Restoring a 1938 International - Aussie Made Cab #3136

front view - Copy
My 1938 International D15R

In 1938 the Chamens General Store in Condobolin, NSW became owners of a brand new International model D15R tray back delivery truck. The truck began life in USA as a “flat-back cowl” built in September 1937 and was exported to Australia.

Nations around the world were protective of their home industries after the Great Depression and Australia was no different. Truck chassis with the grille, front guards, bonnet and flat-back firewall were imported and the cabins were made and fitted by local Australian coach builders. The D15R fitted this criteria.


Thursday, September 21, 1995 on page 87 of “The Land” newspaper an advertisement appeared for “vintage trucks, 1930 1 tonne International, very good order.....”   By the following Saturday I was the D15R’s fifth owner.

Fast forward to 2011... Although a lot of the restoration work has been completed to the chassis, engine and running gear, (as seen at the 2011 and 2012 SCAATS Shows at the Museum of Fire, Penrith), this article is about the work currently being done to the cab #3136.

Restoration of the cab has been undertaken by the same craftsmen who did Bill Maddy’s truck at Warwick’s Autobarn of Kenthurst, NSW. Warwick specialises in bringing classic vehicles back to better than brand new. His eye for detail is second to none and ‘close enough’ is just not part of his vocabulary.

Once the firewall and rear wall were removed from the rest of the cab the full extent of damage caused by rust was revealed. The damage was extensive. As with all restoration repairs the workload was divided into stages and each stage completed before proceeding with the next.  It was discovered that the roof was made in three separate sections, spot welded and lead wiped.  Over a period of time the lead joint had weakened and cracked allowing water and rust in to do their damage.  The cab was completely sand blasted and primed, repaired, lead wiped and reprimed.The following items were replaced with all new hand-made sections or panels: - The rear main structural beam, seat box, double curved apron panels under the door openings, bulkhead behind the windscreen, sill boxing under the windscreen, structural door hinge boxing (both sides), doubled curved bottom rear corners.

The windscreen frame was originally screw fixed to the opening of the cab. The method of fixing was modified in line with the American truck cabs which had the windscreen hinged at the top   The jelly-bean rear window was just a hole in the rear wall of the cab and needed reinforcement to stop the window glass from vibrating loose and falling out.

The doors were another story. Each door was a different size to the other and did not close properly into the opening. Repairs supposedly done previously to the doors were found to be bodgie and had to be fixed before proceeding. Both doors were acid dipped. Warwick trimmed the openings in the cab, cut down parts of each door and modified the hinges until he was satisfied the doors fitted the openings with the same clearance all round. New shaped panels were made and welded in to replace the rusted out bottom parts of the outer skins. The doors also had to be modified to take different locks because the originals were broken and beyond repair, and replacements were impossible to source. Like so many old vehicle parts these days they seem to be made of “unobtainium” - an extremely rare and precious metal.