Restoration Revives: Sweet Memories
Tim Musselman’s handsomely restored 1948 International Model KB-2 truck with ice cream freezer.
Country kids have fond memories of summer visits to their “city slicker” friends, in part because of ice cream trucks. When the ice cream truck arrived in a neighborhood, signaled by music broadcast over a loud speaker, play time stopped and everyone gathered to enjoy frozen treats.
Tim Musselman grew up in Galion, Ohio, where the Andrews Dairy truck made regular stops. Tim’s memories of those days resurfaced after members of his car club visited a collector’s home where an unusual truck was displayed. “I could not be along that day,” he says. “Without any specifics, club members encouraged me to check it out.”
Tim Musselman with his restored International Model KB-2 ice cream truck. When he was a boy, kids would call out “ice cream man!” when the Andrews Dairy truck entered the neighborhood. With that fond memory, Musselman added the wording on the truck’s door.
Out of curiosity, he went to see the truck, which turned out to be a 1948 International Model KB-2 from the Andrews Dairy fleet. “It was the same truck from which we bought ice cream as kids. It immediately captured my interest, as I loved the style of that truck,” he says. “The engine didn’t run, but the metal was reasonably good. Within 10 minutes from when I first saw the truck, I had it bought for $8,000. The truck had additional meaning as my dad’s print shop provided services for Andrews Dairy.”
Seeing the truck spurred memories. “I remembered those great times, playing with my friends as a kid,” Tim says. “When the ice cream truck came into our neighborhood, kids would yell, ‘the ice cream man is here!’ Word spread quickly. We’d run home to get a nickel from mom to buy a treat. Those good times have been firmly embedded in my mind with the purchase and restoration of the truck.”
Keeping it true to memory
After Andrews Dairy retired the 1948 International Model KB-2, the truck changed hands twice. The man who owned the truck before Tim began the restoration process, but lost interest. When Tim got hold of the truck, one of his early decisions was whether to retain the dairy fleet’s original colors of gray and white. “I decided to paint the truck one solid color,” Tim says. “I discovered an off-white shade called Vanilla Shake. I thought it would be an appropriate color for an ice cream truck.” Shades of red used on the Andrews name and accent points set off nicely from the off-white.
The iconic front of the International KB-2 truck. Note the chrome strips on the side of the center grille. The widened lower grille gave it the appearance of “wings.” Tim added the red center lights and bells on the left.
The International’s Green Diamond 6-cylinder engine was plagued by a deteriorated intake gasket, and the spark plugs were beyond use. Tim quickly learned that replacement parts for old International trucks were hard to locate and quite expensive.
After putting the truck on blocks, Tim removed the fenders and chrome pieces. He welded metal parts that were loose, especially those around the fenders. Metal parts were sandblasted in preparation for priming and painting.
Back view of the International ice cream truck.
Tackling restoration challenges
Two major challenges stood in the way of restoration. Every piece of glass in the truck was broken and the window run channels were shot. In addition, chrome pieces on the truck were covered by paint over-spray from a previous restoration attempt.
Removing paint from the chrome was tedious and time-consuming. “It was a tough job scraping it off,” Tim says. Numerous small strips of chrome comprise the grill, and many hinges were also made of chrome.
The International’s Green Diamond 6-cylinder, 73hp engine. Tim replaced worn parts, including wiring, to bring the engine back to working order.
Tim had new glass made according to the truck’s specifications. Felt guides for the door glass were replaced at a cost of $500. Fortunately, the doors’ internal mechanisms worked properly once the glass was replaced, he says.
The truck’s 960-pound ice cream freezer is an aftermarket product. Incredibly, the freezer’s compressor was in working condition. “I breathed a sigh of relief when I first turned on the compressor,” Tim says. He had a local refrigeration service check for leaks and recharge the unit. When the freezer is needed, Tim plugs it in the night before. “The cold plates will hold for 10-12 hours the following day,” he says.
Tim duplicated the original Andrews Dairy decals, but with a touch of his own. “I added ‘Ice Cream Man’ on the doors,” he says. “We yelled that as kids when the truck came through the neighborhood.” Whitewall tires add the finishing touch.
A long history in truck manufacture
International Harvester launched its motor truck line in 1907. The first high-wheeled, 2-cylinder outfit was known as the Auto Wagon. Having established a reputation for manufacture of farm machinery, International built on that success with a motorized farm wagon designed to handle rough roads between farm and market.
Tim restored the truck’s cab to “better than original” condition. Note the turn signal on the steering column and the gear shift on the floor.
Although different in appearance and performance, there is a strong linkage between the early Auto Wagon and today’s International truck line. With its air-cooled-engine, early International trucks were designed to perform efficiently and economically.
Numerous model improvements were introduced over time. After the 1930s, when the C and D lines were manufactured, International trucks moved into a modern era. In 1940, the company introduced the K line. This innovative new line ranged in size from half-ton pickups to giant six-wheelers. Large transport rigs were designed to haul cargo over highways; other models transported heavy loads over rugged, off-highway terrain. The company manufactured 82,626 trucks that year.
Launch of International’s famed KB line
In 1947, International celebrated its 40th anniversary as a truck manufacturer. The company’s postwar truck line was designated as the KB line. The characteristic difference between the K and KB line was a widened lower grille with a wing-like appearance. The company sold 122,000 KB-1 and KB-2 trucks between 1947 and 1949. The KB series was eventually replaced by the L series.
The KB models progressed from 1 through 14, designated by load capacity. For example, the KB-1 was a 1/2-ton model; KB-2, 3/4-ton; and KB-3, 1-ton. No KB-9 or KB-13 models were produced.
The International ice cream truck before Tim began his restoration. Photo courtesy Tim Musselman.
There were few differences between the KB-1 and the KB-2. The two models share most of the same mechanical and chassis components. Their rear axles are supported by a single roller bearing. With a heavier load rating, the KB-2 had a stronger suspension. Headlights were built into the fenders; the hood had an alligator-style opening.
Chrome “wings” were added to the sides of the grille in the KB-1 through KB-5 models. Chrome was used in a wrap-around piece on the front hood, in a hood ornament and in lettering indicating model designation below the International nameplate on each side of the hood.
Serving up good times
The ice cream truck is not Tim’s first restoration project. He has restored more than 20 vehicles, including tractors, automobiles and fire trucks. “My most challenging restoration was the 1928 Seagrave fire truck that originally belonged to the Bucyrus, Ohio, fire department,” he says.
This International truck advertisement features the KB-2 model.
But few pieces in his collection have resulted in as much plain, old fashioned fun. “It gave me great satisfaction when it was completed,” Tim says. “I’ve displayed it and served ice cream from it for many special events. It always draws a crowd. And I marvel at the smiles it brings to admiring adults and children.” FC
For more information: Tim Musselman, (419) 689-0839; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freelance writer Fred Hendricks of Mansfield, Ohio, covers a vast array of subjects relating to agriculture. Email Fred at email@example.com.
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