International Diesel Flair

East meets West: A fully restored Nissan SD33T under the hood of a 1980 IH Scout II Terra.  Source: Clunker Nation

I sniffed a lot of diesel fumes as a child. Seriously. I loved the smell of diesel exhaust, and I still do. Its not that weird. Whenever my family visited my Grandparents in Florida as a young lad,  we would often take a trip somewhere in Grandma & Grandpa's 1981 Cadillac Sedan DeVille with the infamous 350 diesel engine. I loved waiting for the glow plugs to warm up, and then hearing the clattering and smelling all the smoke that accompanied its morning wake-up call. And that smell...I still remember that smell. Maybe I sniffed too much of it? I must have a few brain cells left because I learned something unusual this week! I discovered that the folks at International Harvester threw Nissan diesel engines under the hoods of their Scout beginning in 1976 as an option, and in 1980 added a turbo diesel to the mix.

The Scout II diesel was just like a Benz. Except for the rattles, squeaks, and the fact that it was a truck.

Diesels were gaining in popularity in the Carter years as gas prices continued to soar and global supply concerns resurfaced. It isn't surprising that IH chose to equip the popular Scout trucks with a diesel motor, but isn't it puzzling that a large truck manufacturer and early adopter of diesel power would go to Japan to source a diesel engine? Maybe. In 1976 their now-popular DT series of large truck engines weren't developed yet. They also were still largely a company focused on agricultural products, and large trucks. They happened to have this little gem of an off-roader but it wasn't something they needed to develop something special for, so why not broker a deal with the Japanese for a sweet little six-banger and move on? That's exactly what they did. As most of us know, a naturally-aspirated diesel is a little...slow. So for 1980 the decision was made to throw a turbo on it and advertise its likeness to the benchmark of the time: the Mercedes-Benz turbo diesel. Did it work? Well, production wrapped in 1980. I would call that unsuccessful.

Overall the Scout did have a good 19 year run and they captivate us with their oddball nature to this very day. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. This week's pudding comes in the form of a lonely 1980 International Scout II that came fitted from the factory with a turbocharged Nissan SD33T diesel engine. Here's a few pictures from the AutoTrader classified.

 This Scout II hails from Riverside, California and has a 4 speed manual transmission and little rust. A little crunch in the passenger quarter panel is the only big boo-boo I can see here.

 A few minor dents on the passenger fender and some damage to the grille shell, but otherwise this Western Scout is more complete than any here in the rust belt. I dig the bronze color. Is that the remains of a plow mount under the bumper?

And the heart of the matter, the SD33T, which was recently rebuilt. I like the 80's Edelbrock mesh air cleaner. Not a photogenic beast, but a unique powerplant for sure.

Sure you could buy a new Cummins-powered Dodge, a Duramax-powered Chevy or a Power-Stroked Ford...but this tiny "buzzin' half dozen" is a ghost of diesels past that nobody else would have within a 500 mile radius. Who's down for a trip to Cali?



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