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Classic Car Cultist: International Scout II

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On: Wed, May 4, 2011 at 4:47PM | By: Chris Salamone


Classic Car Cultist: International Scout II

 Oh… you’ve never heard of the International Harvester Scout II? Well, I’ll bet you’ve seen it in one of the 34 movies and shows starring this epic American off-roader, such as Desperado, Avalanche, Milk, Dallas, and, of course, Swamp Thing. The Scout II may not be your absolute favorite hero machine, but as far as credibility is concerned, Swamp Thing is commonly accepted as the authoritative standard for cult classic films and this car is the perfect automotive pairing to swamp monsters and hokey script writing. But, the Scout II offers much more than just a funky aesthetic.

The International Harvester Scout was one of the seminal production civilian off-road SUVs, meant to compete with early Jeep models. Scouts were produced as two-door trucks with inventive options such as a half cab pickup or removable hard and soft tops. Considering that IH spent a total of 24 months in R&D for the entire vehicle (engine and manufacturing), the Scout was and remains to be an incredible achievement.

IH manufactured Scouts from 1961 to 1980 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Ted Ornas, the former Chief Designer of the Scout, noted while describing the Scout’s production run that “the basic sheet metal remained unchanged until production stopped in 1980. During that 20-year period 532,674 Scouts were produced and those vehicles set the stage for the future off-roaders of the 1970s, '80s, and '90s.” In my humble estimation, the main thrust of the Scout’s influence was the vehicle’s boxy handsomeness combined with functional model offerings for off-road enthusiasts. People like to get dirty, to feel the wind in their hair, to experience the broken and defeated trailhead firsthand—such is the tao of the removable top.

Ending with a bang, the final model type was called the 1980 RS Special Limited Edition and was also the rarest model ever produced. It had unique features throughout: Polycast wheels with Tahitian Red accents, a velour russet interior, special pin-striping, chrome bumpers, and woodgrain trim. But, the basic Scout II went far beyond charming good looks. IH produced in-house engines meant for serious outdoorsmen, including a potent 304 and 345 V-8. After 1974, Dana 44s were standard on both front and rear axles and available gear ratios went all the way up to 4.54. Limited slip differentials were optional.

Another contributing factor to the Scout’s current popularity was the vehicle’s success on the off-road racing circuit. A Scout II won the Baja 1000 in 1977, one of nine cars (of 21 total which started) to actually finish the race. Notable victories also included Riverside in 1978 and several Bajas by other drivers in 1977, 1978, and 1982.

Over the years, the Scout II has become something of an off-roading legend in the annals of automotive history. In October 1978, International Harvester created a new slogan intended to promote environmentally responsible 4x4 practices: “Take a Stand to Save the Land.” That slogan, combined with the ingenuity and foresight demonstrated by the Scout II, serves as a testament to the long-term thinking and brilliance of International Harvester.

If buying a Scout II counts as taking a stand, I’m ready to start saving the land right now. Although you might have had trouble digging the Scout II from the dusty shelves of the forgotten past, remember this: heroes get remembered, but legends never die.


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