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A Formal Introduction to the CK Truck Mag 1986 Squarebody Project Build

by Scott Mason

Just like anything in life, sometimes it’s hard to pick a direction and set sail on your trajectory. Along the way, the plan for my ‘86 squarebody has changed course several times. I’m not the type of person who jumps into things without doing my due diligence. Split decision moments are my Achilles heel. But once I lock in on a plan that makes sense in my mind, I dig my heels in and give it everything I have.

Our initial plan was to build a twin turbo LS-powered drag & drive style truck that we could use to compete in events like Summit Midwest Drags, Sick Week, Rocky Mountain Drag Week, etc. For years (decades?), I’ve watched these events take place and have aways thought it looked like something I could get into. After thinking it through, though, I ultimately chose to investigate my list of desires a little more deeply. As much as I love drag racing, this project was screaming for something just a bit different. Maybe something with a lower probability of equipment carnage?

Inevitably, the next decision was to build a cruiser that we could drive to events and show off in the CK Truck Mag booth. Something with all of the modern amenities. Air ride, 24×15’s, killer interior, air conditioning, dependable LS power, maybe even a power adder for extra fun. Judging by the number of trucks we feature in these pages that fit this formula, it’s very apparent that I love this style. At this point in time, it’s also quite clear that this style has transcended trendiness and has become a mainstay in truck culture. Modern air ride is reliable, comfortable, and handles remarkably well. Drivetrains with plenty of horsepower, durability, and fuel economy are readily available and create the perfect platform to build a proven cruiser. But did it check all of my boxes?

After careful consideration, my magic 8 ball led me into another arena. After attending (and sponsoring) every Pro Touring Truck Shootout event since the series’ inception, my soul was telling me that I needed a truck that could turn and brake better than a modern sports car. It needed to have plenty of horsepower to handle the back stretch of any road course, but with manners to daily drive anywhere I desire. A manual transmission is a must, even if it means sacrificing some of the truck’s friendliness in stop-and-go driving. Pro Touring wouldn’t be possible without the “touring” aspect. Full climate control, creature comforts, and a comfortable yet extremely safe and functional cockpit are all staples of this thought process. And do we plan to race it? Heck yeah! Summit Autocross Week, Goodguys Autocross, maybe even Power Tour. I seriously can’t wait!

So you’re asking yourselves, what’s the story with this truck? The cab popped up on Marketplace a couple years ago. It was advertised as low mile C20 cab with a clean title, but had obviously been picked over by someone who wanted its pristine sheetmetal, bed, and interior for another project. The seller even threw in a clean 2WD short bed chassis with the deal. I’ve only just begun to dig into the cab’s history, but the under dash switches and mess of leftover wiring, along with the red paint and traces of hand-painted pinstriping make me think this was once a truck that was in service as a fire department unit. I’ll definitely keep you all updated as details unfold, as this history may play a big role in this truck’s new life.

And the truck’s name? On day one of ownership, I found an old, weathered dog collar tucked into one of the cab corners with a tag stamped with the name “Dozer”. Honestly, I don’t typically name my vehicles, but come on… Dozer is a freaking amazing name for a truck. 

So what’s in store first? A load of sheetmetal is on its way from AMD so we can get Dozer looking like a truck instead of a skeleton. Brand new fenders, hood, grille, tailgate, wide rear tubs, and even their brand new one-piece bed floor. I’m going to address the minor rust issues in the cab corners and rockers with patch panels from Classic Parts of America and shave the firewall with some Hart Fab weld-in panels. As progress rolls on, I will update and chronicle every step of the journey, no matter how long it takes! 

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