By on April 11, 2012

The 1966 Dodge A100 Hell Project was on hold for much of last year, getting stuck in Front Axle Rebuild Limbo for a while. I scored a bunch of junkyard parts in February, and the van came back home a few weeks back. Now, for the first time since it was parked in 1998 with a spun rod bearing, it’s a properly drivable machine. I took it on its first plywood run earlier this week! It still needs plenty of work— getting the gauges and door locks working is my priority right now— but it starts, runs, turns, and stops. It doesn’t overheat in traffic on hot days (though my right leg does overheat, being pressed against the hot engine doghouse) and it accelerates with authority. Sure, the leaf-springs-all-the-way-around suspension gives it a bouncy, rattly, oil-canning ride, the 318 wants to break the rear tires loose under any sort of throttle, and only my experience owning a forward-control Econoline lets me know that the scary handling is totally normal for these vans.

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21 Comments on “Finally, the A100 Does What a Van Should Do!...”


  • avatar
    gslippy

    Congratulations, Murilee – fantastic job. Now you can start to enjoy the fruit of your labor.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Excellent! These forward-control vans have an appeal to me for some reason, not that I’d own one, but I’ve always enjoyed their looks, be it Chevy, Ford or Dodge.

    Now, get to it and fix those locks and such! :-)

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      Even scarier is the VW bus with it’s lousy brakes. The car that tought me not to tailgate.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve put in quite a few miles behind the wheel of a ’66 VW bus. The VW deals with bad roads a lot better than the bouncy-ass A100 and it actually handles a bit better, but a V8-equipped A100 doesn’t suffer from the terrifyingly slow acceleration of the VW. The A100 can also haul about ten times the load of the VW. Both vans have similarly terrible brakes; the A100 needs Herculean pedal effort but stops a bit quicker and doesn’t fade quite as easily, but both vans require a lot of planning ahead.

      • 0 avatar
        claytori

        I had a ’71 VW window van that had excellent brakes. This was the first year for front disk brakes, which were 4 piston type calipers of high quality. the rear brakes were fitted with a load and deceleration rate sensitive proportioning valve that effectively prevented lockup. Saved my toes a few times. Add an engine (1600cc twin port) with heads machined for higher compression and it drove pretty well. The rated payload was one metric tonne (2240 lbs.). I once had 40 cases (CDN = 24 x 12 oz. glass bottles)of beer in the back. It handled 4′x8′ sheets flat loaded thru the tailgate or 12′ lengths of timber.

        Handling was OK but with a few quirks – lifting the inside rear wheel in turns and that “fun” pitch/bounce that you get going over railroad tracks too fast. Reliability – not so much.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Murilee,

    Growing up, my freind’s family car was a 65 Dodge van with windows and njot much else but a 318 V8 and automatic. Later, he inherited the van. It was our official camping and night time fishing vehicle. Knowing what I know now, I should have been scared xxxxless the way he drove it on the twisty back roads on the way to the lake. Noting between you and the trees but some sheet metal. Somehow, he managed to keep it on the road around the bends with just a little tire squeal now and then from the rear. Good thing too because these roads were completely tree lined.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Whats the specs on the drivetrain of the van? What did you do to the 318, and are you using a A-727. I have a 71′ Dodge B300 Motorhome with 40k original miles I was going to restore, as the RV part of it is in 70′s time-capsule shape. 360, A-727, starts, but sitting for over 20 years underneath a barn took a nasty toll on the brakes, tires, fuel lines, etc. Project is on indefinite hold right now, as I already have a vintage trailer for camping and we don’t even use that as much as I’d like.

    Wish there was more project-car articles on here. It’s great seeing them being built, and you did a great job with the Impala series. I just turned a malaise-era sedan from little-old-lady special to the kind of car you see in 70′s b-movies that the polyester clad baddies use to chase down the good guys. Daily driver no less. Love those old sedans.

    • 0 avatar

      It has an early-70s 318 of unknown origins (when I bought the van, it had a bad engine installed and this engine on a pallet in the back) and a 727 transmission. I didn’t modify the engine at all beyond a cheap electronic distributor- just rebuilt the carb, replaced the water pump, and swapped it in.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      I had a ’66 A-100 and the stock V-8 was a 273. The 318 still had polysphere heads and no way would it fit in the doghouse. The LA engine barely fits with the valve covers touching both sides. Adjusting the valves, not hydraulic and hot spec for giggles, was a real challenge. In fact most any work, except carb, pretty much required removing the seats and doghouse.

  • avatar

    With your toes touching the inside surface of the front sheetmetal “You are always the first one on the scene of any traffic accident”. Same is said of the Volkswagen vans of that era.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike the Dog

      I’ve always assumed (never having owned one) that the “legs as crumple zone” aspect of FC vans and trucks might inspire a bit of extra caution in the driver.

    • 0 avatar

      The A100 has a beefy bumper attached to a massive frame, so I’m probably OK if I crash at under 15 MPH. Well, 10 MPH.

      • 0 avatar
        spatula6554

        Just get a lift for it…the perches will shear off in a collision and the tub (with you in it) would just end up on top of the offending vehicle.

        Plus, a lift would greatly improve the handling of the A100!

        Sounds like a win-win solution for all…including your legs.

  • avatar
    Hobie-wan

    Hooray, it lives!

  • avatar
    GoesLikeStink

    I just sold my 65 Dodge hauler. It was a wagon not a van. I miss the Dart already. Anyway, you should be able to get disk brakes at the junk yard for this. I am not sure if it has to be from a truck or maybe a Volare, you should be able to find one of those.

    I look forward to seeing what you do with this cool van.
    Oh and I like the Cragars, is this small bolt pattern?

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    Now you just have to raise the front end sky high, put big fat meats on the back, and you will be set

  • avatar

    glad to see the a100 on the road. congrats.

  • avatar

    Oddly enough building a Lemons car, and the deadlines involved, has jump started all my other projects. I like the A100, and the other FC vans. I did a motor swap for a friends Econoline and got to drive it for a few days. I like them, but I no longer want to own and drive one for any length of time.

  • avatar
    NateR

    Very nice work. I’m glad to see it on the road.

  • avatar
    GoesLikeStink

    Just finished going back and reading all of the thread on this build. So you are considering the Disks? And I vote for red sparkly vinyl on the seats. My dad had a roll of that stuff in the seventies. He made 2 or 3 motorcycle/scooter seats with it. At the time I hated the look of it, but now it is so tacky that I love it. Being a long time Mopar man I really enjoy reading about this project. As I mentioned I just Got rid of my 65 Dart Wagon, but it has been replaced with another Mopar, A Fiat 500c (nice review you did by the way) I fiugured if a car guy like you enjoyed the car I would too.


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