Fiends, it’s time once again for Domestic Bliss: that little slice of your week where we take time to reflect on all the American Auto Industry once was. American buyers weren’t always subject to the Neapolitan flavors we endure today. No, there used to be as many car companies across the land of the free as there were individual tastes. Blame profit margins, ruthless capitalism or the unions, but those days are long gone. While most of the smaller companies got gobbled up by one of the big three, a few simply stopped building passenger vehicles all together. One of them was International. Hop the jump for the tale of one of their toughest rigs.
Full disclosure: This is my truck (pre 4wd conversion), and I was raised in one that was very similar. In fact, my very first moments in the pilot’s chair were peeking over the baby-blue school bus steering wheel in my father’s ’78 Scout Rallye. His truck was a freebie hand-me down that spent 10 years sitting in a field. New fluids and a battery were all it took to get the thing road-worthy again.
International Harvester had been building passenger vehicles for a good long time before the Scout II came along. Though most widely known for its farm equipment, IH had produced light-duty vehicles since 1911, and over the years developed some of the most sturdy trucks in existence. After World War II, former GI’s were hungry for the vehicles similar to the GP’s (Jeeps) they got to use in the service. IH responded with the first-generation Scout – a bare-bones, go anywhere rig with an optional hard top. The 80-Serires Scouts could be had with a lowly four-cylinder or inline six-cylinder engine, both sourced from the company’s torque-happy tractors.
The truck evolved from there and never gave up on its capabilities. The Scout II was built with bullet-proof components like Muncie transmissions, Borg-Warner two-speed transfer cases, Dana 44 axles front and rear and Warn locking hubs. It was an off-road god straight from the factory. These rigs also boasted the most powerful engines of Scout history, including a 304 and 345 V8. While horsepower was nothing to brag about, both motors had enough torque to pull down a house, and for good reason. The 8-pots were the same motors IH was dropping in dump trucks and school busses of the day. If it was good enough to carry around 80 screaming kids, it should be good enough for a guy and his fishing tackle.
Enthusiasts recognized the truck’s potential from the get go. In 1977 Jerry Boone ran a mostly stock Scout II in the Baja 1,000. He ran the whole trail in just 19 hours and 58 minutes, which not only put him two hours ahead of his closest in-class competition, but also ahead of the Class IV modified trucks. Doesn’t get much more Fiendish than that.
Unfortunately, the late ‘70’s wasn’t the best of time for gas-hungry four-wheel drives. IH experienced massive profit losses across the board, and a new CEO recognized the need to cut lines that weren’t making cash. The passenger line got the axe in 1980 and the Scout II died.
Sort of. The legions of Scout owners everywhere refused to let the rigs fade into history. Though the drive-train components are nearly indestructible, body panels tend to “return to the earth” like it’s their job. The good news is there are a slew of sites out there dedicated to keeping Scouts alive and well. And that’s a good thing.
My father’s Scout served us for years, even after a pretty nasty wreck with a ’72 Chevrolet Pickup. We just pealed the driver’s side door off and kept running it, much to the local 5-0′s chagrin. Eventually, he gave it and a complete parts truck up for scrap. I was devistated, so when I found a two-wheel drive Terra in a field, I had to have it. But that’s another post.