The Travelall

Last week, I wrote about selling my yellow VW beetle. I hadn’t recalled that the Travelall of my childhood was also yellow. I wonder if that occurred to me, subconsciously, when I was drawn to buy the Beetle. This is the International Harvester Travelall I learned to drive a stick on (above). I was glad to run across this slide of my grandfather’s, in his collection, kept in cigar boxes. I couldn’t quite picture the vehicle anymore. We took all our family camping trips in it. Mom and Dad would pile bedding in the back and put a few of us youngest kids, sleeping, into the truck at 3 or 4 am, to avoid driving with restless kids. It was sublime, sleeping with the movement of the car, waking to sunrise over the desert or whatever countryside we passed through to get to the mountains. We usually camped off the beaten track, on mountain roads. Dad would pull off somewhere with a river, stream or lake. Occasionally we stayed in a campground and I loved it (I wrote about that here).

Most people I’ve known haven’t been familiar with the name Travelall. It was one of the first truck-based station wagons, made by International Harvester (also a name most people don’t know, in my experience). An early competitor to the Chevrolet Suburban, these were forerunners of modern people-carriers like sport utility vehicles (SUVs). International Harvester was better known as a manufacturer of farm tractors and trucks.

By the time I was learning to drive on our yellow Travelall, it had a lot of play in the steering wheel, plus sloppy gear shift and clutch. Everything was approximate and you learned to find the spots that worked. My VW had a very sweet, smooth gearshift, exact, a pleasure to drive. I’ll miss ya, Buttercup! 🙂

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