Head designer Ted Ornas at International Harvester’s new four-wheel-drive division was asked in 1959 to “design something to replace the horse.” In a company long associated with farm machinery, that meant a vehicle as powerful and reliable as the animal that had served humanity for five thousand years.
The first International Harvester Scout rolled off the assembly line a year later, and for the next twenty years the company produced a host of variations—and a community devoted to the brand. In fact, the vehicle that “replaced the horse” is widely considered the most important 4X4 in American automobile history.
Before the Scout, there was only the Willys jeep off-road. It was tiny, boxy, unattractive, uncomfortable—and easy to fall out of in bumpy situations. The Scout was the very first SUV, setting the bar for the type. Without the Scout there is no Ford Bronco and no Chevy Suburban.
J.P. Morgan’s merger of McCormick Harvesting Machine Company and the Deering Harvester Company created International Harvester in 1902. It met its demise in 1986, the victim of poor management, a sluggish economy, and striking workers. Only 520,000 Scouts were made in 20 years, but they can still be found all over the country. This one, located in the Fairfax neighborhood of Los Angeles, is a late seventies model and a perfect expression of Ornas’ vision.