As you're probably aware of by now, all of us associated with Mopar Muscle magazine like kooky things (some of our associates even go for kinky, but we'll leave that alone for now). Yeah, we have a deviant streak about us, so you can understand that when we spied this '73 Dodge C-600 pickup looking down upon all from across the Carlisle showfield, we became...well...excited...awed...and downright flabbergasted. Here was this big ol' honkin' behemoth, shining like a newborn, and seeming about as out of place on the showfield as a preacher on a barstool. We couldn't help but fall in love.
The Big Blue Truck, as we affectionately called it, is the manifest extension of its owner, Lester Gochenour Sr. of Strasburg, Virginia. Lester cooked (kooked?) up the truck so he could have "something to drive when I want to have fun."
Right. Fun measured in megatons.
Lester bought the C-600 from B&B Truck Sales in Stephens City, Virginia, in September 1997-a truck originally purchased as a flatbed delivery vehicle by Rosenberger Lumber Company in Winchester around 1972. Three days later, Lester set to work.
"The cab and engine were in very good condition," says Lester. "The cab was rust-free, and the engine only had 79,658 miles on it."
Lester picked up the cab and frame from B&B and toted it home on a car trailer. There, he says, he had to get a wrecker to lift it off of the trailer and put it on 8x8 cement blocks outside his apartment so he could work on it.
Shortly thereafter, Lester bought a '78 W-300 Dodge Power Wagon for its New Process 427 four-speed, transfer case, rear axle, and springs.
"When I got them home I used my lawn tractor to pull them under the truck," says Lester.
The first step was to bolt up the Dana 70 front axle. Next, the spring pads on the W-300 rear end were relocated to match the frame width. After that, Lester bolted up a D-600's power-steering gear to improve open-road performance. The suspension and handling was further enhanced with the addition of new power front discs and 12-inch rear drums, Mopar shocks, and Ultra 16.5x12-inch wheels sporting 15/39.5-16.5 Super Swamper tires.
Underneath the hood, Lester decided to leave the stock 361 cid two-barrel V8 untouched. The only upgrades in the powertrain department are the inclusion of a fresh 15-inch clutch and pressure plate, custom driveshafts by D.L. Dunn & Sons Driveline Specialists, and Flowmaster mufflers with 2.5-inch tailpipes. Obviously, high-end horsepower is not the name of this mammoth truck's game, but those 235 horses under the hood definitely know what low-end torque is all about.
Once the drivetrain and suspension work was behind him, Lester turned his attention to the body. A new bed had to be made, so Lester took the necessary measurements, had friend Richard Funkhouser obtain the steel and jig it up, then he borrowed friend Don Richardson's welder to cinch it all together. After securing two rear fenders from friend Earl Bowers and getting Broadway Metal Works to craft a stainless steel front bumper, Lester sewed up the body-building tasks.
Next, Gochenour tapped his son, Lester Jr., to tidy up the sheetmetal and apply a sleek coat of Pearl Aqua over the original white topcoat. For his troubles, dad gave Lester Jr. a 1966 Dodge Charger (hey, we'll paint for Mopar musclecars too, if anyone's interested!).
Finally, Lester Sr. turned his attention to sprucing up the interior. The beige velour interior was whipped up by Edinburg Upholstery Shop and wrapped around Qualitex seats. Lester wisely maintained the stock instrumentation for that classic feel, but did drop in a VDO tach and Panasonic stereo system to improve driver comfort.
When Lester said he got the C-600 for fun driving, he meant it. Since completing the buildup not so long ago, he has already rolled the odometer up another 10,000 miles, and there are no plans to slow down. Good thing, too, 'cause a truck this size ain't gonna stop 'til it's good and ready.