Automotive History: Dude, Your Dodge Has A Toupee

Recently, I wrote about the gradual incorporation of various creature comforts into full-sized pickups.  While a vinyl covered roof doesn’t directly lend itself to creature comfort, it would have helped in illustrating the diminishing divide between passenger cars and pickups.

How I overlooked this availability is uncertain.  However, it was Dodge who offered a vinyl roof on a half-ton pickup.

It began with a 1967 press release, a photo from which is seen here.  From the press release:

White vinyl, the latest in women’s fashions, as demonstrated by model Eleanor Kibler in the vinyl Cuddle Coat above, is also the latest trim option offered in Dodge pickup trucks. A simulated white vinyl roof — actually specially applied stippled paint — is now available as a factory installed option. The white top joins the black vinyl offering.

This immediately gets confusing.  Black is vinyl but white is only called vinyl?  It’s something like that.

The confusion continues.

In both the 1970 and 1971 Dodge pickup brochure, there is reference to a vinyl roof option.  It was undoubtedly tied to trim level, likely the top trim Adventurer from what can be found, but it appeared to be a standalone option.

This page from the 1971 Dodge brochure is also contradictory.  The upper right shows the vinyl roof as being available on D100 (half-ton) only.  The lower left says the vinyl roof is available on D100 and D200 (three-quarter ton) only, except crew cabs.  Which is it?

If I were to guess, it was available on both.  The picture in the upper right of the 1971 brochure is recycled from the 1970 brochure seen here.  Given Dodge’s paltry pickup sales (just under 39,000 half-tons in 1970 – about a month’s worth of Ram’s current production volume – and dropping by 5,000 for 1971), it would be hard to justify recreating a brochure.  It would also be easy to justify expanding the option’s availability to amortize whatever investment had been made for making these available.

You can’t blame a dude for wanting to recoup his money.  Which brings us to The Dude.

During the 1960s, Dodge was nothing if not creative in trying to move the iron.  Whenever you can add a little sparkle to an aging product, more power to you.

The Dude was primarily a visual enhancement of a routine long wheelbase, half-ton Dodge pickup.  So why is this being mentioned?

The black vinyl or white pseudo-vinyl top was available on The Dude.  Chrysler does deserve credit for calling it “white, textured vinyl roof paint”.

As an aside, Dodge was all over the spectrum in their pickup pitchmen from about 1966 to 1976.  We can see Don Knotts here; the various promotional videos he made for Dodge from about 1966 to 1971 can be found on YouTube and he’s pretty much playing Barney Fife dressed in street clothes.  Later, Dodge would employ baseball player and announcer Joe Garagiola, professional tough guy actor Chuck Connors, and Southern comedian Jerry Clower.

As another aside, it is hard to determine Clower’s capacity for Dodge, but it seems to be minimal; this ad strongly appears to have been for a regionally themed offering.  Various searches have revealed nothing in regards to the “Dodge Juicer” Clower is hawking here.  It’s hard to imagine Stellantis selling a “Juicer” currently as various slangs refer to steroid use plus anatomical parts of both male and female varieties.

So how many pickups did Dodge build with the “vinyl” roof?  It’s hard to say, although The Dude may give an indication.  While the vinyl top was introduced in 1967, The Dude was not introduced until August 1969, meaning the vinyl top was available for roughly an additional two years.  In all, it is estimated Dodge built 1,500 to 2,000 Dude’s in 1970 and 1971 combined, all built at Chrysler’s Fenton, Missouri, plant.  Double that for the extra time the “vinyl” roof was available, and you have maybe 4,000 Dodge pickups with a “vinyl” roof – but likely less.

A quick internet search reveals a high number of The Dude examples still going, with basic vinyl topped examples being harder to pinpoint.  Such is not surprising.  What has perhaps been the most surprising is how far and wide these vinyl topped Dodges have traveled, with at least one having landed in the UK.

The vinyl roof option appears to have vanished upon introduction of a new generation of Dodge pickup in 1972.