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Scout SCORE: Frank Howarth’s Factory Sponsored IH Scout Racer

Posted in Features on December 14, 2016
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Photographers: Frank Howarth

Southwest desert racing became a motorsports phenomenon in the late ’60s, and motor vehicle manufacturers recognized the marketing gold right away. Companies sponsored race teams, and those sponsorships brought opportunities for drivers and builders. Some big racing names got involved, and new names soon became big. One of the names you didn’t see in the early days was International Harvester (IH), but that would change.

It started with one man and one Scout. A San Diego–based racer named Jimmy Jones bought a new ’69 Scout 800A as a family vehicle, but it didn’t stay a schlepper very long. By the end of the year, it had competed in the 1969 NORRA Mexican 1000 and placed 13th in its class, but that was only the beginning for Jones. By 1972, he had upgraded to the new Scout II—a 4x2 powered by a six-cylinder engine no less—and in a perfect storm of luck, endurance, and skill, he won the class that year. This got the rapt attention of IH Sales Engineer Larry Ehlers, who carried the news up the food chain to IH Light Truck Marketing Manager Dick Bakkom, and he recognized the opportunity.

Convincing the IH board to invest advertising money into desert racing sponsorships was an epic, uphill struggle that took years. The sponsorship idea finally floated as a marketing companion to a sporty new Scout to be patterned after the desert racers. The concept was first called the Mountaineer, then Scout Side Kick (SSK) and finally SSII, but it got IH execs to sign off on sponsoring several SCORE race teams for 1977.

It’s 1982 all over again! This old racer is still tight enough to be racing, perhaps in the NORRA vintage desert races. The restoration done by Terry Hankins brought it back to its last event, the 1982 SCORE San Felipe 250, which happened to be the inaugural for that race. Though the Traveler never came in SSII trim (open top, door inserts, special grill, rollbar), it was easily converted.

Three teams were signed up late in 1976 and a fourth in 1977. Jimmy Jones was first, followed by Frank Howarth, another San Diego area-based driver and builder. Next was Sherman Balch, a very well-known driver of Jeeps who had just won the ’76 SCORE Championship at Riverside, California. First-year rookie Jerry Boone was signed up in 1977 after winning his class in the Baja 1000 that year driving a brand new SSII. You can read about all this in a new book, International Scout Encyclopedia from Octane Press (octanepress.com/book/international-scout-encyclopedia), which has a chapter on the factory race teams.

Prior to taking the IH sponsorship, Frank Howarth was probably best known as a builder-fabricator. He had built and raced buggies, done fab work on several race trucks, including the Jimmy Jones Scouts, and had even co-driven for Jimmy in the Scout II. As a result, Frank had a good idea of what he wanted in a race Scout, but those ideas took him on a different path than the other sponsored drivers.

Frank’s choices raised eyebrows and still do. While the others chose 100-inch-wheelbase Scouts, Frank asked for the 118-inch wheelbase Traveler variant that had debuted in 1976. The reasoning was simple. The Traveler was only marginally heavier, yet the long wheelbase offered more stable handling at high speeds and a much less punishing ride. The long wheelbase would make maneuvering on short courses a little more difficult, but it wasn’t a big problem until stadium racing debuted in 1979 as part of the SCORE events program. After prerunning the first of those and learning the Traveler just didn’t turn tight enough, he sat those races out even though it cost him points.

The longer wheelbase also allowed Frank more room to move things around and create a better weight balance. Off Road Distributors (ORD) was Frank’s business. He had a line of performance parts for Scouts based on some of the products he used on the race truck. He also did custom fab work and race prep.

After one season, Frank recognized, as the other teams had, that the rear Dana 44 was a little light for the amount of “frequent flyer miles” generated in desert races. Sure, you could truss it up but failures were still common. Frank decided to go with a semi-float Dana 60. Technically, that didn’t meet Class 3 rules, but Frank got some inside help from IH, who wrote a letter explaining the Traveler was the replacement for the Travelall and the Travelall had come with a semi-float Dana 60 rear axle option. Yeah, maybe that was stretching things a bit, but it got by SCORE tech.

Next up was Frank’s engine choice. After the first season, he replaced the IH V345 with an IH V392. The 392 was never offered in the Scout but fit the Class 3 rules by being in the same engine block family as the Scout 345, and those extra 47 cubic inches added a bit of power. Sherman Balch later made a similar upgrade.

Today, Frank jokes about his racing career saying, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” He ran a lot of races, placed well, and was always very high in the SCORE points standing but never won a major race. His last in this Scout was the SCORE San Felipe 250 in 1982, after which it went into storage. Frank’s contacts and engineering background led to a job with IH (which became Navistar), first as a technical representative in their Mexico truck plant and later for plants in North America. He retired in 2003 and now divides his time between Baja and Southern California.

During his time racing Scouts, Frank formed a strong friendship with Terry Hankins, an engineer at the IH engine plant in Indianapolis. Terry had helped with some special engine mods for the teams and even built Frank’s first 345 engine personally. In 1992, Frank traded the racer to Terry with the understanding it be maintained in his original race trim. It was still in good shape, but in the ensuing years, Terry did a cosmetic restoration and kept it as it was in that last race. It’s been at various shows and even done a little racing here and there, but it has mostly been on display at the National Automotive and Truck Museum (natmus.org) in Auburn, Indiana, for many years and can be seen there today.

Sadly, Terry passed away in early 2016 but a plan was hatched to bring the Scout to the IH Scout and Light Truck Nationals (midnitestar.org) to reunite it with Frank and let IH fans see them both. Preservation of the Scout has fallen to Terry’s sons Jeff and Kent and the event became a final public salute to Terry, who was well known in the Scout community.

The Details:

Owner: Jeff and Kent Hankins
Engine: 415ci, (IH V392 bored 0.125-in)
Power: (hp): 450 (est)
Bore & stroke (in): 4.250 x 3.656
Comp. ratio: 10:1 (later 12:1)
Transmission: T-407 (Chrysler TorqueFlite) 3-spd auto, Art Carr modified
Transfer case: IH TC-143 single-speed
Front axle: Dana 44 (IH FA-44), trussed w/hardened spindle and hubs
Rear axle: Dana 60 (IH RA-84), trussed, Summers full-float, Detroit Locker
Axle ratio (:1): 4.56 for long races, 4.88 for short
Tires: 33x12.50-15
Fuel (gal): 62
Wheelbase (in): 113
Top speed (mph): 120

This was state of the art in the ’70s. Frank designed the shackle reversal system and it was similar to the setup he sold at ORD. A spring-under suspension was preferred for axle control. All the teams spent a lot of time designing springs to be tough, not too stiff but stiff enough, and with as much travel as possible. Military wraps on the eyes were a necessity. They spent a lot of time on the bumpstops, which were actually a part of the suspension and carefully chosen. The front Dana 44 was beefed and trussed but they still weren’t strong enough for the airtime these trucks experienced. Class rules, however, prevented a complete change. Special spindles and hubs were developed to cover those weak links. Note the drilled rotors, probably done at Frank’s shop. The steering was another failure prone area, leading to thick-wall tie rods and drag links, steering box bracing, and so on. This is all old tech now, but guys like Frank were the ones that learned these lessons the hard way and helped to give you the improvements.
The controversial Dana 60! With a full-float conversion designed by Summers Brothers, a rear disc brake conversion and some trussing, Frank had no more rear axle trouble- unlike the other teams, which stuck to Dana 44s. You can see some empty shock brackets here, and Frank was known to run dual shocks at times. He generally ran a Detroit Locker in the back and 4.56:1 axle ratios on the long races. On short courses, he ran 4.88:1.
The single speed, chain-drive TC-143 T-case always raised eyebrows. It was the standard transfer case for Scouts from ’73 through ’79, with the two-speed Dana 20 optional. Frank was the only one of the sponsored teams to use the TC-143. It was a good piece, stout and simple, actuated via a cable, and it didn’t soak up as much power as the geardrive unit. Frank rarely needed four-wheel drive, and when he did, the cable “on the fly” operation allowed him to engage it quickly. The truck never went slow enough to need a low range. Best of all, the TC-143 weighed 30 pounds less than the Dana 20.
Frank drove alone and here is the place he spent many hours and covered many miles. Much of the work done on this truck was done personally by Frank or his mechanic Tom Bryant, and the workmanship is very good. The chrome knob to the right of the instrument panel engaged the four-wheel-drive system.
The IH V392 was designed as a medium-duty truck engine with 235 peak horsepower at only 4,000 rpm, even with a four-barrel carb. IH cast some special small-chamber heads for Frank’s 345, and they were swapped over to the 392 and delivered a 10:1 compression ratio with stock cast pistons. It was later bored a whopping 0.125-inch to give it a displacement of 415 cubic inches and used custom Zollner pistons for a 12:1 compression ratio. Frank built custom headers and the plugs were fired by a Mallory dual point distributor with dual coils. A modified Corvette radiator handled cooling, and you can see the big engine, transmission, and power steering coolers. The engine was dyno’d early on, but Frank doesn’t remember the numbers. Terry estimated 450 hp.
The custom-ground Schneider solid lifter cam had enough lift that extra clearance was needed under the valve cover. It also required special rocker stands. This is how Frank dealt with the problem. The engine was balanced and blueprinted and with the Schneider cam and a big 725 cfm Holley carburetor, it could rev to 6,000 rpm. It also featured an experimental aluminum intake built by IH that saved about 50 pounds.
At the 2016 IH Scout and Light Truck Nationals (midnitestar.org), Frank Howarth explains the marketing connections between the SSII, the race Scout, and the Hurst Shawnee Scout behind him. Only three Shawnees were built, and they might have gone into production as a special model had IH not pulled the plug on Scout production. The official announcement came May 1980, but some of the racers were given an early warning in December 1979 that the sponsorships would end. Minimal race support continued into 1980, but at the March 1980 Mint 400 race, it was clearly over. Only Frank was present, on his own dime, and the event coverage attributed the absence of the others to the impending sale of the Scout division, which eventually fell through, and Scout production stopped in October 1980. Frank and some of the teams kept on racing Scouts for a few years, the last being Sherman Balch who ran into 1983. Class 3 rules got in the way, since Scouts were no longer in production and Class 3 was a production class. It was also Scout’s most competitive class.
Here is Frank’s Scout in its first racing year at the Mint 400 in 1977. It was still running a 345 at this point but did not have the rear Dana 60 or a front shackle reversal. Early in the following year, the truck lost the right-front ball joints on the Parker 400 and crashed into a tree. It required extensive rebuilding and that’s when many of the modifications were done. Frank has since called that wreck a blessing in disguise, even though he lost a chance to win his class in the race, and become points leader that year. The truck came out of the extensive rebuild being much more competitive.

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