Vintage Review: 1964 Dodge D100 Palomino Custom Sports Special – The First Really Fast Pickup

Pickups have been the best selling light vehicle in the US since 1977. But that didn’t just happen overnight; like so many automotive (and other) trends, it started in California. Over a million were already plying the suburban streets and freeways in the Golden State by 1964, as folks embraced a more casual lifestyle vehicle that could haul campers, bikes, and surf boards along with the lumber and nursery plants for weekend projects. Californians didn’t give a hoot about the downscale workman’s truck image had back East; they embraced it as much for its versatility as well as being the cool new thing.  Ironically, Californians have largely moved on, and pickups now are outsold by the Tesla Model Y and other crossovers.

The trend to more “civilian” pickups started already in the mid ’50s, with the 1955 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier, and soon all the makes started offering somewhat more appealing interior options along with the swept-side beds. But nobody was yet catering to Americans’ growing taste for performance until the 1964 Dodge Custom Sports Special. Not only did it have bucket seats and the biggest and most powerful base V8, but it also was available with a bonkers-crazy option of a 360 and 365 hp 413 and 426 V8s.

The “Palomino” D100 Sport Truck that M/T tested was not one of those wild 413/426 trucks; actually only some 50 of those were ever built, but they did generate a lot of excitement, which was of course their mission in life. The tested truck had the 202 hp 318 V8, which still made the truck very lively, considerably more so than what either of Ford’s (170 hp 292) or Chevy’s (160 hp 283) V8 offerings in 1964.

The racing stripes are so 1964, and do look a bit off on this pickup. The interior borrowed the bucket seats and console from the Dodge Dart.

Acceleration was “pleasantly alarming” although this limited review did not include actual timed runs. Pickups, with their light rear ends, could easily feel “alarming” with even such a mild V8, thanks to wheelspin and their relatively light weight. M/T actually said that traction was good, and that “acceleration seemed on par with a very light sedan equipped with a healthy V8“. Tracking and cornering got surprisingly high marks, being “on par with sports cars“. Wow! And a ride almost as good as passenger cars, despite the solid axles suspended on leaf springs front and rear. The tester must have really fallen for it.

Maybe he was basking in the fact that “the pickup draws attention everywhere“. He states that its stripes, louvered hood and tire-screeching starts aren’t for the faint-hearted. It was deemed fun to drive, and I get that. I actually used to find my ’66 F100 fun to drive back in the day when it was more youthful. Pickups really were a bit like overgrown sports cars, with their stiffer suspension and manual steering, slow as it was. The tested trucks 3.91:1 rear axle ratio undoubtedly enhanced the experience and tire screeching.

As to the wild 413 and 426 powered trucks, it started with San Diegan Dick Boynton swapping in a 413 Max Wedge engine in a short wheelbase 1963 D100 to race in the Factory Experimental class.

That led to others doing the same thing and Dodge soon got wind of it and decided to make a limited run of them. It wasn’t easy and cheap, as there had to be quite a bit of strengthening and other modifications.

The 413 was replaced by the larger 426 Wedge, although it should be pointed out that these factory truck did not have the all-out race versions of these engines, but the somewhat milder street version with a single four-barrel carb. Still 360 or 365 hp and 470 ft.lbs of torque made these a class of one.

Here’s the interior of a rare survivor. The factory trucks all came with the A727 LoadFlite (TorqueFlite) automatic, but then that unit gave away nothing to a manual at the time. The 1/4 mile could be done in 16 seconds or less, and 0-60 was under 8 seconds. Given all the handwork involved, it’s not surprising that the 413/426 option cost a whopping $1,235, or almost two thirds of the price of a base D100. Don’t even ask what one is worth today.

Ford responded in 1965 with its Ranger package, also with bucket seats (from the Mustang) and console. But no hairy engines.


Related CC reading:
CC Outtake: 1962 – 1964 Dodge D100 Pickup – A Familiar And Distinctive Face from The Past

Automotive History Capsule: 1965-1966 Ford F-Series Ranger – A Bit Too Far Ahead Of Its Time