By Jim Hinckley
I grew up a kid of the southwest with its open spaces, long dusty roads under cloudless skies of blue and pick up trucks. Long before we had a driver’s license, we drove trucks to haul water and hay. When most kids were getting the feel for a ten-speed bicycle, we were mastering the intricacies of a clutch and oft well-worn, unsynchronized four-speed transmission in a truck built several decades before we were born.
With the natural progression of things, these vintage workhorses often were the ones used for our driving test. This was before the fancy boulevard cruisers that are a truck in name only, that never see a dusty trail and that offer luxurious appointments once only found in high-end luxury cars such as Cadillac or Lincoln.
The first vehicle bought and paid for with our hard-earned money was more often than not an old truck. For me, this was a battered, hard worked, well worn, 1942 Chevrolet ½ ton purchased in the summer of 1977.
In the years that followed, there was a succession of old trucks, mostly Chevrolet and GMC’s of the Advance Design period. On occasion a Ford, such as a now very rare 1956 model with the big back window, factory automatic transmission, and V8 engine, and a couple of Dodges provided a change of pace.
With the recent retirement of my 1984 F150 4×4 and acquisition of, through an odd series of circumstances, a pretty well preserved 1968 Dodge D100 Adventurer a new adventure began. Hands down, this is one of the most fascinating, most unique, most incredibly odd, most intriguing trucks I have owned or been involved with.
The Adventurer was not a specific model, but two packages of interior and exterior trim that came as a package for the 1968 model year. For the retail price of $139.50 the consumer received a chrome grill, the Adventurer name plate in chrome script on the box and interior of the doors, chrome front bumper, bright Mylar moldings around the windshield as well as rear window, chrome wheel covers, Dodge delta emblem on the “B” posts, and chrome drip moldings.
The base package also included chrome exterior side trim that ran the length of the body with either white or black filler, carpeting, headliner with insulation, white steering wheel, brushed aluminum instrument face plate, chrome hood over the instrument panel, cigar lighter and full bench seat with foam padding and special trim. For an additional outlay of $33.60, the base Adventurer package upgrade to included a chrome rear seat, bucket seats, and carpet over the fuel tank behind the seat.
Promotional material heralded the Adventurer a tough worker and handsome playboy. However, the emphasis was not on the attributes that made it a hard working, durable truck but on the aspects that made it a playboy, a boulevard cruiser. Further confusing the issue of just who the target market was Don Knotts, AKA Barney Fife, was the initial celebrity spokesman.
The original owner of my Adventurer opted for the base package plus automatic transmission, 318-c.i.d. V8 engine and power steering. Other options included the one-quart oil bath air cleaner, radio and textured vinyl roof. The latter is quite fascinating in that it was not actually a vinyl top but a specially applied stippled paint that gave the appearance of being vinyl.
Somewhere between the time of original purchase in Albuquerque in May of 1968 and purchase by the second owner in 1973, I am the third; dealer-installed options including air conditioning, fog lamps, and junior west coast mirrors were added making this a lot more than a mere work truck.
As this has been a daily driver for most of its forty-year life the motor and transmission, as well as most mechanical components, were rebuilt at least once, the seat reupholstered and about twenty-five years ago, it was repainted in original colors. This is how a ten year old, well-maintained 1968 model truck would have appeared in 1978.
The styling of this truck is, well, different. Seeing it as stylish or out of proportion is wholly dependant on lighting and angle in which viewed. After almost a year of ownership, I have yet to determine if it is appealing in design or not.
This sentiment continues from inside the cab. Controls are within easy reach, the instrument cluster is simple, clean and presents a no nonsense appearance. The shift handle for the automatic transmission protruding from the dash next to the radio reminds me of a slot machine handle and more often than not, there is an urge to give it a pull to see if three cherries appear on the instrument cluster.
The doors close with a feel reminiscent of the solidity of those on trucks built before plastic. Seating is almost car like, yet you step up and seem to sit down in.
Handling is firm, power more than adequate for any light to medium duty application but the brakes feel as though they would be more adequate on a six-cylinder powered model from circa 1955 than on a truck of this size with a 210 horsepower V8 engine under the hood.
Overall, the 1968 Dodge Adventurer offered excellent value for the dollar in 1968. Today it is a near perfect blend for those who prefer their vintage trucks with the comforts of the modern boulevard cruiser. Moreover, for those who choose to march to the tune of different drummer the 1968 Dodge truly offers something different.