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Now In: 1971-1980 Scout II: The Final Evolution

1971-1980 Scout II: The Final Evolution

story by Jim Allen
photos by the author &
courtesy John Glancy/Super Scout Specialists,

The International Harvester Scout II was the final production evolution of a popular 4x4 that helped set many SUV benchmarks. The original Scout made its debut in November of 1960 as a 1961 model. It proved to be a hit for IH, but one that was outside the manufacturer’s normal agricultural and commercial markets. (See “Old Iron, The Forgotten Scout: 1961-1964 Scout 80” in the January 2004 issue for more info on the beginnings of the Scout.)

The original Scout 80 was a cut above other SWB 4x4s of the day in terms of comfort and day-to-day convenience. For the next decade, the Scout moved steadily upmarket. Because International’s sales and marketing organization was outside the mainstream, IH wasn’t able to keep up with the burgeoning SUV craze. Sure, it was competing against companies that had more resources and better mainstream marketing options, but International Harvester was geared more toward agricultural and commercial markets. Despite the overwhelming competition, the Scout held a small but respectable slice of the market. In 1971, with a new model on the horizon, IH execs knew the market had to increase.

The Midas interior was definitely from the 1970s, but lemme tell ya, it’s still cushy 25 years later. The Midas in the Traveler featured a rear seat that folded down into a bed. The front and middle seats were swiveling captain-type chairs.

The interior of the SSII was Spartan and basic-just what a wheeler wants. The seats were covered in heavy-duty boat vinyl, and there were no floor coverings. A rear seat was optional. The SSII came with removable defroster vent covers to prevent the dreaded winter dust storm when the defroster was used the first time after a dusty summer.

On the eve of a new model, IH brought in a mainstream marketing guy, Keith Mazurek, who had been seduced from Chrysler. With sweaty palms, the conservative IH execs allowed Mazurek to mount the biggest media campaign in the company’s history and modernize the dealership organization. True to IH’s customary practice of ignoring traditional model introductions in the fall, it introduced the Scout in the spring of 1971.

The Scout II was the biggest upgrade in the model’s history — but it wasn’t a groundbreaking change. The new Scout II was still true to the 800A and 800B models it replaced, and that wasn’t all bad. The Scout II was longer and wider, but on the same 100-inch wheelbase as the previous model’s, with the extra length over the tail. New doors added greatly to a more solid feel and drastically better access. Most of the other changes were refinements that made the vehicle better suited to compete in the SUV market. Those changes were many, but IH built upon a basic mechanical foundation tested and proven over the previous decade.

The Cabtop Scout II, 1974 model shown, is a fairly uncommon beast these days. It was essentially the same Scout as the others, with a bulkhead behind the seats and the half cab. Before the XLC upgrade in 1975, the GVW was a meager 4,600 pounds early on but was later upped to 5,200. 5,500 pounds was optional.

The Rallye is a popular version of the Scout II Traveltop. Several variations in look and features over the years were offered. It consisted of the stripe treatment, chrome Rallye wheels with HR-78 tires, power steering and HD shocks. It wasn’t usually seen on bare-bones rigs, so usually it was part of a nicely optioned Scout. This is a 1975.

Known internally as the Model 810, the new Scout II came in three basic configurations: the Traveltop (a full-length hardtop), the Cabtop (a short cab mini-pickup), and the Roadster (a topless variant). The Traveltop was by far the most common variant. The Roadster was seldom seen.

Mechanically, the new Scout reprised many previous tech features. It had the option of four engines, including three standby choices: the 196ci four, the AMC-built 232 inline-six, and the 304ci International V-8. To that was added IH’s medium-duty 345ci V-8-a true truck engine, with many super HD features. Both V-8s used 2-bbl carbs and had similar horsepower numbers, but the 345 had a big 37-pound-foot edge on torque (see specs).

The Patriot Editions came in 1976 to coincide with the Bicentennial. Shown is a roadster with the typical red, white, and blue motif plus rallye wheels and Goodyear Tracker ATs.

In 1979, the Midnitestar editions were offered, and, like most of the other special Scout conversions, they were done by contractors. Good Times was such a company that did van conversions in Midland, Texas. The conversion started out with a high option V-8/automatic Scout with bucket seats, air-conditioning, cruise control, and tilt wheel. Good Times added a cowl induction hood, body moldings, fender flares, new grille, color keyed spoker wheels, louvered rear windows, a special center console, and gold exterior accents with special paint. The Midnitestar also came with a high-zoot 8-track, multi-speaker stereo system. Three colors were offered: black, brown, and deep blue. According to Mark Drake, a Scout expert and restorer, only 120 Midnitestar editions were built and only two were this deep-blue color.

The engine choices evolved over the years, with the 232 being replaced by the AMC 258ci six for 1972-1974. The 196ci four was dropped in 1973 but came back in 1975 when the AMC six was dropped. In 1976, the Nissan 6-33 six-cylinder diesel was introduced as an option. That engine was given turbocharging for 1979, making it more sprightly but still capable of mid-20s fuel economy.

The 345 V-8 was “de-HDd” to a point, with the emissions variant 345A engine in 1975. From 1979 on, the 345 used a four-barrel Carter Thermoquad 4-bbl. Dual exhaust was standard or optional on V-8s until the advent of the catalytic converter in 1979.

The Scout SSV, or Supplemental Scout Vehicle, was the Scout Division’s last gasp. It was built on a more or less standard Scout chassis but had a cool, composite (fiberglass and other elements) body. It made its debut in 1978, and the initial release hinted at a 1981 debut to the tune of 4,000 units. The glass body knocked a third off the Scout’s normal weight. Some 10 to 12 were built, though some were test mules of varying completeness. The last few built were more or less fully developed units.

The Scout II was marketed as a capable four-wheel-drive station wagon or a practical family wagon able to do anything. Towing ability was one of its touted capabilities, whether it was the family camper or a farm grain wagon. The inset pic shows that Scouts earned some frequent-flier miles as well. Several teams fielded Scouts in the Baja racing scene, this one a two-wheel-drive version. Shown towing is a 1972 model.

Depending on engine, owners of the first Scout IIs had the choice of the venerable Warner Gear T-90 three-speed, the T-18 close-ratio four-speed, or the Borg Warner Model 11 automatic. After 1972, the BW-11 was dropped in favor of the Chrysler three-speed Torqueflite A-727. Manual transmissions changed along the way as well, with a wide-ratio Warner T-19 being introduced in 1975. The rather weak T-90 three-speed was uprated to the stronger but not much more inspiring T-15.

Transfer case options started and ended with the familiar Dana 20 until 1973, when the IH TC-143 single-speed, chain-drive part-time transfer case was put on the options list for auto trans rigs. It was a simple, cable-operated “in-r-out” type t-case. The highly sought after Dana 300 transfer case appeared for the 1980 model year only, offering a much better 2.6:1 low range versus the Dana 20’s 2:1. This was to compensate for the tall axle gearing used that year.

The 345ci V-8 was the most popular engine for Scout II. It cranked out about 150 net horsepower (give or take according to year) and nearly 300 net pound-feet of torque. This engine was designed for industrial use, with a high nickel block and forged crankshaft. It didn’t like to be revved, but it had a broad, flat torque curve from idle to about 3500, and it lived longer than most of its owners.

A cool camping accessory turned the Scout II into a mini camper.

The axles in the Scout II started off the same as the previous Scout 800s, a Dana 30 front and a Dana 44 rear. By 1974, the weak D30 had been upgraded to a Dana 44 in most units. We say “most” because the D30 still appeared (with disc brakes) through 1974, though not with the 345 V-8. A rear Trac-Lok limited slip was optional in all types.

When IH decided to kill off the light-truck line after 1975, it substituted several new variations of the Scout II for 1976. The Terra pickups and Traveler SUVs were basically Scouts with the wheelbases stretched to 118 inches. Starting in 1975, all Scouts had been uprated to 6,200-pound GVW (the so-called XLC, Extended Load Capacity) to exempt them from certain emissions regs and put them in the lower end of the half-ton-pickup GVW range. The Cabtop option for the SWB Scout II disappeared with the advent of the Terra.

Within the range of models, there were many Scout special editions. One of the best known, and coolest, was the SSII. This was a trail-ready variant that appeared in March of 1977. It was stripped and equipped for the trail in a fashion similar to Jeep Renegades.

Other special models offered over the Scout II run included the Rallye, an often seen sporty version of the Traveltop. The Spirit and Patriot Editions appeared for 1976, as did a special model for the Winter Olympics. The Family Cruiser was a luxury version of the Traveler. The Suntanner was a soft-top version of the Terra pickup. The 844 (eight cylinders, four-speed transmission, four-wheel drive) appeared in 1980 as an econo version of the Scout II, boasting low-20s mpg with a V-8. The RS was another full boat luxo version of the Scout Traveler. The Selective Edition package came with unique features that could be added to any Scout starting in 1978. The Midas package featured a comfortable and practical interior. Some of the rare Scout versions were the Midnitestar, Sportstar, Terrastar, Shawnee, and a few others specially produced by outside vendors for the dealer network and are prize finds for Scout collectors.

Several companies offered camper setups for Scouts over the years. This 1973 carries the popup nicely, but we weren’t able to find out if the unit was vintage or recent.

This 1978 SSII was optioned out with just about everything. Several packages were available in the SSII line. The base model was cheaper than any other Scout. Standard features included the hard doors replaced by fiberglass inserts, roll bar, fuel tank skidplate, special grille, and a special tailgate panel. The base SSII came with a 196-4 and a three-speed manual. Numerous factory and dealer-installed options/accessories could be added. The 304 or 345 V-8s were popular, combined with four-speed manuals or three-speed automatics. Big,10x15 Goodyear Tracker tires (about 31 inches) on white spoker wheels, rear limited slip, fender flares, tow hooks, and many other goodies also were available. Gears as low as 4.09:1 (304 V-8 or four-cylinder) and 3.73:1 (345 V-8) were available. The top and doors were optional. This one is the Baja Cruiser package that came with the 345ci V-8, automatic, HD springs, automatic Warn hubs, power steering, tow hooks, rear seat, off-road tire package, and the side applique. In addition, the owner specified air-conditioning, the top and doors, center console, AM/FM radio, and the tube bumpers. This restored original even sports the original Goodyear Tracker AT tires and is an almost perfect gem. Other SSII packages included the Ranch Special, Brush Buster, and Sport.

By the late 1970s, IH had increased the Scout’s market share from 8 to 11 percent, but dark days loomed. Difficulty in making the IH engines meet upcoming emissions standards with the money available was a giant cleaver waiting to drop. A massive, crippling labor strike came in late 1979 and lasted well into 1980 and brought the company to one knee. Questionable executive decision-making (20/20 hindsight, but there it is) brought them swaying on both knees and that led IH to discontinue the Scout in late 1980. The last Scout II rolled off the line in October of 1980. Things were bad enough that IH was forced to liquidate many other assets to stay alive.

For a short time, it seemed all was not lost. Buyers were in the wings, apparently ready to take over the Scout, but this all fell through, and, after a short while with the life monitor on flatline, the Scout was declared legally dead. Nearly 300,000 Scout IIs were produced, and the following has remained huge.

The Scout might have been left in total oblivion if it weren’t for the efforts of John Glancy and Rod Phillips, who bought all of IH’s remaining Scout and light-truck parts and tooling to form Scout Light Line. This is a wholesale company that keeps a host of retailers around the world supplied with Scout and IH parts. It owns the rights to manufacture reproduction parts and some rights to the Scout name as well. Mostly, it keeps the IH Scout and truck fires burning bright.

The Scout Traveler and Terra shared the same basic platform, the Terra having only a half cab and bulkhead, and the Traveler the full-length top. They accounted for a big chunk of sales in the four years they were available — the Traveler, because it had lots of interior room, and the Terra, because it was the closest thing to a pickup from International. Would IH have developed a four-door version of the Terra? Likely, since the industry was heading that way.

The Nissan 6D-33 six-cylinder diesel was added to the lineup in 1976. The naturally aspirated version cranked out 96 horsepower and 137 pound-feet from 198 cubic inches. That was good enough to give a Scout Terra 20.7 mph in a combined city/highway test by “PV4” magazine. Pretty good from a 4500 rig, though its 0-to-60 time was a yawn-inspiring 33.1 seconds. The turbo version cranked out 101 horses and 175 pound-feet with only 6.5 pounds of boost.

Remaining Scout IIs are divided into two groups — the stock/restored and the modified. Sometimes the modified rigs are built to extreme standards. The restoration crowd is big, since the huge IH tractor crowd has a lot of carryover into the Scout II collector ranks. The builder guys do their best to make sure nobody forgets the Scout is still a force to reckon with out on the trail.

Scout and IH events are numerous around the country, but the biggest is usually the IH Scout and Light Truck Nationals that takes place in September in Springfield, Ohio. This event has a cast of thousands.

Last year, Navistar International announced it was studying a new Scout truck. What this means isn’t clear exactly, but it makes you remember that good ideas never fully die.

Specs: 1972 Scout


196 ci, four-cylinder (std.)

258 ci, six-cylinder (opt.)

304 ci, V-8 (opt.)

345 ci, V-8 (opt.)


102 hp @ 4000 rpm

113 hp @ 4000 rpm

140 hp @ 4000 rpm

144 hp @ 3600 rpm


176 lbs-ft @ 2000 rpm

191 lbs-ft @ 2000 rpm

236 lbs-ft @ 2400 rpm

263 lbs-ft @ 2000 rpm

Comp. Ratio:

8.1:1, 8.0:1, 8.02:1, 8.1:1


3-speed manual, Warner Gear T90 4-speed manual, Warner Gear T18 (close ratio) 3-speed automatic, Borg-Warner M11

Transfer case:

2-speed, part-time, Dana 20

Rear axle: Dana 44

Front axle: Dana 30

Axle ratios:

3.31, 3.73 or 4.27:1 (depending on engine & option)

Wheelbase: 100 in.


E-78-15 (std.), F78, G78, or H-78-15 optional)

Length/Width: 165.8 x 66.4 in.

Curb weight: 3,846 lbs.

Fuel capacity: 19 gal.

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