One of Joe Kahn’s earliest memories of his late grandfather, Joe March, was riding on Grandpa Joe’s lap while he drove. “I was probably 3 or 4 years old at the time,” recalls Kahn with a chuckle. “He’d let me steer and he’d work the pedals and we’d be driving around the streets of Chicago — that’s where he lived. I can still remember it.”
And it wasn’t just the trips that Kahn remembers fondly. It’s also the vehicle that they were taken in — an International Scout. “I think my grandfather only had it for probably a couple years, then he got rid of it,” Kahn says.
But the truck made a lasting impression on Kahn, a Lindenhurst, Ill., resident. The happy memories led him to venture to a collector car auction three years ago in hopes of landing his own Scout, and he wound up coming home with a glorious baby blue 1973 Scout II Traveltop that fills his garage with nostalgia and happy vibes.
“I’ve loved cars since I could talk or probably before that, and pretty much all the old cars I’ve had go back to some time in my life, probably like most people,” Kahn says. “After [my grandfather] died I decided to start looking for [a Scout] and I looked for a maybe a couple years and all the ones I saw were all rusty or modified or pimped out.
“I was really just looking for one that was stock and clean and really didn’t need anything. Then, oddly enough, one came up at the Mecum auction in Schaumburg right here, about a half hour away from where we live. So after looking all over from coast to coast, I found one right here and I went to the auction and bought it. They had it on their website and I had been trackingit and staring at pictures all day. My wife [Kristine] took the day off — we went together. I decided if it was half as nice as it looked, I’m going to buy it.”
Kahn joked that he was hoping to buy the Scout “on the low-down” and not attract any attention while he was at the auction, in part because he was taking a day off from work, but the sale wound up on Mecum’s cable TV coverage. “Yeah, there we were, you could see me and my wife on TV, and there we are buying the thing … It was anything but secret! But it was all pretty funny.”
It was pretty much love at first sight when Kahn spotted the largely original, numbers-matching Scout II, and that affection hasn’t cooled much in the past three years. He’s had a great time becoming a card-carrying member of the legion of hard-core Scout enthusiasts in the collector car world. He admits he still doesn’t know as much about them as many of the Scout buffs that drive and collect them, but he’s learned plenty. “I really didn’t know anything about them, other than they made them from about 1972-’80,” he says. I was just looking for one that wasn’t all rotten. I’m a Mustang guy and a GTO guy … but I figured it would be cool to get one because they were different. You go somewhere in your Mustang, everybody knows what it is.
“I was at Menards with this one time and a woman says to me, ‘Is that new?’ I said to here [laughs], ‘No, it’s not new!’ … Another time I was at my favorite cigar shop and a guy says to me, ‘Are you showing this, or is that your daily driver?’ Some people do remember them, and they will be surprised to see them and say something like, ‘Holy crap, these used to all rust out!’”
SURVIVING AND EVOLVING
International Harvester helped prove there was a market for rugged little utility vehicles beyond the farm and field with its first-generation Scout. True, the original Scouts saw a lot of duty off-road in the dirt and in the woods, but they also began to prove themselves as a versatile family rig that could adapt to city and suburban life.
For 1971, IH decided the Scout needed to grow up and redesigned the model — which it now called the Scout II — to be larger and perhaps just a touch more refined. The Scout II debuted in spring of 1971 and offered power brakes, power steering, air conditioning, automatic transmission, a bigger clutch, a wider choice of rear axle ratios, more axle capacity, manual or locking front hubs for 4x4 models, and 5 more cubic feet of load space. The rear seat was lowered and increased in width to accommodate three passengers.
The base 152-cid slant four-cylinder was still used, but there were other engine options on the menu, including the top-of-the-line 345-cid V-8, which is what Kahn’s IH carries.
For 1973, the Scout II was again offered as either a pickup or as a removable-top Traveltop SUV. Both used a 100-inch-wheelbase chassis. Buyers could choose between either two- or four-wheel-drive. Two-wheel-drive models started at $2,605 for the pickup and $2,752 for the Traveltop. The prices jumped to $3,394 and $3,549, respectively, for four-wheel propulsion.
The Scout II had a new front end treatment featuringa rectangular front panel with a single round headlamp at each end. Between the headlamps were now two grilles, one on each side of a narrow, body-colored vertical divider. Each grille had a rectangular opening with a chrome surround and six vertical bars finished in body color. An International nameplate ran horizontally across the lower section of the outer four bars on the left-hand grille.
The Scout II rumbled on through 1976 before more major revisions arrived. That year International dropped all of its Metro vans, station wagons and regular pickups and began to focus on its heavy-duty truck offerings. The Scout grew again and used a 118-inch-wheelbase for ’76 and came as either a Terra pickup or a Traveler hatchback station wagon. The 1980 model year turned out to be the final year for both the Scout and IH’s line of light-duty trucks. The company tried unsuccessfully to sell off the Scout part of its business and the Fort Wayne, Ind., plant where the Scouts were built.By then, more than 532,000 Scouts had been built, dating back to 1960, and the Scout name had been indelibly etched in the history books.
THE FAMILY ‘SCHOOL BUS’
As Scouts go, the Kahns’ gorgeous blue example is about as fancy as they come. It won’t be confused with a ’73 Cadillac or S-Class Mercedes, but it was pretty refined for its breed. “It was sold in Montrose, Colo., from Montrose Equipment. They probably sold farm equipment, I don’t really know,” Joe says. “But it’s got about every option. It’s got the 345 (144 hp) V-8, which is the bigger motor. It’s got the luxury interior, which has the Sage seats. It’s got color-keyed dash, the decor trim on the outside with the belt molding and chrome bumper. They had the dual exhaust. It was Glacier Blue and Sage. The stripes somebody added later. Somebody painted it at some point, and that’s really the only thing that has been done to it.
“It’s odd, but it used to be that if you wanted a cheap paint job, you just painted the outside and that was about it. That’s what they did with this one, but the paint job is so good, I really don’t know what they all did… At some point it came to Illinois, I don’t know when. The guy I bought it from was from the Chicago area, in the northwest suburbs.”
Kahn doesn’t sugar coat what it’s like to travel significant distances in his Scout, or even just wrestle it around town on short trips. It’s fun, for sure, but don’t confuse fun with simple and easy.
“Its very bouncy, oh yeah. When I was a kid, I used to ride in International school buses to and from school every day, and that’s what this reminds me of,” he says. “It’s that winding ‘err,’ ‘err,’ and shifting gears. That’s just what this sounds like.
“And it bounces a lot! I took my mother for a ride when I got it and she got nauseous! That’s the way it rides. I think it’s funny, but she got nauseous from it!”
And the gas mileage? Well, Kahn figures it’s got to be under 10 mpg, but he’s not going to figure it out. He’s also not planning any New York-to-LA road trips. “[Laughs] I don’t want to know! If you are worried about that, it’s probably the wrong vehicle for you.”
Kahn says he has a hard time parting with his toys, and figures his Scout II would be especially difficult to say good-bye to. As long as the truck continues conjuring up memories of his rides with Grandpa Joe, the Scout figures to be a part of the family.
“I don’t sell anything. Especially if it’s connected to somebody in my life, I don’t every get rid of it,” he says.“And this is just too cool. I know you look at the values and they have gone up some obnoxious amount, but I couldn’t get rid of it. No way. It’s just too cool.”
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