Grit Blogs > The Daily Commute

Old Trucks Make Good Commutes

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: pickup, truck, IH, International Harvester, auction, 1200, antique,


Hank's International Harvester 1200 pickup.

I’ve always been a sucker for the lines of an old pickup truck. I don’t know whether it’s because I have been around them most of my life, or that I drove them, or that people who were important to me drove them. Now that I commute 20 miles to work each day in an old truck, I know that it isn’t just the lines that I love, it’s also the sound, feel, lack of intermittent windshield wipers, lack of air conditioning, and a bunch of other quirky things that encourage me to slow down and pay attention to the world around me, and think about things.

This particular truck is a 1964 International Harvester 1200 series machine with a big steering wheel and a tiny cab. It came my way last Christmas; a gift from my wife and daughters. Wow. I love the truck because of what it is and because it reminds me every day of how lucky I am to have a family filled with women who care about me. I drove a crew-cab version (with the turning radius of a loaded container ship) of this Binder for the county highway department summers during college. I like that it reminds me of the fun I had working with that cast of characters, and of whiling away warm summer lunch hours, in the shade, playing spades.

Plenty of folks complain that they dislike their daily commute; I don’t blame them. I, on the other hand look forward to the transition time at both ends of the workday. I am lucky that my trip is an easy one and that it passes through some lovely and ever-changing countryside. The commute helps me mark the seasonal progression and process memories associated with it. It helps me wind up to meet the day’s challenges and unwind when I have done all I can do. But, perhaps best of all, when wrapped in that noisy metallic cocoon of the old truck’s cab, the commute lets my thoughts lead me where they will.

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

scott cross_2
4/26/2010 8:39:45 PM

Hey Hank. Better late than never on the picture. I finally got the truck licensed in PA with regular plates. I didn't want to be restricted by antique plate requirements. I drive it when I can, the picture is on route 40 in PA at the overlook east of Uniontown a week ago. We missed you and your camera at Plow Day this year.

todd markle
7/29/2008 11:39:52 AM

Hank, I really appreciate you attitude about your commute. I don't share it unfortunatly, but whenever something in my commute upsets me, I think about your attitude and it makes me feel a little better. As you know I also drive an older truck (79 chevy 3/4 ton 4wd) in the winter time. I do miss the creature comforts when driving it, but I like being able to work on it myself without any computer diagnostic equipment.

hank will_2
7/21/2008 9:10:30 AM

Hey Scott -- Great to hear from you. I know exactly what you mean about vent windows and west coast mirrors. My truck's mirrors vibrate in a very painful (to the ears) way when driving into the wind. Glad to know you got that F100 on the road. Do you have any recent photos of it?

scott cross_1
7/18/2008 1:18:45 PM

Hank, Glad to see the girls took care of you! I know what you mean, I drove my 71 F100 at work when ever I could. I like being able to hang on to the wing vent post or the west coast mirror bracket going down the road. I did get a reminder from days past recently though. I was headed down the intersate with the windows down enjoying the day when a bee hit the mirror, or the wing vent. Of course it was just enough to stun him (and really tick him off) before he landed on the seat between my legs. My wife Jill had a hard time showing concern while laughing as I beat on the seat and my leg trying to kill whatever was biting me. You hit it on the cost of using an old truck. I get compensated for driving my personal vehicle for work. I was thinking that instead of buying another new truck, get a body off restored one. It would be cheaper to purchase and insure, not to mention you aren't going to look like every other new truck on the road and there's the "cool factor"! Nice blog, it's good to hear from you.

hank will_2
7/16/2008 8:18:18 AM

Villette -- It is good to slow down. I don't know how much fuel it saves in that old truck, but I can burn plenty of $4 a gallon gas for what the truck saves me in purchase price, insurance and license fees. Heck it costs more than $800 less each year to keep on the road than my 2003 Dodge. Going slow puts me in a better mood at both ends of the commute too. Wayne -- I never tire of looking at Cub Cadets. Keep the photos coming.

7/15/2008 9:19:27 PM

Hank, I'll gladly send pictures, let me know when you've seen enough. Wayne Smith

hank will_2
7/15/2008 9:19:51 AM

Wayne -- It is always fun to "meet" another Cub Cadet nut. I still find myself looking in hedgerows and beside barns and garages for that flash of yellow and white. The first Cub Cadet I really got to know was a 124 that my little brother owns. He and I refurbished it together one summer. My first was a 123. My bro owns that one now. He uses those machines and a 122 for mowing the grass around his farm in Louden New Hampshire. When it comes to working around your place with vintage Cub Cadets, it is always nice to have a spare or two. When I was in graduate school, my friend Mike Perlin had a '54 GMC panel truck. I spent plenty of afternoons helping Mike keep that machine going. If you think of it, and don't mind doing it, please email me a pic or two of your Cub Cadets in action.

7/15/2008 8:33:32 AM

I like the idea of slowing down on the commute rather than making it as fast and harried as possible. Also better for gas mileage!

hank will_2
7/15/2008 7:04:36 AM

Hey Mike -- I am pretty sure I can't stop at just two old trucks. At the moment, I feel like 22 Cub Cadets is enough ... actually it is something less than 22 since I parted with a few of them last month, while collecting the rest of our stuff in Pennsylvania. I kept the Farmall Cub too. I like the trucks because I get to use them every day.

7/14/2008 9:14:45 PM

Hank, My favorite Cub? It's a toss up between my Original and my 108. I don't have a deck yet for the"O", but the 108 does and is easy to use. Then again my 124 with a 48" deck is fun too. I have a Super Garden tractor on my wish list but they are hard to come by. As for the truck, I like the 48-54 Chevys, probably because I remember my uncle using one on the farm. I like the IH's but they are very hard to find here on the east coast. Wayne

mike schmudlach_1
7/14/2008 4:48:32 PM

Hank - Welcome to the dark side of IH collecting. Does this mean you don't care about your 22 Cub Cadets and other IH stuff anymore? Do you really think you can stop at just one truck? I bet Kate doesn't even believe that.

hank will_2
7/14/2008 8:29:28 AM

Hey Wayne -- You hit the nail right on the head. There's nothing like German automotive engineering, but I really enjoy tinkering on something that is less precise in just about every way ... like Cub Cadets and old trucks. I left more knuckle skin inside the engine compartment of my wife's 1970 280SL replacing the engine mounts than I did all through high school working on my friend's Triumph Spitfire. So what's your favorite Cub Cadet? For mowing I like the 1984 882 diesel or a 1961 Original with timed deck. What old truck brands are candidates for your project?

7/11/2008 7:14:53 PM

Hey Hank, My son, who will be driving soon, has his eye on my late model 4X4. I can't be without a pickup because I have to haul hay for the goats and need something to bring Cub Cadets home in. When my son takes over my truck, I'm going to get an early fifties truck. I work on expensive European cars 5 days a week so it will be relaxing to putter on a simple pickup on weekends. It will also look good parked at work next to all those BMWs and Benz's, won't it? Wayne

hank will_2
7/11/2008 9:19:54 AM

It would have indeed, Alaina. Next time you are in Kansas, you will have to take the old beast for a spin. I think that will be at Thanksgiving ... or are you coming to see us sooner?

alaina will_1
7/10/2008 4:32:55 PM

It would have been way cooler if you had a photo of your youngest daughter driving your old truck!

hank will_2
7/7/2008 8:10:26 AM

Hey Kim -- Thanks for those destinations. I just might have to load the kayaks and head to the Ozarks sometime this summer.

7/3/2008 2:44:49 PM

Yes! The Ozarks are beautiful. But we all knew that. The Boston Mountains ( are awesome; I was lucky enough to enjoy that drive most of my life. Petit Jean State Park ( has some of the most beautiful waterfalls and greenscape you will ever see.

hank will_2
7/1/2008 1:47:22 PM

Hey Kim -- I think solitary road trips are really therapeutic. When we lived in Southern California, I was drawn back to the prairies at least a couple of times each year. I usually took Interstate 40 to Tucumcari,NM and worked my way into Kansas on US 54. I then headed north on US 281 into Nebraska and on to South Dakota if time allowed. I can't explain the prairie thing exactly, but that landscape is like mother to me. I have never explored the Natural State. Can you suggest some fun destinations? Thanks.

jean teller
7/1/2008 1:43:30 PM

My daily commute is on an interstate, so it's not that interesting. But, when I head back to the homeplace in north-central Kansas, I love the scenery (even along the interstate). About the halfway mark, I finally start to breathe, see to the horizon and relax!

7/1/2008 11:41:44 AM

Hi Hank, I've always been one who enjoyed long trips, even alone. In college I'd go back and forth from Kansas to Arkansas, and it was calming to just drive through Missouri, listen to music and think. The best part was getting into The Natural State and seeing the huge difference in landscape...going from just flat greens and stretches of highway to the Ozarks was a real treat. My commute to work isn't as exciting as far as greenery goes, but it is nice to have some time to collect thoughts.