Cars Of A Lifetime: 1968 International Scout – Ride Swapping And Hill Hopping

Readers of this series may remember my cute little VW Scirocco, which now developed a nasty smoking habit from all the rough play I subjected her too. Maybe I needed something a bit more butch to stand up to my sadistic inclinations. I spotted an advertisement for a 1968 Scout in the paper. Having already owned one International and being impressed with everything about it except its non-International motor, I was interested. I gave the guy a call. He said it ran, which made me more interested; and then I asked if he might want a Scirocco, and he said he was interested. This was getting very interesting indeed. Your place or mine?

Upon arrival, I discovered a hand-painted sea-foam-green very rusty Scout. I checked out his Scout and he checked out my Scirocco, not unlike swingers at their first meet-up. The rust was mostly in the roof and doors and I figured those could be replaced. It had the 266 V8 engine with a two barrel carburetor, a four speed transmission,

and Dana 44 heavy duty axles with Detroit or True-Trac lockers front and rear! It had been sitting awhile so it took a bit of priming to get it started. And when it did start it ran like it had been sitting for awhile. But no bother, I loved it already. And the owner loved the Sirocco, so after a little warm-up test-driving, we swapped titles and parted ways with our new rides.

The Scout needed a bit of work: carburetor rebuild, tune-up, etc. Once I got that all done I took her out for a real drive. But there was one problem: the front of the roof was so rusted that wind blew through it, stirring up huge rust chip projectiles which were all unerringly and magically guided to my eyeballs. So I removed the rusty roof and doors. With them off, the rust tornado was amplified, a hundred-fold. So for a time I took to wearing goggles until it all blew over.

I did locate a better top and doors. But getting around was difficult, since the gas tank was full of rust. So I took to carrying several fuel filters around wherever I went. Eventually that cleared up as well. Being that it was summer, I kept the top and doors off most of the time anyways. The hood never did quite latch right though. In fact one day whilst driving on the freeway it decided to come loose. It blew up and folded right over the windshield frame, inches above my head. So I pulled over, peering under the hood cowl gap to see the shoulder. I ended up jumping on it to get it flat enough to latch with a bungee cord.

I got back on the highway and quickly discovered that the bungee cord was not a sufficient means of retention. This time however, the hood decided to depart from the vehicle completely in a most dramatic and graceful demonstration of the principles of flight. With great luck it landed in between the lanes in the middle of the freeway. So I ran it over a couple of time to flatten it out, and this time tied it on. It looked better than ever, which isn’t saying much.

(the only remaining picture of my Scout)

Once I got most of that stuff cleared up I painted it a sort of sea camouflage (see picture above). I found that it really did drive quite nicely. The little V8 was pretty torquey and it consistently got around 18 mpg on the highway! In fact it was so torquey that I managed to twist the rear drive shaft right in half trying to do a burnout!

The Scout was the first vehicle I owned in which the traction coefficient was greater than the coefficient of driver nerve. We found that the axle lockers were highly conducive to hill climbing, so much so that one could easily climb a nearly straght up and down hill until the fuel began to pour from the filler and the engine began to starve for oil. We did once make the mistake of trying that in reverse. Now in forward gear one has seats to lean against. However in reverse one has no such retention device. Hanging from my seat belt I was barely able to get it out of reverse!

I did however have a few small problems with it.; I told my friend at the VW junk yard about its incredible feats, and he subsequently bet me ten dollars that I could not climb up the little hill next to his lot. I had to accept of course. On the first try I bottomed out on the top. So I rolled down, gave it more gas and got up some speed. I was about half way up when suddenly all forward motion stopped. It was still running but the back wheels were just spinning and the front wheels were dead. So I tried to reverse, but it would not move! I gingerly got out and had a look-see.

A most unexpected event had occurred; the front drive shaft (which I latter discovered had previously broken and been crudely welded together) had snapped in two, the long portion of which was now jammed solidly into the hillside! A borrowed shovel and ten dollars less, I was on my way to getting a new drive shaft.

I finally got tired of seeing the street below my feet through the holes in the floor and having rain pour on my lap in corners. So I sold it to a father and son for a project vehicle. I do hope it went to a good home. And if I could ever find a less rusty Scout with that same drive train, or better yet with the Nissan diesel engine, I would surely find something or someone to swap for it now.