The Volkswagen group recently revealed plans to build a new all-electric SUV that revives the Scout nameplate for the modern era. News of this caused an immediate uproar among fans of the original who doubted that the box concept sketch could hope to fulfill the burly machine made by International Harvester. In the midst of the frenzy emerges apt comparisons with Ford using the Mustang moniker on its four-door electric crossover—a game that clearly capitalizes on the popularity of the original pony car, just as the Volkswagen Group recycled the name of one of the world’s first true SUVs.
Today, the most original International Scouts benefit from increased value when collectors hunt for classic utility vehicles that aren’t named the Bronco or K5 Blazer. Meanwhile, the new plant from the restoration house is increasingly valuing Scout as the foundation for a project that combines robust performance with the modern creature comforts clients expect. Bulletproof Restoration was one of the pioneers in this category, dropping a number of General Motors small block engines and modern automatic transmissions into a revitalized chassis, then installing all the necessary interior and exterior details to justify a price tag that starts close to $150,000.
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Bulletproof founder Jake Barba considers his company a semi-retired project. After paying another shop to recover a Scout she bought cheaply about a decade ago—an alternative, at the time, to paying for the Bronco’s already inflated value—the results turned out to be so bad that Barba ended up taking the job herself. The story then weaves through a meeting of the Los Angeles-based International Scout group, held on social media, to fix another failed restoration for friends and, finally, officially launched Bulletproof in 2019.
Rebuilt but not rethought, Bulletproof’s redesigned Scout still uses the original Harvester International box frame—albeit with any rust issues fixed before mechanical work begins. Barba uses her own 1975 example as a daily driver around the City of Angels, but for a client asking her to find and build a new truck, she runs her through the intended use case before suggesting a new power-train configuration. Will they mostly use their Scouts as urban commuters, vacation cruisers—conscripts to towing—or off-road cruisers?
The naturally aspirated 5.3-liter V-8 in Barba’s personal Scout — sporting the popular grille from 1972 — transmits power to the rear or all four wheels via GM’s popular 4L80E automatic. He actually prefers to work with the more powerful 6L80E, which even allows for sequential switching of tiptronics in a single custom project. An incredible factory low-end grunt pops up at the slightest touch of throttle. However, with a step on the pedal, the rear wheels chirp easily thanks to the Positraction limited-slip differential housed in the rear of the upgraded 9-inch Ford.
The bulletproof truck goes far beyond the original Scout factory specifications. The 9-inch Ford pairs with a Dana 44 axle up front, in which case it features an e-locker and manual locking hub from Warn. Hiding behind the forged aluminum Titan7 wheels (which Barba needed to make specifically for the Bulletproof to fit the Scout’s hub holes), are hydroboost-assisted brakes that replace the original vacuum setup and, while still using drums at the rear, slam the mudfield BFGoodrich’s Scout to a stop. easily.
The painstaking attention to detail is paid by Barba and the team when it comes to the driving experience gained from the steering and brakes, given that Bulletproof clients may be more accustomed to a super modern SUV complete with fully independent suspension, ABS and driver assistance such as lane departure assist. . But the point here is the radical retro feel of the solid axle and restomod Scout leaf springs at all four corners.
The borderline oversquare chassis and tight suspension setup create a curve of time behind the thin-framed steering wheel (now powered by power to make driving in the city that much more enjoyable). After jumping out of a modern SUV, supercar or, equally likely, an air-cooled Porsche redesigned by the likes of Singer, Bulletproof customers are captivated by the fact that their Scouts still experience firsthand the rugged capabilities associated with the International Harvester’s utilitarian heritage.
Echoes from the past shine through mechanically, but most of the tidier Bulletproof details hint at the priorities of the customer base. Alcantara used by Ferrari is paired with Porsche Pepita (think houndstooth) for the dashboard and seats, respectively, while hand-stitched leather adorns the floors from the pedal box to the cargo mats. And the headlight lenses feature a barely perceptible engraving that reads “Bulletproof.”
Skills visible only to the discerning eye played a huge role in Barba’s vision. A modern sound system is sequestered behind vintage-style controls. Air conditioning that blows icy cold is of course a must. These revised Scouts are equally as comfortable jumping over speed bumps, breaking through coffee shops or rushing through the canyons of Malibu—even if they’ll likely never see the ruts again.
Michael Van Runkle
Barba is happy to add anything and everything her clients ask for, with some builds increasing past the $200,000 mark. But he always prioritizes finding old trucks in the best condition possible to reduce the need for rust repairs before the real fun begins. About half of its customers request that their own Scouts be transformed, which gives those who do the opportunity to more fully experience the Bulletproof transformation.
For most clients, the Scout restomod represents only one six-figure classic in the collection, so Bulletproof are also working on their air-cooled Porsche and Corvette classics, offering room for G-Wagen hand detailing and have even brokered deals for more modern rarities, including the Ferrari. LaFerrari and some of the new Ford Bronco DR factory racers. But until Volkswagen’s new EV hits the scene and raises awareness for International Scouts, it’s a safe bet that whoever pulls into the local Cars and Coffee in a Bulletproof build will always turn a more knowledgeable head over the ubiquitous now. . Bronco or K5 Blazer.
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