The International Harvester Metro Van was a Step van, also known as walk-in or multi-stop delivery trucks. These vehicles were usually forward-control trucks once commonly used as milk and bakery delivery trucks. Typically 1/2-, 3/4-, or 1-ton panel trucks that allow the driver to stand or sit while driving the vehicle. Variations included a passenger bus called a Metro Coach, chassis with Metro front-end sections (for end-user customization), and a truck called a "walk-in cab". The truck (also called a chassis cab) variation could be configured with a separate box or container for cargo transport or left open to be fitted with other equipment such as a compactor for a garbage truck or a stake bed.
The International Harvester Metro Van was produced from 1938 until 1975 and was originally based on the 1937-40 D-Series trucks. One of the first models built was sold to the Czechoslovakian Army and destroyed by the Nazis during World War II.
Unlike their trucks and other vehicles, the Metro bodies were built by the Metropolitan Body Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a company that International Harvester would later purchase. Final assembly was then done in one of the IH manufacturing plants. The original design was by Raymond Loewy of Studebaker and Coke bottle fame.
The overall design of the Metro vans remained somewhat unchanged from 1938 until 1964 when it was redesigned by the in house design team in the Chicago Metro plant to be competitive with the Boyertown and Hackney vans. The corners were squared and an opening hood was added for easier access to coolant and oil dipstick. An eight-cylinder engine was also made available.
In the 1950s, they began producing variations such as the "Metro-Lite," and "Metro-Multi-Stop" vans. In 1959, The "Metro Mite" was introduced. It was based on the Scout drive train. In 1960 the "Bookmobile" was built by the Metropolitan Body Company on an IHC chassis. By 1972, all IHC Metro Vans were stripped-chassis that other manufacturers could build on. After 1975 they were discontinued along with all other light-duty trucks except for the Scout, which was last made in 1980. The Metro Van was re-issued by Navistar in 2000, as a medium-sized delivery truck.
The powertrain of the Metro vans was typically based on an equivalent series International light- or medium-duty truck. For example, an LM-120 1/2 ton Metro van (5,400 lb weight capacity or GVWR) with a 7 3/4 or 9 1/2 foot body effectively had the engine (SD-220), transmission, rearend, wheels (although with varying bolt patterns), and braking system of an L-120 Scout pickup truck.With the introduction of each new series of truck, updated Metro vans were included as part of their commercial line.
Metro model designations can be difficult to decode considering that the differently configured vehicles could have the same model number. For example, in reference to the LM-120 mentioned previously it was available in several different wheelbase and body lengths yet its GVWR (5,400 lbs) remained the same. Each series has unique models and configurations that may have common features or functions across the series.
Model numbers were typically coded into the VIN number along with the "build number" (its position in the production sequence) and any other special identifying code(s).
The suffix number (i.e. "120" of "LM-120") would typically refer to the weight class (GVWR) of the vehicle. As the suffix number increased, so did the designated carrying capacity. In some instances, this number was also used to designate the weight capacity along of a certain model vehicle with particular features or functions.