We recently took a spin in my imaginary time machine to go back to a Packard dealer of 1958. Today we do not need the time machine because this almost new-condition Dodge truck was in the real live present. At least the real live present of when I took these pictures some years back. But what did I have besides pictures of a cool old truck that brought more questions than answers?
From 1960 to 1970 there was a great leap in the American pickup truck. 1950 to 1960 had seen big changes too, but most of those changes had to do with styling. OK, except at Studebaker where that hadn’t changed either. But the next decade would be one of refinement. What had formerly been a rough old thing with I beam front axles and very little in the way of creature comforts became almost as comfortable as a car. Almost.
Chevrolet (and GMC) trucks were becoming quite civilized, with one brand new design in 1960 and another in 1967, when things like carpeted floors and even air conditioning were beginning to be seen. Ford had three generations in that span with new designs in 1961 and 1966-67 where they too revamped their suspensions and frames and greatly improved their high-end cabs so that they were more car-like than ever.
And then there was Dodge. The 1960 Dodge truck was a hard riding old thing with an I beam axle up front. The 1970 Dodge truck? Still a hard-riding old thing with an I beam axle up front. There was one gigantic leap in 1961, which was among the last products from the short, muddled styling era that was part Virgil Exner and part Bill Schmidt. What may have been the most attractive thing to come out of Chrysler Corporation in 1961, this truck was looking a little offbeat five years later. No matter how artful the brochure photography might have been.
But the brand new 1967 Dodge pickup introduced in a classic era for styling and quality at Chrysler was a game-changer. No wait, that was what Mopar fans only wished had happened. Dodge would have to wait until 1972 for their new truck, and would have to squeeze that 1961 design for every drop of life that could be coaxed from it.
Burton Bouwkamp, who spent the 1960’s in engineering and product planning at Chrysler Corporation, once recalled that by the mid 1960’s the guys over in the Dodge truck division really needed a fresh pickup. The problem was that there never seemed to be enough money to get it done. Which is not surprising given that the car lines were completely revamped for 1965 (C body) 1966 (B body) and 1967 (A body) in addition to major 1964 introductions of a heavily revised Imperial and a new A series of compact Dodge pickups and vans.
There were some much-needed updates to the pickup line, though. The original 1961 front end and cargo box were replaced in the middle of the 1965 model year with the design seen here. The unique single “pie plate” headlights up front were the most noticeable change, but the most important functional update was the double-walled pickup bed with a central tailgate latch. Up through 1966 power came from either the slant six or the A block 318 V8, an engine that finished its long run that year.
Besides engines, there were other old parts that remained on the 65-66 pickup such as the “refrigerator style” door handles. Modern pushbutton door handles and a big block V8 would not show up on these trucks until 1967 and a more socially acceptable grille by 1968.
Dodge trucks were never very common in my part of the Midwest. The only time I saw them with any frequency was on television screens. Chrysler was very active in the 1960’s providing vehicles for use on shows from The Beverly Hillbillies to Mannix – and whenever the script called for a truck one of these Dodges would get the spotlight. Such as this screenshot from an episode of Mayberry RFD. But as in so many ways, television was completely unlike real life. In Fort Wayne, Indiana I probably saw International trucks as frequently as I saw Dodges. I knew one Studebaker Champ owner, which was exactly one more than the number of Dodge pickup owners of my acquaintance.
I took these pictures in my earliest months contributing to CC. It was a mystery. What, I wondered, was this truck’s story. It had to be a great one. I was driving into Lebanon, Indiana for my day job and saw it sitting outside of a small body shop. Was it for sale? Was it some kind of prop? Was it just an old truck that someone owned and kept there? It looked virtually new. Well, in new condition, at least. New Old Stock is a term that describes old parts that have never been out of the box or off of a warehouse shelf since they were manufactured, and this truck looked mighty close to falling in that definition.
The threshold challenge was to figure out what year this thing might have been – which turned out to be quite a task even for this longtime Mopar-head. Maybe this was the reason I never wrote up this truck. This exact image is used in the Dodge truck brochure for 1965, 1966 and 1967. Only a careful eye will note the new door handles airbrushed onto the ’67 picture.
Another reason was that I always kind of thought I might see this D100 again and learn more of its story. Then as time went on I became more and more critical of my early pictures. We have seen Shaky Hand Jim’s early work in which he developed his skills at capturing 80% of a car in the frame. Perhaps this makes me Blurry JPC who took so many early pictures with a cell phone camera lens that looked like it had been dropped in a bucket of fried chicken.
This one clearly had the standard interior with the plain seats and no armrests. And the standard exterior that lacked chrome bumpers and a bright metal grille. It did, however, come with the optional “Sweptline Side Moulding” that was available on all Sweptline models. Sweptline, by the way, was DodgeSpeak for the full-width bed. The old style bed remained available on the Utiline model.
I had once traveled to southern Indiana to look at some old cars owned by the estate of a guy who had years earlier been a car dealer in a small community. He had kept two cars that had been brand new and never put them into service. One was a red ’59 DeSoto convertible, which he kept because he knew it was the last year for a soft top model from DeSoto. The car registered about 3,000 miles on the odo (and might be the very car pictured above – at least after it got a full restoration a few years later.) The other was a yellow ’69 Plymouth Fury III 2 door hardtop which he kept because it was the last car he had in inventory when he closed. It registered about 400 miles on the odometer when I saw it in the mid 1990’s.
I could not read the odo on this Dodge so have no idea of the mileage, but this truck gave every indication of having a somewhat similar story. The red paint turning a little pink due to lack of polishing, the lack of any rust, dents or stone chips, the perfect interior – this looked like a brand new truck, aside from the natural effects of weather. And while this one had seen some weather, it had not seen a whole lot of it.
In 1978 my best friend’s father bought a used 1974 Dodge Charger. It was unlike any Charger I had ever seen, a completely stripped 6 cylinder car with a three-on-the-tree, rubber floors and no radio. The story was that the first owner had bought it during the first Energy Crisis – it was evidently a Buick owner’s idea of an economy car. In four years the guy put 10,000 miles on it. And had never washed it. Its red paint looked almost exactly like the paint on this truck.
After too much time spent peering at old brochures for interior details in an effort to pin down this truck’s year of manufacture I resorted to the hack of just googling Dodge D 100 Indiana. And there it was, showing up in a for sale ad. [Note to self – try this first next time, it’s a lot quicker, And the pictures are better, like the one above]. The ad said “1966 Dodge D100 Pickup 318 V8 3 speed transmission. Runs good , drives good. Interior in great shape. Older frame off restoration. $9950.”
Which brings up a “whole nuther” set of questions. Like who would have spent the money to do the kind of full restoration on this truck that would make it indistinguishable from new? And then let it sit outside long enough for the red paint to oxidize? And how much money got lost along the way if this truck could now be purchased for (slightly) under ten large?
So I guess I ended where I started – with some iffy pictures of a great truck that came with more questions than answers. But isn’t that enough?