I once owned a 1979 International Scout II back in the 80’s. I had just moved out into the country and I wanted something with a four-wheel drive. The jeeps that I had looked at all had excessive miles on them and most of the used ones were pretty beat up. I couldn’t afford a new one on the salary I was making as a restaurant manager at the time. I went to a dealer that still sold International Harvester exclusively, even though the company had quit making any kind of passenger vehicles for some time. It was one of those dealerships that had been in business forever and the average age of the sales force seemed about 20 years beyond retirement. I remember that they had a few Scouts on the lot intermixed with some other brands of trucks. There were still sales brochures for new International passenger vehicles in the showroom.
The truck that I ended up buying was powder blue with a white rally stripe going down the side. It was a hardtop with the 345 V8 engine. With the gas tank topping out at some 19 gallons, I can imagine how the thing would guzzle nowadays, but I wish that I still had it. At my age I have had a whole parking lot full of what would be considered classic cars today, dating all the way back to the 1960’s. The Scout was the first of only two four-wheel drive vehicles that I have ever owned, the other being a Suzuki Sidekick and that one hardly even counts.
The Scout’s interior was sparse with a big bench seat in the front that was hard to budge. There was also a standard 8-track player. The steering wheel seemed huge and there were two shifters, (one to engage the four-wheel drive), that seemed to sprout right out of the floorboard and halfway up to the ceiling. I remember that it was also kind of a hassle to engage the all-wheel drive. Some kind of instructions that said you had to put the thing in reverse and it had to be moving slowly to engage. Maybe there was just something wrong with the one that had, but I remember having to do it. But after you finally got the thing in gear, it was great in the mud and snow. I would take the thing out in the field behind my house when it was muddy and snowy and though it had a winch, I never had to use it. I did however, damage the side view mirror one time when I got a little to close to an old oak tree. In the summer you could remove the hard top, but it took a lot of unbolting and about three guys to lift the thing. I finally bought a soft top, but I remember one summer with a lot of driving home from work with rain in my face.
As far as maintenance goes, about the only thing I had to do was replace a very small, but rather expensive plastic part in the carburetor. Other than that it was just keep it filled with gas and change the oil. One winter I discovered that although the Scout was great in the mud and snow, it wasn’t good at all on the ice. Going over an overpass, I spun out and ended up slamming into a guardrail and almost going off into a river. I broke one of the axles and put a nice crease in the side of the truck in the process. But the Scout was constructed like a tank and I was unhurt, even though I didn’t have my seat belt on.
About the only other problem with the truck, (and I noticed this on a lot of Scouts I had seen on the road), was rust. Even though mine had the Ziebart seal on it, it still had some rust along the rocker panels and a whole 2 ft. sized patch of paint came off the side once after it had rusted underneath.
All in all, the Scout had ample power and torque, ran like a champion and was easy to maintain. I liked to thing of it as sort of a precursor to the modern-day Humvee.