REINVENTING COOL:
Pelican Brewing’s 1966 Dodge D100 panel truck

Posted by Darron Welch | October 25, 2017

You might not know it, but brewers have a lot of interests outside of making delicious beer.  One common

interest for a lot of brewers is cars, trucks, and hot-rodding.  When our brewmaster spotted an old panel truck at a local auction, he jokingly suggested that the brewery should buy it and do a full resto-mod.  After all, it had a number of exceedingly cool features: great vintage lines, very little rust, V8 engine and a 4-speed manual transmission.  The response from the rest of the Pelican team was resounding: bid on it!

And so Pelican acquired a 1966 Dodge D100 panel truck with the intention of doing a complete restoration and modification.  The plan is to use it as a special events vehicle once it is restored.  Once in possession of the truck, an evaluation was in order.  The truck yielded a few secrets initially, but as we’ve worked on it, we’ve gradually learned more, bit by bit.

The engine is an A block 318 with Polyspheric heads.  This is not the LA series 318 that went into millions of Mopar vehicles from 1967 onward, but an earlier version that used head design principles more like the first generation hemis.  There were thousands and thousands of these engines made in the early to mid-sixties, but these days it is a pretty unusual engine.  Which is both very cool but also a little bit challenging, since speed parts are not nearly as plentiful as they are for other Mopar engines.

The truck has drum brakes and leaf springs on all four corners right now.  This is probably one of the weakest points of the truck right now, and something that will need attention.  The transmission is a NP 435 top loaded four speed manual and the rear axle is a Chrysler 8¾” unit with limited slip.

When we did first inspection of this new-to-us truck, the suspension was an obvious place that needed attention.  The rear axle was not attached on the passenger side, and all 4 shock absorbers were completely shot.  A homemade axle bracket secured the back end, and 4 new dampers went in to slow the bouncing.

Next on the agenda was some basic engine work.  The crusty old Stromberg carburetor came out and a new Holley 2300 two barrel went in.  A simple adapter plate made the transition from the small pattern Stromberg two-barrel to the larger pattern Holley 2 barrel.  The engine ran immensely better with a fully functional carburetor!  After that step, a new HEI distributor was in order.  The old points-style distributor came out and a new Davis HEI unit went in.  Along the way, discovered that two spark plug wires had been reversed for who knows how long!  With a strong spark and the correct firing order, the old Dodge was starting to run pretty strongly!  A new set of plugs and wires were added to ensure that intake and ignition stayed strong.

A continuing problem before and after the initial engine work was fouling of the fuel filter.  Unfortunately, replacement fuel filters would only last about 20 minutes before fouling.  The culprit was the fuel tank, of course.  It has been removed temporarily and a small racing tank installed so that the truck can be driven short distances.  We still need to determine whether it is better to clean and refinish the old tank, try and source a reproduction tank, or have a custom tank fabricated.  We will see where we land on this question.

Since October is when the rains typically come on the Oregon Coast, we needed to get the truck indoors and out of the weather before the heaviest wind and rain arrived.  Our brewer Todd Campbell made room in his shop to get the Dodge out of the rain for the winter, and give us a dry place to work on it for the next few months.

Once we got it to Todd’s shop, we started work on a disc brake conversion.  We are using a kit from Scarebird that has special caliper mounting brackets to replace the drum brakes backer plate and a new machined aluminum hub to go on the stock spindle.  We will use GMC calipers with rotors from a Ford Ranger to upgrade the front brakes.  We are also replacing the original single reservoir master cylinder with a newer design dual reservoir master cylinder originally for a 1972 Dodge D100 pickup.  Since there are significant changes to the overall braking system, we will end up fabricating and running some new brake lines as well.  One weekend’s worth of progress has been logged on the brake system update, with several more weekends in store before this part of the project is complete.