1969 International Harvester Scout: Second Chance Scout
Immediately following WWII, America was rife with war surplus vehicles. These vehicles could be had for pennies on the dollar and many of them, if they weren’t melted down for scrap found their way into a new, prospering middle class. At the time it was the Jeep, and then the civilian version of the Jeep – the Willys. Then in the late 1950’s International Harvester came up with an idea.
In 1960 the First International Harvester “Scout” rolled off the production line in Fort Wayne, Indiana. From 1960 to 1980 hundreds of thousands of vehicles designated as Scout‘s rolled out of Indiana and were sold all over the globe. Little did International Harvester know at the time, they amped up the early SUV craze, and Americans fell in love with utility vehicles that could not only get the groceries but could also climb a volcano.
How appropriate that when Scott Nixon first acquired this 1969 International Harvester Scout, it had seen a lifetime of service as a forestry vehicle in the state of Washington. With five active volcanoes’ in the state, it is a very real possibility that Nixon’s little Scout once climbed one of these smoldering giants. Purchased in 2005, reconstruction of the Scout didn’t begin until 2009 and was completed just days before the Goodguys 29th Pacific Northwest Nationals where Nixon debuted the sliced Scout.
An old offroad, all steel vehicle built in 1969 will almost always require rust removal and repair, and this Scout was no exception. However, one advantage was the fact that the Scout was in continual service as a fleet vehicle, and for the most part taken care off. It had a pair of saddle tanks on the front fenders where years of dirt, mud and crud had collected — and turned into pitted rust. Nixon informs us it took a hammer and chisel to remove the solidified crud, and that’s when the metal work began. Once a person starts pulling a thread on a knit sweater, there’s no telling just how much of it can be unwound, and this is precisely how the Scout came to be what it is today. One thing led to another and it became a full-tilt custom car.
Bret Cole took charge of the majority of the metal work and fabrication. Starting with a subtle 1 ½-inch chop off the top, the drip rails were then removed, which took away another inch of metal essentially pancaking the roof line. It was then decided to lean the tailgate forward three inches. That act made it necessary to slide the roof forward four inches and remove seven inches from its overall length. To hear Nixon explain the construction process, there was no grand blueprint to the modifications, they just kind of happened. It was like a domino effect; once one piece was worked it just flowed into the next.
The original styling of the ’69 Scout had round headlights with square bezels, a square mesh grill, and a steel bumper sitting just below the turn signals. Cole and Nixon tried a few times to incorporate the bumper into the final design, but it “never quite worked out” says Nixon. In its place, a roll pan that blends into the extended fenders was built with an air inlet and fog lights. The mesh grill was ditched and in its place a simple and elegant U-channeled bar with the IH logo dead center. The “Keep it Simple Stupid” idiom was applied to the front of this Scout and works wonders on the appearance.
Cole also reworked the frame essentially rebuilding a new one for the Scout. Supporting the frame is a narrowed Fatman MII front clip at the front and parallel leaf springs in the back with traction bars. The 11-inch Wilwood rotors and calipers handle the stopping at the front while good old-fashioned drums are at the back. The anemic 196c.i. half V-8 slant four engine was immediately deep-sixed and replaced with a stock 5.7-liter Chevy LS1 engine that is backed by a 4L60E transmission. Power to the rear wheels is directed through an 8-inch Ford rearend running cruise-friendly 3:50 gears. Essentially, the Scout will take Nixon anywhere the pavement goes.
After the metal work was completed, the body was painted PPG Rally Blue with a white top by Richardson Custom Auto Body. And then it sat unassembled for a year while life and its priorities crept up. Afterward, Nixon scheduled an appointment with Ron “The Stitch” Mangus to finish off the interior. It was sewn with the finest grass-fed, non-GMO, organic bovine leather hide that Texas was capable of producing. When coupled with an ultra-plush suede headliner, the cabin of the Scout is a work of art just like the exterior.
For a few decades now we have all witnessed lowered trucks, lowered duallys, lowered Broncos, and even lowered Jeeps. Scott Nixon cannot ever recall seeing a lowered International Harvester Scout with real street cred. His just may be the first of its kind.