I’ve always had a soft spot for International Scouts. My parents had one when I was little, and it was replaced with another after my mother rolled it. I’d had an opportunity to get one, so I grabbed it.
Back at the start of my COAL series, I’d started out with a 1970 Chevy truck. It had started to rust again, and I felt that I had to sell it while I could get something for it. By happenstance, after I had sold it, my parents were visiting friends in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and they were taken to visit a fellow who imported old vehicles from the US for people in Newfoundland. In the back of the shop, they had spotted a medium green Scout in good condition. Was I interested? The gent sent some pictures, a price was agreed upon, and it was shipped to me here in Cape Breton.
It was a few weeks before I got home to see it. I was pretty impressed. Very little rust was present as the Scout had come from Colorado by way of California. It was an 800B, which was the last of the old-style Scouts. Equipped with a 304 V8 and a Borg-Warner automatic, with a Dana 20 transfer case, it was a sturdily built vehicle. It needed a few patches on the floor, and on the bottoms of the fenders and rocker panels, but nothing near what the Chevy had needed. I was floored that all the brake lines came apart easily. After going over it, it needed very little to get it roadworthy. A new set of brake shoes, cylinders, and a master cylinder later, it was set. I used it once or twice in the fall of 2003, and then set about freshening it up.
Years ago, my father wanted to find a good winter car for my mom. An acquaintance of his had a pea-green Scout II with woodgrain stripes that he wanted to get rid of, and Dad ended up buying it. It ended up needing bodywork to fix it up, but after some work and a coat of Omaha Orange paint it was all set for Mom. It had a healthy 304, a Torqueflite automatic, and the single speed transfercase. She loved how it was good in snow, fairly decent on fuel, and the 304 in it would never fail to start, no matter how cold it was. They liked it enough that they ended up pulling the roof off of it for the summer, and using it on nice days. One winter not long after the above picture was taken, Mom hit a patch of black ice, and she, my brother, and the Scout landed in the ditch wrong-side up. They were OK, but the poor Scout was damaged beyond repair.
Another one was found – this one being a ’74 with a worn-out AMC 6, a stick shift, and the two-speed transfercase. This wouldn’t do for Mom, so the engine, tranny, and transfercase were stuck in the new Scout. It ended up not being successful – this Scout was pretty rough as was typical for the area, and on top of that it it was hard on fuel. Dad said something about it having the 6-cylinder gearing made it hard. The heater was no great shakes, and the final straw was when the transmission control cable broke and another one couldn’t be sourced. Dad ended up replacing it with an ’85 Toyota 4-Runner. In my young opinion, it was inferior in every way. The orange Scout had delivered 5 years of happy motoring to us. The Scout was easier to get in and out of for us kids in the back, and we sat up high enough to see out the front window – a big improvement over the sedans Dad had, where all we could see was the back of the front seat. The Scout was solid on the road and had plenty of power, and was great in the snow. The 4Runner was not a high-powered vehicle – in other words, you had to carefully plan your pullouts and passes, and the seat being close to the floor made it uncomfortable for me. So you can see the large impression the Scout had made on me and my family. Mom wrecked the Scout around the time Dad had gotten his ’38 Ford, and had the Scout’s beefy engine fit the ’38, it may well have been the first fat-fendered Ford with a Binder engine.
Anyway, getting back on topic – I hated the dull green paint on the Scout, so the colour had to be Omaha Orange as it was on the ’75 . I saw a picture on the internet of one with a black roof, so that was selected as well. I got a decent buy on a set of Ford F150 aluminum rims, so I had them machined to fit over the front hubs.
The interior was carpeted over to try and deaden some noise, and I had to fabricate some elbows to fit the filler holes to the gas tanks. The gas tanks were located just ahead of the rear tires, and the fillers were slightly above the top level of the tank, requiring a quick 90 into the top. Once it was all together, it was down to the business of actually driving it. The first year of driving turned out to be quite interesting. Having sat for a while, the fuel tanks were rusty inside, and had a habit of plugging the fuel filters quite often. Two coatings later, the two tanks were no longer shedding rust particles. The engine had issues as well – some knocking noises, a prodigious appetite for oil, and not a lot of oil pressure at hot idle. After some reading, I suspected that it may have pushed some camshaft bearings out. Another engine that had been rebuilt was presented, another 304.
I cleaned up, resealed, and painted the new engine, and dropped it in. One thing about the Scout V8’s – the engine sat so far ahead in the engine bay, you could sit on the engine and unbolt all the bellhousing bolts easily. I think it was out and in in a day. Once completed, the engine was fired up, and the 304 I remembered in my youth was back. Easily starting, and idling butter-smoothly and quietly, I was happy.
It turned out to be a great engine, not burning a drop of oil. After the first highway run, it had developed an awful lifter noise however. A read on the Binder Bulletin mentioned high-speed operation could starve the top end of oil. The Scout, being an automatic with smallish tires and 3.73 gearing, turned over around 3200 RPM to make 60 MPH, with a top speed of about 75. The thread suggested adding another 2 quarts of oil, bringing it up to a total of 8 quarts.That did the trick. Over the next 11 years, I got a ton of use out the old Binder. I took it to the Atlantic Nationals in Moncton in 2004. I didn’t win a prize, but the fun was with hanging out with our friends from Newfoundland.
So, what was it like to drive? Like a step back in time. With slow manual steering, and small drum brakes, you had to keep lots of room in front of you as it wasn’t a good stopper. The 304 delivered a good amount of power, and sounded nice to boot. The B-W automatic needed about a minute of idling when cold before it would go into gear, but never gave any real trouble. It did shift from first to second at about 10 MPH, and into Drive at 15 or so. The engine had loads of torque, so it was never really a problem. Fuel mileage wasn’t great at about 12 MPG, but was to be expected from this heavy-duty powertrain combo. It had a carb from a 351 Cleveland on it according to the tag, and a carburetor was tried from a 302 on it with no change in mileage.
The only time it left me stranded was when the rocker arm on the fuel pump broke. Being a combination vacuum/fuel pump to drive the vacuum wires I figured it’d be hard to get, but a call to the parts store I had worked at at one time had one within a week for a cool $100. I was grateful to get it.
In the meantime, I had gotten married. The Scout proved adept at towing our little Trillium trailer to the various local campgrounds with friends for weekends away. It was always a conversation piece wherever we went.
With the birth of my daughter in 2008 the writing was on the wall for the Scout. There wasn’t enough room for the three of us in it, and I couldn’t figure out a safe way to allow my daughter to ride in it. I used it myself for the next few years, but after mostly sitting for 2013, I decided to part with it. There was an older gent interested in it who wanted an old four-wheel drive truck as his Power Wagon had gotten too difficult to drive. It was sent on its way, and I was on the hunt for something fun in the meantime. I really hope that you all have been enjoying the stories – if there is anything I can do better I’m up for suggestions! Thanks for reading!