About a month ago, Brian blew one of the cylinders on the front brakes of his shiny new Scout and decided it was best to just upgrade the entire thing from drums to discs instead of fixing the old technology. We local guys traded emails around to organize a work day, and settled on April 6. I loaded up Peer Pressure with some basic tools, stopped over to Bennett’s house to pick him up with a load of specialty tools (brake tools are exotic and having the right ones is the difference between a great Saturday and a miserable weekend), and then we headed across the bridge to Brian’s house. There we crawled over his new Scout ooohing and aaahhing at the shiny metal and clean mechanical bits before jacking it up on stands and breaking the wheels down.
Having done mine last year I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the process but getting his drums and backing plate off (he has a Dana 27 axle, the smaller cousin of the Dana 44) required removing the hubs. I’ve pulled several hubs off—the wrong way—so watching over Bennett’s shoulder on the passenger side was super handy. After he’d gotten halfway done I went over to the driver’s side and with Brian’s help we got that hub off ourselves. From there it took a little test fitting to put the caliper mounts in the right place, and suddenly the rotors were installed and in place. We kept joking that everything is much easier to work on when it’s not covered in 40-year-old grease and there isn’t rust falling in our eyes.
When we’d gotten the rotors and calipers on and the brake lines swapped out, we bled the system and Brian took it out for a test. It was still pretty spongy so we bled it again, and then a third time. It never did get as strong as a Scout II, which has a full size brake booster, and nowhere near the power of hydroboost, but it’s stopping straight and it feels good. It’s really a beautiful Scout. The guy he bought it from had excellent work done, and it’s about as close to a new Scout as I’ve ever seen. The engine (a 4-cylinder) purrs and there’s no oil on the engine at all.
By this time it was about 4, and even though I’d brought my radiator and a flush kit I knew it was too late to start on that. We sipped some beer and shot the breeze until about 5, and then packed up to head back home.
Bennett hasn’t been able to run Heavy D (his D-series pickup) because of a blown hub left over from some adventures at Pinelands, and mentioned that he was running up to Barnes IH for a replacement on Sunday. I remembered I had a spare I pulled from the Traveler we found in Mt. Airy back in 2013 and told him it was his for the taking. We also talked about the lovely ’66 Mustang sitting in his garage waiting for new brakes and I told him to name the date so that we could set up another work party.
Peer Pressure ran like a top the whole way out and the whole way back; about 160 miles. I did throw a quart of oil in her before I left and that made a huge difference in the sound and feel of the engine.
I’m really not on Facebook at all these days, but my account is still there. I had to pop in there to look something up this weekend and noticed Bennett had mentioned me in a post: apparently someone is selling a cab top that looks like it was painted purple the same day as my Scout. I’m half tempted just to buy it even though I don’t have a bulkhead to go with it (the section that sits between the bedrails).
I got a text from Brian yesterday with the photo above; he drive to Delaware and took possession of a beautiful 1968 Scout 800 painted white over red, which was previously restored a couple of years ago. It’s in fantastic shape and looks like it rolled off the factory floor (with a custom bumper, modern soft top, and bigger wheels). Due to scheduling and weather I haven’t been able to see it in person yet but I’m hoping we can organize a meetup sometime soon.
He’s already made a list of upgrades he wants to make. The rollbar in his Scout is only a single hoop, and because he wants to be able to take the whole family on the road, he wants to upgrade that to a family-style cage like he put in Chewbacca. I’ve been wanting to upgrade my rollbar with something more stout, as well as adding shoulder belts. GRC Fabrication makes rollbars for the 800 and Scout II that we’ve both been looking at, and if he pulls the trigger on a kit from them I’ll probably go in on it with him to save on shipping costs (and we can weld them up and install them at the same time).
Saturday was looking pretty grim for most of the morning but around noon the clouds seemed to burn off and we got some sunshine. Which is great, because the high was 48˚. Even so, six Internationals showed up, including Bennett in Heavy D, Steven G. in his Scout II, Dwight R. in his shiny Scout II, Paul S. in a glorious lifted Travelall, another guy whose name I missed in a second D-series pickup, and of course Peer Pressure.
We hung around the parking lot for an hour or so, talking trucks, and then went inside for some barbecue. As always, it’s great to talk with old friends and make new ones too.
I’m home late on Sunday night from the IH Nationals. I smell like exhaust, summer air, sweat, and Dairy Queen. I’m sunburned on my face, nose and scalp. My shift leg feels like rubber. I’ve got grease caked under my nails that I have to clean out before bedtime. But every mile was worth it, and I’d like to do it again next year.
My first leg was from home to West Virginia to pick up Brian. I made an early morning appointment to have the alignment done because the new wheels make the truck wander at speed and I don’t like that too much. I waited in the parking lot for about 45 minutes before the guy got her up on the rack and after that it only took about a half an hour to get it dialed in. He said everything looked good, but the wandering was still there when I got on the highway. It took about a half an hour to get used to the new handling at highway speed, but once I settled in it was OK.
In West Virginia I picked up Brian at his family’s river house and we got on the road in short order. We were both excited to be in a Scout going to Nationals, so we were smiling like idiots the whole way. The weather was beautiful for the entire day so we put the soft top down and rode like that for most of the day in cool 80˚ sunshine. As we chased the sun West it lowered into our eyes so we put the bikini top on somewhere in Ohio and stuck with that for the rest of the day.
My previous calculations on fuel consumption put the average somewhere at 10mpg, and the venting on the fuel tank is still wonky, so she only likes to take about 8-10 gallons at a time at the pump. This meant our range was somewhere around 80 miles/1 hour between fill ups, and after a couple of stops it bore out the theory. We switched off driving so Brian got some wheel time and he got to scare himself when the truck would wiggle at speed.
Along the way we were given thumbs-ups and smiles and had our pictures taken; a helpful man in a pickup also let us know one of the license plate bolts had loosened itself with all the rattling and escaped somewhere in Pennsylvania. We pulled over and Brian asked if I had a zip-tie, to which I laughed as I pulled a bagful from the console. Once it was secured we continued on our way (and when the other bolt rattled itself off in Ohio we just zip-tied the whole thing on).
We pulled into Troy at sunset, following some signs for the WACO airfield, and suddenly found ourselves passing it. I pulled a quick U-turn and we drove onto the grounds to preview the site. Most people were out at dinner so we asked some of the few people milling around about timing for the next day, shot some quick pictures, and then went to find some food and a cold beer. We had to settle for an Applebee’s but the beer was cold so we didn’t complain.
Across the street at the hotel, the parking lot was filled with people and Internationals. I found a spot next to a familiar Maryland Scout owned by a friend of ours and we put the soft top up before checking in. Then we made a drink and wandered down to talk with some people until about 10, at which time we became pumpkins.
The next morning we were up early to get cleaned up and fed, and then we made our way to the site via a Tim Horton’s closer to town. I pulled onto the field and parked in the Scout II row, put the hood up, and got her ready. As we walked in to get registered I passed a couple I follow on Instagram who have a beautiful Scout they’ve been restoring and we made introductions. They walked with us to the registration desk and we filled out the paperwork and got our swag. I decided to have Peer Pressure judged for a laugh. Once we got that sorted out, we started walking the grounds.
At Carlisle there were a lot of Scouts but this was IH Mecca. There were more shiny new Scouts than I’d ever seen in one place, and they were out on the grounds and being driven regularly. There were the requisite lifted, caged, dieseled Scouts and there were rusty old original Scout 80’s with sliding windows and no seat belts. There was a gorgeous mid-60’s Travelall pulling a vintage Airstream. There were giant IH cabover tractors lined up in a row. There was a 6-door Airport Travelall. It was overwhelming.
We started with the parts vendors first, and I scored some bolts for my door hinges, which are missing, as well as four spare bolts for the bedrail caps. We were blown away by the sheer amount of stuff for sale (and this was the second day; apparently Friday is parts day) big and small. Everything from nuts and bolts to entire NOS quarter panels is available; there were trailers stacked with axles, body shells, and a few very clean turnkey Scouts as well.
From there we started looking at the display trucks, and that took the majority of the day. There were show-ready Travelalls, pickup trucks, and Wagonmasters (the El Camino version of IH’s Travelall). There were street-rod versions of the same, many with donor engines and drivelines.
We started down the line of Scout II’s and had to stop when we got 1/3 of the way for lunch. At the table we met up with a fellow all the way from Australia, who has a gaggle of Scouts, runs a club, and has been driving them for years.
From there we continued looking at the display trucks, stopping only to put the top up on Peer Pressure when gray clouds rolled in and rain started falling. Luckily it only rained for about 20 minutes and then cleared itself up; We spent that time in a tent filled with immaculate examples of IH’s entire range of trucks and even a Q-tip ready Farmall tractor. I looked at a Midas Traveler which, minus the outside paint job, was the spitting image of my college roommate Pat’s Traveler down to the brown plaid captain’s chairs and shag rug.
Once the rain passed we finished the displays and wandered up to the hangar where we ran into a bunch of friends, including Dennis, who had been one of the main mechanics on Peer Pressure’s brakes. We mentioned the wandering issue and he told us to get a Straight Steer bar and he’d help us install it in the parking lot. Never one to turn down knowledgable help, I ran to the Super Scout barn and grabbed the last one on the table.
By 4 o’clock Brian and I were pretty walked and talked out. We hung out in the barn for a while, waiting for another shower to pass, and made plans to follow Stephen into town for burgers and shakes at an old-school diner on Main Street. K’s is right out of the 1950’s from the interior decor to the paper hat on the head of the grillman, who knew Stephen from sight. Those burgers sure did taste good.
On the way back to the hotel we made a brief stop at a Harbor Freight for some box-end wrenches and a deadblow hammer and then found a parking spot before the raffle/auction started. Taking 1/2 hour to relax and kick back in our room, we poured some drinks and checked in with families, and then headed downstairs to join the crowd.
For years, there’s been a Saturday barbecue, raffle, and auction after the main show, held in the parking lot of the hotel. People bring all sorts of things to donate, and the entire pot goes to charity. They’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars each year, and the whole thing is a lot of fun. Dennis found us pretty quickly after we came outside and ran for his tool bag; with the tools I’d bought and his ratchet, we had the steering pump loosened and the Straight Steer into place with little effort. In 20 minutes we had the whole thing buttoned back up. Once again I thanked Dennis profusely for his help. Scout people are the fucking best.
Then we settled in for the raffle and auction. I’d bought 12 tickets, 6 for cash and 6 with my entry fee, and as usual, I didn’t win anything. (I had my heart set on a $500 gift certificate from IH Parts America. Oh well). The auction was fun, but I didn’t have a whole lot of cash left after the Straight Steer purchase and anything I wanted got bid out of my range pretty quickly.
I bumped into a nice fellow who asked about the safari top on Peer Pressure and the subject turned to the tires stacked in back; I didn’t have any bites on them at the show but he seemed interested when he saw them. As the night went on he thought more about it and told be he probably couldn’t do it. We stood and drank and talked with new friends and laughed until about 11, and by that point Brian and I were pretty crispy.
In the morning we got packed up early to leave, had some hotel breakfast and said our goodbyes, hit Tim Horton’s again for real coffee, and stopped off at the showgrounds for a toy for Finnegan. On the way out we saw the nice folks from @International_Camp_Bus striking their campsite and we traded a wave as we pulled away.
The ride back was quieter than the ride in; both Brian and I were pretty tired so conversation was more subdued. Peer Pressure drove maybe a smidge tighter, but the tires are still wandery in the tractor-trailer ruts and across expansion joints. It’s really a combination of the tires and the springs: the tires want to move around and the springs like to unload at speed, so just when you need some control the weight floats about six inches above the suspension and the steering gets squirrelly. And this with two adult males and 350+ lbs. of tires in the back. Amusingly, the engine and gearing are happy at 65mph and would easily do 70+ if prodded.
The sky was overcast for the whole way out of Ohio and through Pennsylvania/Maryland; it was only when we crossed the bridge into West Virginia that we got sunshine over our shoulders. I dropped Brian off at the river and stayed for about 15 minutes to stretch my legs. They offered me a dip in the river but it was 6PM and I was itching to be home, so I got back on the road.
The sunlight stuck with me on 70 into Maryland, and I was feeling good about getting home at 7 until I came upon brake lights going up a hill. As I slowly crested it I saw why: a rainbow crossed over the valley I was dropping into, and my heart rate increased a little. As I climbed back out of the valley the road got wetter and spray started kicking up in front of me. My wipers are functional but not at highway speeds, so I rely on Rain-X to keep the windshield clear. And, the soft top was completely folded up behind me. As I crested the next hill, fortune smiled upon me: a rest stop was directly ahead. I pulled off and put the top up in a light drizzle, then looked at the weather radar to see what was overhead: a small cloudburst was directly over I-70 and following it east about 5 miles ahead of me. As I waited the rain stopped and the residual heat started drying things out.
I figured I’d be smart and wait it out, so I killed 20 minutes making notes on the trip and then nervously got back on the road (after hoisting all the electronic gear and dry goods to a high spot on a tire in the middle of the truck). Fortune smiled on me again, because the rainclouds tapered off in front of me and the only problem I had was 20 minutes of stop-and-go traffic for some bridge maintenance up ahead. Peer Pressure’s lights all work flawlessly so I wasn’t worried about a night drive. The only one that doesn’t work is the speedometer but after ten years I can gauge her speed by the sound and feel of the engine through the pedals.
I pulled into Catonsville sweating the last couple gallons of gas (I was a little over my 80 mile interval and dreading the nonexistent breakdown lanes on the Beltway), backed into the garage and shut her down after a long day’s workout.
We covered almost 1,000 miles in three days, and she ran flawlessly. That truck never ceases to impress me. I am continually amazed at how lucky I am to have made the friends that share my hobby, and how willing they are to help and share their knowledge, as well as how lucky I am that this crazy purple-and-gold-and-red truck found me when it did. And special thanks to Brian, my best friend and Scout buddy, for talking me into this trip.
So I got to thinking yesterday about our upcoming trip to the IH Nationals in Ohio. I’ve owned Scouts for over 20 years and never made it out there to the Big Event, only the East Coast regionals at Carlisle twice, once with Chewbacca and once with Peer Pressure. I am as hesitant to go to Ohio for the same reasons I was hesitant to take her to the Eastern Shore: Something could happen. She could break down in any one of a million ways. We could get rained on the whole way out there (not the end of the world, but my wipers only have one setting: SLOW).
But as I thought, I realized I was holding myself back for some pretty dumb reasons. The 270-mile trip to the Eastern Shore was as good a shakedown cruise as I’m ever going to get for a 7-hour trip to Ohio. I’ll be with Brian, who will provide humor and good judgement should something go wrong. I’ll be on a major route that’s sure to be transited by other IH fans on the same journey. I’ll be surrounded by experts who can help diagnose and repair pretty much any issue I may have once we get there. I’ve got new tires on the truck that are much kinder than the ones they replaced. I’ve got newer, better insurance with a solid towing package.
I texted Brian in the middle of the day and told him what I was thinking and he helped talk me into it.
Today I made an appointment to have the alignment done on Friday morning at 8:15, which means I should be able to get on the road by 9. My hope is that it will solve the wandering issue and even out the wear on the tires. I’m going to bring the four Mud-Terrains and see if I can sell them while I’m at the show, along with an automatic transmission cover, a center console, and a spare set of Kayline bows I’ve had sitting in the garage for years.
Meanwhile I’m making a list of all the other crap I need to bring along:
- Fluids: antifreeze, brake fluid, ATF, water
- Spare hoses and hose clamps
- Bikini top for the journey
- Anxiety medication.
Peer Pressure made a 257-mile trip this past weekend to the Eastern Shore without a hitch. The kids loved it, I had a smile on my face the whole time, and it was her first visit to the shore–about as close as I’ll ever let her get to salt water.
I had no issues with starting, overheating, or odd distributor explosions. I am noticing that braking is getting wobbly up front, probably due to the rotors being warped (the only parts we didn’t replace during the brake job this spring) so I’m going to have them ground or replaced next month.
After that, it’s getting a set of road-going tires. Mud-Terrains are good for mud but loud as shit at 60mph.
These are the endcaps I’m buying from Bennett. Technically I don’t need two of them–my passenger endcap is dented from the swingarm, and the driver’s side is OK–but it’s always good to have spares.
Update: Here are the insides of the red tailcap, as per Neal’s request in the comments below. Looks like this one was torched out of a Scout with a little cancer above and below.
From left to right, you’re looking at the top to bottom. The hinge pin for the liftgate is in the top right area. The tailcap is actually a two-piece section that you can see here– a flat section of steel that is welded underneath the folded edge of the rounded piece. This forms the inner edge of the tailcap.
This is looking at the back side, where the edges of the inner and outer fenders are welded together and then join with the tailcap.
So Neal, you could probably buy four parts from Super Scout Specialists and weld your own, if you can’t find a donor scout–they’d be the corner post and the tailcap. And you’d need the hinge pins too.
A couple of months back, when I was laid up, I got word that Bennett’s mother had passed. I met her once during a workday, and she was a real nice lady–she was even kind enough to make us all lunch. Now that her estate is being settled, he’s got to clear out the stuff he’d stored at her place. So he’s divesting himself of all but the essentials: a ’57 Studebaker Golden Hawk has been sold, a ’63 Valiant is still awaiting a buyer, and he’s sorting through the rest of his fleet. Most importantly, he wanted to move his ’53 IH R-110, named Phantom, out of the barn at the farm to his home garage. I’d offered to help months ago, and was looking forward to spending a day getting dirty moving trucks with friends.
First we had to make room, so I met he and Brian at his house to help move stuff from one bay of the garage to the other. I had to be careful not to pick up anything heavy so that I wouldn’t mess up my stomach, which is still healing, but tried to be as helpful as I could. When we had enough space cleared to fit a full-size pickup, we hopped in his brother’s Ford and headed up to the farm.
Upon arrival, we were faced with about 20 years worth of parts storage and cleanout. Actually, he’d already gone through a LOT of the stuff up there and moved, junked or sold it, but there’s still a bunch left. In front of the garage sat a spare R-series frame and bed loaded with parts he’s selling in bulk, so we continued piling stuff into that bed for disposal. Next, we reorganized a spare bed that was sitting on Phantom’s existing bed, spinning it 180 degrees so that it would fit neatly into the raised platform in his garage with the tailgate open.
We strapped that down to the bed and continued moving parts to the back of the Ford when we realized how many spare R-series parts he still had in the garage. I suggested we throw those in the back of Heavy D, which had been parked the farm, and I’d drive that home behind them. Quickly, we filled the beds of the Ford and the IH pickups with priceless 70-year-old sheet metal until there was no more room.
When we finished that, Bennett re-oriented the trailer and we started winching Phantom up onto the bed. This took some time and skill, but Bennett is a pro at this stuff and soon we had the whole thing strapped down and ready to go. Among the stuff he was getting rid of were two clean reclaimed Scout tailcaps and a full-size steel rim, which I grabbed, and he offered me a 25-gallon compressor and a heavy-duty toolchest, all for a price I couldn’t refuse.
When it was time to saddle up, I followed them down the hill and onto 40 in Heavy D, marveling at how different the driving experience in his truck feels. It’s got an identical engine/transmission combo as Peer Pressure, but the engine was built with a hotter cam so the idle is completely different and the transmission feels much smoother. It reminds me a lot of driving my Dad’s old Ford wrecker from our repossession days in terms of ride and steering: the suspension is softer than Peer Pressure (Conestoga wagons are softer than Peer Pressure, to be fair) and the oversized tires made steering something that had to be planned minutes in advance. Still, I loved it. I can’t remember the last time I drove a full-size pickup with butterfly windows, a bench seat, and a CB radio, but it’s been too long.
Returning to his house, we scratched our heads until we came up with a solution for how to get a heavily loaded trailer up the embankment of his driveway without cracking the concrete: we shoved some 2×4’s under the trailer tires to lessen the angle. Once we’d done that, and with a little scraping, Bennett was able to center a 22′ trailer with a longbed Ford in front of his narrow garage door with only two minor adjustments before shutting it down. For reference, this would be as easy as parking the Queen Mary in a phonebooth backwards with an outboard motor.
We used a snatch block around a concrete support pillar to winch the truck backwards off the trailer and got the second bed within inches of the raised platform it would be stored on; then it was a matter of backwoods engineering to jack it high enough to get the edge of the bed onto the lip of the platform. Once we had that done, it was a simple matter of using some 2×4’s to gain leverage and some pushing to get it in place. At this point I had to leave to meet the girls for an appointment up in Pikesville, so I said my goodbyes and cranked the Scout up to meet them there.
After the meeting, when I got in and turned the key to start it, I heard a POP from under the hood, and found that she wouldn’t catch. I added some gas to the carb, filled the tank with the remainder from my rotopax (remember, the gauge is still inoperable) and tried again: no luck. On further inspection, I realized the distributor cap was loose, and realized that the POP had been from gas vapor sneaking back into the distributor from a bad vacuum control diaphragm: when I turned it over, the vapor sparked and lit, popping the cap off and sending the rotor someplace I couldn’t find.
I fooled with it for a while, but was exhausted from the day, and the girls were waiting for me and for dinner. We returned home to eat, and did some investigation online before calling USAA to arrange for a tow back to our local garage. I’d added towing to our coverage a couple of years ago with this very thought in mind. Then I drove back up and waited for the truck to arrive. The guy driving the flatbed was a pro and we quickly got it loaded. I followed him to our neighborhood garage and we dropped it out front with an apologetic note to Jeff, the owner, describing the problem.
This afternoon I talked to Jeff and he’d already found the problem and ordered the part; hopefully it will be fixed sometime tomorrow and I can pick her up on Wednesday morning.
Now that Brian is finishing up work on his house and it’s getting warmer, the hunt for a new Scout has begun. He’ll have a garage to put it in shortly, so we’re casting about to see what’s available in the Mid-Atlantic region.
His needs are pretty simple: He’d like a running, driving Scout with minimal required bodywork. In reality, we could find him an inoperative example and have the mechanical stuff done easily; the body is the most important part of the equation, and that’s hard to find these days, as mentioned before.
I spied a shiny silver Scout on Craigslist late last week and shot him a text, and he contacted the seller immediately. Online, it looked great: a new engine, a soft top, decent body panels, and the price was fair. On closer inspection the pictures showed the issues that the seller did disclose: the door panels looked toasty, there was some visible rust in other areas, the pillars around tailgate were wider at the top by about 1/2″, etc. We knew it wouldn’t be perfect, but we had to do our due diligence.
We met up in Federal Hill and found the truck parked on the street. The seller was running late so we had about 45 minutes to go over it by ourselves with no pressure, and what we saw got more disappointing as we looked closer.
I should stop here and say that this was probably the best-looking Scout I’ve seen since Peer Pressure. For an east coast Scout it was in fantastic shape. But for Brian it was past the point of “easy project” and firmly at “involved overhaul.” In terms of real-world rigs it wasn’t at end-stage Chewbacca level (running roughly, doors sagging, floor shot, body mounts toasty) but it needed a lot of TLC to get right. Both doors were pretty much shot. The windshield cowl was toasty on both sides. The inner fenders were crispy and the driver’s outer fender was on its way out. The interior was a mishmash of poorly attempted fixes and bad ideas: the front seats were captain’s chairs cut out of some kind of customized van and bolted to the Scout floorpan.
But it did have its pluses; the floors were all solid inside and underneath, the engine was brand new and purred like a kitten, it had a $1,000 soft top installed, with a hard top that came along with it. It was a good platform for a sympathetic restore that wouldn’t be impossible to do (see: Chewbacca) and he’ll get the money he’s asking for it.
We talked with the seller for a while and went over the history, asked a couple of questions, and had him start it up. Brian went for a spin around the block while I chatted with the seller, and on his return Brian basically told him thanks but he wasn’t interested.
We hadn’t gotten our hopes up too high, so the letdown wasn’t bad; we continued down Fort Avenue and got some tacos and a beer to drown our momentary sorrow. There will be other Scouts out there, and we will find Brian the right one.