Another Project !

1956 International SM-122 Metro-Lite Van !

Owning this van comes around for the second time for me. I bought it from a friend who bought it from a lawn and garden place. I must have had it for about 2 years and drove it almost every day back and forth to work. I owned it about 12 years ago and then sold it to a friend. My friend used it a year or two and then parked it on one of his properties. I drove by and saw the property had a for sale sign on on it, so I thought I should call him and see what was happening to the truck, and if it was for sale, to let me know how much he wanted for it. When he came back with a $75.00 price, how could I say no !


So far, I have pulled the front axle, put in new kingpins, wheel cylinders, brake hoses and shoes. The wheel bearings looked pretty good so they got repacked and reused. The drums are, well, I have read that they are hard to get, so I did not turn them..... I'll see what they are like when I get it on the road. I found two broken leafs on the front and replaced them with some that had a very similar bow and length. That gives them a stack of three on each side. I also pulled the rear axle and disassembled it for cleaning and painting. Once the 50 year old silly putty sludge was removed, I put things back together. That included new wheel cylinders, shoes, hard lines and brake hose. I topped all that off with a new master cylinder and all the rest of the metal brake lines. Now that it has brakes again, I can focus on making it run better..... A tune up is in order, as well as a carb rebuild.

Enjoy the photos !

Yes, I have the grille out yet. The radiator is in really tough shape. It will be coming out again, and it comes out the front. I cut at least four rows out and soldered them up just to make it "Yard Driveable", but everytime I fire it up, it develops a new hole or two. This trucks grille is made from stainless sheet material, with two rows of horizontal slats each side of center. I am MISSING the vertical center section that said METRO on it, so keep your eyes peeled for me ! In any event, I will have to track down a radiator that will fit. I hope to find a universal street rod radiator that will work or I will have to get a new one made. I think this truck probably had a fan shroud too, but I am missing it as well.

The old gal sure looks good with her rims painted ! It looks like I will have to put another set of leafs in the rear though to level it out. When it is on level ground, it hangs a bit in the back, and theres not much in it now. If your not familiar with the Metro-Lite, it was made with fiberglass front fenders, fiberglass front and rear roof caps (each end in this shot), and a fiberglass lower portion of the engine cover. Just about everything above the frame was aluminum. I think that was pretty advanced for IH and 1956...... I have a few holes to weld up, but otherwise it is a pretty straight truck.

The "fire truck red" has to go and soon. The truck has 3 layers of paint on it. The original was Internationals fire engine red, but over that was a fairly decent job done in white. I have a hunch it was sold by the dealer in white, because the paint job was pretty complete..... they got in areas where you would not have expected to see white over the red, something only a new truck owner would demand. Then, someone came along and did a BRUSH JOB (or roller) in red again. I am thinking that a solid color will not help it reflect its age. So, I plan on doing it two tone as they did in the original literature, in Willow Green and Magnolia Ivory. THAT would reflect better, that this is a 1956 truck !

Ugh, Somebody cut a BIG hole in the right side of the body. They were obviously not happy enough with that, so they also cut another about the same size right around the corner on the passenger side ! I will have to locate some aluminum the same thickness and try to flush weld it in. Regarding the rear tail and brake lamps, I think those outer ones were not stock on the truck. They only show the one tail/brake light on the inside left...... I have the rear bumper, so, I think I will weld up those outer holes right away, and just put some lights in the bumper. That way the "purist" who gets this truck after me can just pull the bumper and weld up whatever holes I put in it for lights a lot easier than reworking the aluminum body. Those top marker lights are GLASS and GEORGEOUS ! I cant wait to get them back into shape and lit up. Wish I could find a few more like them.... I dont think I would hurt the truck much if I added the 3 in between the existing two, both front and back.

Where on earth will I get new window rubber for this thing ?? You Pickup truck guys have it made ! Oh Well. Same for the rubber door seals. I am not finding much that lines up. I did find some new door handles that will be very close to original at Mill Supply (Step Van parts) Those old Chevy van mirrors will have to go. The originals looked rectangular, and I will be on the lookout for a pair of those. The holes are still in the truck from the originals. In the literature, some artists drawings locate the longer international emblem just under the forward side window, just above that body line. Then they have just below that, the SM-122 emblem. I picked up the International emblems and also some S-120 emblems. I really do not know if there are SM-122 emblems or not. The parts book I picked up does not show any body parts for the "Lite" body. Similar to the back, those modern sealed beam lights will get welded shut, as well as those original lights on the angled hood area. Those are original options, but i do not like the looks of them. I will have to hunt for the lower turn signals. If I can not find some, I will put some street rod bullets in a single hole, then if I find the real deal, I can put them on without making any changes. On the roof, that black thing ?? Yep, a 4" hole in the fiberglass end cap has a section of stove pipe running thru it. As fantastic and neat as it sounds to me to have another woodburner put back in this truck, I dont think it was an IH option, so I am glassing the hole shut <G> The front bumper is pretty twisted up.... Fat chance finding a straight one like that. We'll see what happens when I get that far. Oh, and that tractor in the back ?..... About a 1926 Centaur G. I am missing the engine, which may have been a Newway single, but more probably a LeRoi Twin. Doubtful I will ever get that thing running.

Ah, a BD-240 ! Thanks to the forum at OldIHC, I was able to find that flat pad with the stamped numbers. I have to say that I am so used to looking at this engine from the angle I have to look at it, that when I see an engine in a pickup, it looks strange ! But I have been a VAN guy all my life (probably owned near a hundred of them), so I am used to it. I pulled off the coil because it is in the way for messing with the points. I hated that the last time I owned it, and I just might make a bracket to hold the coil on top of the valve cover. Note that my engine has the oil cap in the back. I hope I can get an intake/exhaust gasket as this one can let puffs of smoke out now and then. The carb needs a once over, and so does the exhaust system. If you look real close, you'll see a GM alternator up there.... I converted this thing to 12 volt the first time around and pulled a bunch of new wires. Most of the wiring is in top shape yet.


I want to get the red paint off soon and just hit it with white urethane primer so it looks a little more presentable. Then I can come back and massage a panel at a time into shape. You may have noticed that I do not have a big fancy shop, so it will take me a while as I work in between the weather on this one. Once it is mechanically sound and made white, I have to jump back onto a Case garden tractor project that I need to finish for winter. Then it is back onto the truck.

If you want to see my progress, click for page two. Page two - progress !

If you have any tips, pointers, pictures or leads on any Metro-Lites in Wisconsin, please contact me thru the contact link on this page:


Thanks for looking !