ Goodwill Used Car Trading Post. We also spotted two separate painted totem poles in these images which, although they would be considered quite politically incorrect today, must have been dazzling examples of the sign painter’s art when this photo was taken. You can view an earlier image of the entire sales lot here. You can also see earlier installments of this series here. Photos by Nishan Bichajian courtesy of the MIT Libraries.