Scout Racing Part Two

Jimmy Ray Jones
post by
Jim Allen
Media Name: ihscoutencysample4.jpg

Jimmy Ray Jones was the founding father of the Scout racing program. Born in 1939, an electrician by trade, he lived in the San Diego area and was an avid off-roader. Jones began racing in local Southern California events in the 1960s and, according to a late ‘70s bio, he “raced ‘em all… minitrucks, sedans, bugs and modified four-wheel drives.” In ’69, he bought a Scout 800A V8 as a family vehicle but thought it capable enough to run in local competition. According to him, “It beat the pants off the local competition.” He was impressed enough to try the Scout in the big leagues and raced in the 1969 NORRA Baja 1000. He was pleased with a 13th place in a race where to finish was a victory in itself. This was also the first time a Scout had raced in the Baja 1000. From there Jones was hooked on Baja racing and convinced he wanted to race it in a  Scout. The 800A soon became a fully built race rig and was run into 1972 but sold soon thereafter.

A desert racing Scout lived a hard life. The Mint 400 near Las Vegas, Nevada was one of the hardest desert races due to extremely rough terrain. Half the competitors finishing was a milestone. Here, Jerry Boone’s team conducts repairs in a dust storm. The drivers interviewed gave high praise to their support crews, which often consisted of family members. These  were the days before the multi-million dollar teams, with support trailers equipped better than many shops, were the norm. Dr Todd Sommer
When the new Scout II was announced, Jimmy ordered one and ended up with an orange ’72 two-wheel drive Cabtop with a 6-258 automatic to run in the NORRA 2wd utility class. Why a 4x2? Without Jones here to ask, we won’t know for sure but perhaps he figured a 4x2 would be lighter and faster, with less stuff to break. Jones ran the 1000 for ’72 and, against all the odds, won the class and unknowingly focused International on racing.

Jimmy raced the ’72 for several more years and during this time began working with Frank Howarth. Frank would do much of the fabrication and suspension work on Jones’ vehicles… even though they would eventually be competitors in racing. The Jones Scout soon acquired the nickname “Baja Binder” and continued to place well, though we don’t have access to the complete records.

By late ‘75, representatives from International had chosen Jones as their “go-to-guy” in the desert racing world and, for a dollar, set him up with a new V8 powered ’76 4x4 Scout. This rig also was orange and became the new Baja Binder. He raced it for the first half of ’76 configured more or less as a ’76 Cabtop. When the SSII accoutrements had been designed by the International Styling Department, Jones was given all the relevant pieces for a conversion. This was well before the SSII had been formally introduced, so race fans got an early look at the SSII without knowing what it was. According to Lance Jones, Jimmy’s son, the SSII parts were early prototype pieces made of fiberglass, not the thermoplastic. Of regular production. He remembers getting them in the summer of ’76 and the first time we see them in period photos was in the June Baja 500 race. The end result looked a lot like the ‘Walter Mitty Ornas” SSII mockup (or vice-versa) and the Baja Binder raced as an orange SSII in the latter part of ’76 and into ‘77.  According to Lance, that Scout would see several cosmetic revisions, most notably white paint and the addition of SSII appliqué in 1977, even though Off Road magazine called it a Sundowner in a 1977 article. The Scout would remain like this to the end of its time with Jones. After it was sold to Dick Sasser, it remained similar as it raced into the late 1990.

In 1979, Jones was given an opportunity to do something very unique in the Baja 1000. After some arrangements with Sal Fish, head of SCORE, Jones was allowed to “race” a Scout Terra turbo diesel pickup. With only 120 hp, and only mild modifications, it wasn’t competitive, even in Class 3. Nor did it really fit into a racing class. It was purely and simply a publicity stunt for International to highlight their new turbo diesel, but Jimmy took it seriously. He had Howarth add appropriate safety devices and make a few suspension and durability modifications so the truck could be pushed hard in the outback.

To prove a point, Jones drove the barely street-legal Terra from his home in La Mesa, California, to the starting line at Ensenada, Mexico. From there, the Terra completed the 975 mile race with only minor suspension trouble and made a calculated 13 miles per gallon during the race on fuel that cost $0.13 a gallon. The fuel bill for the race was a mere $13.50. From the finish line at La Paz back to La Mesa, the now well broken-in turbo diesel managed an 18.25 mpg average. Calculating the entire trip, including the race, the Terra used 127 gallons of fuel over a total trip of 1,975 miles for a 15.5 mpg average. The turbo Terra raced Baja again in 1980, and, as far as we can tell, that was it’s last time. According to Lance Jones, turbo diesel Terra still exists in the hands of one of Jones’ old racing buddies, but has been “de-dieseled.”

When the hammer dropped in 1980, it didn’t quite end Jimmy Jones’ Scout racing career. He raced his SSII a few times in 1980, including the Parker 400 early and then the diesel in the Baja 1000 late in the year. From there, Jimmy Jones eventually started racing with Nissan and Jim Connor but more or less retired some time in the late 1980s. He passed away on New Years Day, 2013, at age 74. 

This excerpt about the Scout's incredible history is from the International Scout Encyclopedia by Jim Allen and John Glancy, available now!