Heavily modified Hot Rods aren’t typical Curbside material, but I checked this van out for my buddy Rhino (who lives up in Denver). I’m actually a fan of these Dodge A100 pick ups, having spent my youth riding around Minnesota in Grandpa Godfrey’s A100 van, so I decided to create this post.
From a strictly structural standpoint, the truck seems quite solid and rust free. It’s missing a few interior trim parts, and there’s some electrical issues I’d want to correct, but overall it’s a safe bet.
Speaking for myself, I don’t care for the color of the grille and the painted headlight surrounds, I’d want some bumpers on it to protect the sheet metal, and I feel the deep-dish rims with baby moons give it a kiddy toy vibe. Still, that’s purely subjective, and could be fixed with a few trim parts and a new set of wheels. I don’t love the color, but it is era appropriate and could be the original shade (but certainly not the original paint).
However, I do have an issue with lies under the engine cover. Sometime in the past few years an engine swap occurred using this 5.7 liter Hemi (the modern era version). When it comes to engines, Rhino embraces the “More is better” philosophy, but putting this much engine in a Conestoga wagon gives me pause.
I’m not saying power is a bad thing- Rhino owns a Hellcat Challenger, and thanks to that we spent a couple of days turning laps at the Bondurant Racing school. Lots of fun… However, a monster motor in the Challenger LA platform is a far different thing than a monster motor in an A100.
Here’s a comparison of the wheelbase, track, and height of the Hellcat and A100. The Hellcat has an additional 26″ of wheelbase and a 19″ reduction in height along with 2-1/2″ more track. In contrast, let’s just call an A100 “tall and tippy.” The Hellcat also benefits from four wheel independent suspension, while the A100 uses leaf springs and solid axles front and rear, an ancient approach not known for handling prowess.
There it is, an I-beam axle, two king pins, and a recirculating ball steering box. I’d call it the most basic system out there, but if I’m being completely honest, Conestoga wagons simplified this design by placing a single king pin at the centered of the axle.
When I expressed my safety concerns to Rhino, he just asked, “Does it have front disc bakes?”
I guess he feels a disc brake conversion makes a vehicle perfectly safe for all driving conditions. I remain unconvinced.
Grandpa’s A100 had the 225 slant six (/6), and it provided adequate performance on the open country roads around Kiester, Minnesota. He even drove it to Alaska and back in the early seventies. But for this A100, someone decided it HAD to have the Hemi.
To compare the 225 six to the new motor, this chart shows the 225 ratings on the left, the 5.7 ratings on the right, and a center row that multiplies the slant six values by 2. As the chart shows, the engine swap more than doubles the 225’s torque rating and triples the horsepower. Some may argue this still isn’t enough, but I call it overkill.
Of course, it doesn’t much matter what I think- Rhino has room in his garage and a yen for Mopars. Since the truck is clean and straight, it may be headed off to Colorado in the near future. If so, I’ll bless his new purchase, and might even take a ride.