Celebrating International Harvester’s rich history
New event will highlight trucks made at Fort Wayne factory
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Ryan DuVall’s fascination with International Scouts started back in 1987, when he was still in high school. The Terre Haute native didn’t initially want the truck, but his father didn’t give him a choice.
“I wanted a hot rod and he bought that truck about a year before I turned 16 and I didn’t like it,” DuVall recalled. “It was bright canary yellow, like school bus yellow, so it was an eyesore and had rust. I didn’t want anything to do with it.”
His perception changed, however, when his dad proposed a wager with one his friends.
“My dad said, ‘I’ll bet you ten bucks I can back that truck out of the driveway right now and just hit the gas pedal and burn a patch from here to the end of the road,’” DuVall said. “My buddy didn’t think there was any possibility of that, so he put up the ten bucks. My dad backed the truck up and burned that patch all the way to the end of the road. I looked at that truck a little differently from that day on.”
Cruise-in and truck show
Many years later, DuVall moved to Fort Wayne and learned about International Harvester’s rich history. At its peak, more than 10,000 people worked at the plant, which closed in 1983.
“I found out that the Scout was made here, and I wondered, ‘Why in the world haven’t we embraced it more? Why is it kind of a hidden fact?” DuVall said. “What I didn’t experience was the devastation of Harvester’s closing and what it did to the city.”
Last fall, after his father bought him a 1976 Scout Traveler, DuVall wrote about it in The Journal Gazette, in an article titled, “Driven by Love for Scouts.” The following day he spoke with History Center Executive Director Todd Pelfrey, and an idea was born.
On August 9 and 10, that idea will become a reality with the first Harvester Homecoming event.
An owner-only cruise-in is scheduled for Friday evening at Liberty Diner at the corner of Goshen Avenue and West Coliseum Boulevard.
Saturday will feature an all-Harvester truck show outside the Scout Park Conference Center at 2300 Meyer Road in New Haven. It’s free and open to the public, thanks to donations from 3Rivers Federal Credit Union, Sweetwater and Chuck & Lisa Surack, and The Journal Gazette Foundation. A cake and coffee reception will be held inside for former Harvester employees.
Visit the proving grounds
“People are excited about it because there just hasn’t been anything like this,” DuVall said. “The Proving Grounds test track is still there and is still usable. It’s called that because that’s where they took the trucks to prove their worth. They did crash tests there, all sorts of things, and I’ve been told by historians that a Proving Grounds track has never been open to the public like this.”
Buses will run from the Conference Center to the Proving Grounds track, and along the way, attendees will get to see the former truck plant and the historic tower.
DuVall is especially excited about several trucks in particular. The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum will lend a fiberglass concept truck called the SSV Scout and the National Automotive and Truck Museum will bring several trucks, including the Endeavor. Its original driver, Mike McCombs, will also be there.
In addition, the very first Scout — serial number SC501 — to go down the assembly line in Fort Wayne will be on display, as will one of the last ones built on the last day.
“You’ll see the beginning and the end of a 20-year Scout facility,
DuVall said. “That first Scout is kind of a mythical thing, so to have it at the event is amazing.”
Big plans for the future
DuVall has even bigger plans now that Harvester Homecoming has been granted 501(c)3 status as a charitable organization. He plans to donate copies of the International Scout Encyclopedia to classrooms across the area, so students can learn about what the company meant to Fort Wayne. He’s also trying to secure a grant to make some repairs on the iconic Harvester tower, which was given a historic designation by the city in 2006.
DuVall says he’s been blown away by the reaction he’s received while planning the event, saying it’s not just a celebration of the trucks themselves, but also the men and women who made them.
“I’ve talked to the mayor and told him that if you’re ever going to honor these people, August 10 is the day,” DuVall said. “Sadly, there won’t be as many of them left next year. I’ve spoken to probably 300 Harvester veterans over the past few months and it’s going to mean to much so them.”