Tuesday, May 24

I Fear the Volkswagen Scout Will Be a Cowardly Joke

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No, I was not surprised to learn that Volkswagen plans to resurrect the Scout nameplate with electric pickup trucks and SUVs. We live in a world where the Ford Mustang is a V8 sports car and yet also, somehow, a five-door, all-wheel drive EV. Words mean nothing and we live on the worst timeline. There are no graves left to piss on.

Full disclosure: I’m an International guy. My father and his father before him carried Scout II keys in their pockets. I once bought a full-size D-series pickup from an outlaw biker and built a Scout Terra from the remains of 14 other trucks. I asked my wife to marry me on the tailgate of that same machine. Its hood still hangs in my shop and its fender emblem on my Christmas tree. I and the people like me have been waiting for the return of the Scout for 42 years.

Careful what you wish for.

Car and Driver editor Ezra Dyer says Ford originally wanted the Scout name for the new Bronco II, er, Square Escape — sorry, Bronco Sport. Navistar, maker of big commercial trucks and owner of all the dusty stuff left in International Harvester’s attic when that company quit selling passenger cars in 1980, apparently asked some exorbitant amount of money, presumably because internet cesspools like Bring a Trailer have driven Scout II prices to the moon. Someone at Volkswagen Group heard this and strolled into Navistar HQ with one of those giant Ed McMahon checks and bought the whole outfit, just so VW could claim the Scout name for itself.

Ten years ago, that paragraph would have read like Jalop fanfic. Today, it’s no more alarming than if the heavens opened up and bear scat came raining down.

“Ah,” I’d think. “A Tuesday.”

So the Scout’s coming back. And it’s going to be built by Volkswagen. Finally, someone will marry the legendary reliability of the company that brought us “never buy a German car out of warranty” with the American nameplate that made rust a factory feature. I can see the whole scene in my mind: a generic unibody blob, heavy with batteries and motors, lifting a wheel on a manicured off-road course in dead-flat Texas. An army of automotive “journalists” snapping iPhone photos in excitement, as if a lack of articulation is the definition of all-terrain capability, regurgitating hollow words about “heritage” and “prowess.”

My grandfather is lucky he didn’t live to see this.

VW’s vision of the Scout’s future includes an electric four-door pickup truck that’s just like all the other electric four-door pickup trucks.

The whole thing reeks of cowardice. As if the folks at VW don’t trust themselves to build a product people will actually buy without dredging the ‘70s for a sentimentality play. God forbid they try and cash in on that sweet, sweet Wrangler money with an off-road concept of their own.

This is our fault. We let it happen, every one of us. When Mercedes started calling sedans “coupes,” we snickered into our sleeves and let them get away with it. When BMW stuck a bike pump up the Mini Cooper’s ass and went to town, we called it the inevitable march of progress. When Chevrolet gave the legendary Blazer name to this thing, we shrugged. When Ford slapped the Bronco name on a lifted Focus, not one of us batted an eye. That same company claimed that the original Bronco was “America’s first SUV” (it wasn’t; that honor belongs to the Scout) and bent over backwards claiming how proud they were of the first Bronco’s heritage and design, despite murdering that machine dead before most of today’s car writers were born. And no one said a word against them.

We missed our chance. If we’d jailed the first person who called a black bean sandwich a “burger,” maybe none of this would have happened.

Original Scout sales brochure, 1963.

We have collectively agreed that nothing matters. That any manufacturer can bastardize any nameplate without a worry or backlash. No wonder no one gives a shit about cars. They don’t mean anything now. With a few dwindling exceptions, every product by every manufacturer is essentially interchangeable. Pry the badges off of today’s typical cars and even dedicated enthusiasts will have a hard time telling them apart.

Volkswagen has never produced an off-road SUV worth a single damn, Touareg and Cayenne included. Why not have them build a new Scout? Why not add to the jaded EV SUV cash grab? Hummer, Cybertruck, VW Scout. The three horsemen of everything we deserve.

It’s happening for the same reason the last three Star Wars movies sucked ass. Because no one involved in their production cared about anything but getting paid. They could not tell you why Star Wars mattered — just as, I promise you, no one involved in VW’s Scout resurrection ever owned one before they became rich-boy fetish objects and Instagram porn. No VW honcho has put a Scout II up against a tree, or pinched off a rear brake hose with Vise-Grips to get home. They haven’t marveled as the machine drug itself up out of a creek bed with four flat tires and the body busted in two, doors hanging open. They haven’t stood awestruck as a cornbinder started right up after 20 years of sitting in a field, eager to keep kicking.

This new Scout won’t be any of that. It’ll be a disposable thing for disposable people. A Starbucks errand car. The shitshow’s coming, and it’ll be just another Tuesday.

Zach Bowman is Editor-in-Chief of UTV Driver, a former Senior Editor at Road & Track Magazine, a contributor to Motorcyclist, and a purveyor of all sorts of punishing off-road trucks that shun modernity. Find him on Instagram.



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