You’ve likely seen them, the agonizingly aggrandized 4x4s, the overstocked overlanders, the off roader that has no business being on a city street – the last five years have seen a surge in the popularity of vehicles with a sense of adventure in their builds, especially those that have had their rust spots buffed out and received a glossy new coat of paint. Even if it is the result of the age of spectacle and measuring success with Instagram likes, a lover of cars can’t help but admit that the reemergence and return to form for these bastions of 4WD is, objectively, a beautiful thing. Of the pantheon of respected 4WD steeds – the ilk of the Land Rover Defenders, Chevy Blazers, Ford Broncos, Jeep CJ-5s and Toyota FJ40s of the world – the International Harvester Scout was second to none in its heyday. Today, the Scout holds a uniquely revered status, in large part due to the fact that a new one hasn’t been made for decades. The Scout only enjoyed a brief moment in the sun, a shade under two decades. As with anything, the limited nature of the Scout makes it more sought after, especially when considering the somewhat purposefully obscure tastes of many 4×4 seekers today. That’s no knock – just a plain fact. The Internationa Harvester Scout came from obscurity, and its humble roots certainly contribute to its preciousness.
Roving the earth in the years between 1961 to 1980, the InternationalHarvester Scout sprung from an agrarian ancestry. Built by the agricultural company International Harvester, which had made its mark as a manufacturer of machinery for the farm, construction equipment, and trucks – sometimes of the more outlandish variety – the International Harvester Scout was the precursor to the modern SUV.
To trace the roots of the International Harvester company, you have to go back nearly 200 years, to 1834, when inventor and Virginian Cyrus McCormick patented his design for the horse-drawn reaper. Beginning as McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, the company became a success in the world of agricultural machinery. It wasn’t until the industrialist and capitalist titan J.P. Morgan stepped in to finance a merger between McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, Deering Harvester Company, Milwaukee Harvesting Machine Co., Plano Manufacturing Co., and Warder, Bushnell, and Glessner, that International Harvester was properly established.
In 1907, the company deviated from its bailwick to start producing light trucks, beginning with their Model A “Auto Buggy.” IH would continue to make trucks for the next 70 years. Among the most popular trucks they made was the International Harvester Travelall, manufactured from the years 1953 to 1977, ultimately eclipsed by the Scout. The company also produced several vehicles for the US Navy and Marines during WWII.
Scout At War
IH built several impressively rugged vehicles for the US military. The first was the International Harvester M-1-4 Half Ton Cargo Truck, which was produced beginning in 1941. It was followed shortly by their M-2-4 One-Ton 4×4. Around 10,500 of the Full Ton trucks were produced, and 1,100 of the half-tons were produced before being completely replaced. There was also the M-3-4 ton-and-a-half 4×4 as well as several militarized 4×2 semi-tractors, artillery tractors, and even an experimental tank called the T-7. Trucks, tractors and specialty machinery vehicles were IH’s bread and butter for many years. It wasn’t until 1961 that IH harvested gold with the Scout, which would cement a perception in the car world and public conscious that was far from farmy.
1960 - 1965
The International Harvester Scout is often considered, if not the first SUV made than among progenitors to the modern Sports Utility Vehicle and four by four classes. Built as a rival to the two-door Jeep CJ 4x4s, which had emerged from the ghost of the Willys-Overlanders of the ’40s and early ’50s, the first International Harvester Scout, the Scout 80, debuted in late 1960.
In 1958, International Harvester began to develop a vehicle, as they said, designed “to replace the horse.” Something utilitarian and reliable, but not as sparse and austere as the Willys/Jeep military-style wagons which filled that niche at the time, though were far from being commercially explosive. The Scout 80s were built to be more hospitable than their more spartan counterparts; sliding side windows, a fold-down windshield, vacuum windshield wipers that swiped from top to bottom, and a comfortable if plain interior were featured on the model 80, which was produced from 1960 to 1965. The Scout 80 ran on a normally aspirated 152 cubic-inch four-cylinder engine, generating around 93 horsepower.
IH produced models with travel-top hardtop, sport-top soft top, and cab-top roofs, each model featuring a pickup style bed. Marketed as a vehicle of astounding versatility, IH boasted that in minutes a Scout can transform into “a station wagon, a convertible, a light-duty hauler, a runabout” (which is a term that desperately needs to be brought back). In the half-decade during which the model 80 was produced, the company made just over 100,000 units. They celebrated the 100K landmark with the special edition Red Carpet Scout 80, a pearlescent white model with a red interior. Only 3,000 were ever produced, and good luck finding one today.
Scout 80 Campermobile
Camp culture in the 1950s and early ’60s was huge. The Scout 80 helped foment the enthusiasm for the outdoors with its special Campermobile variant, released in 1963. Among the rarest variants out there, you’d be lucky to find one of these out there, and luckier still if it was in reputable shape. The quintessential 80s all-integrated camp vehicle was cutting edge for its time, with sleeping bunks that folded out of the sides, a built in dinette set, stand-up galley, and toilet. Due to the scarcity of orders, few were produced, and even fewer bought. Shoddy manufacturing led the Campermobile to be prone to falling apart in rough terrain, and little affection from the public for the design led to fewer than 100 being purchased.
1965 - 1971
The Scout 80 ignited International Scout’s popularity. It needed a mighty successor to fill its shoes, and the Scout 800 was the champion IH produced. The first 800 model was produced from 1965 to 1968, and offered an upgrade in comfort and aesthetics. This meant the addition of bucket seats, new instrumentation and heating systems, a redesigned interior and the optional inclusion of backseats. Beginning in 1967, IH offered the first vehicle with a V8 engine.
In 1968, International Harvester released the Scout 800A to replace the original 800. More internal amenities were added, and continuing the tradition of the “Doll Up Scout” luxury model offered on 80 and 800 bases – called the Champagne Series, the International Harvester offered an “Aristocrat 800A” model, accessorized by a stainless steel roof rack, rally wheels, and a two-tone blue and silver paint job.
The 800B model replaced the 800A in August of 1970 and ran for just 8 months until March of 1971. The 800B only received very minor upgrades. The short-lived Scout iteration was the last car produced in a prosperous decade for IH. All told, the International Harvester Scout outsold total Jeep sales in the decade, making the Scout the 4×4 of the ’60s.
1971 - 1980
The Scout II came onto the scene in 1971, marking a new decade for the International Harvester Scout. Though it would prove to be the last decade for the 4 x 4, that was no result of the Scout II’s performance. The Scout II – today a highly sought after relic – received several noteworthy changes in design, including the a new front grille design. Electronic ignition was added to the V8 engine, and the wheelbase sat about three inches lower than the 800 and 80 models. Saginaw power steering was also added. In 1973, the 196 4-cylinder engine was permanently abandoned by all Scouts, replaced by 196 4-cylinder engine. Also becoming standard to the Scout II were Dana 44 axles and power disc brakes.
Scout Traveler And Terra
Variants like the Scout Traveler and Scout Terra came along in 1975 with extended wheelbases, both measuring around 118 inches, in comparison to the Scout II’s 100 inch base. Manufactured from 1976 to 1980, the two variants also featured fiberglass tops.
The Super Scout II, or SSII, is an especially sought after cult classic from the revered Scout Line for its raw and stripped-down style that appealed to the advent of adventurers when the 4×4 fad started experiencing a Renaissance. Introduced in February 1977, the SSII was built, like the OG Scout 80, as a competitor to a Jeep model. By the mid to late ’70s, Jeep had eclipsed IHS in popularity. Outside of the commercial realm and into the world of racing, the SSII saw plenty of success.
Jimmy Ray Jones was a professional electrician and amateur off-road racer in San Diego during the 1960s. In 1969, Jones purchased a Scout 800A V8 and fell in love. Enthralled by the mighty International Harvester Scout, he entered in a pro race, the NORRA (National Off Road Racing Association) Baja 1000, taking home 13th place. He sold the 800A in 1972 and moved up a weight class, to a Scout II 4 x 2. The same year, he won the 4 x 2 class in the Baja 1000, and suddenly IHS was a name in racing.
The biggest win an International Harvester Scout race car ever took home? In 1977, an unsponsored Jerry Boone drove an International Super Scout II to victory in the 4×4 class at the Baja 1000, completing the run in 19 hours and 58 minutes, triumphing by almost two hours over the Jeep CJ7 – a final victory for the Scout, which would be discontinued three years later. Racing continued for years after Scout’s commercial discontinuation, however, and in 1982 drivers Sherman Balch and James Acker would win almost all of the major off road races of the year – the Baja 250, the Baja 500, the Baja 1000, the Mint 400, and the Parker 400 – driving a Scout SSII.
Making A Comeback
Scout Out The Scrap Heap
The International Harvester Scout finally ended production in 1980. The vehicle’s demise is attributed to a variety of factors, including the United Auto Workers’ 1979-80 strike, and a general inability to compete with Detroit’s Big Three auto manufacturers (General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler, the latter of which makes Jeep).
All told, 532,674 IH Scouts were produced in the period of 1961-1980, and it remains one of the forebears of the modern SUV. Still its discontinuation hasn’t stopped from adherents of the adventure vehicle from continuing to love it. Scouts are making a comeback, with customizers like New Legend taking the old Scouts from the scrap heap and bringing them up for the present moment. The ultimate dark horse in the 4 x 4 world is returning, though not from the dead. Call it a respite, a brief sabbatical, a 37-year beauty nap, because the fact is legends never die.
The 15 Best Adventure Vehicles
If an International Harvester Scout is your cup of tea, then this list of the best adventure vehicles will be right up your alley.
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