For seemingly forever, the light duty truck debate in rural environs around North America has been “Ford or Chevrolet?”. It’s such a yes/no, one-or-the-other type of question, always ignoring that stalwart alternative called Dodge.
Perhaps buying a Ford or Chevrolet pickup has always fallen within the peer pressure created realm of conformity. But doing this shortchanges a person of a distinct alternative found in a Dodge, one that has admittedly been more competitive at some points than at others.
An admission: As my age advances, it seems my affinity for Dodge pickups does also. No doubt there is a genetic component to this affinity. My paternal grandfather – who died six years prior to my birth and from whom I inherited my automotive gene – purchased a new red Dodge half-ton that was supposedly a 1965 model. My father purchased a new 1998 model Dodge Ram 1500 and still owns it.
Based upon such projections, I should be purchasing a
Dodge Ram in 2031 – but might it be electric?
Perhaps not; it seems Stellantis is currently doing a bang-up job of carrying the torch for whatever non-conformity is associated with
Dodge Ram, so my future theoretical 2031 model pickup could just as easily have a 6.2 liter (or so) Hemi.
I’m getting ahead of myself; for whatever reason Dodge pickups prompt my thoughts to spin faster than a four-barrel 440 at full-throttle. Let’s come back to the red Dodge my grandfather purchased – it’s the same generation as our featured pickup.
Dodge introduced a new generation of pickup in October 1960 for the 1961 model year (1962 shown). The overall characteristics of the new 1961 Dodge pickup were attractive although the front fascia didn’t seem to be the most inspired element of the overall package. It does look a bit, uh, unflavorful…if that’s a word. Perhaps “non-confrontational” might be better. It presents itself as if the designer started at the doors and worked outwards, running out of imagination when time to execute a frontal appearance.
It’s no secret Dodge’s pickup sales volumes back then were less than those of Ford and Chevrolet. And probably GMC. And perhaps International. But likely ahead of Studebaker. But overall, less. Much, much less. For instance, when Ford sold a half-million pickups for the 1964 model year, Dodge sold 101,000 trucks of all varieties, including heavy duty units. Dodge was in fifth place for truck sales for 1960 as per www.sweptlinetruck.com.
Did Dodge, like Avis, try harder?
Let’s examine these production volumes more closely. Plopped here before your eager corneas is a chart showing Dodge truck sales (all weight ratings) from 1961 to 1971. However, this is everything they built. Let’s look at just production volume of units in the nominal one-ton rating and less.
This is more descriptive. In an effort to make this as comprehensive as possible, four-wheel drive W-Series units, while minimal, have been included with the two-wheel drive D-Series. All information seen here was sourced from www.sweptline.com. It even breaks out six-cylinder and V8 models by weight rating.
This graph shows just how piddling Dodge pickup sales were in comparison to the competition. For instance, let’s look at 1965. That’s the year when Dodge sold just under 90,000 pickups of all weight ratings. Conversely, Chevrolet sold over three times that volume in half-tons (C-10, K-10) only. If comparing just half-tons, Chevrolet outsold Dodge approximately 5:1.
For those thinking perhaps the Dodge was at a disadvantage due to having an older design, such was not the case. That particular generation of Chevrolet was introduced in 1960, a year before the Dodge.
To be fair, the Chevrolet had been seriously updated by 1965, such as losing the dog-leg A-pillar.
Further, the Dodge was still in possession of some ever more increasingly antiquated features. A solid front axle on rear-drive examples until 1971? Check. A steering column that was at an angle comparable to a city bus? Check. So while the outside package was competitive, there were still some less desirable items lurking in the weeds.
It is doubtful any such things bothered my grandfather when he, at age 47, went pickup shopping in late 1965 or early 1966. By all accounts he had a distinct proclivity for Chrysler products. He had purchased a very plain 1953 Plymouth in addition to his red Dodge pickup, two of the few vehicles he would purchase new. There may have been a 1950 Plymouth in the new car mix, also.
But I have a weird, non-consequential dilemma about its model year. My father believes it was a 1965 model. It was in 1965 Dodge had a mid-year overhaul of their pickup, lengthening the wheelbase of pickups having an eight foot bed from 122 inches to 128 inches along with revising the front ends for all, eliminating the four headlight system in favor of a bigger grille and two headlights with the big Engel-esque pie plates around them.
Having seen old black-and-white pictures of my grandfather’s Dodge it definitely had the Engel-esque nose. But here’s my dilemma begins….long ago my grandmother told me upon buying his pickup my grandfather uncharacteristically purchased some type of insurance policy that would pay off the loan upon the event of his untimely death. She maintains only nine payments had been made prior to cashing in this policy subsequent to his sudden and unexpected death six weeks shy of his 48th birthday.
He died October 30, 1966. So either his pickup was a 1966 model or a left-over 1965 model. Either scenario is believable and there is negligible, if any, difference between those two model years, so it’s likely not a big deal either way. My grandfather’s Dodge had the eight foot bed with a 318 and a three-speed manual transmission. My grandmother drove that pickup until 1971 as it was her newest vehicle upon my grandfather’s death.
As an aside, my grandmother will be 100 in March. She still lives alone, but really shouldn’t be. By some type of divine workings, she has rebounded from every malady that has been the stereotypical downfall of many elderly people. A broken hip, breast cancer, age induced hearing loss, and a mild stroke haven’t really stopped her. What has slowed her the most has been giving up her driver’s license (only because she was tired of paying for car insurance, but she needed to quit driving anyway) and not finding a needle supplier for her old treadle sewing machine.
She is a tough, formidable, and unflappable woman, traits also seen in her siblings, to whom age is just an irritating number. It was just a few years ago her younger brother bought a new BMW motorcycle to celebrate some birthday north of 80. He’s been all over the US on it.
It’s quite safe to say the Dodge pickup my grandfather purchased was not spectacularly equipped. During the 1960s, Dodge had several unique features available that did set them apart from Ford, Chevrolet, and International. This isn’t just the availability of a crew cab like International, and ahead of the others, but rather the creature comforts.
Starting in 1964, Dodge had the Custom Sports Special. Featuring bucket seats, carpeting, and a console from the Polara, it was able to provide a degree of exclusivity not found in other brands. Shown here is a 1966 model.
Perhaps best of all, a person could purchase the Custom Sports Special in a variety of weight ratings and body-cab configurations. To sweeten the deal, the Dodge 426 Wedge was available on some models to complement the Custom Sports Special, making Dodge the first American light duty truck to have over 300 gross horsepower.
Such would have never been parked in the driveway of Casa de Granddad Shafer. I’ve always been surprised that pickup had a 318 and not a 225 slant six.
Had my father been the buyer, I’m fairly confident he would have sought one of the Dodge half-tons of this era having the 170 cubic inch (2.8 liter) slant six.
While we’ve discussed this generation of Dodge pickup, I haven’t focused as much on our featured pickup, which is the swan song of this generation. It’s pretty much a facelifted version of the 1966 model, which was a facelifted 1961 model. I took these pictures in 2014, and various events of the past week have prompted another story that helps illustrate my thoughts about this particular Dodge.
Recently my wife and I decided to replace some windows and doors in our house. Visiting with several companies, we ultimately chose Don’s home improvement company.
When Don and his wife dropped by to obtain window measurements, Don disclosed the whole Covid thing has kept him quite busy due to people pulling the trigger on making home improvements. However, as of late, he said product is becoming harder to acquire due to his supplier having to scale back production at its factories. Don did some wheeling and dealing to obtain product.
Did I mention Don is 81 years old? He and his wife are both wonderful people and are in amazing physical condition. A few hours after they left it occurred to me Don, in many regards, is not unlike our featured Dodge pickup.
How so? He perseveres and he’s still going strong. How is this like our Dodge pickup? Less than forty-eight hours prior to typing these words, I saw our featured Dodge again. In the six years since these pictures were taken its physical appearance hasn’t changed in any meaningful way. I’ve seen it many times during these intervening years, at various business locations and usually hauling something.
While I’ve always had an affinity for Dodge pickups, these had always flown under my radar. Given I recently had an article discussing these Dodges having the availability of a faux-vinyl top, it seems Dodge has emerged as being front and center of my attention.
That’s not a bad thing.
I’ve said several times during my time with CC how Dodge pickups, primarily the 1981 to 1993 models, are so prevalent in my area. It seems somebody around here didn’t overlook a very durable and attractive pickup option, one that embodies perseverance. Somebody obviously chose well with this Dodge a half-century ago.
Found April 2014, Jefferson City, Missouri
I’ve liked Sweptlines for quite a while now – the red ’65/’66 would be just right, and I’d choose the 318, too. The only questionable styling touch (to me) is the outline of the side windows in relation to the roof; the truck looks like it’s wearing a hat.
That’s certainly not a deal breaker – my paternal grandpa always wore a tall mesh hat, so in an anthropomorphic way, it all works. 🙂 He drove Ford trucks, though.
I hope you’ve inherited some of your family’s long-lived, independent genes, Jason. 🙂
The older I get, the easier it is to identify where my traits originated. My general lack of compliance (read as independence) comes from the grandmother mentioned here, as well as my maternal grandfather.
That said, dad’s dad’s premature downfall was heart related so I had something called calcium scoring performed to determine the condition of my heart. Scores range from zero to 100, the lower the score the better. I was an absolute zero, at age 46, so I’ve dodged that issue for now.
I had that test, too! Apparently, the hospital my doctor is affiliated with was offering the test at a significantly reduced rate and he suggested that everyone in the family get one. Fortunately, at 42 I also scored a zero (one of the few times that’s a good score!). That’s good, because there have been some heart issues on both sides of my family.
One more thing (for toy collectors): I recently picked up this 1/64 scale diecast from Greenlight Collectibles; here’s a picture of the model in case anyone appreciates Sweptlines in a smaller scale.
When I moved to Tulsa in the 70s, I bought a cheap 61 D-100. First truck I ever owned with an automatic. A pushbutton unit at that. Prior to my ownership, the rear end had been replaced with one having a considerably higher ratio. That gave the 318 poly amazing scoot off the line. The speedo, which had not been regeared, would be pegged at highway speeds. It was a mechanically great truck, but even in Tulsa, rust was claiming the body. When I sold it, I remember the purchaser telling me the body was so bad that he’d probably have to find a new cab & box. Since the truck never broke and he paid my price despite the body, it left a good memory.
While the drivetrains was stout and long-lived, body integrity just killed these. Hell, just the ad photos of the pickup bed behind the rear wheels looks thin enough to rust within about a month. Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon to see that part of the bed flapping in the breeze.
I have no evidence, but I’d be willing to bet that a large portion (maybe even a majority) of Dodge pickup sales were federal government fleet contracts (i.e., military) and the only thing that kept the truck division afloat.
I never used to like these, and just kind of ignored them, even in my peak 60’s Mopar-Love period. But I have been coming around. I like the rugged simplicity. Trucks, like people, seem to have been more sensible a (human) generation or two ago.
But aaagggh, that tailgate lettering! Maybe my latent OCD is showing itself, but that “g” is not lined up with the rest of the letters at all. I am having a hard time looking at the rest of the truck after seeing that.
I did at least notice someone I know. Is the “hands on hips” pose a sign of impatiently waiting for the photographer to be done already? 🙂
Yes, that is indeed her. If memory serves, the conversation was something like:
Her: Are you done yet?
Me: No. You are in the way.
Her: I don’t care. Are you done yet?
Me: Oh, hey, the window is down, I need a picture of the interior!
Her: (Indiscernable mumbling)
12 year females are such patient creatures.
That tailgate lettering is absolutely not from the factory. It’s embarrassingly amateurish.
The tailgate lettering, with the “g” in Dodge being pushed up to accommodate the descender, is really triggering me this morning.
I noticed that too. I’m pretty sure that lettering is not factory. I just can’t believe that Dodge would do lettering that crappy.
For starters, it is a fairly modern typeface. Plus, HUGE tailgate lettering wasn’t really a thing back then. Ginormous badges and lettering (I’m looking at you, RAM), is more of a 21st century thing.
Given the original survivor look of the rest of the truck (save the aftermarket wheels and tires) and what seems to be a high level of trim (‘Adventurer’), I’d be willing to bet that the lower case ‘g’ on the tailgate is, indeed, the way it came from the factory. Chrysler was known for doing some funky stuff (especially in the early seventies) so it wouldn’t be surprising.
As an aside, something like this would seem to be more in line with the other recent CC where someone on BaT paid some insane money for an old Ford pickup with less than 100 miles on the odometer.
I scrolled through the first several hundred Google image search results, and could not find another 1971 D100 with lettering like this. Most either had small tape letters like the image below, one had a stainless steel plate with stamped lettering.
Granted, these trucks are exceedingly rare, and I was only able to find a handful of pictures from the rear with the tailgate in place and raised.
Actually found another variation with block letters – can’t tell from the pictures whether they are tape or stamped. But they are in all caps. This looks more period correct.
I still believe the lettering on the featured truck is not original.
This is what I remember.
I’m fairly certain those are stamped, as they would’ve been on Chevy, GMC, Ford, Jeep, and IH at the time. It’s also why the giant tailgate lettering on modern trucks doesn’t bother me at all.
There’s absolutely no way that’s original. It’s incredibly amateurish, and looks terrible. It’s the very first thing that jumped out at me.
No professional graphics person would do that; period.
Looks like something I would do 😢. They measured oh so carefully, centering the capital “D” which of course also left room for the ascender on the lower case “d” … and then they got to the “g”. Oops.
Professional designer with 30+ years of experience here: this made me rage-spit out my coffee this morning. Sort of like slapping a bunch of Pep Boys fire decals on a cherry ’67 Shelby.
It would have been very easy to line these decals up (or make them smaller to provide more room within the tailgate for them).
Yes, it took me right back to my Typographical Design class in college and how Mr. Hutchinson might have resorted to physical violence if any of us freshmen had tried to present something like this…
As an equally ancient graphic designer, the lower case “g” not set on the baseline doesn’t bother me as much (as it should?). I look at it as many letters are set in kids’ books and other fun types of situations. I would like to hope the owner uses the truck for fun purposes and this lettering reflects that.
FWIW, I really didn’t learn much about typography in my university years; once I got to my first job one of my co-workers (who had been a typesetter in the hot lead days) really educated me. Nearly 40 years later and I still remember and use much of her advice.
I always wondered why they decided to assign 1955 Plymouth full size hubcaps on the brand new mid-sixties truck line…my guess is they still had the stamp tooling from ’55, figured no one would remember and saved some money rather than design fresh ones…? Also, I noticed something about the picture with the Custom Sports Special…those headlights appear to be a lot smaller inside the pie-plate bezels than in the other photos…the artist made then the same size as the parking lamps in the grille!
The recycled wheel covers has always been an annoyance. Look at Ford; the regular wheel covers found on the 1971-72 Galaxie/LTD were used on pickups through, what, the early 1980s?
Dodge was bad about it, also. The hubcaps found on the 1970 or 1971 brochure cover could also be acquired on a new Polara at the same time.
And the 66 Ford Galaxie line wheelcovers being used on almost every Bronco and 4×4 truck most of the way through the 70s.
As a diehard Mopar fan (my handle says it all!) I always found the looks to be somewhat awkward, but that was a part of being a lover of these! The 1971 front end went a long way toward (IMO) improving the looks, but there was still that odd cab/door profile. I (still) own a ’69 A-100 window van w/ the “pie-pan” headlight surrounds, so I’m accustomed to that look. When I was in the market for a pickup, I couldn’t find an available Dodge (D-100 or Dakota) that met my specifications; a nice ’71 Chevy C-10 that I had eyes for got away, so I ended up with a Silverado by default. I would love to have one like this, properly equipped with a V-8, but now I’m downsizing and don’t have the room/need for it. I always envisioned slapping a set of Magnums on it to upgrade the looks! 🙂
I agree on the original front-end styling, but to me it somewhat channels the early Valiant so it makes some sense.
Man, an eight-foot bed looks really long now, especially on a standard-cab truck.
I noticed that the original 1962 press release refers to the “Inclined 6-cylinder” engine, but later ads use the more familiar “Slant Six” terminology. Did the revised naming indeed come along later, or was the early press release an outlier?
Note the press release that says the long bed Utilines were still 7.5′, not a full 8′ like the Sweptlines. Dodge was the last to adopt full-length narrow beds in 1965, when the wheelbase was increased 6″. Apart from that stretch, the Utiline beds were essentially unchanged from 1953 (when they adopted the longer fenders) through 1985.
Dang, how collectible would a truck with a factory installed 426 (the famous Hemi??) be these days?
I believe it was the 426 Wedge, not the hemi. Either way, it was not underpowered.
Did Exner have a hand in the original design? Looks like he did. Interesting to see how Dodge tried to ‘normalize’ the design of these trucks in successive years, ditching the odd reverse slanted grille and simulated louvers on the hood.
The only thing I never warmed up to on these is the canopy like roofline, otherwise they have grown on me as well over the years, I even like all three front facias about equally in their own ways. I think Dodge deserves credit for keeping those themes fairly inline with their car themes, the original 4 light front end is oddly predictive of the 1963 Chrysler, the Pie pans are obviously a take off of the turbine themes, and the squared up 68 nose reflects the more boxy designs and the next generation 72 nestled right into the fuselage theme. I always felt Ford and Chevy designs of the 1960s were more “together” looking, but they either they didn’t really reflect many brand car themes, or were a cycle out of step with them. Not to say they should(modern pickups certainly don’t bear any thematic resemblance to cars these days) but there’s a flair to these Dodges I appreciate, and given their extra utilitarian trucky underpinnings it’s a uniquely cool package.
I always thought the 1967 GM light trucks looked a lot like 1966-67 Oldsmobiles.
I would guess that a lot of the cost savings done by all the manufacturers were just what they had to do to stay competitive. The fleet sales often hinge on price alone. Dodge is $10 dollars cheaper than the Chevy, OK, give me 500 units and ship them to these dealers. Some of the sales guys I worked with early in my career had been around long enough to remember when pickups were the poor stepchild of the business. You order some addition stock of cars and the regional rep tells you I can get you what you need but your going to have to take some trucks too.
Central US is Dodge country.
Ford is the first choice.
But if they can’t afford the Ford, they choose the Dodge.
It seems Chevy is bleeding market share to Dodge.
My buddy and I are both impressed with what Dodge offers as value in this market, however I always choose Ford and he had always previously chose Chevy or Ford. Yet, the Dodge truck line has been a popular choice among my working class neighbors. Another buddy of mine, who is also a contractor, is on his second Dodge RAM.
However, growing up – these Dodges looked sad. They looked like old trucks sold to commercial firms for fleet purposes. While they looked solid, they also looked like they were designed by engineers. Me too trucks. Dodge passenger vans abounded during the 1970s and 1980s – but not those trucks.
Since 1990 when they launched trucks that looked like mini-OTR tractor-trailer rigs, they were finally seen. Over the past 30 years, they have really worked to catch up. Over the past five years, Dodge has really stepped up their interiors. While Ford is still the leader, Dodge is definitely a contender today.
Which makes us look back at these old trucks with a fondness they never had. We are looking for that goodness we see today, in their old rides. You are wasting your time.
…Dodge is definitely a contender today.
Which makes us look back at these old trucks with a fondness they never had. We are looking for that goodness we see today, in their old rides. You are wasting your time.
If I’m reading this right I disagree, the fondness for old vehicles is often for their charms that aren’t associated with the pressures to keep up with the Joneses with the latest in technology, best stats and ergonomics for the substantial price tag new vehicles command. All big three pickups of this vintage pale in comparison to the luxuries and amenities of their modern counterparts, who cares if a Ford was “better” at this, and a Chevy was “better” at that in 1971 when entertaining the idea of buying something this old? Time has equalized them all into just old trucks, their differences that gave one a competitive edge over the other at the time are crude and foreign by modern expectations, and where the Dodge may have been “worse” than Ford and Chevys now gives them character.
A new Ram in no way factors into how I look at the classic Dodge trucks, just as a W body Impala in no way changes my view on classic Impalas from the 60s.
Nice article, thanks for posting it!
Like many of you, it took me a while to come around to the 60s Dodge pickups. They just looked kind of alien, relative to GM & Ford, at least. But over the years, I’ve come to regard them as my favorites of the 60s, though Chevy & GMC also built some beauties.
The “pie plate” headlight years especially trip my trigger, and that includes any Dodge that wore them from vans to their big Class 8s.
It doesn’t hurt that I own a ’76 D300 with a 440 and a 727. Mopar just kinda gets its hooks in a fella.
I’d venture to guess that even though Dodge sold way less trucks than the big boys, the survival rate on a per capita basis might be higher. Even here in the salt belt, the 70s-80s Dodges seem to hang on way longer than the other brands.
Fix that logo on the tailgate and get some proper wheels on, and the feature truck is awful handsome. Glad to hear it still gets put to work!
The ’70 and ’71s came with the decal tailgate. There was a bed style change in there somewhere too. Round tail light single wall changed to boomerang tail light and double wall bed. My usual daily driver for the past few months has been a ’71 D-200 crewcab. Fairly optioned with p/s, pb, auto, a/c, limited slip and 383 power. Standard appearance with painted bumpers and no chrome side strip. Fill in daily is a ’62 D-200 318 auto std. cab longbed. Both are quite enjoyable to drive and work. 2 yards of potting soil in the longbed recently. The only downside has been 10 mpg instead of 30. The Opel has been at the paint shop since Sept.
The “pie pan” headlights on the 66 and 67 always reminded me of the cars of the early 30’s that came from the factory with big custom made headlights but after 1940 were retro fitted with sealed beam headlights and conversion trim rings. They can be seen on some episodes of “The Untouchables”. Apparently the producers didn’t know any better and if they did, they didn’t think that some guy sitting in his living room 60 years into the future would call them out on it on something called the internet.
It’s taken me most of the day to decide if I do like these or not, in the end I think what throws them off for me is that I can’t stand the bodyside moldings when so equipped.
The ones that follow the bodyline just below the crease are just too much and seem overdone, while the ones that are on top of the crease but then go straight back, albeit at a slight angle, look even worse perhaps due to that angle and really serve zero purpose.
So a model without either molding for me, please, the two-tone as on the featured truck is just fine – but hold the molding.
And oh yes, like JP, I too immediately noticed Angry Spawn in the parking lot!
I have for the time being a 1972 D 100 Stepside Utiline Short Bed in great condition. But it’s up for sale, right now on Clasiq Online Live Auction. It is scheduled to sell, w/No Reserve, on Monday the 15th. today the bid is $5,100.
All info can be found on Clasiq’s web site.
I wouldn’t be selling, but my crippling arthritis has got me down to riding an electric scooter.
I have enjoyed this article so very much and all of the personal stories also. Please at least have a look at my Beautiful Stepside Baby.
I find myself liking these old Dodge pickup trucks more and more when I see them. In my old hometown, there was a strong Dodge dealer in the county just North of us, they pushed out a lot of D-100’s back in the day. There wasn’t a competing Ford or Chevy dealer at the time (70’s-80’s), so they had a lot of advantages. Plus, they sponsored us when my buddy and I were racing; they showered us with NOS parts in exchange for their logo on our car. Can’t complain about that!
I’m a bigger fan of the 1972 and later trucks, as I remember those more vividly. I’d love to own a 75-78 Ramcharger or even a Trail Duster as a hobby car. But the old soldier in the post would be a fine substitute.
Thank You Geozinger for your comment concerning the ole 72 Soldier. I appreciate the flowers. I’m just hoping that whoever the buyer is, will enjoy cruising around in this Classic as much as I did.
I never failed to have folks give a Thumbs-up, while driving. And so many folks wanted pics of just the pk-up and many even wanted me to take the pic of them with this Classic.
I have a 1970 4×4 I have transplanted a Cummins into and a 1969 440 six pack I put in it sometime back in 1974 or 75. I buy every one of them I can find and am getting a pretty good start on 1991 thru 93 .