A collector’s dream yields a gold beauty

April 21, 2011  | by: Lucinda Coulter

Tony Youngblood still recalls the day 11 years ago when news came of the 1973 Dodge Bighorn prototype. He was standing in his truck yard, peering at one of his excavating trucks when his phone rang.

Until then, the once gleaming gold rig was the Big Foot of antique trucks to collectors. Several fans, including Youngblood, knew that it had been Chrysler’s heavy-duty truck show piece and had seen it on Overdrive’s May 1973 cover with glamour girl Regina Haskins, in other trade journals and at truck shows. Only about half of the 261 handmade trucks, built from 1973-75, remained as far as Youngblood knew then.

“If anyone’s got a Dodge, they call me,” says the 52-year-old heavy-equipment operator, who has owned 20 Bighorns. He’s part owner of Youngblood Grading, and a native resident of Augusta, Ga. Known as Mr. Bighorn among collectors, he is glad that he followed up on his first call about the truck. It went out of service as a Bekins Van Lines in 1984 and had been housed in a barn in Minnesota. In 2005, he bought the Bighorn, named Number 1 for its prototype legacy.

“There’s more history behind this Bighorn than any other,” Youngblood says. Unlike all other Bighorn 950s, the model number for Number 1 is 9500. “It seems like Chrysler couldn’t make up their mind as to what to call it,” Youngblood says in an essay on this website, OldDodges.com. Other features set it apart from any other Bighorns. Number 1 had aluminum frame rails, which have been restored from the originals into the truck, an altered ram’s head and variations of hood latches, grab handles, exhaust shields, sill plates and mounting brackets.

As a tour truck, Number 1 was also decked out chrome plated seat frames, air tanks, luberfiner and exhaust elbows. Its battery box covers, bumper, exhaust shields and grab handles were all polished, and the front wheels are polished lock rim made by Alcoa, Youngblood says. Number 1 is one of the Custom Cab models that came with a 350 Cummins, options for a 13-speed Fuller or 16-speed Spicer, and a 12,000 front axle with front brakes.

“I was buying Bighorns when everyone else thought they were a joke,” Youngblood says. Chrysler supplied few trucks to the maker’s dealers and stopped production in 1975. “Now it brings more money than any truck out there.

“For a truck that came out in the mid ’70s, it was ahead of its time,” he says. “It’s got a tilt steering wheel,” and, he notes, the wiring and air valve designs are superior. Nearly 100 Bighorns still exist and are still working, Youngblood says.

The recent recession took its toll on his excavating business and has slowed down the amount of money he can devote to the truck’s restoration, he says. But he remains proud of Bighorns general and especially of Number 1.

“We’ve always run Dodge,” Youngblood says of his family’s business. When he was a teen, the Southeast’s second largest Dodge dealership was based in Athens. “When I was 13, they sent me a big poster of the Bighorn. That’s when I fell in love.”

He describes the truck as his gold beauty. His feelings flow on OldDodges.com: “I have been lucky. I have been fortunate, and I have felt the Good Man Upstairs smiling down on me. I have done a lot for this rare breed of truck, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. Maybe one day, with a little more help, it will finally get the extensive recognition that it truly deserves.”

To read more about Youngblood’s interest in Old Dodges, go to OldDodges.com.

In the April 15, 2011, OvedriveRetro feature, read about Regina Haskins Meredith, who represented Dodge as its heavy-duty tractor model and posed with Number 1.


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