Motoring Memories: International Scout, 1961 1980 motoring memories classic cars car culture
1978 International Scout II. Click image to enlarge

Article and photo by Bill Vance

The International Harvester Company’s roots can be traced back to the invention of the grain reaper by Cyrus Hall McCormick of Virginia in 1831. As consolidation began to take place in the industry, McCormick Harvester joined with some other implement companies in 1902 to form the International Harvester Company.

Although known principally for heavy trucks and farm machinery, IHC made some passenger vehicles. From 1907 to 1911 it built both high-wheeler “Auto Buggie” types and conventional touring cars. It even built occasional cars on truck chassis’ into the 1930s, and produced truck-based “woody” station wagons from the 1930s to the ’50s. This was followed by a large, all-steel Travelall station wagon similar to the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban.

In the late 1950s, IHC recognized that demand for the versatile utility vehicle was expanding from the industrial and agricultural sectors into the recreational and off-road market. This type of vehicle had been created and popularized by Willys-Overland’s when it marketed a civilian version of its military Jeep following the Second World War. IHC identified the trend quite early when the main players were the American Jeep, British Land Rover and Japanese Toyota Land Cruiser.

In 1961, International Harvester introduced its Scout sport utility field, a rugged two/four-wheel driver that would quickly become the fastest selling product in IHC’s history. It was bigger and more refined and powerful than the small, traditional Jeep CJ-5. Its 2,540 mm (100 in.) wheelbase was 483 mm (19 in.) longer that the CJ-5′s 2,057 mm (81 in.), or about the same size as the larger Jeep CJ6’s 2,565 mm, (101 in.).

The Scout’s 2.5-litre, “Comanche” slant-four, overhead valve engine, created by cutting the right bank off their 5.0-litre truck V8, had 93 horsepower, substantially more than CJ’s 2.2-litre, 75-horsepower F-head four. Two-wheel drive was standard with four-wheel drive and limited slip differential optional.

The Scout’s styling resembled a small pick-up truck with an integrated cab and cargo box. There was a single bench seat and the roof and doors could be removed and the windshield folded forward for a sporty feel. To keep cargo dry an optional top could be ordered for the pickup bed.

The Scout’s performance was reasonable. Car Life (6/’61) recorded zero to 96 km/h (60 mph) in 20.1 seconds, and estimated top speed at 129 km/h (80 mph). But there were some criticisms: the testers noted that the removable steel top leaked “like a sieve.” Also, the rugged clutch and three-speed transmission’s stiff floor-mounted shifter made it a “real man’s car.”

Wind-up windows came in 1963, and in 1965 the 2.5 engine was made available with turbocharging which increased horsepower to 111. A four-speed transmission became optional. Then for 1966, a larger 3.2-litre four (half a 6.4-litre V8), and 4.4-litre overhead valve V8 were offered.

Creature comforts were also upgraded along the way with a smarter interior and improved sound insulation to counter new competition from the 1966 Ford Bronco, 1969 Chevrolet Blazer and 1970 GMC Jimmy.