There are good reasons not to build a convertible pickup truck. That didn't stop IHC designers from playing the what-if game with their Scout Terra 1/4-ton 4WD pickup in 1977. What if one could have a removable top that could be carried inside the truck, unlike the fiberglass units of the time? What if it had an integrated bed cover as well to protect cargo from unexpected inclement weather?

These questions were the impetus for the creation of a rarely ordered option for International's midsize pickup. Dubbed with a trendy moniker, the Suntanner package was a dealer-installed option that answered a question no one had asked.

Truck owners are often more concerned about utility than convenience. In the case of this softtop, that is a definite advantage. The process of raising the roof was a time-consuming multi-step sequence that may eventually force you into a 12-step program.

It was possible to have only the tonneau portion installed with the top covered by a boot. Once the top was liberated from the boot there was all manner of contraptions needed to pitch the tent top -- aluminum brace, nylon straps, Velcro. At best, it was a dog and pony show with dancing hedgehogs and a flea circus. With practice, however, the procedure could become merely time-consuming.

Top up or down, the Terra was an attractive and capable, if rather unlikely, package. With total yearly production numbers of the Terra running about 2500 units, a survivor equipped with the Suntanner option is quite rare today.

In the September 1977 issue of Motor Trend (under the Wheels Afield banner), writer Bob Kovacik ended his review with these words, which put this package into historical perspective.

"In all, International has been putting some excitement in a market that has stagnated to step-side designs and flashy paint jobs, Yet, they've kept one major point in mind -- the pickup, after all, is still a truck."