COAL: Cornbinders Of A Lifetime, Part Three: 1972 Scout II Traveltop


When we last left Cornbinders Of A Lifetime, my brother had split the transmission in my 1973 Cab Top  from end to end, and my search for a replacement transmission hadn’t been fruitful. Then, while cruising the classifieds in the local paper, I came across an ad in the Heavy Duty Trucks section for for a Scout II “parts truck” priced at $500.

Just as soon as my wife walked through the door, we loaded up the kid and went off to check it out. When we got there, the owner had just pulled it out of the garage. He explained that the clutch had starting slipping, and since he didn’t really use the Scout anymore it didn’t seem worth fixing. He told us he’d originally ordered it from a local dealer specifically for towing a travel trailer, which meant it had the 345, a 3.73:1 axle ratio with Track-Lock differential out back, the HD four-speed, power brakes, power steering and the factory Class III weight-distributing receiver .



After I drove it around the block and I told him I wanted it, we ran to the nearest cash machine and hurried back. By the time we returned, he’d pulled out a file that contained receipts for everything that had ever been done on the truck, along with the window sticker and the sales contract–and he even threw in the original factory shop manual. I happily handed over the cash, strapped my son’s car seat into the truck, and headed home.

After we arrived home I started examining the file. It was so extensive, it even included the service station receipt for a fill-up and undercoating just a couple of days after he’d picked it up. The more recent receipts showed that within the last few thousand miles he had spent nearly $2,000 on everything from battery to brakes to radiator to rear axle bearings; in fact, the clutch was about the only thing not recently replaced.



The next morning I performed a more thorough inspection in the light of day. There was a little rust here and there, but the important parts were solid. I raised the hood (incredibly, I hadn’t even  looked underneath it the night before) and started checking out things. Unlike in my six-cylinder Cab Top, these engine mount brackets were completely different and welded to the frame; so much for a bolt-in engine swap. Also, the bell housings in the International-built 345 were different than those used in the AMC-sourced 258, which ruled out swapping transmissions, transfer cases and axles. I once again flipped through the file, and it didn’t take me long to decide this was in way too good shape to be used as a parts truck. Time after time, it has been documented a when a Binder nut considers that the truck they purchased for parts does not deserve to die, it’s a sign that a disease for which there is no cure has taken hold.

So, I was off to the license agency to transfer the title, and then to Costco for new tires to replace the mismatched, seriously old ones. I had some old, chrome aftermarket wheels wide enough to take some 31 x 10.50 Mud Terrains, which allowed a little more ground clearance versus the stock tires. I adjusted the clutch so that it slipped only when being pushed hard, and since a Scout is hardly a hot rod, I managed to nurse another three or so years from it. When eventually it started slipping during everyday driving, I simply parked it in my storage yard for a couple of years.



After I’d gotten my Cab Top back on the road I got the itch to do the same with this one, since it could carry our entire family, now four members strong. In the last installment I noted how part of my addiction included regular cruising of eBay parts listings, one of which advertised a garage-full of parts located just a few miles away. Apparently, sometime in the late 80’s this guy and his friend had been bitten by their own addiction, which they supported by parting out trucks. Their unsold parts ended up stashed in a garage that belonged to one guy’s mother; now his sister was moving into the house, and she wanted the stuff gone. In that stash of parts I found a fairly new clutch disc and pressure plate.

After bringing the Traveltop home from the storage yard, I changed the oil and cleaned it up. Then, on a day when there wasn’t much scheduled, I took it to the shop where I worked and put in the used clutch. I got it all wrapped up just before closing. I pulled it out of the shop, and decided that since I had a good clutch I’d do a burn out. I revved it up and dumped the clutch–and then heard a big bang accompanied by a grinding noise coming from the rear. I locked in the hubs, shifted into 4WD, pulled back into the shop and got a ride home. The next day I pulled the diff cover and discovered that I had exploded the differential, and that pieces of it had broken the teeth of some of the gears. I pulled it out of the shop, stuck it in a corner of the parking lot, and left it to sit.

Eventually I found a 3.73:1 Track-lock differential, listed on eBay, from a brand-new Jeep that had been lifted and fitted with larger tires. I picked it up for a song and then ordered up a bearing kit. Working in a corner of the shop, I removed the rear axle. Removing and installing the differential in a Dana 44 requires a case spreader, and they aren’t cheap. Thus, I fabricated one and then got down to the business of teaching myself to set up a differential. Fortunately, I still had that factory shop manual. I went slowly–this was my first time setting up gears–but eventually I got it back together, with a perfect pattern and proper backlash.


The Traveltop became my winter driver; in the summer, I favored the Cab Top due to its easily removed roof. Apparently it became so used to the routine that every spring it decided to have some sort of major breakdown. In the first one, the exhaust rusted until the tail pipe fell off, which sent exhaust fumes into the cab. On the local Craigslist I saw that some guy was selling parts from a now-abandoned Scout project, one of which was an authorized reproduction dual-exhaust system. Since I’d already scored some new-old-stock clamps on eBay, I was set for a restoration-quality exhaust system. Although I kept putting it off until winter was well on its way, I finally got it all installed just a week before a serious snow storm blew in.

I drove it throughout the winter, until the April day when I took it to pick up my daughter from school. While pulling out from a stop sign by my house, I shifted into second gear. Although the clutch pedal went to the floor, the clutch didn’t disengage. I pulled over and looked underneath; everything seemed to be right with the linkage, and I didn’t see any parts in the road. I stuck it into second and started up in gear. I managed to drive home, fortunately only a couple of blocks away, where I parked it at the top of the driveway while I made room in the garage. It sat there for a while before I had a chance to crawl underneath.

I thought that the throw-out fork had come loose from the cross shaft, so I started removing the drive shafts in order to pull the transmission and transfer case. When I got around to the driver’s side to remove the bell crank, I found the real cause: The frame side-pivot ball was bent to the side after the weld holding it to the frame had cracked almost all the way through.

The problem was that the weld is on the back side of the bracket, and the back side of the bracket is only about a half-inch from the body. In other words, the body would have to come off of the frame. I’d had a little bit of experience, so it didn’t take long until the body was perched on jack stands high enough to let me reach in and do the rewelding. As long as the body was off the frame, I installed new polyurethane body-mount bushings. I also had disconnected the master cylinder when lifting the body, and since I had most of the parts needed to convert the front drums to discs, I added that to the project. I replaced the aftermarket radiator hoses with genuine pieces with factory markings, and also replaced the thermostat, water pump and heater hoses. When I went to reinstall the drive shafts, I noticed that the U-joints needed to be replaced as well. Despite my procrastination, the project creep, and waiting for delivery of an ever-increasing number of parts, I did get it back together before winter set in.

That spring, one of the few things I didn’t replace on the cooling system, the heater core, decided to spring a big leak. Once again, it sat until the next winter was closing in. Thankfully, I’d kept the heater core from the rig that donated its chassis to my Cab Top. After an easy fix, I was good for another winter.

Next thing I knew spring was rolling around again. Right on schedule, while I was cruising down the freeway the engine started a tick that soon became a knock. Since the oil level was full and the pressure was normal, I drove it on home. The next morning I went to track down the source, but everything was quiet. When I drove it to work it seemed fine but later, after a longer trip on the freeway, it started making noise again. This time I did some closer investigation after I got it home. Try as I might, I couldn’t pinpoint the source of the noise. It could have been a lifter, but somehow it sounded like it came from something deeper. In any case, it didn’t sound like a rod knocking.

The file I received when I purchased the truck contained an 80’s-era receipt indicating that the previous owner had brought it to the local International dealer complaining that the oil pressure gauge wasn’t working. As it turned out, the gauge showed no pressure because there wasn’t any. They’d pulled the pan and found bits of bearing material at the bottom, then checked the rod and main bearings and pronounced that it must be what they described as “a common problem” related to the camshaft bearings. They replaced the oil pump, and then sent it out the door with acceptable but not ideal oil pressure. I’ve since learned from the IH forums that it is indeed common for camshaft bearings to de-laminate, and their failure can starve the valve train of oil.

I pulled it around back and stuck it under the deck where it sat last winter, then swapped its almost-new tires over to my Cab Top. During a long power outage last winter, it served as a generator, charging a couple of extra batteries we used a large inverter to run the blower for the furnace to stay warm. At this point I’m not sure which way to go. It still runs great and doesn’t burn or leak much oil, but it does have over 200,000 miles on it. I’m tempted to replace the lifters, but given the prior cam-bearing diagnosis I don’t know if it’s worth it. I’ve got a good-running 304 in a parts truck, but I don’t really want to pull it and thus disable that vehicle. I do want to rebuild the original engine in order to keep things pretty much original. Meantime, winter is here and it’s going to sit out another year. Hopefully it will be back on the road next winter, but until then it will stay under the deck.