Throughout the 1960s, Dodge put a great deal of money and effort into its light and heavy duty trucks, resulting in a full line of trucks; Chrysler even signed a deal to buy Mack, which was rejected by the anti-trust people. In the mid-1960s, they built a new light-duty truck facility in St. Louis and a 300,000 square foot addition to Warren Truck, and a line-free assembly area in Warren for customized heavy-duty diesel trucks building.
Dodge sold the Adventurer, Sweptline, Utiline, and Crew Cab pickups; Tradesman van, Host Wagon, and Executive Suite vans; recreational vehicles, Power Wagons, stake trucks, and Forward Control chassis trucks. The company made 183,015 trucks in 1968, including the A-series, D and W series, and a few “WM” Power Wagons; that record number of trucks was, however, less than 10% of the market.
Warren produced 105,921 trucks; St. Louis made 52,790; and Burt Road, near Warren, made 34,677. V8s were increasingly popular, now powering 56% of Dodge trucks; thanks largely to their heavy duty tilt-cab range, Dodge built 3,488 diesel-powered trucks.
For 1968, the A100 and A108 trucks and vans were similar to the 1967s, but with standard color-keyed interiors and optional two-toned paint. The new Tradesman pickup added easily accessed, locking cabinets on both sides, presaging RamBox and Avalanch alike. The company scored an industry first with power steering on compact vans and wagons.
The full line started with the “job-mated” A-series van, in 90” and 108” wheelbases, with setups for various types of contractor. The utility version had four large partitioned drawers in a sub-floor, accessible from outside; a conduit caddy; security screen; and various bins and shelves. The television service van included large storage cabinets (lockable), bins, catalog rags, and a security partition. The plumbing/HVAC van had a different arrangement of bins and shelves, with a four-drawer locking tool cabinet. The general services vehicle was somewhat more flexible and had removable wire baskets. There were other packages and customized selections, right down to one with hangers for dry cleaning delivery.
Buyers could also opt for the simple Tradesman, with a 52-inch-wide cargo door opening and large, flat loading space. Tradesman interiors were color-keyed, with black, beige, blue, and green vinyl; foam bucket seats provided support. Chrysler rationalized the old-fashioned two-piece windshield by saying it was “free of annoying distortion” and cheap to replace.
Buyers could get standard doors and windows, or doors with swing-up windows (hinged at the top). Nineteen different door/windows combinations were available. The base engine was the 170 cubic inch slant six, with optional 225, and “the world’s most powerful van engine,” the 318 V8, rated at 220 gross horsepower (roughly 150 net). Options included a camper package.
The “executive suite” setup included a carpeted office area, with curtains and panels, expandable conference table, swivel chair, guest seats, filing cabinet, table, clock, icebox, luggage rack, and AC outlet.
The “host wagon” was set up as a “VIP transportation” for pageants, conventions, and other occasions, with custom seating for six, fluorescent and incandescent lighting, carpet and panel, and an upholstered roof; it included a “hospitality center” with a sink, icebox, and beverage cabinet. Options included color television, refrigerator, sofa-bed, 8-track, and air conditioning. (These various interiors were actually provided by Travco Corporation of Warren, Michigan; Dodge did not sell the components, but did work with Travco.)
Passenger vans were also available, but those were seen as station wagons, and were classed differently.
Despite being the market leader for compact vans, Dodge really did not sell all that many: there were 18,756 short-wheelbase pickups and vans sold with a slant six, 2,613 with a V8; and 17,548 vans sold with a long wheelbase, plus 16,248 with a V8. That’s a total of just 55,165 A-type vehicles all together — pickups, panel vans, and vans, slant six and V8 alike.
The Dodge Power Wagon carried forward to 1968, its final year for domestic sale (it would continue as an export model for two years). The truck had been borne of World War II, and had undergone remarkably few changes over the years since the war had ended. Its looks were were similar to trucks of the 1930s, its engine a relic from the same era. For 1968, as one would expect, there were few (if any, changes); just 2,461 were made for North America, along with 1,958 for export. They weighed 4,920 pounds in pickup form, and were also sold as chassis-cowls and chassis-cabs for those who would convert them to panel trucks, fire engines, tow trucks, and the like. Power Wagon still used the ancient flat-head six-cylinder engines, pushing out 125 horsepower (gross) and 216 lb-ft of torque from roughly 250 cubic inches. (The slant six pushed out 140 gross horsepower and 215 lb-ft from 225 cubic inches.) Their WM300 designation shows they were considered to be one-ton trucks.
For 1968, the company introduced new styling, interiors, power steering, air conditioning, wipers, steering wheel, shoulder belts (optional), and day/night mirror (optional) on their bigger trucks. V8 engines were becoming more popular; while slant sixes dominated on short-wheelbase D100 (10,126 vs 3,930), V8s took the majority of sales above that.
Big news for 1968 was the launch of the new LA 318; it was 10% lighter than the prior “A” 318 but made more power, with the same gas mileage, on regular gas instead of premium. For truck use, it featured a hardened, shot-peened crankshaft, trimetal main and connecting rod bearings, Stellite-faced exhaust valves with rotators, and stainless steel head gaskets, and generated 212 gross horsepower.
A minor change was the use of a new engine numbering system, where the first two letters showed the plant — PM=Mound Road, PT=Trenton, DW=Windsor—followed by the displacement, and then the model (R=Regular Gas, L=Low Compression, T=Standard Duty, H=Heavy Duty). Next were four letters for the date, using a 10,000 day calendar, and a sequence number.
The company’s “cushioned-beam” suspension, used on all D100 and D200 trucks, damped out harshness via rubber bushings where the steering gear attached to the frame. According to Dodge, “you can have riding and handling quality you've learned not to expect in a truck. Smoother and quieter than before, stable even on wavy and undulating roads... a remarkably strong and uncomplicated system with fewer moving parts than most and a greater resistance to being knocked out of alignment. ”
The trucks used a single-piece grille that enclosed the headlights and parking lights; a new Adventurer model sat on top for luxury, replacing the Custom Sports Special. As with the vans, Dodge advertising emphasized style and convenience in its trucks.
Functionally, the trucks were similar to the 1967s, with the same engines, transmissions, and other than Adventurer, the same models. The first letter of their name was D (rear wheel drive) or W (4x4); the number was 100 for half-ton, 200 for three-quarter-ton, and 300 for full-ton capacity. Hence, D100 to W300. Even the 100 models were sold as chassis-and-cowl or chassis-and-cab setups, as well as stake trucks. Four wheel drive was far less popular than today, possibly because the systems were far less convenient.
Half-ton trucks had a 114 or 128 inch wheelbase; three-quarter-tonners got 128 or 146 inch wheelbases; and one-ton trucks were all 133 inches, possibly because few were made — 10,373 in rear drive and 868 in four-by-four. One-ton trucks had a straight frame, which made for easier upfitting.
The medium duty trucks shared their appearance and straight frames with the D300. They range was D400 (1.5 ton), D500 (2 ton), D600 (2.5 ton), and D700 (3 ton), with gross weight (GVW) ranging from 14,000 to 25,000 pounds; the similar D800 heavy duty truck was rated at 55,000 lb GVW. These were used as tow trucks, box trucks, dump trucks, etc. The only 4x4 was the W500.
To increase the duty cycle of these trucks over their lighter mates, changes were needed, including a lower-mounted engine (due to the straight frame) and the accessories and “engine dressing” had to be moved around. The suspension and supporting systems were beefed up, but they still used Chrysler gasoline V8s, modified for durability.
Despite their load bearing capability, the D400, D500, and W500 were all available with a slant six engine (the 225 rather than the 170); all carried a 318 two-barrel, standard or optional, and the 361 V8 was standard on the bigger trucks. Other engines appear to have been available as well. These choices continued until 1971; the Perkins 6-354 engine was available in some years, in chassis cab, stake truck, and possibly pickup form. Options for diesel buyers included a five speed synchronized manual, two-speed Eaton rear axle, and air brakes.
In the 1960s and 1970s, numerous Dodge-based buses were built by Blue Bird, Ward, Wayne, Superior, Thomas, Collins, U.S. Bus, and Carpenter. J.P. Joans provided us with information on the 1968 Dodge bus chassis, which was used by Superior Coach, Perley A. Thomas Car Works, Wayne Works, Ward Body Works, Blue Bird, and Carpenter Body Works.
Two chassis were available, the S500 and S600, with four wheelbases. The S500 was rated for 48 pupils with the 197 inch wheelbase, 54 with 221 inches. The S600 was available in 60 and 66 pupil lengths. The maximum body length ranged from 22 feet, 2 inches on the shortest S500 to a full 29 feet on the longest S600.
Three engines were available, starting with the 225 cubic inch slant six, pumping out 140 gross horsepower at 3,900 rpm, with bimetal connecting rod bearings and Stellite-faced exhaust valves with Roto-Caps to protect against carbon buildup; the LA 318, with 212 hp; and the 361 V8, rated at 186 horsepower.
Unlike the car engines, buses used a one-quart oil bath air cleaner; like the cars, they had alternators, in 37, 46, or 60 amp sizes. (1968 school bus chassis specifications and key features of the 1968 Dodge chassis are on our Dodge school bus page.)
Low Cab Forward (LCF) trucks were sold in both gasoline and diesel forms, carrying the C500 through C1000 names in medium and heavy duty ranges. They used the standard pickup cab, with special sheet metal in front (including swing-out panels and a hood that could go fully vertical, for easier engine access), so they did not look like the pickups. The trucks had been launched in 1961; they were restyled in 1967, with single headlights replacing the old duals.
The smallest engine available was the poly 318, while buyers could go all the way up to the 413 V8 on the gasoline side. Again, this engine range dated back to 1961 and would continue through 1971 (with the addition of International Harvester engines on the C-1000). Buyers could get Cummins engines, including V6 models, which had come on the market in 1963.
New for 1968 was an impressive Cummins V-8 diesel, the company’s first to have 320 horsepower; a change in the PT pump actually changed the power rating from 280 to 300 or 320. The V-903 (903 cubic inches) engine was completely new, with production starting in October 1967. It had an oversquare design and a fast 2,600 rpm redline, and was hundreds of pounds lighter than most diesels in its class; Cummins claimed unmatched fuel economy. The engine had no turbocharger, and weighed 6.8 lb/hp (a turbocharged version was introduced the next year, boosting power to 370 hp). Torque ranged from 620 to 710 lb-ft.
In addition to the standard “C” series, buyers could get the CN (with inline Cummins diesel), CV (with Cummins V-type diesel), CT (with tandem axles), or PC (with Perkins diesel). The Perkins 6-354 was good for 131 hp but boasted strong torque; the PC600 trucks boasted up to 23,000 lb gross vehicle weight and 36,000 lb gross cargo weight. They had a four-speed synchronized transmission, 17,000 pound single-speed rear axle, and power brakes standard, with options including five-speed transmissions, two-speed rear axles, and air brakes.
Meanwhile, a high-tonnage, heavy-duty tilt cab series had arrived in February 1964, in tandem and single axle models, with diesel engines including those from “Dodge-Cummins,” and choices of wheelbase, weight ratings, and chassis components. In 1965, Dodge had claimed to have several makes and sizes of diesel engines available in addition to the inline-six Cummins.
The LN-1000 pictured had a GCW rating of 76,800 pounds, and was powered by a 250 horsepower Cummins diesel hooked up to a five-speed Spicer transmission and a two-speed rear axle. A medium-duty tilt-cab, introduced in February 1966, remained available. Cummins diesels included the V8E-235 and V8-265 naturally aspirated four-cycle engines.
In addition to its trucks, Dodge sold a popular range of campers.
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