By on October 16, 2010

Dodge trucks have gotten short-shrift around here. They do tend to kind of disappear in the background, especially this generation, even thought they were built almost forever. But this one caught my attention, given the love and effort that went into this home-built “gypsy-wagon” camper on back. Let’s take a closer look.

Easier said than done, with the sun in my camera lens. That happens all too often; maybe I need something other than a $100 cheapo. It’s also why I like shooting in Eugene’s all-too common foggy weather.

Someone has certainly put a lot of craftsmanship and detail into this exterior. Quite a contrast from the usual corrugated aluminum siding. Ah, that window is uncovered; let’s be real nosy and stick my camera lens up to it and shoot.

Cozy and quaint. And the book on the rack: “Gypsy Queen Card Reader”. A little table between two chairs, and a lamp overhead. I’m beginning to suspect the owner really is living the lifestyle. She probably works the festival circuit.

Gypsy Queen Card readers need to sleep too, and there’s a cozy bunk over the cab. And all so immaculate.

Having run across both of these home-made rigs on the same day, they make a nice juxtaposition. Different strokes for different folks, and Eugene has a higher percentage of different folks than average. Keeps things interesting.

And I haven’t talked about the poor neglected Dodge D-100. What can one say about it, except that of the Big Three pickups from the seventies, it’s engines and transmission were certainly as or more bullet-proof than the others (Lean Burn carbs excepted – did they use them in the pickups too?). But they’re easily replaced with something that runs a bit richer and happier. Just make sure you keep a spare ballast resistor in the glove box.

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23 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1974 Dodge D-100 “Gypsy Wagon” Camper...”

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    A gypsy wagon in Eugene…stop the presses!
    Seriously though:  Did it smell like the Oregon Country Fair too?  You know…B.O., Reefer, Jasmine, etc.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Not a bad way for an old truck to live out the last of its days.  If the campers a rocking the reading went very well.

  • avatar

    There’s a curious extension right above the front door. Is that the bed sticking out sideways?

  • avatar

    They kept this basic design around until 1993.

    This one might even have a workaday slant six under the hood, but if it’s hauling that slide-in all the time the 318 might be a better fit.

    My dad had a 1985 plain-jane Custom 150 and you know the saying “fix it with a hammer”?  That truly applies to these trucks.

  • avatar

    It’s a shame Chrysler could never get its act together in improving the body integrity of their trucks to Ford or even GM standards. Those old-school Chrysler drivetrains (esp with the slant-six) were anvil-solid. If the body on those Dodges wouldn’t rust away years before the competition (were talking in the majority of the US here), the engines would easily have kept them going for time immortal.

    • 0 avatar

      The Dodges were certainly rusters.  However, they were no worse than the contemporary Fords and a lot better than the mid 70s Chevys.  But they did suffer from the bad body hardware and crappy subective “feel” that was pretty standard for all Chrysler bodies of the era.

  • avatar

    Although this one is not the best example, I always considered the 72-73 Dodge pickup one of the best looking pickups ever built.  They got kind of awkward as the 70s wore on, but the re-do in 80 or 81 cleaned them up very nicely until the end of the line with the new 94 Ram.
    The 72-73 with the 2 tone paint treatment that followed the body line over the tops of the wheel openings was a very attractive truck.
    Even before lean burn, Chrysler were known for carburetion and electrical problems much moreso than Ford/GM pickups.  By this period, Chrysler’s build quality was so bad that this truck never recovered sales-wise.  A friend’s dad bought a 73 Dodge van that had the worst paint job that I ever saw come out of a car factory.  The paint finish on parts of the body was so rough that you could have filed your nails with it.  But if you could get past the build quality and body weaknesses, these were great trucks.

    • 0 avatar

      1980 restyled the trucks to look closer to what Dodges were in the late-80s but they still ran on the same frames and running gear (small “Chevy” bolt pattern axles in the 1/2 tons).  The 78/79 trucks looked quite odd with the vertically stacked headlight pairs.  The Dodge trucks were redone again in either 84/85 that essentially used the same early-80s styling but changed the frames and axles (now to the big “Ford” pattern in the 1/2 tons).  The front was redone again in 1991 with a new radiator core support to allow wider headlight spacing and a thick chromed grille shell that makes the modern F-SuperDoodie look derivative, and that was kept through 1993.  The Kenworth-style in 1994 was the first all-new pickup truck at Dodge since 1972.

  • avatar

    The groovy Dodge truck/camper thing would likely be a jack-booted thug magnet disallowing its use as an alternative abode to a “standard” jack-booted-thug-approved housing unit.

  • avatar

    It should have a bumper sticker…”If this van is rocking then Darwinism is a fraud”.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    I always liked the clean look of these Dodge trucks-they were playing catch up with the 67-72 Chevy but it came off really well. Biggest rust problem was in the rear wheel wells-it expanded out from there.
    I was working a summer job for the city in 74 and we had a brand new leased D-100. I drove it right into a big muddy mess that took a Cat to get it out-the bumper took a lot of collateral damage .
    A few years later I had another summer job working for the gas company-we used Dodges there too and they took whatever Chrysler sent including 2 trucks with full bore 440 Police Interceptor motors.It just worked out that way with Chrysler fleet trucks (they threw in whatever was handy) but those trucks were insane-they even had that lumpy idle.
    We were coming back from a job at 90 mph (flat out) in a brand new 77 Ford pickup and one of the Dodges passed us like we were in park. It was miled out by then and thrashed but it was still doing over 130 mph.
    Great memories of an underrated truck that could really take a pounding.

    • 0 avatar

      True the rear wheel wells seemed to be the biggest rust problem, but the fronts were almost as bad.  From the ones I’ve seen of this vintage the bottom edges of the doors, the rocker panels, and the foot wells were equally prone to rust.  While these locations are all visible, I think they pale in severity to the rust I have seen on similar vintage Fords (good luck finding many!).  I think all the mid-70s Ford trucks I’ve seen looked like the body mounts were almost rusted off…I’m always wary such a truck will have its cab separate from its frame at any moment.

    • 0 avatar

      It was all gearing.

    • 0 avatar

      I recently saw one of these that had rust along the sheet metal over the top of the windshield.  When the truck got to 25 or 30, the roof panel ballooned up from all the air coming in through the rusted seam.  Really weird looking, but still at work.

    • 0 avatar

      jcavanaugh, I saw one like that on Kauai quite a few years ago. In the typical weather there, they probably didn’t mind the extra airflow.

  • avatar
    The Wedding DJ

    There’s one of these near me that has got to be the most rusted-out vehicle of any kind I’ve ever seen outside a junkyard.  Rear wheelwells are gone almost to the top of the bed.  It has current plates, but I’ve never seen it move out of its spot.  Maybe I can sneak a shot with my phone camera.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I admire the artistry of that interior. I don’t know if the materials used for that dwelling are any good. But the creativity is all there.
    Just to think what could have been done if the owner chose to be a carpenter instead of psychic.

  • avatar

    Damn hippies get all the cool toys….

  • avatar

    +1 on the poor build quality of the mid-70’s Dodge pickups. In my capacity as a Federal employee I picked up a new 1976 D-150 short wide box pickup (6, auto, no power steering but power brakes) from the motor pool for our office’s use. It had black grease on the seat and steering wheel, the windshield wiper assembly was only partly completed, and I could see daylight over the driver’s door with it completely closed. I had them fix the first two problems, but the whole time we had the unit we could count on getting wet whenever we drove it in the rain, a fairly common occurrence in western Washington. The power train did hold up well under what I would consider severe service, hacking back and forth in the shipyard on trips mostly well under a mile, almost never over two miles, on broken concrete and lots of railroad and crane tracks, in 24/365 service with the engine probably never quite cold and seldom fully warmed up. Under those conditions it was still working reasonably well at close to 100k. We did have to replace a starter every few months.

  • avatar

    And, +1 on the invisibility of old Dodge trucks. When I owned this low 1971 pickup <; I showed it once at the Puyallup swap meet; parked between a 1956 Chevy 2-door hardtop and a black 1955 Studebaker coupe. I don’t think anyone noticed the truck all day.

  • avatar
    fred schumacher

    I had a 1983 W-150 4×4 with the Slant 6 that had spent most of its 300,000 miles on winter logging roads plowed through the bush in Northern Minnesota. I drove it back and forth 300 miles between the farm in North Dakota and Northern Minnesota. Body was all rusted out, but it was reliable and economical. I even put a heavy Alaskan camper on it and it handled the weight.

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