In 2011, the International Harvester Scout celebrated 50 years and that makes this a good time to talk about its place in four-wheeling history. When it debuted in November of 1960, the Scout was a step forward in the growing market segment eventually called sport utility. Four-wheeling had moved beyond the “captive audiences” of the strictly commercial or military market into recreational use and people demanded more in the way of comfort and convenience.
Looking at the first Scouts through today’s prism, you may be tempted to ask, “What comfort? What convenience?” It’s all relative to the period, of course. The Scout Travel-Top had doors, a full metal top, a better driving position, more comfortable seating, and more room than it’s main competitors and that’s just what customers were asking for in the new market segment. It was a step up and other steps rapidly followed, with International Harvester (IH) and others.
When IH designer, Ted Ornas, started the project in the late ’50s, the stated concept was for a competitor to the Jeep CJ, another slab-sided workhorse. Considering IH started with a blank sheet, going from sketches to production in around 24 months is nothing short of remarkable. Along the way, the project morphed into a more stylish, sporty, and civilized rig that lost nothing in the utility department.
The new Scout 80 came as a 4x2 or a 4x4, sat on a 100-inch wheelbase, and was offered in four configurations, the no-top Roadster, the Cab-Top pickup, the Travel-Top station wagon, and the Panel-Top panel. The tops were interchangeable, the door glass removable, the doors themselves removable, the windshield foldable, and the Scout initially had a permanently fixed bulkhead behind the seats leaving a 5-foot cargo area that was 54 inches wide at the top.
Scouts were powered by the new Comanche 152ci, 93hp four-cylinder, an engine with a story. When the Scout project started, IH went looking for a four-cylinder engine because the company had nothing suitable in-house. In the midst of the search, the powertrain department had the idea to do a “bank-ectomy” and lop the left bank from the IH 304ci industrial V-8. Voila, instant four-banger. Parts interchangeability with the V-8 made it practical and a 93hp, 137 lb-ft gross rating put it 18hp and 23 lb-ft above Jeep’s high-compression four-cylinder.
The rest of the powertrain was off-the-shelf, made-in-America fare. The 4x4s used a Warner T-90A three-speed floor-shift trans with a Dana 18 transfer case and Spicer 27 front and rear axles. These components were mounted in a fully boxed chassis with long and relatively supple leaf springs, giving the Scout a much stouter backbone than the Jeep, though with a 500-plus pound weight disadvantage. Powr-Lok limited slips were optional at both ends, as was a PTO winch and dual fuel tanks.
IH was a little surprised at the success and broad appeal of the Scout. It had planned to produce a sedate 50 units per day but soon doubled and later tripled that. Customer feedback assured the first-generation Scout (’61-’65) would make rapid changes upmarket. Two of the earliest improvements were roll-up windows and a removable bulkhead behind the seats. Both of these simple changes greatly broadened Scout’s market appeal. By the end of the Scout 80 era, the Champagne and Red Carpet Editions featured fully upholstered interiors, carpeting, a bit of chrome, and a few more comfort and convenience options. Regular moves upmarket highlighted the sport utility evolution and Scout’s in particular. By the time the Scout 80 line was superseded by the 800 series, IH had built 100,000 Scouts.
In terms of overall market heft, International Harvester’s light line was an also-ran in the American auto industry yet the company still managed to hit a bases-loaded home run that took the sport utility species many steps up the evolutionary ladder. Scout was the direct inspiration for several other SUVs, including the Ford Bronco and Jeep Jeepster Commando of 1966 and the Blazer of 1969. You gotta watch those little guys.
Vehicle: 1962 International Harvester Scout 80
Owner: Rick Thompson
Estimated value: $18,700 (per NADA)
Engine: 151.8ci I-4, OHV
Power (hp): 93.4 @ 4400
Torque (lb-ft): 142.7 @ 2400
Bore & stroke (in): 3.88 x 3.22
Comp. ratio: 8.19:1
Transmission: 3-spd manual, Warner T-90A
Transfer case: 2-spd, Spicer 18
Front axle: Spicer 27AF
Rear axle: Spicer 27
Axle ratios: 4.27:1 (4.88:1 opt)
L x W x H (in): 154 x 68.6 x 67
Wheelbase (in): 100
GVW (lbs): 3,900
Curb weight (lbs): 3,263 (Travel-Top 4x4)
Fuel capacity (gal): 11 (std., opt. 11 gal aux)
MSRP: $2,132 (1962 base 4x4 model)