For International Harvester enthusiasts, the 1979 Supplemental Scout Vehicle represents what might have been, a missed opportunity to grab hold of the sudden surge in small SUV popularity in the 1980s. Indeed, as two International truck historians will detail in an upcoming presentation for the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum, the SSV was just one of many proposals for new products to fit into new market segments that IH had on the drawing board at the time.”This was a company struggling for resources,” said John Glancy, one of the authors of the International Scout Encyclopedia.
“And they just weren’t making enough money on plain-jane Scouts.”In many ways, it was the Scout that advanced the small four-wheel-drive vehicle market when it debuted in 1961, not the later Ford Bronco. It offered several easily changed body styles on one platform and greater attention to creature comforts, even if it would still rattle grandpa’s dentures out of his gob both on and off road.
But International Harvester simply couldn’t put the same kind of resources behind the Scout that its competitors could put behind their four-wheel-drive vehicles.Medium- and heavy-duty trucks were International’s mainstay, according to Glancy, and the company still had divisions dedicated to agricultural equipment, to construction equipment, even to Cub Cadet lawn mowers. (It even had at least a couple of opportunities to explore the taxicab business after a proposal to merge with Checker in the Sixties and a proposal to take part in the Museum of Modern Art’s taxicab of the future exhibit.) Light trucks, on the other hand, were becoming more of a bother to the company.
It discontinued its Travelalls and pickups in 1975 in response to the 1973 oil crisis, had trouble meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy standards set to take effect in 1979, and faced a second oil crisis that year. Even worse, after the United Auto Workers began a company-wide strike against International in November 1979, then-CEO Archie McCardell tried to break the union, which caused the strike to extend all the way into April of the next year.