The International Scout, another Indiana automotive first, was produced in Fort Wayne, IN, and debuted on January 18, 1961.
The Scout was the predecessor of today’s sport utility vehicle. A 1965 survey showed that nearly 75 percent of all Scouts were purchased primarily for non-business use. Eighty-two percent of Scout sales were 4x4s. Station wagons and sports cars made up more than one-third of the trade-ins on new Scouts. Over 99 percent of all Scouts had four-wheel-drive running gear in 1979. Scouts were purchased by the same types of people who buy SUV’s today. Unfortunately, International Harvester Company was ahead of the curve and never fully capitalized on this niche market.
It’s interesting how IHC’s contemporary advertising for the Scout emphasizes the utilitarian Scout – for the sheer carefree, outdoor fun of it. “Go ahead. Take off the top and you’ll have a jaunty convertible. With bucket seats you may feel like you’re driving a sports car. But there isn’t a sports car around that can take you to so many fishing or hunting places beyond the end of the roads. In case you haven’t yet checked out this great work-and-pleasure vehicle, with two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, prices start at just $1,690.85.”
The Scout, designed by IHC’s chief stylist Ted Ornas, was not originally intended to be a recreational vehicle. It used no-nonsense contoured slab-side body styling to keep manufacturing costs low. Originally, IHC expected most sales to be two-wheel drive, but four-wheel drive models dominated production numbers. Scouts with the removable steel TravelTop were the most popular.
The Scout’s success surprised almost everyone. Initially Scout production was planned for 50 units per day, but within one month the rate was increased to 100 units per day. In the next month, there was another 33 percent bump in production. IHC purchased a nearby plant as the site for Scout production. In the first calendar year of production, more than 35,000 units were sold. In 1968, its seventh year of production, the 200,000th Scout was built in Fort Wayne. When production of the Scout stopped in October 1980, more than 500,000 units had been built.
The International Scout continued Indiana’s automotive innovation into the 1980’s. That’s almost 90 years of automotive innovation that began with Elwood Haynes’ demonstration of his Pioneer automobile in Kokomo, IN, in July 1894.
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