While it can be somewhat rare to find a classic vehicle in its original condition, with its original paint and original interior/exterior, it’s even more rare to find that unchanged vehicle in the hands of its original owner.
But that’s the case for a local 1980 Dodge Big Horn, and its owner, Ken Westlake. His particular Big Horn is extremely rare; it was only produced in one year, with one colour combination—ginger and cashmere, with palomino striping and Navajo cloth seats. It’s so rare in fact, that most people don’t believe the truck was sold as-made from the dealer where Ken purchased it.
“When people see the palomino striping, they often say it must have been done in a custom shop before being sold,” said Ken. “But it really was made just like that. I have one of the original Big Horn advertisement flyers from Dodge, and the exact same palomino stripe and colouring is in the picture.”
Ken first encountered the Big Horn when he was making deliveries to Toronto in 1981. The truck sat out on the show ramp at a Chrysler dealership in the city, and Ken said it was love at first sight.
“I had never seen one in that colour combination before,” he explained. “I’ve been a Dodge fan all of my life, and I had been looking for a pick-up. When I saw it sitting there, I had to go back and check it out.”
The dealer told him the car had been brought in the fall before, and it was imported from the States due to its rarity. It had been sitting in the showroom for quite a while before they moved it to the ramp where Ken first saw it.
In 1981, the vehicle cost Ken $7400. When it was appraised ten years ago for insurance, the value had risen to $11,000.
At one point, Ken considered selling the truck and upgrading to something newer, but his wife, Diane, talked him out of it.
“She pointed out that I had never seen another one like it, so this could be more of a toy for me one day,” said Ken. “I ended up buying another everyday car and kept this.”
Diane was right. Since then, Ken has still not seen another 1980 Big Horn just like his. The only time he saw one was 30 years ago in Sudbury. A construction company there owned it, and the last time he saw the Big Horn, it was crushed and loaded on a flatbed truck heading to the dump.
Now, years after his wife convinced him not to get rid of the truck, Ken is glad he listened. The rarity of his vehicle is one of his favourite things about it.
“People inquire about it all the time, sometimes at shows, and sometimes when I’m just out on the street,” he said. “They’re always asking what year it is and where the custom work was done. People ask about it more now than they did 10 years ago.”
He added what makes it even more special is nothing has ever been replaced on the vehicle, save for the wheels, battery and exhaust.
“Everything is original on it, including the paint, exterior, and the interior,” he said. “It’s not difficult to keep it in great condition. The colour is quite easy to keep clean; I don’t even have to clean it often.”
He admitted that he has paid it just a little bit more care and attention in recent years though.
While the car remains in storage throughout the winter, in the summer, it operates as his hauling vehicle, instead of just a travel or trophy truck.
“I plan on keeping the vehicle until either I die, or it does,” he said.