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International Scout - Scout Evolution

The Risse and Fall of International's Popular Scout

In 1961, International's best seller wasn't a truck, it was a new and revolutionary all-purpose platform called the Scout. In fact, the Scout brand would become the all-time best seller for the Fort Wayne, Indiana-based company.

First dubbed the Scout 80, this simple and rugged platform equaled the performance of the famed Willys Jeep. Its advantage was totally modern mechanicals along with distinctive styling. The Scout 80 concept actually started in the '50s when International's management pushed its styling and engineering departments for a versatile two-wheel-drive platform aimed at the farming community. Several styling studies were considered, and by the end of 1958, a few rectangular-structured prototypes were created.

Plastic Body StructuresManagement approved of the concept, and the engineers studied a variety of materials to be utilized in the Scout's construction. Steel, of course, was the current industry standard, but several automakers were also experimenting with a variety of plastics at the time. Goodyear had invented a manageable process to make plastic vehicle bodies, but International determined the materials to be cost-prohibitive at the time.

The Scout's first styling prototypes left no doubt the vehicle was designed as a truck. Senior management, however, deemed its rear bed too short, and thus, not practical as a pickup. The decision was made to enclose the vehicle and create a pseudo station wagon. Versatility quickly entered the fray, and the new platform was modified to include a removable top and doors. When corporate saw the first development vehicles, it was decided that a four-wheel-drive option would also be added.

Built For the FarmThe Scout 80's marketing campaign was directed at farm owners. In-house program critics wanted to expand the Scout's appeal with the addition of a rear passenger seat. This sensible but small addition created internal engineering problems, however, as the original platform had included an engineered bulkhead in the body structure that would prevent a rear seat from being fitted to the first Scouts.

Unique EnginesThe new 14-ton Scout was powered by a novel engineering idea. To save design and production costs, it was decided to cut the 304ci, V-8 mill in half and utilize the innards. This radically inclined, slant-four mini-mill displaced 152 ci and had five main bearings, 8:1 compression, and developed 93 hp at 4,000 rpm.

The first Scout 80 had gone from sketch to production in only 24 months. In the first year, 28,031 Scouts were produced. Three years later, 100,000 units were roaming the countryside.

The Redesigned Scout 800In 1965, International updated the Scout 80 to the new Scout 800 series. Along with the new 800 designation came an optional turbocharged version of the I-4 gas engine, producing 111 hp at 4,000 rpm and 166 lb-ft at 3,200 rpm. The fold-down windshield feature was eliminated, and a Half-Scout ultrastripped platform was available for custom accessory builders. Half-Scouts included only the front enclosed cowl, with or without a top and windshield. In 1966, International added stronger axles along with a 266ci V-8 developing 154 hp at 4,400 rpm. Total vehicle production was up to 22,000 units that year. The '68 units were basically carryovers, but the turbo-four was dropped and a 196ci I-4 became the base engine. AMC's 232ci inline-six, dubbed 6-232, made its appearance in 1969 along with International's 193hp, 304ci V-8. In November 1968, the 200,000th Scout was produced.

SCOUT IIDecember 1967 saw the first styling mock-ups of a larger Scout II. The platform featured more of everything, including increased passenger space and a variety of powerplant options. This new Scout series would be introduced in March 1971. The Scout II was longer, had wider doors, and became more mainstream with bright-metal exterior trim. Metal TravelTop and CabTop versions were offered along with the Econo units, which utilized the cloth fabric. The Half-Scout was also continued.

The four-cylinder, 196ci engine remained, delivering 111 hp. New additions were AMC's 150hp, 258 inline-six, replacing the old 232. International's in-house 345 V-8s were added. Five transmission choices were offered.

As expected, the heavier front axles were rated at 2,500 pounds with the rears offering up to 3,500 pounds of capacity. Optional suspension choices included higher-capacity leaf springs front and rear. Air suspension, as well as a bumper-mounted winch, were also optional on the 4x4s. Scout II sales doubled '70 figures with almost 30,000 units sold.

The Scout II series for 1973 displayed a new split vertical bar grille, which could be described as very Jeepish. The V-8 mills remained, but the slant-four disappeared. The company's T-13 and T-14 transmissions were replaced with Warner's T-322. A Dana 44 3,200-pound-capacity front axle was optional on the 4x4s.

Rallye stripping was added. Another rare bird, a Scout II panel version, brought 85 cubic feet of rear space to the market. At the end of May 1973, 300,000 Scouts had been sold.

In 1975, the 196ci slant-four returned as the standard powerplant. The outsourced AMC 258 inline was dropped. A new version of the 345ci V-8 was added, now labeled the V-345A.

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Jason Carpp
Jason Carpp

It's a shame that International Harvester discontinued the Scout when they did. It's even more a shame that International Harvester quit making light trucks and SUVs. It's too bad they couldn't find someone to help provide the money to help keep them afloat.