The Journal Gazette
Saturday, August 01, 2020 7:50 pm

Rain, pandemic can't dampen spirits at second Harvester Homecoming


A lot of Midwestern families have had a tradition when it came to Scout vehicles made at International Harvester's Fort Wayne factory -- buying them one sequentially or a handful at a time.

But only one family has the pedigree of owning among its fleet the very last Scout that ever went down the local assembly line before the plant closed Oct. 21, 1980.

That would be the Bolton family from Glidden, Iowa, whose chestnut-colored Scout was one of the first vehicles visitors to this weekend's second annual Harvester Homecoming saw when they entered the building where Scouts were built.

As if seeing Mike Bolton's vehicle, restored inside and out, returned to its ancestral home wasn't enough, the display at what workers and enthusiasts tend to refer to as "The Barn" also included several other standouts.

Sitting next to the last Scout was the remains of the first Scout built. A few steps away were four original Scout racing trucks and a bright-red 1963 International Classic prototype, with a soft top and spiffy looks to rival a Duesenberg.

Mike Bolton's Scout, though, has quite a story. He acquired it in Coon Rapids, Iowa, from Steve and Mary Garst, who was on the Harvester board.

"She had one ordered, and it was in line to be built," Bolton, 64, said. "I don't know who made the decision, or how it was made, but someone decided we'll just run it down the line last."

Bolton said he stopped at one of the Garsts' businesses in 1996 because he saw a blue Scout he'd been admiring sitting out front. "I thought it would be a fun project" to fix it up with his son, who was nearing driving age, Bolton said.

Garst told Bolton he wasn't ready to sell that vehicle, but told him to go out to his house and ask his wife for the key to the garage.

That's where he found the Scout, a bit beaten up but still in good shape. "Very well-loved," Bolton said. "It was vigorously loved, let's put it that way."

But Bolton learned what it was and saved and waited to get it until 2003. He wouldn't disclose the price, but he said it and another vehicle came as a package deal.

He began taking the vehicle to shows around the nation beginning in 2004, and didn't start restoring it until 2015, with the help of Joe Stitz of Resurrection Rides in Crown Rapids, Iowa.

For this show, Bolton brought along his son Tom and two of Tom's five sons, Matthew, 14, and Mitchell, 17, all from Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Tom, wearing a t-shirt proclaiming "Anything less is just a car," recalled riding in another family Scout, a green one, on family vacation adventures when he was a kid.

Bolton considers the last Scout a treasure. For a vehicle known for being rough-and-tumble years before SUVs were common, the car was luxurious.

It had a digital clock, tilt steering, special rims and air conditioning. When Bolton found it, it was stocked with fishing tackle because that's how Steve Garst used it.

"It's the last one made, the end of an era," he said.


A successful show

Ryan DuVall, coordinator of this year's International Harvester Homecoming, Saturday said the second edition of the event was successful, given everything that's stalked the show this year.

He said he knew some of the old-timers who worked at the plant before it closed 40 years ago in October or owned vintage vehicles might be unwilling to come in the midst of a pandemic, which limited crowd size.

And torrential downpours Saturday didn't make it easy to get around the sprawling grounds on foot -- although open-air touring trolleys eased the effort for some.

He still estimated that with 300 vehicles on display and the chance to drive a Scout around the company's proving grounds, the event likely will approach a draw of a 5,000 over three days, including drivers-only events on Friday and today's farewell breakfast.

"I think it bodes well for our future," he said, of the attendance. "It's the history."

DuVall added that this year, for the first time, Navistar, the successor to International Harvester, officially served as sponsor and sent two rare vehicles to the show -- although the company left Fort Wayne "not on the best of terms," DuVall said. 

One of those vehicles was a rare Sightliner cab-over semi-tractor with two unusual additional glass windows at the front about knee-level for the driver. The other was a Red Cross Clubmobile trailer from World War II signed by the war's veterans.

"It's a little snippet of World War II," DuVall said. "It moves you to tears on sight."

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