By on May 1, 2010

The precise evolution of the SUV, like all car genres is debatable, but there’s no question that the International Scout is the critical link between the military Jeep and the modern SUV. It was the first vehicle of the genre to be designed from scratch to meet the anticipated growth in the off-road capable civilian market, and it clearly was the template for its many imitators: Ford Bronco, Range Rover, Chevy Blazer, Dodge Ramcharger, as well as the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero (and others). True to its name, the Scout led the industry into the land of milk and SUV profits, even if it bowed out early.

International Harvester, which was then still a major manufacturer of pickups and utility wagons, took quite a leap of faith when it began the development of the Scout in the late 1950’s. The civilian Jeep actually sold rather poorly in that decade, in part because surplus military Jeeps were available for peanuts. But leap they did, although the project almost died along the way. Early designs were too angular, which rightfully didn’t inspire the execs. When a more rounded design similar to the final version emerged from a late night session, it finally created some enthusiasm.

The body design might have been a bit adventurous compared to the Jeep, but the grille material looks like it was bought at the hardware store. Kids, this is why they call them grilles, although it would surely make a fine and dandy grill.

Originally planned to be made out of molded plastic body components supplied by Goodyear, when that turned out to be too expensive, the design was adapted to steel. A sturdy frame was not outside of International’s expertise, and Dana transfer cases and axles were readily available.

That left the matter of an engine, since IH only built rather large and heavy sixes and V8s. The solution: cut their 304 CID V8 block in half, resulting in a slant four of 152 cubic inches. For a set of detailed pictures go here.

The 2.5 liter Comanche four carried a 93 horsepower rating. It was a rather rough running unit, but that was in character with the rest of the Scout, which despite its more modern body was still a pretty primitive vehicle, especially from today’s vantage point. The four had a good torque curve, which was important for off-roading, and it was as tough as the IH V8 that donated half its block to it. In 1965, there was even a turbocharged version of the four offered, probably for those Colorado high altitude off roaders. Wonder if any survived.

The Scout appeared in late 1960 and came as a mini-pickup version or the utility, with a removable top. All of the first series (80) Scouts came with a fold down windshield. The Scout 800, which appeared in 1965, did away with that, but brought a number of other improvements in comfort and convenience. The 800, built through 1971, also had more engine options on tap: a larger 196 four; AMC-sourced 232 six; and the smallest of the International’s V8s, the 266. The Scout II replaced the 80/800 in 1971, but we’ll save that for another CC.

There’s a surprising number of Scouts on the road here, many in more regular use than this weekend toy, which got rolled (slowly and gently in soft mud) a few years back, without harm to its driver. There’s even Mr. Scout, a repair and restoration shop. Given their simplicity and rugged construction, don’t expect them to disappear anytime too soon.

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31 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1963 IH Scout 80...”

  • avatar

    With the Scout and the VW Thing, you have, this week, featured the two utility vehicles I truly would love to own.

  • avatar

    I’ve always had soft spot for International Harvester. I’ll save my Scout story for the Scout II CC story. A little foreshadowing thought: orange Scout II in all its 70’s glory, a big hill and a motorcycle.

  • avatar

    There is something honest about a vehicle like this. Unlike all the poseur SUVs out there today sitting in a mall parking lot just in case of that 2 inch nasty snowfall, this rig was built to live in wild all its life. A couple of years back on TTAC Landcrusher would no doubt have spoken enthusiastically about a vehicle like this. For once, I would have to agree with him 100%. I would love to have one of these when I retire to a remote place in New England.

  • avatar

    …but the grille material looks like it was bought at the hardware store.

    Gotta love expanded metal.

  • avatar

    (Full disclosure, my grandmother’s second husband retired from IH when they stopped making vehicles. He worked as an assembly man.)

    I always considered IH and its SUVs to be like Moses in Exodus, leading the American auto industry to what they felt was the “promised land” but not permitted to enter it.

  • avatar
    rm -rf

    Learned how to plow snow with one like that.

    With a half-cab of course.

  • avatar

    Great vehicle! Everything you need, nothing you don’t. The extended front spring shackles on this example are a recipe for disaster though. Re-arched front springs would be a much better, and safer solution.

  • avatar

    Mighty friendly folks “shouting” out “Hi” for all to see.

  • avatar

    Turbo model

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    If this was designed in the late 50’s , then the original Land-Rover, which was a civilian alternative to a military Jeep , had already been in production long enough for Toyota to copy the idea.

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed. While the Scout was no doubt influential in the US market, it was not “the first vehicle of the genre to be designed from scratch to meet the anticipated growth in the off-road capable civilian market.” That would have been the Land Rover Series I, which went into production in 1948. The Station Wagon model (1949) even added modern-SUV luxuries like leather seats …

      Are there any Land Rovers running about in Eugene?

  • avatar

    One of my dad’s hunting buddies had an early Scout as the family’s second “car” back in the 60’s. My dad was always envious. Since my mom didn’t drive, he could never justify a second vehicle.

    And this brings back another memory: the first time my mom climbed in my gen1 4Runner, she looked around the interior and quietly said “your father would have liked this.”

  • avatar

    Truly a wretched vehicle. I had the misfortune to own a ’62 model. The Michigan winters had not been kind to it, and it was suffering rotted out floor boards, rotten out inner rear fender liners (gas tank was in the back of the bed).

    Mechanically, you couldn’t kill them (I should know, I tried). The wretched 2/3 of a V-8 IH referred to as an “I-4” was cramped in the engine compartment, and changing the starter was near impossible. I could never get the upper can bolt to thread, and assumed it was stripped, until the day I made the decision to sell it. Son of a bitch threaded just fine, them. Many foul words were spoken detailing the life history of that can bolt.

    Second biggest hatred I had was the damn frame was “dropped” between the axles. I got hung up on a few inches of frozen snow one winter due to that “feature”.

    Biggest hatred I had was the ’62 model had sliding windows, not roll down windows. The window frame was extruded aluminum. When I got the vehicle, the window frames had been “repaired” with strips of tin, as the joint by the A pillar was notched – and broken. So was the tab where the frames bolted to the door – the aluminum extrusion stopped, except for the “top” part, which make 1/8″ thick X four inch long tabs that bolted to the door – except they, too, were broken (fatigue failures). Late one spring night, the drivers side frame popped out a few inches at the top, and I couldn’t get it back in place, so I pulled over, and pounded it back in place. Got in via the passenger door, then discovered I could not get off of the shoulder leading to a ditch, and the rear end was sliding down the slope. Got out of that situation, and all was sell until that summer, when I jammed on the brakes, and the pedal went to the floor. Turns out the rear drum brake (what else?) backing plates fit INside the brake drums, and my spring adventure had packed mud into the rear drums as the rear end headed down the embankment. Left rear drum was way over the max spec, and my braking maneuver had pushed the left rear wheel piston out of the brake cylinder. Lovely! Fortunately, South Bend IN. wasn’t too far away, and IH had a major parts facility there, so getting drums for the bitch wasn’t a problem. I even found a new pair of window frames! How I envied the ’64 in town, with its’ roll down windows!

    Creature comforts were nill. Some nights were cold enough to freeze the bias tires, creating a lovely set of flat spots that make the vehicle resemble a bucking pony (not a Ford, so can’t say bronco!). On a good day, it would go 60 MPH – so long as you were going downhill, and had a tailwind. First wasn’t synchronized. No insulation, period.

    But, the bitch is probably still running today, unless somebody tired of the bright green brush paint job it came with.


    P.S. The Auburn/Cord/Dusenburg Museum in Auburn, IN. has one of two 4th(?) Gen. Scouts on display. Hate the back of the vehicle – can you say “Aztek”? At first, however, I thought I was looking at a Hummer. Guess I know where the IH designers went when IH got out of the light/medium duty truck business…

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      What’s a can bolt?

    • 0 avatar

      CAN bolt is used to keep the wheels on a CAN BUS.

    • 0 avatar

      My old man worked for IH developing their proving ground in Anglesea, Australia at the time of the Scout’s heyday. Amongst the engineers there the Scout was considered one of the worst 4x4s in existence for the reasons Becurb has stated. The poor steering, abysmal ride, limited wheel articulation, low ground clearance, poor reliability and propensity to rust after a matter of months in action was legendary.

      An anecdote the old boy never tires of is that Scouts they had ended up doing virtually nothing but sit in the shed, since everyone greatly prefered the Land-Rover competitor evaluation vehicles they were reviewing.

      With respect to the Bronco and the Range Rover, it is an utter insult to suggest these vehicles owe anything to the Scout, other than confirming how not to develop a vehicle. The Range Rover in detail does owe much to the Bronco, no question about that, but the SUV concept is much older. I recommend reading this for more details on the Range Rover development:

  • avatar

    Jeebus! A man who’s been there and knows.

  • avatar

    My old man had a 1970 4-cylinder Scout, very dark metallic purplish-red – a very far-out color for such an old workingman. I had the use of it one summer while he was prospecting in Alaska (at age 70). It was very well adapted for 4-wheelin’ it in the Pacific northwest for two reasons: it would run through puddles a foot deep and never miss a beat, where jeeps would cut out like crazy from a 2-inch-deep one. And, it was narrow so it could get between trees in places where Blazers and Ramchargers were denied passage.

    But on the road getting to the trail, aaaack! Everything on that cursed vehicle buzzed or rattled or clattered, and if I drove at any speed over 35 mph with the window open the wind would tear at my left ear…whether or not the vent window was open. The year after I used it, Pop drove it to Alaska and back, but since he was already quite hard of hearing it probably didn’t bother him that much.

    When I returned it to him after my summer’s use I decided I’d better clean it up, so I washed it and detailed the interior. In a little box full of miscellaneous items between the seats I found an almost full box of dynamite caps that I’d unknowingly hauled around all summer.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    These are very rare now-adays in MA . Tinworm took most of them out decades ago.

  • avatar

    Just a few picks of my Scout… Sure its primative and utilitarian… its a MAN TRUCK!!!

  • avatar

    Looking at the I4 engine one has to wonder if it saved more than a handful of lbs over the V8.

  • avatar

    Uncle had one for years… it was named Gus. It was rolled, it was tortured, and it still ran. Gus was finally put down as it failed to pass inspection one sunny summer day. RIP.

  • avatar

    OK, this was my best friend’s very first vehicle ($250 in 1982), and of course me being the more wrench-handy one, I got to work on it! It was a 1962 model with the 152CID half-a-V8 (the smaller one, they actually used two different V8s and cut them in half). Various snippets:

    One of the brass air bleed jets unscrewed itself from inside the 1-bbl carb and found its way down inside the motor, causing a “BAM BAM BAM” as it idled. Friend took off the head, we found it smashed on top of one of the pistons (no engine or valve damage whatsoever). Friend reinstalled head, filled up coolant, couldn’t get it full, found coolant running out the exhaust pipe! Turns out that you CAN’T use the V-8 head gasket as it has extra coolant passage openings that the four doesn’t use – D’OP! That was the parts counterperson’s mistake BTW.

    Driving experience, left turn lane, divided-lane street: Start out in 1st gear. Run out of 1st gear midway through the intersection but can’t shift due to using both hand to spin the wagon-wheel-sized steering wheel as fast as possible, controlling the manual box with a 30:1 ratio. OH CRAP! I’m going to hit the center island if I don’t turn even faster! Finally free one hand from steering long enough to grab second gear. Throttle linkage sticks down (but in this vehicle, does NOT cause SUA!!!), have to use toe to lift up on pedal before engaging clutch. PHEW!!! Second gear is good! Just manage to clear the center island on the other side of the intersection while rapid unwinding of the steering wheel commences in the opposite direction (necker knob strongly recommended). Lethargic acceleration, worse than my 1981 Rabbit diesel by far.

    Gave the vehicle back to my friend (I was on a test drive after I tuned it up for him), vowing never to drive it again (and I never did)! It was a respectable off-road vehicle however. Put it into 4-low and it would crawl up or down just about anything that it had the ground clearance to make it over.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re just biding your time until they do a write-up of late 60’s Miller-Meteor styled Cadillac ambulances. You never did find my reply to your feedback on the Pacer write-up.

  • avatar

    I had a ’66 half-cab 4×4 4cyl that a riot to drive. Crude as could be, and formed new rust holes daily, but was nearly impossible to break. 60 mph was scary so I stayed at 50-55, the vacuum-operated windshield wipers would creeeep across the windshield when accelerating (or attempting to accelerate), then go 150 mph when costing downhill. The heater was weird; it would get super hot, but had almost zero airflow which led to looking through two saucer-sized cleared areas on the windshield all winter. Even though it had no power steering, it had a power steering pump to raise the abysmally slow snow plow.

    It broke only one time; I was pulling a Suburban loose from a snowdrift and snapped a rear axle. No biggie; I just shifted the transfer case to front-wheel-drive and kept going until I found a replacement axle.

    I finally sold it when an off-roader offered me over double what I had paid for it 12 years earlier.

  • avatar

    In 1982 I bought my first car, a 1963 Scout. The gentleman I purchased it from was a “mechanic” and insured me that as far as he knew the mother $#%%% was tip top. Especially the rear end, which he went out of his way to point out he had rebuilt at considerable expense and was eventually the poor scouts undoing.

    So here I was 17 years old with my $900 piece of junk as my friends called it. My best buddy had been saving and just purchased a brand new Toyota 4×4 pickup. The first time we went off roading I forgot to lock the hubs (newbie) and was rather disappointed in the scouts abilities ALTHOUGH I WAS ABLE TO FOLLOW MY BUDDY EVERYWHERE HE WENT. When we discovered that I was only using 2wd the scouts legend began. No one wanted to challenge me to a climb or a run through the muck, sand, what have you.

    Alas it was a short lived affair, the rear axle grenaded and I learned about things like wipe and depth and the cost of Dana gears. I didn’t have the funds to fix her and drove her around in FWD for a while, eventually she was sold to a man with a home in Mexico, he wanted to use her to haul water from the well to his house. Every now and then I imagine she is still down there hauling, perhaps enjoying a few drops from a spilled corona.

    One thing I remember clearly was the pre-internet cost and availability of parts. You walked into a parts store and said IH and they started to laugh. I think I paid about $45 for a distributor cap.

    All said, still my second favorite car that I have ever owned.

  • avatar

    Had a friend that loved his Scout. Last I saw of it the body was more Bondo than metal – those tales about rust minimize the problem; these things would leave little piles of iron oxide wherever you parked them. He’d painted it a bright lime green and it ran – but he couldn’t talk me into riding in it. These made the original Ford Bronco look like a luxury car.

  • avatar

    These are really slow when there is a big ice cream freezer in them, like the one my brother drove one summer in Atlanta. Of course you didn’t want the ice cream man to drive fast. You needed time to run in the house and check the couch cushions, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      I see it’s been some time since anyone has replied to this post. I was checking on some sites that had ’63 Scouts and ran across this page. I was very surprised to see my truck as the showcased example. I started this project around 2004 or so with no idea what I was doing, got a book and set in. I made some mistakes, such as the shackle extensions, but overall I am pretty pleased with the results. When I started this truck I was a Welder/Fabricator and was able to make some custom parts such as the bumpers and the IH symbol itself is a one-off made from a solid piece of brass and a milling machine, the winch receiver was also copied from the original cast aluminum one, which broke as I was taking it apart. I used half inch steel and had the rollers milled from stainless steel pipe with custom brass bushings. I replaced the stock 152 c.i. engine which was woefully underpowered with a ’69 196 c.i. slant four, bought from Mr. Scout with the promise that it was fully rebuildable, it was, I took it to a reputable shop in town and it got the works. and I assembled it in my garage. Transmission was also rebuilt by myself from the best parts from two transmissions. I spent a total of around $6000 cash and a year and a half of nights and weekends to get it to the point you see it. Overall I am very happy with the way the truck turned out. I started back to school a few years ago and had to make a lot of sacrifices to do so, but that did not include selling this truck. It still sits today waiting for the time when I have the resources to start fixing it up again. I have learned from my mistakes. The thing about a vehicle like this is it takes a lot of dedication and mechanical knowledge to keep one up and running, a lot of trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t. This truck is a marvel, peoples eyes light up and they smile when they see my family and I driving around town

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