eBay Finds – 1949 International KB6F

I came across this truck posted on the BMT forum the other day and instantly knew this truck was a dead ringer for the ebay finds portions of this website. Listed as ’49 the seller tells us it might also be a 47 or 48. The original running gear of 296 C.I. Blue Diamond engine paired to a five speed trans with a Brown and Lipe (yeaaa Syracuse!) 3 speed auxiliary trans still reside under the surface rusted aero styled body.

When I first glanced at this body I assumed it was form of armored car but taking just a moment to read the description reveals it as wire line truck used in oil field construction. Large spools of wire are set up in the back and unspool while the vehicle moves. The passenger seat in the truck spins around to the rear so the operator can oversee the process.

The listing for this truck is its on special experience with a detailed explanation of its working history along with other thoughts on International trucks and general life in the high plains of Montana. I’ve preserved it here for future eyes to enjoy once the listing expires.


I believe this truck to be a very special if not unique 1947, 1948 or 1949 International Harvester KB6F or KB-6 tandem axle van truck. This truck was purchased new by Dialog and used as a “wire line truck” in the oil fields before it was retired many years ago in the Williston North Dakota area.

It was sold at an auction for scrap a few years ago in the Williston area. A very sharp friend from Billings spotted it there and brought it from the scrapper shortly before it was scheduled to be melted. My friend then hauled it back to Billings where I bought it from him a couple of years ago.

I was born in 1952 and was raised on a ranch at Geraldine in north central Montana. Dad was a devoted fan of International Harvester tractors, trucks, pickups and some other equipment along with John Deere grain combines and grain drills. The International dealer was often frustrated because he could never get Dad interested in an International grain combine. Similarly, the John Deere dealer was often frustrated because he could never convince Dad to buy a John Deere tractor.

I worked with International trucks for many years at the home ranch and learned how they were superior in some ways to the Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, Diamond T, Reo, Studebaker and White medium duty trucks of the same vintage. All of those trucks except for the Chevrolet used flat-head engines. An overhead valve engine costs more to build but it typically has more power per cubic inch of displacement and is therefore more efficient as well. The International engine blocks supposedly had a higher nickel content to make them wear less and run longer than most of their competition’s engines.

Because I worked with IH trucks for over 40 years of my life, it seemed only natural that I develope a special interest in them and later started to collect a few of them. Dad’s first new truck was a KB-6 he bought at a reduced price from the home town dealer shortly after the new “L” series trucks were introduced in 1950. I learned to drive that truck in the harvest field when I was 6 years old. I found it difficult to reach the clutch, brake and accelerator pedals for several years but I managed somehow.

That KB-6 served our family very well for over 60 years before it was retired a few years ago. Dad bought a B-160 new in 1960 as well as a 1966 Loadstar 1600 when it was a year old in 1967. That truck came from the widow of Chester Montana farmer who was hit by a train while driving home in his International pickup. Dad added a 1976 Loadstar 1700 to the fleet before he partially retired from farming in the later 1980’s.

Dad over revved the BD-240 6 cylinder engine in the 1956 S-120 4×4 when he was chasing a calf in reverse and low range. That engine dropped a valve and broke the cylinder head. Mom over revved the BD-264 6 cylinder engine in the 1960 B-160 during harvest and it dropped a valve and broke the cylinder head as well. Other than rolling two trucks when I was young, neither my brother, sister nor I had any serious mechanical problems while driving any of our very dependable IH truck fleet.

I collected 3 single axle KB-12’s over the last few years. They include a fire pumper, dump truck and single axle semi-tractor. I recently sold a very nice KB-11 single axle semi-tractor but I just found a rut free KB-10 single axle tractor to replace it. I still have a K-8 winch truck and a K-3 1 ton with the original IH wood flat bed. I recently found a superb original KB-1 that I hope to have running soon to make it will be ready for a new home.

I presently have a good IH R-110 short wheelbase pickup as well as an IH 1957 Golden Jubilee listed here on eBay. I have two more S-120 4×4 pickups to list here as well as a very rare IH 1968 C-1200 Diesel with the 560-660 IH 6 cylinder Diesel tractor engine option.

When this truck became available a couple of years ago, I simply could not let it get away. I am sure there is a rarer or more interesting IH truck out there somewhere but I can’t recall ever having seen one. Tandem IH trucks of this vintage are very scarce as are large van trucks of the same era. Any IH KB-series tandem axle truck with a large van body has to be a very rare if not unique truck. I have over 250 collectible cars, trucks and tractors to deal with so I recently decided this gem in the rough should go to a new home along with many others in my collection.

This huge streamlined van rides on a 176″ wheelbase and measures 316″ long by 96″ wide and 98″ high. It is powered with the stock “Blue Diamond” 269 cubic inch gasoline engine. It has a 5 speed transmission and a “Brownie” or Brown & Lipe 3 speed auxiliary transmission as well. This truck even has air rather vacuum boosted hydraulic brakes. I believe this truck would have been shipped new with 8.25 – 20 tires. I have no spare for it and it is missing the right front outer dual at this time. I believe I have one or two more wheels and tires to go with this gem at the home ranch which is 225 miles north of where I am normally at.

This “wire line” truck has a large drum located a bit forward of the center of the van body. It is power operated by a PTO on the side of the 5 speed truck transmission. The right hand or passenger’s seat is shown facing forward in one photo and facing backwards in another photo. When it is facing forward, the passenger can see where the truck is going.

When that passenger seat is facing backwards, the operator can run the controls for the large winch drum. One photos shows those controls which include a clutch pedal to operate the winch drum, a sift lever to reverse the direction of rotation of the winch drum, a large lever for a brake on the drum and a small steering wheel to move the fork that controls how the cable winds onto the winch drum. You can see that fork located behind the drum when you look into the back of the open van body.

The engine turns over but I have not yet attempted to make it run. The carburetor and air cleaner are missing. I recently located a parts truck but have not bought those parts yet. The carburetor and air cleaner will go with this truck when it sells. The chrome plated letters on the right side of the hood say KB-7 and are missing from the left side of the hood. I am presently dealing with a friend who may have a better hood for this truck. The headlamps are missing in the photos but I am sure I have a pair in the attic of my warehouse and they will be included.

The sheet metal on the cab and front of the truck is rust free. There are a few spots in the floor of the open van body that are rusted through due to years of dirt laying on the that floor. This truck probably came with a pair of jim poles that the wire went up and over before going down into the oil well. I do not have those poles.

It appears that the partially open top and rear of the van body never were covered. One could remove the winch drum and associated hardware and enclose the open part of the roof and rear to make a completely enclosed van. This is a very rare opportunity to acquire a very rare and interesting truck so please give this opportunity some serious thought if you like large IH trucks from this era. This truck could be the center piece of your collection.

The odometer on the speedometer shows 6,023 miles so I assume this truck has at least 106,023 miles on it. I recently applied for a Montana tytle and I should have it in my possession in about 2 weeks. This truck can be stored here for a few months if you are planning a trip to beautiful Montana sometime in 2016. Thanks a lot, Bob Woodburn – phone 406-799-1847 in Bozeman Montana USA

I also encourage you to check on the items for sale by Bob by clicking here. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest.

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