KC HILITES BLOG
SCOUT SCORE: FRANK HOWARTH’S FACTORY SPONSORED IH SCOUT RACER
Southwest desert racing became a motorsports phenomenon in the late ’60s, and motor vehicle manufacturers recognized the marketing gold right away. Companies sponsored race teams, and those sponsorships brought opportunities for drivers and builders. Some big racing names got involved, and new names soon became big. One of the names you didn’t see in the early days was International Harvester (IH), but that would change.
It started with one man and one Scout. A San Diego–based racer named Jimmy Jones bought a new ’69 Scout 800A as a family vehicle, but it didn’t stay a schlepper very long. By the end of the year, it had competed in the 1969 NORRA Mexican 1000 and placed 13th in its class, but that was only the beginning for Jones. By 1972, he had upgraded to the new Scout II—a 4×2 powered by a six-cylinder engine no less—and in a perfect storm of luck, endurance, and skill, he won the class that year. This got the rapt attention of IH Sales Engineer Larry Ehlers, who carried the news up the food chain to IH Light Truck Marketing Manager Dick Bakkom, and he recognized the opportunity.
Convincing the IH board to invest advertising money into desert racing sponsorships was an epic, uphill struggle that took years. The sponsorship idea finally floated as a marketing companion to a sporty new Scout to be patterned after the desert racers. The concept was first called the Mountaineer, then Scout Side Kick (SSK) and finally SSII, but it got IH execs to sign off on sponsoring several SCORE race teams for 1977.
Three teams were signed up late in 1976 and a fourth in 1977. Jimmy Jones was first, followed by Frank Howarth, another San Diego area-based driver and builder. Next was Sherman Balch, a very well-known driver of Jeeps who had just won the ’76 SCORE Championship at Riverside, California. First-year rookie Jerry Boone was signed up in 1977 after winning his class in the Baja 1000 that year driving a brand new SSII. You can read about all this in a new book, International Scout Encyclopedia from Octane Press (octanepress.com/book/international-scout-encyclopedia), which has a chapter on the factory race teams.
Prior to taking the IH sponsorship, Frank Howarth was probably best known as a builder-fabricator. He had built and raced buggies, done fab work on several race trucks, including the Jimmy Jones Scouts, and had even co-driven for Jimmy in the Scout II. As a result, Frank had a good idea of what he wanted in a race Scout, but those ideas took him on a different path than the other sponsored drivers.
Frank’s choices raised eyebrows and still do. While the others chose 100-inch-wheelbase Scouts, Frank asked for the 118-inch wheelbase Traveler variant that had debuted in 1976. The reasoning was simple. The Traveler was only marginally heavier, yet the long wheelbase offered more stable handling at high speeds and a much less punishing ride. The long wheelbase would make maneuvering on short courses a little more difficult, but it wasn’t a big problem until stadium racing debuted in 1979 as part of the SCORE events program. After prerunning the first of those and learning the Traveler just didn’t turn tight enough, he sat those races out even though it cost him points.
After one season, Frank recognized, as the other teams had, that the rear Dana 44 was a little light for the amount of “frequent flyer miles” generated in desert races. Sure, you could truss it up but failures were still common. Frank decided to go with a semi-float Dana 60. Technically, that didn’t meet Class 3 rules, but Frank got some inside help from IH, who wrote a letter explaining the Traveler was the replacement for the Travelall and the Travelall had come with a semi-float Dana 60 rear axle option. Yeah, maybe that was stretching things a bit, but it got by SCORE tech.
Next up was Frank’s engine choice. After the first season, he replaced the IH V345 with an IH V392. The 392 was never offered in the Scout but fit the Class 3 rules by being in the same engine block family as the Scout 345, and those extra 47 cubic inches added a bit of power. Sherman Balch later made a similar upgrade.
Today, Frank jokes about his racing career saying, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” He ran a lot of races, placed well, and was always very high in the SCORE points standing but never won a major race. His last in this Scout was the SCORE San Felipe 250 in 1982, after which it went into storage. Frank’s contacts and engineering background led to a job with IH (which became Navistar), first as a technical representative in their Mexico truck plant and later for plants in North America. He retired in 2003 and now divides his time between Baja and Southern California.
During his time racing Scouts, Frank formed a strong friendship with Terry Hankins, an engineer at the IH engine plant in Indianapolis. Terry had helped with some special engine mods for the teams and even built Frank’s first 345 engine personally. In 1992, Frank traded the racer to Terry with the understanding it be maintained in his original race trim. It was still in good shape, but in the ensuing years, Terry did a cosmetic restoration and kept it as it was in that last race. It’s been at various shows and even done a little racing here and there, but it has mostly been on display at the National Automotive and Truck Museum (natmus.org) in Auburn, Indiana, for many years and can be seen there today.
Sadly, Terry passed away in early 2016 but a plan was hatched to bring the Scout to the IH Scout and Light Truck Nationals (midnitestar.org) to reunite it with Frank and let IH fans see them both. Preservation of the Scout has fallen to Terry’s sons Jeff and Kent and the event became a final public salute to Terry, who was well known in the Scout community.
Read the entire article with full build details and images at fourwheeler.com
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