Where else but in the arid desert of the Southwest would you expect to encounter a true beast of burden like this? Phoenix, Arizona, is the home of this '72 Dodge Monaco station wagon and its owner, David Henriksen. His Monaco proves that camels aren't the only pack animals equipped for long hauls through barren wasteland.

David's first exposure to the big Dodge station wagons came in 1972, when he worked at a local Dodge dealership prepping new cars for delivery. He performed service and road tests on many wagons like this one and developed an appreciation for them. In 1977, when David's wife, Peggy, gave birth to their second child, they decided they needed a station wagon of their own.

"I remembered I liked the '72 Monaco, and then I found this one on a used car lot with 77,000 miles for $1,300," David says. "It was in rough shape. In 1980, we started using it to haul a camping trailer into the forest three to five times every summer."

Ten years after that, David decided to perform a frame-off restoration out of his own garage. "We had added 100,000 miles to it by then, and it looked so bad, it was embarrassing my [three] kids," he says.

Over the course of three years, David completed the entire restoration at his house. "I parted out three Monacos during the '80s, and I bought another station wagon in 1988, so I had a good stockpile of parts," he says. While he was able to do most of the work himself, David hired local Phoenix bodyman Jim Pitts to handle the exterior and some of the bodywork. "He does good work," David added. "He would work, then I would come in, block-sand everything and tell him I wanted it straighter. It took a long time, but the end result is there." The Monaco bears its original Sunfire Yellow color.

The original, numbers-matching 440ci block is still in place but now carries a displacement of 490 ci. It features Stage 4 heads with stainless valves, Arias pistons, a Crane cam, an Edelbrock Performer intake, a 750 AFB carb, a stroker crankshaft, and Carillo H-beam steel rods. It still has the original electronic ignition, which was in its first year of production in 1972, and David has added a 100-amp Chrysler alternator and Bosch platinum plugs to it.

The interior was redone by Ace Auto Tops in Glendale, Arizona. They produced the headliner and installed new tan cloth on the seats. The original seats were vinyl, but David insisted the cloth match the vinyl pattern exactly. The carpet hasn't changed since David replaced it after buying the car, and the door panels are original. The interior is designed for comfort, with six-way power seats and a passenger-side reclining seat. The Pioneer stereo with six-CD changer, Cobra CB, police scanner, and mechanical oil-pressure gauge keep David on top of things from inside the cockpit. But while the inside may be plush, David says his wagon makes for a bad night's sleep. "[Peggy and I] got to a house we were staying at one night, and we didn't have the keys," he says. "Then the headlights started to go out, so we had to sleep in it that night. That was no fun; it was not comfortable."

David made many improvements to the wagon over the years, but the twin gas tanks get the most attention and cause a double take when passers-by glance at the rear quarters. "When we took our trailer deep into the woods, we would take the kids and drive around on all the forest roads. I always had to go back into town to get gas. Now, I can fill it up in the morning and drive all day without stopping."