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Perfect Pitch—A 1979 IH Scout Restomod That Hits All The Right Notes

Posted in News: Features on September 11, 2019
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Defining "restoration" and "restomod" is difficult for some, but not Joe Torres. He knew exactly what he wanted in a "Day 2" Scout—lots of pure '70s sex appeal and a buildup that offered technological upgrades with a retro flavor.

Despite being a Ford Research and Advanced Products Development Engineer working on the most cutting-edge new developments (can you say "electrification?"), Torres' mind often wanders back to the thrilling days of International Harvester yesteryear. He credits his grandfather for this, a man who had an IH dealership for about 10 years and drove International trucks all his life. Joe believes the quality gearhead time spent with his grandfather planted the seeds of his engineering career. This Scout is as much a tribute as a toy.

The build started in 2014 with a '79 Scout in California. Found on eBay, it had spent all its life in the California desert, and thus it avoided the rust problems that typically plague Scouts. Still, it had been sitting for the better part of 14 years and was the proverbial diamond in the rough. Joe immediately saw through the dirt and dereliction and envisioned a shining Scout on the hill.

The frame twister at the International proving grounds has been abusing trucks since the 1930s. Here, the '79 Scout stretches it's custom Alcan 4-inch-lift springs a little on the easy part of it. Remaining in the factory spring-under position, the Alcan springs mount on IHPA (IH Parts America) 5-inch shackles, and the front spring hangers are modified to improve the notorious Scout caster issues.

The first agonizing decisions involved choosing a path to the final result. The Scout was originally Lexington Blue with a Highland Blue Plaid interior. A nice combo but a common one. Torres decided upon the very uncommon Mint Green exterior and a Winter White top with a Russet Plaid interior (an available combo) and Rallye appliqu s. The Rallye package was one of the more popular ones for Scouts that has reached almost iconic status. It normally included a few functional goodies with the appliqu s, such as upgraded tires, wheels, and shocks, but those aspects were already taken care of in the build.

Joe toyed with the idea of building a nice daily driver/four-wheeling truck for places like the Michigan sand dunes. He also briefly considered a stock restoration, but since it already had some suspension mods and sat nicely on 33s, he decided to engineer it a bit better in a retro way. Pretty soon he discovered a vein of perfectionism in himself and tackled every tiny part of the work as if it were the rarest and most valuable vehicle in the world.

Visible here are the rear bumper and tire carrier by Sean Barber at Anything Scout, as well as the rock sliders. The wheels are vintage 8.5x15-inch American Cyclone II alloys with body-color highlights. These wheels were used on certain special-edition Scouts back in the day, so they are a period Scout look. Plus, they mimic the Polycast wheels offered for the 1980 model year. Here's a bit of Scout trivia: Do you know why the back edge of the rear window curved up? It was to hide the spare tire that mounted on the passenger side just inside the tailgate.

The overall theme evolved into what he calls a "Day 2 Restomod." He defines that as building it in a way similar to how a new owner might have done in 1979. Along the way, he wanted to maintain that '70s look, so the appearance is '79 Scout II almost all the way, with a few tasteful, relatively minor exceptions. The project finished up in 2018 and the Scout debuted in March at the Detroit Autorama, winning two awards. Later that year it won five awards at the IH Scout and All Truck Nationals (

We had the chance to meet up with Joe and his Scout at a very special place, the old International Proving Grounds at Fort Wayne, Indiana. It hasn't been used much in the past decade, but every product from the Motor Truck Division of International Harvester and Navistar built from the early 1920s into the late 2000s was tested here. When we shot it, the Harvester Homecoming (, the first big event in Fort Wayne celebrating International, was just weeks away. After 41 years, this Scout finally came home for a visit. Talk about the hometown boy making good!

The Anything Scout front winch bumper fits with Joe's vision of a Day 2 look, and the Warn Zeon 10-S Platinum winch and a pair or LED driving lamps add functionality. Note how the grille surround was painted white rather than silver. The Scout is on part of the off-road course at the proving grounds. Back in the day, there was another nearby, but this one was built to test the Navistar MRAP, an IED-resistant military vehicle.
From whence it came! Joe's '79 near the door of the old Scout production facility on Meyer Road in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where it drove outside for the first time on September 1, 1978. The last Scout rolled off the line in October of 1980, and the building was sold soon after that. Today, Polar King, Thermodyne, and Zemco Manufacturing call the building home.
A time machine back to the '70s! This was the top-line Custom interior for '79, and Shelby Trim in Sterling Heights, Michigan, re-created it in every detail using plaid fabric from SMS Fabrics in Oregon. Normally a Russet Plaid interior would have Russet-colored carpet, but Joe opted for black instead as a nice contrast. It was factory-equipped with air conditioning, cruise control, and a center console. Torres managed to find one of the ultra-rare AM/FM 8-Track players and has it hitched up to modern speakers with hidden connectivity so he can play tunes on the system from his iPhone.
Here lies a torque monster! The legendary IH 392 debuted in 1966 for medium-duty trucks but was also found in the '69-'75 IH D-Line light trucks. Though considered for the Scout line at one point, it was never made an option. Since it's a bolt-in replacement for any IH small V-8, and the original 345 engine for this Scout had been replaced by a 304, why not go stealthily big and put in a 392? Built by S&J Engines in Spokane, Washington, it uses an improved cooling block and mostly factory-style internal parts. The heads are mildly ported and the compression ratio is near the stock 8:1. The valves are popped by a Comp Cams 260/260 bumpstick with accompanying springs, and this stretches the stock 3,800-rpm redline to 5,000. Fed by an original 800-850-cfm ThermoQuad four-barrel through a stock cast-iron manifold, well-digested fuel exits via Stan's tri-Y headers, dual 2 1/2-inch stainless pipe, and Flowmaster Delta Flow 50 Series mufflers. The fires are lit by a Mallory Unilite system. The engine hasn't been dyno'd, but typically an engine like this will make around 280 hp at 4,200 rpm and hold 400-425 lb-ft or more of torque from about 1,000 to 2,500 rpm.
The original 727 TorqueFlite was beefed with a Precision low-stall converter, B&M high-performance rebuild kit, Sonnax billet accumulator piston, reverse piston and related parts, as well as a B&M deep-sump aluminum pan that required modification for front driveshaft clearance. The Dana 20 was rebuilt with a Novak kit and uses a Novak billet aluminum deep sump. The driveshafts were built by Adams Driveshafts of Henderson, Nevada—the rear using a double-Cardan 'shaft. The front 'shaft was also built by Adams but uses Tom Wood's offset 1310 Super-Flex joints. Inside, the front Dana 44 (IH FA44) has an Eaton Detroit Truetrac, 4.11 ring-and-pinion, and Yukon 4340 chromoly 'shafts.
The rear axle is the original Dana 44 enhanced with an Eaton Detroit Locker, Dutchman 4140 shafts and the same Riddler cast-iron diff cover used up front. All four springs are custom 4-inch-lift pieces from Alcan Spring in Grand Junction, Colorado, backed up by custom-valved Bilstein 7100 series shocks and mounted via 5-inch IHPA shackles. Note the rear disc brakes that include TSM Manufacturing GM-style rear calipers. A Corvette master cylinder mounts onto the factory Scout vacuum booster and feeds a four-wheel disc proportioning valve, stainless steel lines, and braided stainless hoses.

The Details
Vehicle: '79 International Scout II
Owner: Joe Torres
Estimated Value: $135,000
Engine: IH 392ci V-8
Bore & stroke (in): 4.18x3.66
Comp. ratio: 8.02:1
Transmission: TorqueFlite 727 (IH T407) 3-spd auto
Axle ratio: 4.10:1
Tires: 33x12.50-15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2

011 1979 scoutii international badge detail
012 1979 scoutii rallye badge detail
013 1979 scoutii scoutii badge detail
014 1979 scoutii articulation detail
015 1979 scoutii interior back to front


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