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Lifted, Diesel-Powered 1972 Dodge Tradesman Monster Van

Metallic orange van with a knack for creating low-profile cars.

Jim Oldaker took a slightly different approach to building a monster truck when he started not with a heavy-duty, body-on-frame truck, but a '72 Dodge Tradesman. Back in the April 1985 issue of Four Wheeler, we visited Jim and the van he once called his "aging daily driver."


Building a Lifted Van

To transform the 1972 Dodge Tradesman van into a monster van, Jim began by locating a decrepit tandem-axle water truck. He stripped the truck down to the frame, which he then shortened to 127 inches to fit the van's intended wheelbase. Boyce Equipment was the source of the monster van's axles: a pair of 5-ton military Rockwell steering axles each with 6.44:1 gears and a Detroit locker. On each end of the axles lived a 66/43-25 Goodyear Terra tire mounted to a custom-built 25x36-inch wheel. Holding the axles to the frame were a set of 10-ton military springs in the front and a 5-ton set out back, attached to the frame by a set of custom-fabricated frame clips. The remaining suspension duties were divided amongst the 16 Rough Country Mark IV shocks, which by our math means four of them per corner of the van.

Diesel Power for the Lifted Monster Van

Jim powered his lifted 1972 Dodge Tradesman monster van with the water truck's 426 c.i.d. Detroit 6-71 diesel. The stock Spicer five-speed manual transmission and the Rockwell 5-ton, two-speed transfer case stayed in place in the name of drivetrain reliability. Besides, if these components could haul the original truck's full payload of water, the Dodge van body and monster rubber should pose no problem.

Customizing His Van

Due to a lack of aftermarket support for lifted 1972 Dodge Tradesman monster vans, Jim enlisted a few custom-built and monster-van-specific parts for his machine including tube bumpers and flexible body mounts. He also made tasteful selections for the exhaust system, drivelines, air tanks, and nerf bars for chrome plating—not everything, but enough to spice up the looks without being gaudy. The exterior received a coat of Corvette orange metallic paint with gold pearl and micro-sequins mixed in, along with lightning bolts and van murals painted by local artists. Four Hella Super Jumbo lights graced the top of the van, while a pair of amber off-road lights lived on the tube bumper. Inside the monster van, the floors are covered in shades of brown hi-lo carpeting, crushed velour, and genuine oak trim. Stewart-Warner gauges on the dash let Jim monitor the pulse of the Detroit diesel from the comfort of his Cerullo bucket seat while the van smooshed cars.

Tell Us Your Story!

Jim Oldaker attended shows with his van, named "Rollin' Thunder," across the United States and told us, at the time, his Desert Dynamics winch had yet to be used. Let us know if this monster van, or one like it, ever rolled its way through your life. Even better, if you have a high-resolution image or your favorite monster truck, email it off to editor@fourwheeler.com with your story.