Cornfield Cadillac by Miranda Kurpe

Cornfield Cadillac by Miranda Kurpe

All work, no play makes things dull… or however that saying goes. But what if you could incorporate your work into play? Thats the case with Erik Thornton and his 1951 International Harvester L130. A Journeyman machinist by trade, Erik is no stranger to customization, and nothing is a better example of that than his work truck. Erik’s journey with the international started in 2017 when he stumbled on its for sale ad. The truck was in pieces, the cab was off the frame and hidden under ugly red primer. Just for fun he sent the seller a lowball offer, and to his surprise the seller accepted. Erik remembers thinking “Shoot, I guess I got a truck!” So, he called up a buddy and asked to borrow his dad’s trailer. Then they headed to Red Water Alberta to go get it on Valentine’s Day weekend.

He brought it home and started putting it back together. Erik wanted it to be reliable, so he put the cab onto a 2004 3/4 ton Chevy chassis. This way he could have all the style of the vintage international and all the reliability of the newer Chevy. It was a match made in heaven, and by that, I mean his shop. He traded the Internationals original engine for a radiator and other parts. The truck is currently powered by the 2004 Chevrolet 6.0L LS and its running a 4L80 transmission. It has the Chevy’s 4.10 gears and disc brakes all the way around, so it stops just as good as it stops others in their tracks.

He built a custom flat deck for it and fabricated smokestacks to compliment his cherry bombs and dual exhaust. But after a while he started feeling guilty waking up the kids every time he’d leave for work, so he added mufflers under the deck and put caps on the stacks, so he can still use them from time to time. He also built a custom transmission tunnel cover and front visor from scratch. For the visor he used some scrap metal from work. He gave it a textured and weathered look by leaning expanded metal against it and he bent the sides to give it the curved shape. The grill and headlights are original, but the front bumper was fabricated out of 10 gauge steel. The flat bed sides and rear bumper are made from 14 gauge steel which he sandblasted and sprayed the bare metal with a vinegar/hydrogen peroxide mix and watched the surface rust instantly.

For the first year there was nothing on the back, but Erik always wanted a full service truck box for it. So, when two cabinets came up for sale he jumped at the opportunity. He was so excited that he didn’t even argue the price. Erik had built a step up on the back and they fit perfectly. The cabinets were white and originally, he wanted to paint them to match the truck, but then he decided to pinstripe the heck out of them instead!

Erik hand sanded off the red primer to reveal the spectacular original blue paint and the remnants of an old Lethbridge Esso logo. It took Erik a couple years before he could decide on what colour to pinstripe the hood and fenders. In the end he decided on Ivory, Kansas City Teal, Proper Purple and he incorporated a gold leaf inlay on the design. The paint and patina are preserved by a Cloverdale Paint armour shield industrial paint.

Erik has fine attention to detail, cutting out an International logo out of a patch on the rear bumper and installing a light behind it. He kept the original marker lights on the fenders but upgraded the bulbs to LED’s.

The interior is full of unique custom features including this custom Pistol shaped handle for his four wheel drive lever. He cut the pistol design out of a checkered plate panel on the plasma cutter. He did a custom Bezel to attach the Chevy’s gauges into the International dash and the seats are original to the truck but he recovered them. Erik found that the column shift was hitting his knee, so he bent it upward for more clearance. The truck didn’t come with a heater, so Erik installed one from a 1950’s Fargo, and he made the inner door panels from stainless steel conveyer belting left over from a job.

The original floor was in good shape, but he had to make a new transmission cover and insulate it, so he covered the insulation with street signs and license plates, making it truly one of a kind.

The International has 20 inch wheels with 33 inch mud tires. He had to hack out the fenders to make them fit.

Erik enjoys daily driving it in the summer and using it as his work horse. This is a fun cruiser and lets not forget that it’s a physical representation of his skill set. His favourite shows to take it to are the Sherwood Park Tuesday cruise night, the Trip Club Ice Breaker show in Nisku, Edmonton Street Rod Show and most recently the Lesco Truck show as a vendor. The truck makes a perfect advertising tool for his pinstriping business. Erik doesn’t have any big plans for it in the future, he just wants to drive it and enjoy it.

He remembers rushing home from work one day, maybe going a little faster than he should when the drivers front tire blew out on highway 14, thank goodness no one was beside him because it swerved all over the road. He was able to get it safely to the shoulder but the explosion burrito’d the front fender and shredded the tire. He got a ride home from a stranger who witnessed the accident, and his wife took him back to the shop to grab a trailer so they could bring the truck home. His kids said they heard the explosion at their home four kilometres away. Thats two and a half miles for our American readers. Originally, he was looking to replace the fender, but he couldn’t find any so he decided to fix it. He went to town with a hammer and incredibly he was able to work it back to its original shape. Even he couldn’t believe that it fit. Just goes to show anything is possible with the right motivation and elbow grease. The signal light flew off but luckily, he found it in the ditch a few days later. He left the scared pinstriping as a reminder and cleared over it.

Erik wants to thank his wife for letting him get the truck Valentine’s weekend and for supporting him during the build process even when they had newborn twins at home. He’d like to thank his boss and all the guys at Woody’s Rig Welding for letting him use the shop and encouraging him with the build.

Erik also has a 1973 International Travelall project vehicle with a similar style like, clear coated patina. It is also Chevy powered with a small block 305. A Travelall is similar to a suburban and having more room makes it the perfect family cruiser.

Erik has always been interested in cars, when he was 16 his father offered him a 1973 Porsche 914 that was retired to the back apple orchard, “If he could get it running, he could have it” New fuel lines and a points system later, he had it going. The bumper was bent so he straightened it with a tractor and an apple tree. He drove the Porsche for two years until he bought a 1987 Toyota Supra. He made a deal with his father; his dad would pay for his gas if it wasn’t a V8. So, he got a 7m-gte straight 6 turbo engine instead. He drove the Supra for five years until he moved to Alberta and realized he needed a truck.

Erik moved to Alberta in 2004 and had multiple Toyota pickups. He later met his wife and in 2013 he graduated to a crew cab because they were expecting their first child! After that, the Toyota streak ended, and he purchased an ‘06 GMC Sierra 6.0L and soon switched to an ‘06 Silverado Duramax Diesel which he still daily drives in the cold winter months.

Eriks best friend’s dad was a mechanic and taught him how to work on cars when he was in high school. After graduating Erik went to Wyo Tech trade school in Wyoming for auto mechanics and street rod fabrication. While there he saw a demo on pinstriping done by Bob Spina and was fascinated. After finishing the course, he had a hard time finding work but because he was a dual citizen he landed a job in Alberta. He started working at Baker Boyz custom paint and restoration shop. Erik stayed at Baker Boyz for 8 years in which time his interest in pinstriping took off, being taught by the legendary Ron Gibbs and Gary Jensen. There his confidence for the paint style flourished.

After that he started a machinist certificate program at a different shop and he put pinstriping on hold. Unfortunately, the shop he was apprenticing at couldn’t give him enough hours so he was laid off. He then called a good friend asking if his dad could use help around their shop, he finished his apprenticeship at Woody’s Rig Welding. Where he does welding, sandblasting and painting. He has been there 8 years and counting. In the past two years, Erik’s passion for pinstriping has come full circle, now having a successful side business that he hopes one day can be full time. To pay homage to his days at the Baker Boyz Shop his old boss gave him a RatFink antenna topper.

In the future Erik would love to have a lead sled, something slammed and chopped. He’d also love to get back to his roots and get an 80’s Porsche 911.

Recently Erik was driving and saw an international semi truck with “Cornfield Cadillac” pinstriped on the back. This resonated with him, because Internationals are often referred to as “Cornbinders” and that day he went straight home and without hesitation pinstriped “Cornfield Cadillac” on the back of his truck, in Ivory and Alpha blue.

Every once and while we are blessed with a passion for what we do. Erik found his calling in pinstriping and fabrication. If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. The skills he developed for work helped create the masterpiece that is the “Cornfield Cadillac” There is a feeling of pride when you can truly say “I built that” and there isn’t an inch of that truck that doesn’t showcase Erik’s skills. We can’t wait to see what he does with the Travelall, but knowing him, it will be the perfect mix of work and play.

For more info on this build and future projects follow him on instragram at @riksratrodihc and for his Pinstriping business follow @erkipinstriping


Article by Miranda Kurpe (MNK Photography)

Photography by Miranda Kurpe (MNK Photography)


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1 comment

Great article on the IH build!
I also have an IH truck, its a 1936 that i have over 3000 hrs into it at this point!

Mark Rainey

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