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Dodge 500 Trucks: Made in England (Commer, DeSoto, Fargo.)

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Dodge 500 Trucks: Made in England (Commer, DeSoto, Fargo.)

by George A. Kozloff, Chrysler UK

The Dodge 500 was a heavy duty truck intended for moving a variety of payloads in the UK and in our export markets. Our job was to develop a truck range to carry the allowable increased loads efficiently and reliably.

The 500 Series was developed in the early 1960s to replace an aging truck and to fill the need for a competitive range of vehicles, since British Construction and Use Regulations were significantly changed in 1964. They were in line with changes made in European countries.

Gross vehicle and gross combination weights increased to 16 to 28 tons and 22 to 32 British, or "long tons," of 2,240 lb, respectively, depending on the chassis configuration. Axle loading was also increased in most applications. Overall vehicle lengths also increased by 6 to 7 feet.

The styling of the cab could not be handled in Highland Park; they suggested that I consider Ghia, in Turin, Italy. I knew Luigi Segre, who headed Ghia, so, with one meeting in Turin, we concluded that it was the logical site for styling the cab. They had never worked on a truck and were excited at the prospect.

As you can imagine, their approach was restricted since the cab was defined dimensionally as a large box. I worked closely with them, spending 3-4 days every two weeks, in Turin. The cab features were known to them and they did a fine job creating a new, fresh appearance.

The engineering of the trucks was done by my small engineering staff at Kew with the help of many of our suppliers. The suspensions were nothing exotic, since we designed leaf springs in the front and rear, plus rear auxiliary springs as needed.

George A. Kozloff was Director of Engineering for the Kew plant.

The final resolution was a diesel powered forward control truck, with a tilt cab. It was introduced at the 1964 British Truck Show at Earls Court in September, with production launch in December.

British heavy trucks were sold in prime (primer paint only, no shiny coat). We did not have a variety of colors, and the customers preferred it this way; they took delivery in prime and painted them in the color of their choice, along with the identification of their company, type of business, and address. The finished product was a joy to see on the road.

The specifications offered on these trucks were the primary appeal to the operators, who knew their operations and their requirements. We sold a cab and chassis and the operators arranged for the purchase of the bodies or trailers.

Dodge - DeSoto - Fargo 500 cab features

  1. New, fresh appearance.
  2. Forward step entry, in front of the wheel, for driver convenience; essential for low tonnage models in local delivery use.
  3. Roominess and comfort.
  4. Improved forward and rearward visibility, with a single pane, curved windshield.
  5. Locate engine with minimum intrusion into the cab.
  6. Tilt cab with a 40° forward tilt provides easy, quick access to the engine. The cab weight is counter balanced with a torsion bar, permitting a quick one man operation. All of the cab controls were designed to move as part of the cab.
  7. Full length stamped door panels, concealing the forward entry step.
  8. Name plates for Dodge, Fargo, and DeSoto models.

Fargo - Dodge - DeSoto 500 engines

When I arrived in England in 1959, I was informed that Chrysler International management had concluded that we had to have a Chrysler diesel of our own manufacture to be successful in selling heavy trucks overseas. The larger and heavier trucks also required more powerful diesel engines, operating at higher governed speeds.

We spend the first year or so approaching European and Japanese diesel engine makers to determine whether they would consider licensing Chrysler to build their engine, in England, under the Chrysler name, and to apply "Chrysler" to each engine. This approach did not go too well. Fortunately, our Chrysler Detroit contacts informed us that
Cummins, of Indiana, had developed V6 and V8 engines of suitable output for our requirements and would consider the manufacture in England.

It was agreed that Chrysler Motors Lts. and Cummins, in a 50/50 joint venture, would make these engines in Darlington, County Durham. Cummins also built an separate facility next to the engine plant to make the unique accessory components such diesel fuel pumps, fuel injectors, air compressers, etc. The name "Chrysler Diesel" appeared on each engine.

The Perkins 6-354 diesel engine was retained for lighter truck usage. They were manufactured in Peterborough, England. The engine specifications were:

NameV6 - 1 V6 - 2 V8I-6
Made by Cummins/ChryslerPerkins
Type90 degree V6 90 degree V8 Inline six cylinder
Cubic Inches 352352470354
Bore x Stroke 4.625 x 3.503.875 x5.00
Redline3,000 rpm 3,300 rpm 3,000 rpm 2,800 rpm
Horsepower[email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected]
Torque[email protected][email protected][email protected]
Compression Ratio 17.5:116:1

Model range

Right hand and left hand drive

2 axles - GVW 15,000-36,000 lbs.; payload 3 1/2 -11 tons

3 Axles -GVW 40,000-48,400 lbs.; payload 12-16 tons

Tractors-GCW 40,000-67,000 lbs.

Commercial truck transmissions

5-speed constant mesh and synchromesh transmissions were available. A range of single and 2-speed rear axles were offered. For tractors and 6 x4 trucks, 2-speed axles were standard. Optional ratios were available on transmissions and rear axles.

All models, except two light trucks, were equipped with dual line, full air braking systems. The light truck models had vacuum hydraulic brakes. A unique variable ratio hand brake provided full time holding power. On the heavy trucks and tractors, with air brakes, the parking brake is air power assisted.

Dodge - DeSoto - Fargo 500 Chassis frame

The frames were designed with the help of the stamping supplier. If we had carried on with a low carbon steel frame, we would have had a much larger and heavier frame assembly. With the supplier's participation, we arrived at a special alloy, a high tensile steel allowing us to have the strength for the heavy loads with a smaller frame section and a weight saving.

Tubular and channel section cross members were bolted to the frame sidemembers. Spring hanger brackets were also bolted to the frame, using the cross members where possible. For the larger tonnage models, the sidemembers are 12 1/2" deep, with 3" flanges. No holes were drilled in the flanges. The frame depth for the lighter models was 10". The frame rails were straight and 40" apart, an international standard for body mounting. The frame rails were widened beneath the cab to facilitate engine mounting. Frame reinforcements were available on many models.

ALSO SEE: 1969 Dodge commercial trucks (USA); Commer/Dodge 100 Series


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