In a little garage space carved out of a Venice, California side street my friend Jake Barba is ramping up a business restomodding International Scouts. This Epsom Green cowboy cadillac is the first completed truck his new outfit’s trotting out, and it’s remarkably nice to ride in. Quite an achievement with an archaic truck built on tractor bones!
(Full Disclosure: Barba and I belong to the same car club, and his shop’s actually worked on my own truck a couple of times.)
Restomodding, the build style where an old car gets simultaneously restored and upgraded in some key areas (usually to improve performance and drivability), should be pretty familiar to anyone reading this site.
But for those who appreciate some more context, the idea with a restomod is to modernize a classic vehicle in a way that makes it more practically usable than its primitive nature should allow, without losing every fun element of oldness, and to create something new and unique at the end. Singer’s treatment of Porsches and Icon 4x4’s work with old Toyota FJs would be some of the most elite executions of this concept right now. The bargain-basement version would be, like, if I were to put LED Jeep headlights in my own Scout Traveler.
I’d never do that of course, because I actually like my old cars to be slow, smelly, and sketchy. As far as I’m concerned, the physicality of ancient hardware is what makes it fun! Good thing, too, because I could never afford anything finished by Singer, Icon, or Mr. Barba’s new company: Bulletproof Restorations.
This 1973 International Scout II is currently being raffled off on Omaze’s charity network, which says its supporting the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Specifically, per Omaze’s listing:
“Your donation will support their Pediatric Cancer Program’s research and capital projects that will allow skilled researchers to pursue exciting discoveries in basic and clinical science, aiding their understanding of disease processes and leading to better methods of prevention, diagnosis and treatment. It will also help them renovate necessary spaces within Children’s Hospital to meet their patients’ needs.”
But before this truck was completely finished and professionally photographed, I got to go for a little spin around west LA to get a feel for what Bulletproof Restorations is starting with. I see Barba around The Motoring Club on the reg. So when he tossed me the keys and said I could stand on it, I wasn’t about to decline a drive. Even though I knew my own Scout would feel even jankier than it already does when I traded back.
Bulletproof took a simple, but extremely time-intensive, approach to this restoration. Basically, the whole thing came apart, then went back together overbuilt. Every bolt is a nice piece of cadmium-plated hardware. Thick, custom-valved shocks provide a soft ride. And of course, under the reverse-opening hood, there’s a Chevy LS V8 instead of a carbureted IH engine.
LS swaps are ubiquitous, and for good reason. These engines are readily available and reliably offer big power. The engine swap was clearly done carefully here, too–the engine wiring harness can be divorced from the truck with one big plug on at the driver’s side of the firewall.
The interior is my favorite part, though. A classic bench seat is retained, but instead of feeling like the crappy L-shaped chairs you might remember from your days of riding on a school bus, this baby is overstuffed and so, so soft in texture.
The original square gauges remain faithfully in place, but everything’s been remade and repainted and by god it’s beautiful.
On the road in LA traffic, this Scout feels very relaxed and happy tooling around at low speed. If the mood really strikes you, this engine and transmission pairing has no problem roasting rear all-terrain tires and making a big scene of peeling out. Capable brakes reel the car back in from such shenanigans, too.
“You can manually shift if if you want,” Barba explained. The transmission does have a plus/minus provision for tiptronic-style shifting. I can’t really imagine wanting to use it, but if you want to push a truck like this harder, the option is available. It certainly feels good.
On the highway, the vehicle’s happy to run with traffic in the fast lane running at western-state speeds. It sounds damn good, too. And healthy. An app on Barba’s phone was linked to the engine’s OBD system, so most aspects of the engine’s condition can be assessed from the comfort of that scrumptious bench seat I mentioned.
I still felt a little wary going that fast, and if you find yourself driving one of these, you should too. A truck from the 1970s, even one as nicely rebuilt and restored as this one, is still liable to impale you with its steering column if you’re in a serious accident. (Update: Barba tells me the steering column here is collapsable to prevent this! I’d still be careful behind the wheel of an old car.)
But cruising beach towns or backroads, the way a rig like this is really best enjoyed, keeps thoughts of tragic destruction pretty well at bay. And for people who like the idea of an old truck but don’t want to deal with the realities of life without fuel injection, restomods are always going to be cool options.
I’ll let my Scout stay crusty until it’s reclaimed by the Earth, but it’s cool to see how nice one can be when it’s remade this completely and comprehensively. Here, paw through a couple more detail shots. And don’t forget, when I took these, the truck wasn’t even completely done yet. The pics on Omaze’s site do it better justice.