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The ‘Scout’ brand is being revived

 

Volkswagen Group plans to revive the Scout off-road badge, to create a share of the booming US light-truck market.

 

VW Group inherited the Scout brand name when its Traton truck unit acquired Navistar International Corp in 2020. Navistar was created in 1985 when International Harvester, which kicked off the Scout brand in 1961, folded.

VW, one of the biggest global automakers, but with a relatively small US sales footprint, plans to introduce a new Scout electric SUV and electric pickup, The Wall Street Journal reported In early May.

SUVs, pickups and crossovers are booming in the USA and are vehicle makers’ most profitable products. ‘Retro’ is alive and well, as General Motors has revived Hummer as an EV brand and Ford has resurrected the Bronco.

VW is targeting sales of up to 250,000 Scout-branded models annually in the USA, the Journal reported, with output slated to begin in 2026. VW is prepared to invest US$1 billion initially in the Scout project, the Journal said and would later seek other investors.

Scout will operate as a separate unit of VW Group in the UA, alongside the company’s other brands, the paper said.

 

International Scout history

 

1961 Scout pickup with removable hardtop – Dutchtower photo

 

One of the industry’s first SUVs, the boxy Scout became one of International Harvester’s most popular consumer vehicles of all time, during its 20-year production life.

The Scout was the smallest Inter’ made in the post-WWII era, slotting below its pickup models that competed with the Big Three’s pickup trucks. The Scout was aimed at the post-War Jeep models that were picking up business from international Harvester’s traditional agricultural customers.

The Scout began in 1961 as a 4×2 or 4×4 two-door light pickup that was penned by IH designer, Ted Ornas, who was responsible for the A-Series truck range. His original idea was to use fibreglass reinforced plastic for the bodywork, but costs sidelined that in favour of steel.

The original engine was a petrol four-cylinder, derived by ‘cutting a bank off’ the IH 304 cubic-inch V8. The engine offerings increased after 1965, when the 232 cubic-inch, in-line six and the IH 266 V8  – later 304 – were available. The four was briefly turbocharged, but replaced by a larger, 196 cubic-inch four-cylinder.

 

1976-80 IH Scout II Traveller – Mr Choppers photo

 

A longer-wheelbase, slightly restyled Scout II was released in 1971 and continued in production until 1980. The upgraded model wasn’t received with much enthusiasm by International Harvester Australia, but that view changed when the Terra and Traveller up-market versions were released in 1976.

In the Australian market the V8-powered Scout II had a performance advantage over the then-new 4WDs from Nissan and Toyota, but it was considerably more expensive, despite dubious build quality.

Other issues were a suspension that prove hard to adapt to Australia’s rough gravel roads and doors that were heavy enough to do damage when opened in steep terrain. Allan Whiting can remember doing an on and off road test in a Scout II back in early 1980 and was nearly dragged out of the vehicle by the weight of the door, when he opened it on a side slope!

That same vehicle needed fencing-wire repair work a few hours later, when the ‘RHD-engineered’ pedal assembly broke away from the firewall. All the spot welds lacked penetration and simply tore out of the sheet metal. The test crew had to bush-repair it to get it back to the IH dealership.

The Scout II sold in small numbers Down Under. 

 

1976-80 IH Scout II Traveller – Mr Choppers photo

 

By 1980, International Harvester was in financial distress and ended Scout production, despite a half-million sales to date in the USA and the existence of a Scout III SSV prototype. By late 1984, the breakup of the IH empire began.

One can only hope that VW has more volume success with the Scout name than International Harvester did.

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