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Backward Glances: Scout Hearted, 1961 Cab-Top

Posted in Features on October 24, 2018
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When the International Harvester Scout was introduced on November 21, 1960, International was operating on a set of assumptions that proved woefully incorrect. The first was that the Scout was going to be a minor addendum to the company’s light-truck line, maybe 6,000-10,000 units per year. The second assumption was that people mostly wanted a pickup version of the Scout. Finally, they figured people only wanted bare-bones Scouts.

So, let’s talk about flawed assumptions and how International came out smelling like roses anyway. Almost immediately, International had more Scout orders than they could handle. A second shift was added on January 23, 1961, the first time for a second shift since the Fort Wayne plant opened in 1923. Production rose to 164 units per day, a gobsmacking statistic for the normally slow-paced company, but it still took six months to work through the backlog. By May 1961, the 10,000th Scout was celebrated, and total production would rise to 28,031 for the year, more than double their best-case estimate.

The Scout was conceived as a pickup, which International called the Cab-Top, but late in the design process, a full-length top was developed. This top stemmed from a comment by VP of the Motor Truck Division Ralph Buzzard. He noted that liquor-store owners using the Scout for deliveries might want a lockable bed cover. A bed cover was developed but also a full-length top, which was the more generally useful idea adopted for production. The full-length top, called the Travel-Top, proved extremely popular even though it didn’t make the Scout a “true” station wagon.

Eric did the sheetmetal work himself, with Crouse Body Shop in Warsaw, Indiana, applying the paint. Harvester Red was a color that appeared on all International Harvester equipment of the era. Scout tops were all Whitecap White, unless you paid extra to have it painted body color. By removing 10 bolts, the top came off and the windshield folded down. The sliding side-window assemblies came off the door tops. Roll-up windows didn’t come until late ’62. The doors were removable by taking out two pins per side. In 10 minutes, you could drop 118 pounds and go top- and doorless! The 6.00-16 non-directional tires were the standard Scout tire for many years.

How do you define “station wagon?” It starts with an easily accessible rear seat. Because of a permanently installed bulkhead between the front and rear, and a pickup-style rear tailgate, the cargo area wasn’t easily accessible by any stretch of the imagination. International toyed with a rear-facing seat but very quickly realized the lameness of that idea. Yeah, the bulkhead had to go, but it took a while. It happened first with an interim special conversion done on the assembly line (or via a dealer-installed kit) starting in the middle of the ’62 model year, and finally with a removable bulkhead starting with the ’63s. Without a bulkhead, the rear seat could be accessed from the front, and the Scout could become a true station wagon.

Initial production had a high percentage of 4x2s by design, but buyers left them sitting on the lot in favor of 4x4s. International adjusted production very quickly, but 1961 would have the highest percentage of 4x2 Scout production in its 19-year history—33 percent. After 1961, it averaged about 12 percent, occasionally falling below 10 percent, and the last year it dropped to 0 percent.

The “IH” on the tailgate was phased out starting in February of 1962 and replaced by “International” in block letters and “Scout” in script. IH marketing gurus decided they wanted to maintain a more separate identity from the agricultural divisions. The rear bumper was a separate option, though a common one. You might be interested to know the amount of filler on this body is about as much as you can hold in your hand. Instead of welding and filler, Eric installed used, repro, and several N.O.S. panels and spent a lot of time with the hammer and the dolly.

Almost immediately, dealers were inundated with comments like, “If only you made Scouts with a few comfort features.” Early on, “comfort” consisted of an optional heater, left- and righthand door armrests, and a few dealer-installed goodies like a radio. A good number of the comfort requests related to the Travel-Top/fixed bulkhead combo and lack of a rear seat option, and they were addressed starting in July of 1962 with the interim Walk-Thru conversion. Bit by bit, International added bling, and 1964 began the era of the “Doll-Up,” an internal moniker for a high-level-trim Scout. Later that year the plush Red Carpet edition debuted, celebrating the 100,000th Scout; from that point on, high-end Scouts were part of the lineup.

Eric Martin’s ’61 Scout 80 Harvester Red Cab-Top was built on May 5, 1961, about the time the 10,000th Scout was being celebrated but still built to the original assumptions. It’s a typical bare-bones Scout Cab-Top, but it did have four-wheel drive. The only “luxury” items are a heater and a driver-side door armrest. It didn’t have far to go from the Fort Wayne, Indiana, assembly plant. It was picked up at the factory by the original owner, a farmer in Roanoke, Indiana, and spent its early life on a farm hauling grain wagons.

Eric purchased it in 2014 from noted Scout collector Sam (“not that Sam”) Elliott, who bought it from the original owner in 1974 with only 28,000 miles. Sam drove it until 1980, cranking the miles up to 44,000, when rust got the better of it. It was a genuine barn find when Eric acquired it in 2014. After a year in the shop, it emerged as you see it today. It’s showing only 48,000 miles and needed very little mechanical work beyond gaskets and seals. This superbly restored Scout was seen at the 2018 Scout and Light Truck Nationals (, where it won the Street Stock First Place Trophy ’61-’68 Scout. It won the same award in 2017 and 2015. In 2015 and 2017, it won Best of Show Scout.

The Scout 4x4 had a 5-foot bed and a 900-pound payload, including people. In Scouts with single fuel tanks, the lid on the right covers a toolbox. If dual tanks were ordered, that toolbox was eliminated. Interestingly, the first dual-tank setups had no switching valve; the tanks were cross-connected with a sending unit only in the left tank.
The Comanche four-cylinder engine was developed from the International medium-duty 304ci V-8. Because it was essentially half a V-8, it could be built on the V-8 tooling with only a short spur line required for the unique machining. It was rated at 93.5 hp, which put it way ahead of Jeep’s 75hp Hurricane four. It had five main bearings and all the stout features of a medium-duty truck engine, such as valve rotators, a geared camshaft drive, steel-top piston ring inserts, and so on. Starting in ’64, a 111hp turbocharged variant of the 152ci slant four would be built. Only a thousand would be built, but they were problematic; in late ’66, a 196ci four would appear, which was half of the new 392ci IH V-8.
Well, it has a heater and a left armrest. It was not ordered with the dealer-installed radio. This one was installed in the 1970s and is not the original type.
Each Scout had its Line Setting Ticket (IH-speak for buildsheet) attached. In the ’61-’65 Scout 80 era, this was the most common location. Few survive the years intact as this one has. Copies are still available, and the files are maintained by the Wisconsin Historical Society in the McCormick Collection (
Still wearing the dirt of 34 years in storage, Eric’s new project is shown on its way home in 2014 to a restoration and new life as a collector rig. This ’61 Scout, and the one Eric’s brother, Terry, is currently restoring, are in honor of their uncle and grandfather who worked at the Fort Wayne Plant and on the Scout production line back in those thrilling days of yesteryear.
Image courtesy of Eric Martin

The Details

Vehicle: ’61 Scout 80 Cab-Top
Owner: Eric Martin
Engine: IH 152ci OHV 4-cyl
Power (hp): 93.5 @ 4,400 rpm (gross, 86 net)
Torque (lb-ft): 142.7 @ 2,400 rpm (gross, 137 net)
Bore & stroke (in): 3.88 x 3.22
Comp. ratio: 8.19
Transmission: IH T-14 3-spd (Warner T-90)
Transfer case: IH TC-144 2-spd (Spicer 18)
Front axle: IH FA-14 (Spicer 27F)
Rear axle: IH RA-4 (Spicer 27, open diff)
Axle ratio: 4.27:1
Tires: 6.00-16 4-ply, non-directional
Wheelbase (in): 100
GVW (lb): 3,900
Curb weight (lb): 3,000
Fuel capacity (gal): 11
Min. grd. clearance (in): 9
Approach angle (deg): 47
Departure angle (deg): 35

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