My Rusty Hell or: How I decided to restore an old, rusty, semi-obscure vehicle with no experience and even less money (Part 1)

It all began innocently enough. My wife and I had just purchased our first home. Saying it was a "fixer-upper" would be massively understating the situation. Because we were young, and the parents of a three year old and a newborn, and surviving off of my single income, this was going to have to be done on the cheap. I'm a reasonably handy person, having worked through the last few years of High school and the first few years of College at a hardware store. With the potential cost savings in mind, as well as dreams of manly glory and the questionable desire to combine power tools and beer, I decided I would do as much of the renovation work as possible, only hiring a specialist here or there for things I couldn't (or wouldn't) tackle myself.

At the time, I was driving a Dodge SRT-4 (ACR version, natch), and my lovely wife, a brand new Grand Caravan. While the van would probably have worked reasonably well for hauling construction materials and debris, I was informed in no uncertain terms that drywall, lumber, bags o' cement and other "dirty" things were strictly verboten in the van. I'm quite sure she had visions of me making hardware store runs in my SRT-4, but I took this as the perfect excuse to acquire a beater pickup truck. With tacit approval from "The Boss", it was of to Craigslist!


As I'm sure you know, Craigslist car and truck listings is like some deranged opium den for anyone even remotely interested in cars. One can spend hours wandering aimlessly, pondering the merits of an MGB with a Range Rover V8 transplant, a bagged and tubbed S-10 (Xtreme!) or a highly tempting, but highly questionable Jaaaaag XJ12. While looking for a sub $1000 runner pickup, I had my first encounter with what would become something of an obsession off-and-on for the next several years. For sale, was a 1966 International Harvester Scout 80, complete with removable full hard top and the optional rear bench seat. I had never encountered a Scout before. It was so boxy! It was so ugly! It was so rusty! I HAD to have it! Never mind the fact that it wasn't at all practical for hauling sheets of plywood or drywall, and that the rear bed was so rusty that a bag of cement surely would have punched through it on the way home (or the fact that it didn't run), I was absolutely in love! Several emails to the seller went un-replied to, and after a few days, the listing dissipated. The Scout, it seemed, had been sold (probably to a scrap dealer, or, just as likely to some local yokels to use as a huntin' truck).

I eventually settled on a gem of a pickup for renovation duties. An '83 Ford F100 with 250k on the clock, packing the near bullet-proof 300 I6 under the hood mated to a Ford AOD tranny. In 3 shades of shit brown, and a bed (and cab) full of garbage, that truck took everything I ever threw at it without complaint. It never let me down, and never left me stranded. While I enjoyed the truck, and the joys of renovating a house that has been utterly neglected for 40 years, that rusty old Scout was never really far from my mind.

Illustration for article titled My Rusty Hell or: How I decided to restore an old, rusty, semi-obscure vehicle with no experience and even less money (Part 1)

Fast forward a few years. Renovations are complete, kids are growing up fast, the impractical turbo 4 banger has been replaced with a respectable family sedan, and the poor F100 has been relegated to the occasional run to the dump, and lowering adjacent property values. Many things have changed, but 2 things seem to remain constants. I still catch myself trolling Craigslist for a Scout, and I'm still poor.


I had a standing offer on the F100 in the even that I found a suitable Scout, and the plan was to try to find one that would be covered by the cash I would get for the truck. I chased down a few potential Scouts off of Craigslist, including one 4 hours away that smoked more than a Snoop Dogg tour bus, and another that appeared to be held together by beer labels and bumper stickers. Combine the fact that these vehicles seemingly left the assembly line with rust as a pre-installed option, and I was being admittedly picky in what I was looking for. I wanted either a Scout 80 or 800 (or 800A or 800B), with full top AND back seat, and NOT with the 152ci engine. This was not going well.

More to come in Part 2.

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