We had heard over the years that the Shortnose Bighorn from the literature still existed but hadn’t been able to put eyes on it or confirm. (In 1990, Tony located one of the other prototypes and helped a collector in Florida get it.) In 2004, Tony was contacted by Chrysler in need of parts for the Shortnose Bighorn. You just read that right, Chrysler, the manufacturer themselves, needed a source for parts and confirmed the truck was still alive. They were looking to do the restoration themselves on the Shortnose Bighorn, which when Chrysler quit the trucks in 1975, took the truck from the magazine and the literature and put it on the Chelsea proving grounds hauling a trailer. The group at the time knew a little bit about it and it’s prototype status but not much more. Based on that, they decided it was time to save the truck.
In July of 2004, we attended Chrysler at Carlisle where we met several members of the team heading up the restoration project. They purchased doors and some other misc parts and had a good discussion on the truck and that it wasn’t the only one existing. Tony has been told previously 9 prototypes existed originally, but most were damaged/destroyed during the skid pad testing for the new braking system requirements. Not everyday you can sell back parts to the OEM and educate them on their former product!
About a year later, sometime in the summer of 2005 they contacted Tony again and realized the original cab was too far gone to be saved. Too many years of Detroit winters and salt exposure had rotted it out. At the time, Tony was buying and parting trucks out and had a good cab become available. He had some work done to it, blasted and primed and ready for Chrysler. In Jan 2006 they had it picked up and sent north.
Fast forward a few years. Chrysler was going through financial issues thanks to there 51% ownership by Daimler and the restoration was canceled. It was being worked on at a college in Ohio with minimal working having been completed. Tony was contacted and updated as to the situation. In order to sale, they had to put it out for bid. They did in 2009 and was the paperwork was completed, Tony was off to Ohio to get the truck. In the coming years he would begin and complete restoration on it. More on the restoration in another post.
For a brief period of time, the Dodge Farm contained both literature trucks under one roof, 35 years after they were built. What are the odds? While the 9500 restoration hasn’t been completed just yet by the new owner, one of these days when it is, hopefully the stars will align to get these two trucks back together, restored and looking as good if not better as the day they had their photo ops for a long lasting legacy.