A Problematic Pickup: International Harvester Johnnie Reb Edition

Rustic and western-themed special editions have been part of the pickup truck business for generations. Dodge sold Prospector versions of the Ram pickup in the 1980s, and the same company sold “The Dude” “sport trim package” for its “Sweptline” pickups in 1970 and 1971.

The Dude is most famously — or rather, infamously — known because Dodge (or more likely its ad agency) made the peculiar choice of using actor Don Knotts as a celebrity endorser. People loved Knotts, but his best-known role as bumbling sheriff’s deputy Barney Fife hardly projected a “tough” image.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, International Harvester was still in the passenger vehicle market, selling pickup trucks, SUVs, and the small Scout 4X4 that competed with Jeep’s CJ vehicles. IH sometimes made region-specific special editions, like the snowplow equipped Sno-Star trucks for northern climes.

It looks to me like someone at IH was impressed enough with The Dude (or maybe they were just a Don Knotts fan) to have made a competitor for southern markets in 1971: the Johnnie Reb edition of the 1010 and 1110 pickups.

A paint and trim package, the Johnnie Reb came with a two-tone red over metallic grey paint job, with two stripes painted with stars adorning the hood. Apparently the stars and bars could be had as white stars over red stripes, or red stars over white stripes. If the grey, red, stars and bars weren’t evocative enough of the Old South, adorning the rear flank was a decal with “Johnnie Reb” and a caricature of a saber wielding Confederate soldier, apparently Johnnie Reb himself.

My guess is the unusual spelling of Johnnie may have been to avoid intellectual property conflicts. Bed rails with red inserts, and red or chromed steel wheels with ‘dog dish’ hubcabs completed the package.

At a time when Lincoln is discontinuing all of its sedans in favor of SUVs, it’s hard to imagine that in the 1960s pickup trucks were not family vehicles and utility vehicles mostly served niche markets. Even though those were the only vehicles that IHC sold, International tried its best to stay competitive with the larger automakers, introducing its new “Light Line” (to distinguish pickups and SUVs from the medium and heavy duty trucks IH also made) in 1969. Styled by IH design head Ted Ornas, the IH Light Line trucks had clean lines and a modern look that still looks pretty good a half century later.

Engine choices ranged from an inline six sourced from American Motors to IH’s own V8s in 304, 345, and 392 cubic inch displacements.

With IH’s limited dealer network, located primarily in small towns and rural areas, the Johnnie Reb edition was never going to be a huge seller. Slightly fewer than 500 were made (one source says 485, another says 487). How many survive is hard to tell.

As for how much the survivors are worth, well, values change over time, in both meanings of the word.  This price guide show early ’70s IH Light Line pickups as being worth between about $4,000 for a vehicle in #4 condition and $24,000 for something concours-worthy. Whether the Johnnie Reb package adds to or detracts from those values is an open question. With the current controversy over Confederate symbols, what was once seen as a relatively harmless appeal to Southern heritage, today might be more problematic, as the kids say.

[ImagesInternational Harvester, Chrysler Corp, Chris Castoldi/Pinterest]

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