FORT WAYNE, Indiana-Museums are places where stories are told and this room full of trucks at Auburn’s National Automotive and Truck Museum is a biography of the once mighty International Harvester, a builder of workhorse vehicles known for their ruggedness and innovation.
Their story begins not with a truck, though..but with this, the Weber farm wagon, the Cadillac of farm wagons built by Harvester at the turn of the last century…an implement that would morph several years later into this…the 1911 Auto Wagon..the first true motorized multiple use vehicle and the forerunner of the modern pickup. Four years later Harvester produced the Model ‘F’, a one ton truck, its four cylinder engine sporting a real innovation..a pressurized oiling system.
In 1923 Harvesters immense Fort Wayne assembly plant opened, churning out another innovation, the Model 63, a three ton truck with a lifetime guaranteed engine. Harvester introduced its C-1 pickup in the early ‘30’s and the heavy duty ‘K’ series industrial trucks in the ‘40’s, but in the 1950’s a real game changer. Designer Ted Ornas made a sketch of a simple, lightweight four wheel drive vehicle…this sketch in fact…that in 1960 would be introduced to the world as the International Scout.
“The first sport utility vehicle also really, they worked fine,” says museum director Don Grogg. “They were a great product they had a little tendency to rust a little faster because of the foreign steel but they were very well made.”
The Scout was an instant classic adored by farmers and urbanites, campers and weekend offroaders. For a time it kept the failing company afloat but Harvester was closely tied to the agriculture industry and that spelled its demise. Production of the intrepid Scout ceased in 1980 and three years later the Fort Wayne assembly plant shut its doors. International Harvester lives on today in the guise of commercial truck maker Navistar but it’s not the trailblazer Harvester was…a company that knew what the customer wanted before the customer knew, and built it for him…right here in Your Country. This is Eric Olson reporting.
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