Welcome to Part 2 of the series called “Too Big Even For America”, where we explore cars that went out of their way to demonstrate that bigger is not always better.
I’ve read all of the comments you’ve left on the previous installment of the series and…I agree with some of them. The Excursion was not by any means a *bad* car. Far from it, actually, and you could do a lot worse if you needed a heavy duty Warship. It didn’t end up as a complete and absurd corporate sellout merely designed to generate some buzz around celebrities and tickle the sensitivities of people that wanted the biggest of something for absolutely no other reason that to say that they own the biggest.
We really have to start at the beginning, the beginning being 1979 when Archie McCardell became CEO of International Harvester in the midst of diminishing profits and increased competition. He was determined to turn the company’s fortunes around and set to work on a plan that would reduce costs and increase revenues as quickly as possible. The plan called for reduced production expenses and eliminating non-profitable model lines, cost cutting and similar measures.
The pickup-light truck line went first, in 1975. IH had been a pioneer in 4×4 double cab pickups, like this 1962 C-120 Travelette, so the CXT wasn’t exactly breaking new ground new in that particular regard.
Then in 1979, the Scout, IH’s only remaining entry in the consumer SUV market, was killed off. We may regret it now but when you look at IH’s situation at the time, the light vehicle division must’ve look like a leech that was sucking some of the meager resources that Mr. McCardell had to work with: selling only one model that dated back to 1971, and that was just an update of the original Scout going back to 1963.
We also can’t argue with the initial results of his plan, his cost cutting and sales push resulted in much increased sales and revenue. Unfortunately in doing so he stepped on the toes of the UAW by wanting some rule changes. They called upon a strike and killed whatever boost he had going on for the company. The Recession of the early 1980’s delivered another punch in IH’s proverbial gut. In 1984 it was all over, and Tenneco bought all the assets to merge them with their J.I case.
By 2004 however, all of that was ancient history. And Navistar International was doing very well for itself. They made their own chassis and bodies and had a full line of commercial and school buses. They had announced their new venture into military vehicles. Really, a new vehicle for the retail consumer seems like a given during the SUV boom. They could make another SUV in the lines of the Tahoe and the Durango. Or they could do the easiest step-down from their established market and make a light/medium duty pickup truck to compete with the Silverado, Ram and the F-Series. A neo 100-series if you will. Instead, they decided to take their international 7300, make it a double cab, refine it a bit and sell it to the consumer.
I would have loved to be in the meeting where it was decided that this was a good idea. “Yes, people would absolutely love to drive this product as a grocery getter or to use on their ranches or to cover the vast expanses of farmland that this great nation has” I don’t say “this planet” because clearly not a single iota of thought was given to any other market but the American one. It’s two feet longer than an Excursion even in its shortest configuration. It’s 16 inches longer and at least 19 taller. Crucially, it weighed anything from three to seven thousand pounds more than the Excursion. Remember how much I beat on the poor thing over its weight problem? Only to turn around and find a car that’s as heavier as it and a Suburban combined. In fact the only reason it’s not heavier is probably because you couldn’t drive it without a specialist license.
The writing on the window was standard. Stay classy International.
Actually, it has a lot of a lot of things in common with the Super-Duty (and therefore, the Excursion), The bed comes from an F-350 pickup (and looks ridiculously tiny in proportion to everything else) and one of the engine options is the same 6.0-liter diesel that Ford was branding as a Power Stroke at the time. The other option is the venerable DT466 (7.6-liter) straight six. Produced and improved since the early merger days of 1984 it produced 220hp and presumably about two and a half million torques. This means that you could tow pretty much whatever you fancied with it.
So who ended up buying them? Well, some celebrities, most notably Ashton Kutcher. And apparently the recently ousted president of Ukraine. This was not a cheap vehicle; $93,000 without any options, according to Truck Trend. If you wanted to use your CXT as a dump truck (For those trips to the recycling center every time you collect about three tons of aluminum? What? It doesn’t happen to you?), that was an additional four grand. I couldn’t find any sales numbers on it but considering they retired it due to low sales in 2008, I’m guessing they weren’t brilliant and everything that was happening in the economy at around that time certainly didn’t help.
The CXT Failed for being literally too big, but there’s times where only being perceived as big can cause problems, as our next example will demonstrate.