It is never easy to look back and realize you were right, especially if you did not take your own advice. More years ago than I care to remember, when most of my friends were eagerly seeking Mustangs, Chargers and similar vehicles, I was content to rattle around in my vintage Chevrolet trucks, most of which were older than I was by a decade or two.
To counter the ribbing I prophetically noted that these trucks would soon be leading the pack among automotive collectors and investors. I also said this about my other vehicle of choice, vintage station wagons.
Vintage trucks and station wagons have soared in desirability and value in recent years to such a degree many models, such as the Advance Design Chevrolet trucks built between 1947 and early 1955, are no longer affordable to the average enthusiast. The flip side of this popularity is the surprising obscurity of some of the most advanced trucks built between 1950 and 1970.
Consider that in October of 1949, advertisement for Dodge trucks began to herald the upcoming option of the fluid drive Truck-O-Matic, an early form of automatic transmission. This was several years before Hydromatic was available in light duty General Motors trucks. Turn signals became an available option on the B-3 series Dodge introduced in February of 1951. On Chevrolet trucks, it would be 1953 before this option was available.
The 1953 Studebaker 2R6 had styling so advanced there is a vague similarity between it and the late 1990’s Dodge trucks. These trucks were also adequate performers with a zero to sixty time of 14.9 seconds. Additionally they were relatively frugal with fuel as evidenced by extensive city/highway testing that indicated an average of 20 miles per gallon.
Another Dodge of interest, introduced in August of 1954, presented a near perfect blend of economy, performance, and durability. Before being made available to the public the remarkable 241-c.i.d. V8 Power Dome package was extensively tested.
A Dodge truck equipped with this 145 horsepower engine was driven 50,000 miles in 50 days at Chrysler’s new Chelsea, Michigan test facility without mechanical failure! Under AAA supervision, at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, a similarly equipped Dodge pick up truck, with driver, passenger and 500 pound payload, clocked a zero to sixty time of just over sixteen seconds.
The same truck with the same payload, again under AAA supervision, averaged 22.21 miles per gallon when driven from the salt flats to Pikes Peak in Colorado. The final test was the most grueling, a run up the famous mountain with a five hundred payload. The 14,110-foot summit of Pikes Peak was reached in twenty minutes, 46.8 seconds!
Arguably, some of the most beautiful trucks ever built were the Cameo built by Chevrolet and the counterpart GM Suburban series introduced in late 1955. Ford countered with the Ranchero and the all-new Styleside pick up trucks. All of these are stylish, durable trucks but if you want to see something unique check out the Dodge built competitor.
Incredibly, a pair of rear fenders with tail fins, and rear bumper from the 1957 Dodge two door Suburban station wagon successfully was grafted to a 116-inch wheelbase D100 in such a manner it looked as though the truck had been designed with these components. The use of chrome trim pieces custom made to continue the station wagon fender lines into the cab that accentuated the two-tone paint fostered this illusion. These trucks, billed as Sweptside models, were built in limited numbers through early 1959.
Another series of Dodge truck overlooked by most collectors is the Custom Sports Special Sweptline introduced in February of 1964 and continued through the 1965 model year. The concept behind the CSS trucks was to offer consumers the rugged, durability they had come to expect from a Dodge truck with plush and comfortable interiors that featured amenities such as bucket seats and console.
The twin racing stripes that ran over the hood and roof of the cab were the only noticeable exterior difference between this series and the standard 122-inch wheelbase models. In addition to bucket seats, these trucks featured a lengthy options list including in dash tachometer, Load Flite automatic transmission, dual exhausts, power steering, and three different engines; the 225-c.i.d. slant six, the 318 c.i.d. V8 and the 426 c.i.d. V8.
Dodge trucks, as well as those built by International and Studebaker built before 1970, when new, represented value and reliability. Little has changed as these trucks can still provide reliable, durable transportation and, as their value is often one third of comparable Chevrolet models, they continue to offer great value for the dollar.
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