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The popularity of sport utility vehicles (SUV) has consistently increased not just in America but worldwide with well over 320 million on the road. In 2021, the Toyota RAV4 was the best-selling SUV model for the third year in a row. Even though Jeep tries to take all the credit in the race, none of the sport utility popularity would have been possible without the contribution of the International Harvester Scout.

This pioneering sport utility vehicle rose from obscure, humble roots as a product of an American agricultural manufacturer unlike its competitors. It’s been said that IH executives had gone out west together and saw a lot of Jeeps doing labor. They decided the work could be done better with an International Harvester vehicle. From this idea, competition for the two-door, go anywhere Jeep CJ 4x4 was born. The Scout 80 made its debut in late 1960.

Originally introduced as a commercial utility pick-up, the International Harvester Scout’s popularity grew. The love consumers had for the vehicle echoed in print slogans and marketing jingles during the 1970s with the words, "International Scout: Anything less is just a car."

International Scout AdHaving been created by a manufacturer that predominately produced bigger-scale machinery, the International Harvester Scout models were made for their off-road purpose. IH had experience building vehicles for the US military therefore, they fulfilled expectations by having that same quality in their automobile line.

The Scout II debuted in April 1971 and ended production in 1980. Even though manufactured time is fleeting compared to other sport utility vehicle companies, the IH Scout has gained quite the following over time. The Scout and Scout II proved to the automobile manufacturers that there was a market for rugged little utility vehicles beyond farm life. IH proved their vehicles were a versatile family rig that could adapt to city and suburban life.

The 1973 International Harvester Scout II located out of our Denver showroom is proof of the Scout II’s adaptability. The owner, Luther, has made restorations over the past twenty or so years to make it a reliable daily driver as well as suited to “complete most of the passes in Colorado”.

Luther even commented that one technician who worked on the restoration stated, “the Scout II could make it up Holy Cross but come back with some body damage”.

Holy Cross Jeep Road is the name of a breathtaking trail located in Eagle County, Colorado. It’s one of the most difficult and popular hardcore roads in the state for only the most experienced drivers. Set high in the northern Sawatch Range, part of the Rocky Mountains, the trail is 3.8 miles long with an ending elevation of 11,870ft above sea level. It’s one of the highest roads in Colorado. Saying his Scout II could complete the journey, is a huge bragging right for Luther.

IH Scout-1

To be able to conquer such a feat, a vehicle must be a fully equipped, non-stock 4x4. Luther’s restored IH Scout II fits the bill. He took the carburetor off and installed a fuel injection system to make it run just as well at an elevation of 11,000ft as it does at 5,000ft. The stock 345 V8 engine from International Harvester is basically a truck engine that can torque at low end. On a fairly level, slightly uphill incline, you can put the Scout II into 4th gear (1:1) and go all the way down to idle without downshifting.   As you slowly step down on the accelerator the Scout II will take off instead of bucking and dying.

More mountain ready upgrade includes a NV 4500 5 speed manual transmission, with the 5th gear as overdrive. There was a Dana 300 transfer case put into it that is stronger and a little lower than the original. A K&N filter was installed as well as Tri-Y headers. Luther additionally had ARB Airlockers installed front/rear and a 2-inch skyjacker lift put on it. He also reversed the shackles up front, so the Scout II rides better. It sits on Dana 44 axles which are a little heavier and is topped off with American Eagle Series 869 wheels and Mickey Thompson MTX 31X10-50R tires.

The International Harvester Scouts are notorious for rust. It has even been said they were “born” rusty. According to legend, the raw steel purchased from a factory in Ohio was never sheltered from the elements to save money. In fact, all the Scouts are said to have rolled out of the factory with some level of rust.

Luther aware of this fact, reworked the whole body of the Scout II to have the rust taken out. He even went as far as running the air vents on top of each differential up to the top of the firewall to prevent water from getting into them. The fenders were also replaced and had splash guards added to prevent mud and water from getting up into the wheel well. Creature comfort upgrades include a reupholstered interior as well as a GPS, CB radio, radar detector and compass for off-road travel.

If you would like to own this piece of Americana click on the link 1973 International Harvester Scout, or please contact our team in the Denver showroom.

Gateway Classic Cars sells and consigns hundreds of vehicles each month. Do you have a classic car for sale with a story to tell? We’d love to hear about it, please email us at news@gatewayclassiccars.com to share it.

Post by Eliza Sindelar-Loy
January 17, 2023

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