Many vintage cars and trucks have resurfaced with the warmer, spring weather in Chicago, lately, as if in a swarm. This early Scout II (a 1971 or ’72 model, identifiable by the pattern of the front grille) was one of last week’s finds. Bright, afternoon sunshine just feels so good after being confined to a cubicle and its drab, fluorescent lighting, and fresh air can serve as the perfect antidote to breathing stuffy, recycled office ventilation for eight or nine hours straight.
I had mentioned in a recent post how, since childhood, I’ve often wondered about the lives of drivers and passengers of vehicles spotted in traffic. What could have been involved in the journey of this classic sports utility vehicle from its date of manufacture in Fort Wayne, Indiana to afternoon rush hour in the urban jungle of Chicago’s financial “Loop” district, over forty years later? What follows are the kinds of thoughts and questions that come to my mind.
Perhaps the owner was actually from Ft. Wayne or one of its surrounding areas. Let’s do some quick math – he looks maybe fifty. He might have been an adolescent when the last, ever Scout II rolled off the assembly line in 1980. He had always wanted one, having liked them as a kid, but fast-forwarding to young adulthood and going off to grad school, SUV’s (to which they were not yet commonly referred) were not favored as regular, everyday transportation. He remembers watching the local, Six O’Clock News during family dinner and learning about how International Harvester’s labor disputes and factory strike had affected community morale in a particularly bad way.
His first, new car out of school was an early-90’s Infiniti G20, which he thought of at the time as his “budget” BMW 325i. Fast-forward to five years ago, a buddy with whom he had grown up back in Ft. Wayne had sent him a link from Craigslist advertising our featured truck. It had lower miles, was used but not abused, and most importantly (and rare) of all for the Scout II, it had only a minor smattering of fixable rust.
The renovation, though not as extensive as it might have been, was still costly. When behind the wheel, though, our owner is suddenly transformed into the rugged, adventurous outdoorsman in I-H print ads he remembers from his parents’ National Geographic magazines of the ’70s. His next, great escape now always seems within reach (if not just around the corner), and the restoration project has undoubtedly been worth more than its price.
While driving the Scout in traffic, especially downtown, he continues to be mystified by just how many positive reactions he gets from other drivers and passengers in traffic, and also from pedestrians on the street. “There’s no way they could all be from Ft. Wayne,” he thinks to himself, also patting himself on the back for possessing what must be his inherently good taste.
After all, his Scout is the perfect antithesis of all the cookie-cutter Camrys, Altimas and Tahoes that surround him in city traffic and on the Dan Ryan Expressway. With his hat now under the front seat, the fresh air feels good on his face, and buffeting is only moderate, as the Dan Ryan creeps slowly for much of his drive home. He has long since graduated from that baby Infiniti to a Lexus LS460 that shares his suburban garage with the Scout and his wife’s late-model Audi A4, but only one of these vehicles truly holds his heart.
Then, again, who knows? Maybe he’s just a guy who just simply likes the Scout II. As the CC slogan states, it’s true that every car (and truck) has a story. Given the pristine condition and rarity of our shiny, Tonka-like Scout II, I feel there’s got to be an interesting background here.
Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017.
For other fans of the Scout II:
Here’s a must-read from JP Cavanaugh: Curbside Classic: 1976 International Scout Terra – The Hometown Truck; and
Here’s a firsthand account of a similar truck from Eric VanBuren (aka Scoutdude): COAL: Cornbinders Of A Lifetime, Part Two: 1973 Scout II Cab Top.