1977 International Harvester Scout
1977 International Harvester Scout. Click image to enlarge

Story and photo by Bill Vance

The International Harvester Co. could trace its roots back to the invention of the first grain reaper by Cyrus Hall McCormick of Virginia in 1831. International Harvester was formed in 1902 through the merger of the McCormick Harvester Machine Co. and other implement makers.

Although known principally for its heavy trucks and farm machinery, IHC also made some passenger vehicles. From 1907 to 1911 it built a few high-wheeler “Auto Buggies,” and some regular touring cars with two and four cylinder engines. It produced truck-based “woody” station wagons from the 1930s to the ’50s, followed by the large, all-steel Travelall station wagon, a la the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban.

In the 1960s IHC decided to enter a new market with the 1961 International Scout, a rugged two/four-wheel drive machine that straddled the car-truck segments. The Scout was what we now call a sport utility vehicle, a genre pioneered by Willys-Overland’s Jeep following the Second World War.

IHC recognized that the demand for a versatile utility vehicle was expanding from the industrial and agricultural sectors into the recreational sports and off-road market. They identified this trend early because the sport-utility segment was still pretty sparsely populated, the main players being the American Jeep, the British Land Rover, and the Japanese Toyota Land Cruiser.

To broaden its sales appeal, IHC made its Scout bigger and more powerful than the Jeep. Its wheelbase was 2,540 mm (100 in.) compared with the Jeep’s 2,057 mm (81 in.). It had a 2.5-litre, 93-horsepower “Comanche” slant four overhead valve engine produced by cutting one bank of cylinders off its truck V8. Jeep’s 2.2-litre, F-head four produced only 75 horsepower. Two-wheel drive was standard on the Scout, with four-wheel drive optional.

The Scout’s styling was basically a box with the corners rounded off, looking like a small pick-up truck with the cab and cargo box integrated. There was a single bench seat, the roof could be removed, and the windshield folded forward. An optional top could be ordered for the pickup bed.

The Scout’s performance was reasonable, if not tire-burning. Car Life magazine (6/63) recorded a zero to 96 km/h (60 mph) time of 20.1 seconds, and a top speed of 129 km/h (80 mph).

Wind-up windows were added in 1963, and then in 1965 a turbocharged four was available, bringing it to 111 horsepower. For 1966 a 3.2-litre version of the four was offered, as well as a 4.4-litre overhead valve V8.

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

Another power boost for the Scout came in 1969 when the V8’s displacement was increased to 5.0 litres, and its horsepower to 180. A new, special “Aristocrat” model arrived with such enhancements as two-tone metallic paint, chrome plated wheels, wider tires, and a carpeted and padded interior.

Recognizing that the original Scout was due for replacement, IHC introduced the all-new Scout II for 1971. It was wider and lower, and offered greater passenger space, although the wheelbase remained at 2,540 mm (100 in.).

The Scout II’s engine and transmission choices were wide. In addition to the standard four-cylinder, optional were the turbo four, a 3.8-litre six, the 5.0-litre V8, and a 5.7-litre version of the V8 with 197 horsepower. Three- or four-speed manuals and an automatic transmission were available, and it provided such modern conveniences as power steering and brakes, and air conditioning.

By the mid-1970s IHC had decided to leave the light truck business and concentrate on heavy trucks. Thus the Travelall and IHC pickups were dropped for 1976.

The Scout II moved through the 1970s without major changes, although it did get several stripe and decal variations. As a replacement for the Travelall, a 2,997 mm (118 in.) wheelbase version of the Scout II called the Traveler was developed; a pickup, the Scout Terra, was also offered on this wheelbase, and an optional diesel engine was made available in 1976.

IHC was experiencing financial difficulties, and in 1985 it sold its agricultural equipment division to Tenneco’s J.I. Case Co. Heavy International trucks continued to be manufactured by a reorganized company called Navistar International Corporation.

The Scout II was discontinued in 1980. Although a new Scout was designed, looking somewhat like a jacked-up AMC Gremlin on steroids. It was not brought to market. In view of the later frenzied and apparently bottomless demand for sport utility vehicles, Navistar probably wishes it had stayed in the SUV business.

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