Our International Scout 80 Gets Safer with a Rollcage and More

As Jerry Reed’s old “East Bound and Down” theme song to Smokey and the Bandit goes, “We got a long way to go, and a short time to get there.” No matter how much advance planning happens, there never seems to be enough time for magazine builds in general and Ultimate Adventure builds in particular. As usual the clock was ticking fast when we announced our eccentric International Scout 80 would be the official build to tackle the 20th anniversary of Ultimate Adventure. The beginning of these builds also means waiting on parts, and many of these parts have lead times, which unfortunately doesn’t do our tight timetable any favors. Regardless, it was time to kick this project into high gear.

The most time-consuming part of most vehicle builds is the custom fabrication. Sure, drivetrain assembly can be complicated, but hand-fabricating stuff and doing it right is a time suck that’s hard to get around. Shockingly, there’s not a lot of off-the-shelf stuff available for a 1964 Scout 80, which meant we were going to be largely on our own for things like the rollcage, body armor, and suspension mounts.

We decided to dive headlong into the fabrication side of things while waiting for parts to trickle in, and so with this installment we tackle the bulk of the rollcage and body armor fabrication with the help of some raw materials from Industrial Metal Supply. We’ve run a fair number of rollcage fabrication articles recently, so instead of walking you through how to build a rollcage, we focus on how we applied those techniques we detailed in other articles to this particular build. There are also some hints towards the end about what’s in store for the next phase of the build, which involves swinging the drivetrain into the Scout and starting on the suspension.

We’re cautiously optimistic about the progress we’ve made so far, but as Jerry reminds us, there’s still a long way to go and not much time to get there.

When we left off last month we had done a bunch of strange and unnatural things to the Scout’s vintage sheetmetal, including chopping 3 inches out of the top (“Ultimate International,” Part 1, Sept. 2019). Tech Editor Verne Simons TIG-welded the top and the other sheetmetal modifications using the new Miller Multimatic 220 AC/DC welder, which is a combination MIG and TIG machine. It’s really handy being able to switch back and forth between welding processes quickly (thanks to the dual tanks of shielding gas). Simons used silicone bronze rod to give the weld seams a vintage farmhand-looking fix.

Chopping the top was fairly easy, but one byproduct was that the front portion of the roof needed to stretch a little to meet the now shortened windshield frame. It didn’t need much, but there was just enough of a gap to be annoying. We contemplated doing several things to fix it, including scabbing a short piece of sheetmetal to the roof, but the corrugated roof would make this difficult and it wouldn’t look very good. What we really needed was the front section of another top.

Amazingly, we found exactly that! On a whim we reached out to some local Scout enthusiasts we had sold the engine and transmission to. We asked if there was any chance they had a junk top we might be able to scavenge. Twenty dollars and a day later we had the front section of a top that had been heavily damaged in a windstorm, but the front portion was still intact. It was exactly what we needed and the best solution to our problem. Sometimes being a hoarder pays off.

We cut our top about an inch ahead of the forward rib and then cut down the new piece so that we added about 1 1/2 inches of overall length to the roof. Like the rest of the cuts, we used painter’s tape as a guide and then used a small reciprocating saw to make the actual cuts.

After tack-welding the two sections of top together on the vehicle and making sure everything lined up, we removed the top and Simons finished stitching the top together. With this complete, the top and windshield frame are ready for a local glass shop to install new shorter glass. We may try to even out the patina to make it less obvious that the two sections of the top came from different places, but we probably won’t get around to it.

While we were whittling away at sheetmetal, we also started on the rollcage and rock sliders. We turned to Industrial Metal Supply for all of the tubing and sheetmetal we will be using for the project. We picked up 1.50×0.120-wall and 1.75×0.120-wall DOM tubing for the rollcage, 2.00×0.188-wall DOM for the rock sliders, 1.00×0.095-wall for various fabrication projects, and a 4×4 sheet of 3/16- and 1/4-inch steel, among other things. It was nice to be able to source everything all in one place, and IMS even did some custom cuts for us at no additional charge.

Our priorities with designing the cage were to maximize headroom and still make the top easily removable, so Simons tried to keep everything tight to the inside of the top without interfering with it. As you can see here, the A-pillar follows the top rearward just above the top of the door opening, so there will be plenty of headroom for people over 6 feet tall. We were also concerned about keeping the door openings square when we hacked away at the rockers, so we added temporary crossbraces in the doorway.

Simons tied the two A-pillars together with a single U-shaped halo that extends all the way back to what will be the C pillar. Expert rollcage fabricators have no issues making compound bends meet perfectly every time, but pulling off a halo like this for backyard fabricators is a huge challenge. The payoff, however, is an entire halo and A-pillar consisting of only three pieces of tubing. The two splices that join the pieces together are sleeved internally and will also have rosette welds. In case you were wondering, the top came on and off about 50 times while we were figuring out the rollcage.

A proper rollcage needs to be tied to the frame, so we’re using 2-inch by 3-inch by 0.120-wall rectangular tubing as outriggers from the frame. The A-pillar also goes through the floor and ties directly to this tubing. Some 2×2 tubing will serve as a gusset for this union and also be the forward attachment point for the rock sliders. There are similar supports for the B-pillar, and we’ll probably add one or two between A and B for more structure to the rock sliders. This cage is going to be pretty stout.

With the frame supports complete, it was time to put the top back on once again and start tying things together. Simons added connectors to complete the A and B pillars as well as an extra crossbar that ties the B-pillar together and will serve as shoulder harness anchors for the front seats. We plan to leave the bulkhead in place and don’t have any intention of adding a backseat, so the cage is built around the assumption that the Scout will stay a two-seater. Note the B-pillar is going straight through the sheetmetal to the frame. We’re not too concerned about NVH for this build because the body will pretty much be connected to the frame without body mounts.

We’re taking an unconventional approach with the C-pillar due to the farmtastic toolboxes that someone added to our Scout decades ago. We really like the toolboxes because they add quite a bit of storage, but they were exactly where the C-pillar tube needed to be. Since there were no plans for a backseat, we plan to tie the C-pillar to a 3/16-inch plate that grabs the entire rear corner of the body, which is pretty stout in its own right. The horizontal tube under the window will tie to this vertical plate, and the C-pillar ties to horizontal tube. We might also get creative in further tying the rear corner of the body to the frame beyond what the factory did. The design is similar to the plate steel A-pillars that you see on some TJ and YJ rollcages that tie into the cowl. It’s not as strong as running tubing to the frame, but we’re only protecting stuff, not people, back here.

The ideal for any rollcage is to construct a bunch of triangles because the shape is incredibly strong. Unfortunately that’s often not practical, but with this build we did get serious about triangulating the upper portion of the cage. All of the front and rear triangulated bars meet at a node on the B-pillar, which will be further reinforced with angled tubing that ties to the harness bar and ultimately the frame. There are also plans to gusset most of the tube intersections that aren’t already triangulated with 1.5-inch DOM.

The doorsills on a Scout 80 are comically high compared to the floor, so there was a lot of real estate to play with when coming up with a plan for the rock sliders. By incorporating the rock sliders into the outriggers for the cage, the sliders will help tie the cage mounting points together and will also serve as extra reinforcement for the seat frames that will eventually be built inside. We intentionally left the 2.00×0.188-wall DOM tubing long so that we can fine-tune tire clearance once the axles are in place.

Truth be told, we attacked the rollcage and sheetmetal modifications because we were waiting on some major components to show up, namely the engine and the axles. We’re excited to have Cummins as a returning sponsor for this year’s Ultimate Adventure, and what better powerplant to use on an old tractor than a Cummins R2.8? This will be the third UA build to feature an R2.8, but we have some tricks up our sleeve to make this one pretty unique.

One of the tricks we will go ahead and reveal is an all-new Tremec five-speed transmission. The TR-4050 features a host of drool-worthy features, including a 6.11:1 First Gear, a 0.76:1 Overdrive, full synchronization in all gears, and an impressive torque rating. Just released by Silver Sport Transmissions, this is one of the first aftermarket production units to see duty in a 4×4. Coupled with an Offroad Design Doubler, there will be no shortage of gearing options available.

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