The Scout is the holy grail of vintage four-wheel-drive vehicles, not because it was exceptional at anything, but because it carries the height of ‘60s SUV design and is essentially forbidden fruit.The Scout was produced by International Harvester (IH) in their Fort Wayne, Indiana, plant from 1961 to 1980. It came in several configurations of wagon and truck, but the most sought after is the Scout 80. IH began building trucks and pickups in 1907, but did not reach mainstream popularity until after the war. In 1953, it added a truck-based wagon, the Travelall. In the late ‘50s, it began to transform the Travelall into a competitor for the two-door Jeep CJ. In 1961, the Scout 80 made its debut. The Scout’s chief designer, Ted Ornas later said of the vehicle:
“…the market potential for a 4-wheel-drive recreational vehicle was an unknown quantity in the early 1950s. The only such vehicle offered in the post-war period was the Willys Jeep, a version of the military jeep produced for World War II. It was a flat-sided bare-bones product, and American military personnel learned to appreciate its ability to maneuver over rough terrain. Sales volume was very low. In early 1958 we were directed to develop a concept proposal to enter this small market of that time.
So help me, Mr. Reese, manager of engineering, said, ‘design something to replace the horse.’ There was no product definition to use as a guide. It was even proposed to use the defunct Henry J body tooling. Compound body surfaces were considered too far out for this type of vehicle. The military jeep was thought to have the correct appearance. Our design sketches with the flat-side, no contour look never excited the executive committee. The program began to die. One night while sitting at our kitchen table (full of frustration and desperation), I dashed off this rough sketch on a piece of scrap mat board. It had contoured sides and was designed for plastic tooling. The next morning it was shown to a committee member. He reviewed it with controlled enthusiasm, but revived interest in the program. We were off and running. Goodyear produced many plastic parts for WWII and had formed a large plastic engineering group. We entered a program with them, a scale model was vacuum formed to simulate body assembly.
This model received executive approval for appearance. By July 1959, Goodyear completed their costing and, because of the high costs, the plastic program was cancelled. By this time the contoured design met with executive approval and a decision was made to convert the body design to steel. Starting in late July 1959 a full-size clay model was completed, and in November 1959, it was approved. Looking back, it was a remarkable program with fast paced engineering and manufacturing developments. The total development time of 24 months was an heroic achievement considering the concept was unique and no in-house engine or manufacturing was available or even considered when the program started.”
The Scout 80’s production run lasted from 1961 to 1965. It was powered by a 152 cu-in.–four cylinder and spotted Dana 27 axles. Both front and rear axles were offset to the passenger side for the purpose of lining up the driveshafts with the Dana 18 transfer case. With the introduction of the Scout 800A model in November of 1968, the 152ci inline four was given turbocharging, and the scout received a 196ci I-4, 232ci I-6, and 266ci and 304ci V8s as options. The 800A also was updated with Dana 44 axle in the rear and a hybrid Dana 27/30 axle in the front, and received a Dana 20 transfer case upgrade. The 800A lived a short life, and was replaced by the 800B in 1971, which was only built for the ‘71 model year.
In 1972 the full-size Scout II was introduced. The Scout IIs received a slew of updates, while using the power plants of the 800As. The Scout II did receive a 345ci and 392ci V8 option as well as the Nissan SD33 diesel engine as an option. Scout IIs received a full Dana 30 front axle upgrade, but the Dana 44 front axle became a special order option with Trak-Lok limited-slip differentials. Some of the pickups and larger Tavelall models were optioned with American Motors Corporation (AMC) 401ci big block V8s.
Unfortunately, The Scouts of all iterations were plagued by rust. Many vehicles have been lost to time because of the poor build quality of the vehicles. There are jokes that Scouts were built with rust standard. This comes from where the sheet stock that the vehicles were made from was stored. International purchased the same quality of steel for their bodies as the rest of Detroit, but let it sit outside to be weathered. When the rusty rolls of steel were delivered to the factory, only one side of rust was removed from the surface and the truck was subsequently assembled with contaminated steel.
Thankfully today, there are many shops that have dedicated themselves to the preservation of the entire Scout legacy, and even some that have sourced IH’s original steel stamps and have begun to produce body panels for afflicted Scouts so that they might live to see another day.
If you are interested in learning more about the IH scout, search the web or pick up a copy of the International Scout Encyclopedia which covers the entire history of the vehicle and excerpts from its designers.