International Truck’s Chief of Design, Ted Ornas, came up with the idea of a small utility vehicle to complement the company's light-duty trucks. Named the Scout, the new utility's body was originally intended to be open and made of plastic composites but technological and budgetary constraints led to the 1961 models leaving the assembly line with traditional steel body-on-frame construction.
Less traditional was International Harvester’s choice of power. The Scout's 152-cid slant-four engine was essentially the right bank of IH’s 304-cid V-8 and even though it only offered 93 horsepower, the Scout was small enough and the engine robust enough that buyers didn't seem to mind.
International Harvester had originally envisioned the Scout as a light-chore truck, and as such, most of the original production was oriented towards two-wheel-drive pickup versions. However, almost immediately, demand was strongest for the Travel Top wagons with optional four-wheel drive. Also, most sales were conquests from other manufacturers, ranging from domestic pickups to pleasure cars. In short order, the Scout was not only competing with Jeep’s product line, but helping to establish what we now know as the SUV.
By 1964, the Scout was successful enough that more than 100,000 had been built. To celebrate, IH offered its first limited edition Scout—the Red Carpet Special. Other limited editions included the Champaign Edition (1965), the Aristocrat (1969), the Comanche (1970), and the SnoStar (1971).
For 1965, an optional turbocharger became available for the Scout's four-cylinder, but a more practical solution was the larger 196-cid slant-four option (fashioned from the 392-cid V-8) that International introduced in 1967. In the middle of that same year the Scout received its first V-8—with 266 cid. By the end of production early in 1971, powertrain choices ranged from the 196-cid slant-four, to inline sixes, up to 304-cid V-8s.
Through its production run, the Scout was equipped with more and more car-like features, but was still desired for its off-road and foul-weather capabilities. The same remains true today.