Story Mike Spicer
Photos Mike Spicer, Clemmie Spicer and Thorin Nielson
It was summer 1977 and I must have hit every pothole that was possible as I navigated the Scout down the country lane. All week I had been practicing to drive for the first time, now the car was filled with my mother and cousins for the big debut.
I was eleven, and every summer we went to visit my mom’s family in Tennessee. This year my feet could reach the pedals so why not learn how to drive. I can still remember my uncle Rocky’s instructions as he cut me loose in the pastures, “don’t hit a tree and the cows will get out of your way”.
Jump ahead to 2013 as I came across a yellow 1978 Scout II. I remembered my experiences as a child and this was a pretty nice example. The pristine interior made it a no-brainer so it came home. The first thing I noticed when driving was the steering being very sensitive. As a child I thought all cars were like this and it was something I needed to get use too. Driving as an adult it was clear this was a particular quirky trait of the Scout, and part of its charm.
Early in my ownership the cult status crept up on me as I went to the local hand car wash facility. People started coming out of the woodwork to talk about the Scout. Now I am use to talking to strangers about cars, but the Scout attracted people that I never would have guessed were interested in cars. It was clear on the way home that I was getting acquainted with the Scout’s unique following.
I started to do a little research and found that International Harvester had planned on using plastics for the body panels but ended up using steel when production started. The car was built from 1961 to 1980 to compete directly with Jeep in the niche off- road vehicle market, and as I look back it was way ahead of its time. As trends and technology evolve around us many attributes of the Scout can be seen in today’s vehicles. Who would have guessed our freeways would be filled with large off-road vehicles.
If you look closely you’ll see Scout’s around in various conditions. Some are the owners pride and joy in excellent condition, others are rolling restorations. Then there are the rest sitting dormant waiting to be brought back to life. Our society has a deep infatuation with four-wheel-drive vehicles and owes a lot to the Scout. It’s a precursor to the modern day SUV and a pioneer for off-road vehicles through the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
The Scout offered freedom to leave the paved road and go exploring when most cars didn’t have that capability. It promoted adventure and an outdoor lifestyle. Being the first car I ever drove it always brings back great memories and has a special place in my heart.