Big Job For A Bighorn

David Hull wanted a Dodge Bighorn simply to haul his collection of antique logging trucks to local and national ATHS shows. But now his 1975 Bighorn upstages his other trucks. "The Bighorn always draws the most attention of any of my antique trucks, wherever “They we go,” said Hull, an ATHS member in Monroe, Ore. “It is really fun to stand around and listen to people’s conversations about it. Some of their comments are priceless.”

Such as, “Dodge never made big trucks,” or “That is an R-model Mack cab with a custom front end.” Another time he heard someone guess that it was a pickup cab on a truck frame with a custom hood, fenders and grill. But Hull’s truck is pure factory Bighorn, a rare species of truck. Dodge built only 261 Bighorns — model numbers are vague, but most common are the CN and CNT950 — from 1972 to May 1975. Only about 100 are known to survive, making them among the most sought after trucks around.

“The price on these trucks continues to rise, especially with the demand and lack of Bighorns on the market,” according to the website www.olddodges.com. Kyle Youngblood, Augusta, Ga., maintains the site; his father, Tony, is widely considered to be an authority on Dodges and Bighorns.

Youngblood said his own restored 1975 Bighorn was appraised at $95,000. Dodge advertised its Bighorn as “the most advanced, highly engineered heavy-duty truck that Dodge has ever built.” The basic CN950 long conventional had a 195-inch wheelbase, Cummins Super 250 diesel engine cooled by a 1200 c.i. radiator, Fuller RT910 transmission, Spicer 1700 series propeller shaft, 23,000-lb Rockwell R170 rear axle, 12,000- lb Rockwell FF921 front axle, and Dodge varirate rear suspension on a heat-treated hi-tensile steel frame. No air conditioning, power steering or shocks and, with its steel cab and wheels, it was heavy. The original Ram hood ornament alone weighed 14 pounds.

The top of the line custom cab Bighorn had all the bells and whistles plus a Cummins 350 engine (although the Bighorn could accommodate any Cummins or Detroit Diesel power plant), 1500 c.i. radiator, 13-speed Fuller or 16-speed Spicer, 38,000-lb rear axles with Reyco suspension, and several options to keep the weight down, including aluminum crossmembers, cab supports, front bumper and front wheels.

The foam-insulated cab helped cut down on noise, tinted glass helped keep the cab cool, and many agree the Bighorn had one of the best dash arrangements ever designed. From the outside, “This was the best looking and smartest designed truck to hit the road,” Youngblood said. Youngblood helped David Hull find his Bighorn in 1999. Located in Dagget, Calif., the truck was in excellent shape albeit a little rough-looking, Hull said. The truck was purchased new by Whitting Bros and used to pull fuel tanker trailers.

It was sold to Lannie Shuler, who sold it to Hull. “I have never been disappointed with this Bighorn,” Hull said. “This truck is all original except the power plant under the hood. We put in a 400 Cummins to replace the 350 that it originally came with, but the truck still has its original 9513 transmission and SQHD rear ends.”

The only other modifications he’s made to the truck have been repainting it blue and adding new upholstery in the interior. Hull uses the Bighorn primarily to haul his other antique trucks to shows; it is never used in the family’s log and timber hauling business. The photos of the Bighorn in this article that show the Dodge as a logging truck were taken two years ago to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Oregon Logging Conference in Eugene.

David, who was president of the conference at the time, had his son Casey convert the Bighorn into a fully functional northwest-style logging truck for the event. The Bighorn got many compliments dressed out as a log truck. “To date, it is the only West Coast-style Dodge Bighorn logging truck in the world,” he said.

ROOTS IN LOGGING

Hull’s family has been in the logging and timber transportation business since his ancestors settled in northwest Oregon in the 1840s. David’s parents, Homer and Joan, owned land for timber and a sawmill in Dawson, Ore. (near Monroe), which was a large mill town at the time with two sawmills and a railhead. The Hulls also operated trucks for logging and gravel hauling.

“I have lived and worked my whole life right here, in the same place,” David said. “I live one driveway down from the house where I was born.” David, his brother Kenny, and a brother in-law, Randy Hodgson, worked in the family business hauling logs, timber and gravel.  “I spent many long days of my childhood riding in Dad’s three Mack trucks (a 1941 FP, a 1947 LJ and a 1951 LF),” David said. “Early in my professional timber career, I drove my father’s 1958 Kenworth logging truck and later his 1974 Peterbilt logging truck.”

Today, David has his own logging and gravel trucks. In 1990 he and his wife Carole started David Hull Tree Farms, which provides timber to sawmills. One of their biggest customers is the Hull Oakes Lumber Company in Dawson the successor of Hull Lumber which is owned by David’s cousin, Todd Nystrom.

The Hulls’ two sons, Cody and Casey, are closely involved with the family business. Cody is bookkeeper; Casey owns logging trucks and heavy-haul lowboy trailers. But the Hull family’s passion is their collection of antique logging trucks. David still has his father’s logging trucks and has restored all but the Peterbilt, which is still worked as a dump truck. He also owns a handful of other antique logging trucks, including a 1953 Diamond T 720 that was restored last year and two early 1970s A-model Kenworths.

“My Dad’s trucks mean the most to me and will always be a part of our family’s story,” David said. “I regret that Dad never got to see any of his trucks restored and put back on the road.” Homer died in 1985; David’s mother Joan, 77, still lives in Monroe. Out of all of his father’s trucks, David said his personal favorite and the first to be restored in 1987 was the 1958 Kenworth CC-923. “I was with my dad when he bought this truck at an auction,” Hull said. He was six years old at the time. “I spent many hours riding with Dad, Shorty, Art and Carl (some of his father’s drivers) and in 1972, when I graduated from Monroe High School, I hauled my very first load of logs by myself with this truck. “Hull taught his sons to drive with the Kenworth. Cody also hauled his first solo load with the truck upon graduating from high school in 1994. Restoration of the 1941 Mack FP was finished in 2000, followed by the ’51 LF in 2004and the ‘47 LJ in 2005.

The key to a long-term commitment to antique truck preservation is having an understanding wife, Hull said. “Without my wife, my 25-year journey of restoring my dad’s trucks would never have been possible,” he said. “My wife of 35 and a half years has given up many vacations, served many late-night meals out of the back of the car at the shop, and always made sure funds were available for each project while never complaining a bit.”

Author Stormy Wylie is editor of Wheels of Time magazine and works at ATHS headquarters in Kansas City, Mo.

This article was published in Vol. 31 No. 5 September/October 2010 Issue provided to by the American Truck Historical Society 

on 08 August 2018