When mapping the history of International Harvester, known today as Navistar International Corporation, you don’t so much draw a timeline dating back to the mid-1800s, but create a tree with branches sprouting off in countless directions. The company’s roots lie in the farm equipment developed by Cyrus McCormick, which morphed in the early 1900s into International Harvester when McCormick’s son merged his father’s business with other agricultural machinery manufacturers.
Along with agriculture implements and, later, the iconic, Raymond Loewy-designed Farmall tractor, International Harvester got into the truck business, producing a diverse range of medium- and heavy-duty work vehicles. They also built light-duty pickup trucks from the early 1930s and the Travelall wagon from the 1950s. When the Jeep’s no-nonsense, all-terrain utility stuck a chord with post-war ranchers, fire departments, utility companies and others whose professions didn’t necessarily include paved roads, International Harvester took notice and developed the Scout.
Like vintage Ford Broncos and early Chevy Blazers, Scouts are growing in popularity with enthusiasts and collectors. They’re much more affordable than muscle cars of the same era, while offering distinction that’s sure to be noticed at a car show or cruise event. They’re also pretty easy to work on, although replacement parts aren’t as plentiful as for, say, a ’70 Chevelle SS.
Two generations of the Scout were produced, the first introduced for 1961 and running through early 1971 and the second running from 1971 through 1980. We’re examining the first-generation models in this story: The bare-bones 80 models built through mid-1965 and the more comprehensively equipped 800 models succeeded them. We’ll tackle the second-gen Scout II models in a subsequent story.
Like the Jeep CJ, the Scout 80/800 were minimalistic steel boxes mounted on a four-wheel-drive chassis (2WD models were also offered). They rode on a comparatively long 100-inch wheelbase, which was 17 inches longer than the Jeep – and 5 inches longer than even today’s Jeep Wrangler – delivering a smoother ride than the somewhat darty-feeling CJ. Consequently, the overall length was longer, too, stretching 154 inches versus the diminutive CJ’s 139-inch length, adding much-appreciated legroom and cargo room. But while longer than the Jeep, the Scout was by no means a large vehicle. Today’s Chevrolet’s Equinox “compact” SUV/crosser, for example, rides on a 112.5-inch wheelbase and is just a whisker shy of 188 inches long.
With its wheels pushed to the very corners of the body, with almost no front and rear overhangs, the Scout’s off-road approach and departure angles were great, too, at 47 degrees approach and 35 degrees departure for 4WD models. The 2013 Jeep Wrangler’s maximum approach angle is 44.6 degrees.
The Scout was developed as an open vehicle, with a folding windshield, and was offered in a wagon body – dubbed the Travel Top – and a pickup, each featuring a removable steel roof. Initially, both bodystyles featured a bulkhead between the front and rear sections, but it proved inconvenient on the Travel Top. Vacuum-operated windshield wipers, no carpet and even a lack of roll-up windows exemplified the stripped-down aesthetic of the early models. They were powered by International Harvester’s 152-cubic-inch Comanche four-cylinder. Scout 800 models were available with a larger 196-cid four-cylinder, a 232-cid inline-six, a 266-cid V-8 and a International’s own 304-inch V-8.
When it came to off-road prowess, the Scout was a four-wheeled mountain goat, scrabbling over rocks, fallen timber and other obstacles with the assistance of tough Dana 27 axles front and rear and a Dana 18 transfer case. Later in the first generation, a Dana 44 was used for the rear axle and the transfer case was upgraded to a Dana 20. Interestingly, the differentials on models using the front and rear Dana 27s were offset to the passenger side to line up the driveshafts with the transfer case. The Dana 44-equipped models featured a center differential, although that’s not an absolute identifier, because there were some production variations with early-produced models.
1961 – Scout introduced in late 1960, with production at International Harvester’s plant in Fort Wayne, Ind. Approximately 28,000 were sold.
1962 – Roll-up door windows are offered, but sliding windows remain standard. The interior bulkhead was eliminated on the wagon-style Traveltop models.
1963 – Continual refinements included seating upgrades and corrosion-resistance features.
1964 – The “Red Carpet” special edition commemorates the 100,000-unit milestone and is distinguished by, naturally, red interior appointments.
1965 – The Scout 800 appears and is distinguished from 80 models with a new aluminum grille and horizontal International badge in the center of it, along with an “IH” badge on the front edge of the hood. A fixed windshield replaced the folding design and the windshield wipers moved from the top of the windshield to the bottom. A turbocharged version of the four-cylinder engine was offered.
1966 – A larger, 196-cid slant-four engine (111 horsepower) was offered, along with a new Sport Top model that featured a semi-fastback design.
1967 – Another new engine – a 266-cid V-8 – was offered to compete with the new Ford Bronco’s V-8 powertrain. The Dana 44 replaced the Dana 27 for the rear axle and the Dana 20 replaced the Dana 18 transfer case.
1968 – The 152-cid four-cylinder engine was discontinued.
1969 – The 800A is introduced, delivering more amenities and revised design cues, including square headlamp bezels. AMC-based “6-232” inline-six engine offered. Special “Aristocrat” model featured two-tone paint, special interior trim and chrome wheels.
1970 – Special “SR-2” model offered.
1971 – 800B introduced and distinguished by rectangular marker lights and all-bright headlight bezels (they previously had black inserts). Special “Comanche” model offered, with two-tone paint, special interior trim and chrome wheels. Commerical-intended “Sno-Star” model offered, with unique white-and-yellow paint scheme with a black stripe, Meyer snow plow, body-mounted plow lights, 6-232 engine, Warn locking hubs and more.
Make no mistake about it: Early Scouts are primitive. If you’ve never driven one, prepare for trip back in time. There’s virtually no sound deadening and sound reverberates through the steel box body and the three-speed-backed four-cylinder engine doesn’t make much power. These vehicles will not cruise happily down the freeway at 75 mph. In fact, they probably won’t hit 75 mph – not with the four-cylinder, anyway. The rudimentary suspension and four-wheel-drum brake systems are archaic, as well.
But there is elegance in the Scout’s simplicity and as long as you don’t plan to use one as your daily driver, the throwback driving experience is charming – at least for a while.
The top three issues to check for when inspecting Scout 80/800 models are rust, rust and rust. Beacuse just about every component from the dashboard to the heater box was made of steel, sheet metal cancer afflicts nearly every square inch of the vehicle. It’s more deceiving on vehicles that appear outwardly rust-free – or relatively so – because even in dry climates, crevices under the hood and other areas retained water to trigger corrosion in unseen areas. Unless the buyer is purchasing a freshly restored example, he or she should assume there is rust to contend with. Also: the windshield frame is notorious for rust, so it must be checked for silicone or other material used to stop leaks.
There’s a healthy support network for Scout owners and parts for the 80/800 models are relatively easy to come by, but the vast majority are used and reconditioned components. Fortunately, there are relatively few parts to contend with in these simple vehicles. And these aren’t exactly Hemi Superbirds in the collector market, so there’s no need to fret about tracking down a date-coded hose clamp.
A handful of companies, such as Ohio-based Super Scout Specialists, offers some reproduction body and interior components, including floor pans, rocker panels, seat risers, etc., but no one is stamping replacement fenders and other large panels. Many of the inner steel parts for these vehicles are relatively simple in design and can be duplicated.
A buyer should inspect the driveline of a Scout carefully to ensure the axles and/or transfer case don’t require costly repair or replacement. Also, many Scouts were modified over the years for greater off-road capability or simply the quest for better drivability, so the seller should be quizzed about non-original suspension parts, axles, etc. The engines are pretty robust, but aren’t powerful. Later V-8 models definitely have a drivability edge over their early four-cylinder counterparts. The later models also have more creature comforts.
What to pay
Scout cultists have chased the best examples for years and they’ll command good prices, but with the collector market just starting to wake up to them, prices driver-quality examples are still very affordable, at around $3,000-$5,500, with more original, finer-condition examples naturally commanding more. The attrition rate and comparatively low production numbers, however, make 80/800 models much rarer finds than the more plentiful Scout II – and a driver-quality model will most likely have a few needs, including rust repair.
Fully restored examples will command more than $10,000 in some instances, especially for the special-edition models, but that can prove a good buy if the quality of the restoration is excellent, because the restoration investment likely exceeded the market value. That’s the balancing act enthusiasts have to straddle for many vehicles, so a buyer should always try to find the best example possible, even if it stretches his or her budget. For early Scouts, however, there’s not a large inventory to pick from, but holding out for the right vehicle will pay off in the long run.
Parts and resources
Super Scout Specialists
IH Parts America
Grass Valley, Calif.
Anything Scout LLC
The Scout was inspired by the civilian Jeep, but was larger overall and introduced a new size and proportion for utility vehicles that would be emulated by every other major American auto manufacturer.
Early Scout interiors were frugal yet functional. A vinyl-covered bench seat was standard, but arm rests, a radio and even a heater/defroster were options on early models.
Not even roll-up windows were standard on early Scouts. In fact, they weren’t even available until the second production year. A simple slider was the standard access point, which made it impossible to hang a tray from the A&W at lunchtime.
The Scout’s pickup configuration was the standard body style, with the wagon-style, full-length Travel Top roof an option. Early in production, all configurations featured a bulkhead behind the seats, but that made access to the cargo area inconvenient with the Travel Top, so the bulkhead was soon eliminated on Travel Top models.
The pickup body incorporated a 5-foot-long bed with side “benches” that International Harvester touted as offering room for four additional passengers – a claim no manufacturer could get away with today. The benches also concealed the fuel tanks. A single, 11-gallon tank was standard and mounted on the left side. A secondary 11-gallon tank was available and mounted beneath the right-side bench.
Scout styling is notable for the lack thereof. Its minimalist features include virtually no trim or bright work. The small “IH” emblem in the grille identifies this example as one of the early “80” models built from 1961 through early 1965.
In 1966, the Scout was offered with a Sport Top roof, giving it an almost sport coupe-like profile. The Sport Top was offered as a canvas soft top or fiberglass hard top. It is said to have inspired the Jeep Commando. A 1967 model is shown.
The Scout’s commercial-duty International Harvester engines were quite durable. A 152-cid, 90-hp four-cylinder was the base engine and it made 135 lb.-ft. of torque. It was literally half of the company’s 304-inch V-8 – the same architecture, but with one cylinder bank lopped off. Despite its Spartan nature, there was a lot of steel in the full-frame Scout, so the “4-152” engine was challenged with tugging a vehicle with a nearly 3,300-pound curb weight. Fast, the Scout was not.
In mid-1965, the updated Scout 800 debuted and was instantly identified by the large, horizontal “INTERNATIONAL” badge that replaced the “IH” insignia in the grille.
The Scout 800A was introduced in 1969 and was distinguished by headlamp bezels with black centers and an offset grille badge. In 1971, the 800B came out and its design differed primarily in the elimination of the bezels’ black centers.
A number of special-edition Scouts were available through the years, including the 1971 Commanche, which featured a two-tone butterscotch/white paint scheme, chrome bumpers, chrome wheels. It also came with sliding rear windows. The standard engine was the “6-232” inline-six and the “V-304” V-8 was available.
Owing to its utilitarian roots, the 1971 800B was also offered in the Sno-Star Series, which was also available on International’s full-size pickup. The Sno-Star was a dedicated snow removal model, with a Meyer snow plow, high-mounted plow lights and yellow/white paint scheme that blend municipal visibility and muscle car-era flashiness. Surviving examples of these rust-prone vehicles are incredibly rare.
Most Scouts were 4x4s, but more than a few were 2WD. A quick look at the front wheels is the giveaway. If the hub protrudes from the hub cap, it’s a 4WD model. If it doesn’t – as seen here – it’s a 2WD Scout.
Suspension modifications are common. This mildly raised Scout is typical of the alterations made to enable the installation of larger off-road tires and enhance ground clearance.
Rust is the great slayer of early Scouts, afflicting nearly every vehicle in one way or another. Any buyer considering one should inspect every nook and cranny for corrosion.
Rocker panel rust-through is one of the most common problems with early Scouts. Fortunately, aftermarket replacements are inexpensive. On the other hand, if the vehicle has rusted rockers, they’re likely not the only rust issue to deal with.
The removable roofs on the pickup and wagon-style Travel Top models are susceptible to rust, particularly in the lower corners and edges, where water collects. Also: Windshield frames and side-window frames are prone to rust, which is usually easy to spot because of silicone used to stop leaks.
With nearly every exterior and interior component made of steel, even the Scout’s dashboard is prone to rust.
The Scout uses simple leaf-sprung straight axles with Dana center sections, front and rear. Fortunately, they are easy to service, although they don’t provide the most sophisticated ride characteristics.
Excellent-condition, rust-free first-generation Scouts are getting more difficult to find and their prices are consequently going up. This red Travel Top example was recently offered at $10,000, but given its condition – which was excellent, but not concours-quality – $7,500-$8,000 would be a more realistic price.
International Harvester Scout Collectors Guide: Part 2
1971-80 The Scout II years
Published Dec 31st, 1969