Unobtainium: The Hurst Shawnee Scout
IN 1979, INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER (IH) WAS on the decline but still fighting. The IH board had finally begun to realize that managing the Scout brand was going to take some outside auto industry expertise, not just laterally promoted commercial truck or agricultural sales guys. To that end, they hired Jim Bostic (1940-1996), who had been a sales exec with AMC. There began some marked changes in the way things got done, and by the summer of 1979, the Scout Division, later to be called the Sports/utility Division, had been created, and it gave them a little more autonomy as a group.
Among the many things Bostic did was to push for a dealership expansion to bring Scouts onto “main street” and not just at truck or ag dealers. He also pushed to move the Scout line upmarket. Knowing the Scout would never be a high-volume seller, he wanted to increase the profit margin per vehicle by producing fewer low-end “farm Scouts” and more high-end or sporty rigs. One of those ideas involved a collaboration with Hurst for a sporty Scout. Bostic’s exact history at AMC is unclear, but according to sources in the Bostic family, Jim was involved with Hurst in the creation of some of the very successful Amc/hurst collaborations, and it’s likely he used those connections to help create what became the Hurst Shawnee Scout.
Much remains to be discovered about the actual beginnings of the project. Sometime as early as the middle of 1979, or as late as the fall, a Scout was sent to Hurst’s Michigan facility to begin a makeover. Documents and images hint at some back and forth on the design. The only known remaining image of the Shawnee at the Hurst facility shows significant differences between it and later iterations of the same Scout, as well as the two other rigs that came later. This first Scout was completed sometime in the winter, but the exact date is unclear.
On October 4, 1979, two ’80 model year Scouts were ordered for conversion using the Hurst package developed earlier. They rolled off the line on October 9 with a lot of special additions, and their Line Setting Tickets (Ihspeak for “build sheet”) make interesting reading. They had sequential serial and line sequence numbers, so they rolled down the line at the same time. They were delivered to the
Truck Sales Processing Center (TSPC, a place where special assembly or modifications were done) so the Hurst parts could be installed and the vehicles completed. October 9 was well into ’80 model year production, but the SSII had been discontinued for ’80 so a number of special steps had to be taken. These Scouts carried the K0062 model code for the standard Traveltop Scout, not the K0052 the SSII had carried during its 1977-1979 production.
Not much paper has been found regarding the three Shawnee Scouts from October 1979 to February 1980. That could be because nothing much was happening. In November of 1979, after IH CEO Archie Mccardell decided to take on the UAW to reduce operating costs, workers went on a strike that lasted to late April of 1980. During that period the production line stopped, as well as a great deal of product development. The salaried guys at sales and marketing were still working and IH had paid for spots at the Chicago Auto Show, which began on February 23. The first Shawnee was there with press kits describing them as an ’80 model. They even had a tentative standard and optional equipment and price list available, with the MSRP set at $12,998.50. A later price sheet gave them a Gold Star model code and a higher tentative price of $13,272.50, with three options: a roof-mounted light pod ($275), an
AM/FM stereo cassette ($1,014), and California emissions ($105). The Shawnee package alone was priced at $4,510, which is about $14,000 in today’s money.
In early March, shortly after the show, the first Shawnee was given an evaluation by engineering and they found a lot of operational problems. These kinds of problems were and are typical with show trucks. The other two Scouts were better assembled and likely close to what would have been offered for sale. Both of those later trucks got a fair bit of driving time and few flaws were exposed. At some point, the idea emerged to give them individually numbered dash plaques. The first was “#1,” of course, but of the other two, the first produced was mistakenly given a “#3” plate and the last “#2”.
By the time the strike ended on April 21, 1980, the writing was on the wall for the Scout. Though it wouldn’t be announced until May 13, it had been decided some time earlier to either sell the Scout line or shut it down. From May 13, until the last Scout was produced on October 21, the Scout was a dead SUV walking. New model development wound down to almost a standstill. A few new models, essentially fully developed and planned for 1980 or 1981were cancelled, including the Shawnee. Early on, it looked like there might be a buyer for the Scout line, but that fell through and the Scout died.
Before production ended and after, IH began selling off assets from the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Scout plant, and those assets included the Shawnees—two of them, anyway. Shawnee #2 and #3 were sold to Don Painter and Steve Bostic (brother of Jim Bostic). Steve and Don were buddies in Arizona, and Jim Bostic brokered the deal just as he was leaving the company. They picked up the two Shawnees at Fort Wayne in early spring and drove them back to Arizona. More on that later. The final disposition of Shawnee #1 is lost to time. The rumor mill has run rampant on its fate, but every lead followed up by the authors of International Scout Encyclopedia (Octane Press— octanepress.com) came up a dead end. The rumors run the gamut of it being hidden in a private collection somewhere to it having been scrapped.
Going back to Shawnee #2 and #3, Bostic and Painter soon put them up for sale, and by 1982 they had found new homes. From there, both Scouts receded to virtual obscurity, and it wasn’t until decades later when interest in the rare Scout had grown that people began trying to find them.
Shawnee #2 had sold quickly and went to a buyer in California. It’s still there in the hands of that same family. It’s pristine and original, showing a mere 3,700 miles, reportedly not having been driven much after purchase. It was recently offered for sale at $175,000 but didn’t sell.
Bostic had more trouble selling the #3 Shawnee, and it eventually ended up at a Phoenix car broker. Alan Munson bought it from a Prescott, Arizona, dealer in May 1984, and it’s possible there was one other short-term owner in between. In the mid’90s, Alan moved to Iowa and put the Shawnee into long-term storage with about 52,000 miles on it. Sadly, Alan passed in 2013, never really knowing how much the Scout community had come to revere the Shawnee. Last year, the Munson family began wondering about the Scout, and when they discovered its pedigree, they spent considerable time and money resurrecting it. Shawnee #3 had its first public showing in decades at the 2016 Scout and All Truck Nationals (midnitestar.org). It was warmly received and with no small amount of awe.
After its long period asleep, Shawnee #3 required some transmission work and a lot of cleaning up. It’s in good condition but not pristine. Alan was a four-wheeler, and he wheeled it. It acquired some battle scars along the way but retains all its original, virtually irreplaceable special parts. The Munsons regard it as a monument to Alan but also as a piece of International and Scout history worthy of preservation.
|>The Shawnee was configured as a short pickup using the bulkhead from the 118-inch wheelbase Terra pickup. The rear step bumper was intended to be chrome for the production models and was on #1, but #2 and #3 had black painted ones. IH had not offered...
<|->The Shawnee offered covered, lockable bed space—useful to an outdoor sports type of person. Period images of #3 show no jerrycan or tire rack, so these were added by Munson. The last Shawnee package list mentions a tire carrier and cover, which...
<|International was perpetually looking for sporty promotional models. From 1977-1979, that place was filled by the SSII, which came in several trim levels. The Hurst Shawnee built upon that pedigree, capitalizing on the Hurst name and the SSII’S Baja...
|>The Shawnee decals were quite attractive, and this is a reproduction of the big one on the hood. The original had deteriorated badly from its time in the Arizona sun, so the Munsons had one reproduced based on pictures. It was hastily done so the...
|>The inside was significantly updated, featuring Cobra seats, a Hurst steering wheel, Hurst automatic transmission shifter and transfer case shifter, plus a switch panel and that all-important numbered badge. Shawnee #1 was originally equipped with a...