My 1966 Dodge A100 Hell Project has been in semi-hibernation since the summer, but now it has a rebuilt front end and I’m ready to get back into turning it into the 8-track-equipped custom van of my dreams. Since I bought my van project, the toughest problem has been finding junked A100s to provide a bunch of bits and pieces needed to get everything working properly. Alex Kierstein of Hooniverse grabbed a window latch from a Seattle junkyard and shipped it to me, which was a big help, but my van still had some bad glass and an annoying assortment of missing pieces. Then, last week, I got word that an A100 had appeared in a self-service yard a few miles from my house.
More than two decades before I owned a Dodge A100, I admired the boxy mid-engined cargo haulers and enjoyed photographing them. Here’s a shot from the parking lot of a now-defunct self-service junkyard in Hayward, California, circa 1991; this is Half Price Day and these are customers’ vehicles. Yes, it’s a Dodge A100 and an early front-engine Ford Econoline.
The thing about my ’66 Dodge A100 van project that makes it a challenge is that I’m going for an early 1970s customization job, not the far easier late 1970s routine. My van won’t have Aztecs On Mars airbrush murals or a wood-burning stove (not that there’s anything wrong with those things), but it does have a telephone-handset-style 23-channel CB radio, (faux) Cragar S/S wheels, and now it has a Watergate-burglary-era cheap aftermarket tachometer.
These days, we’ve got endless choices in plush, comfy trucks. Back when my 1966 Dodge A100 project van was built, the top trim level of the A100 was the Sportsman Custom, and that was one of your few luxury-truck choices at the time. Naturally, I insisted on a Sportsman Custom when I went shopping for a vintage flat-nose van. With the Sportsman Custom, you got such creature comforts as ashtrays, an AM radio, and— best of all— a steel step that popped out when you opened the side doors. The one on my van wasn’t exactly working when I bought it, but some
bashing with a sledgehammer careful adjustment and hosing down with Liquid Wrench judicious lubrication fixed it right up!
The Home Depot-ization of all forms of hardware retailing continues unabated, as I found out this afternoon. I needed a pair of 7″ long 1/2″ Grade 8 bolts, today, so that I could get my Dodge A100 Hell Project back on the road. Easy, right? Maybe ten years ago it was. Not today.
It just occurred to me that my own A100 Hell Project hasn’t been featured on Whatever I’m Calling The Series Of Photographs Of Old Street-Parked Vehicles These Days. It’s a total nightmare to drive in the snow (particularly for a snow-country n00b like me), but it looks pretty good with the white stuff.
Since I’ve got ungodly quantities of top-shelf booze thanks to my other job, I figured I’d celebrate my 900th birthday by having a party and pouring said booze down my guests’ throats. A couple of them went overboard on the gift department, including one who made me a coupon for free brake work on my Dodge A100 Hell Project.
Some folks will tell you that you need a big ol’ truck to haul a grimy cast-iron V8, but those folks are wrong! My beater ’92 Civic, which stood up well when compared to the Audi R8, not only sports a trailer hitch (no doubt suitable for hauling popcorn carts weighing up to several hundred pounds) but the cargo-area capacity to take a disassembled Chrysler LA engine.
There’s a reason that I spent decades thinking that, someday, I’d have my very own Dodge A100 project. That reason is this $50 A100, which survived a wild-eyed road trip through the heart of the civil wars in mid-80s El Salvador and Nicaragua. Going through my old 35mm negatives the other day, I found a few portraits with the A100 as backdrop.
Entire Universe of Chrysler Products Available For Replacement Headlight Switch On A100 Hell Project
When we last saw the A100 Hell Project, I’d junkyard-engineered a new gas pedal as part of my “get this thing on the road as quickly and cheaply as possible” initiative. The lack of headlights, due to a corroded-by-12-idle-years switch, was the next big annoyance I needed to tackle.
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