1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

With some help from Rambler Marlin-racin' Cadillac Bob and his trailer, my latest Hell Project has now arrived in the garage. Once I started taking stuff apart, I got a vivid reminder of how incredibly uncomplicated Detroit trucks once were.

1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

The whole vehicle appears to have about 19 moving parts, and this is the top-of-the-line, passenger-friendly Sportsman Custom. Most A100 buyers would have scorned such frills as chrome trim and a windshield washer.
Image source: Old Car Brochures

1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

This may well be the Greatest Automatic Shifter Of All Time. No matter how I customize my van, I'll never replace this one-armed-bandit-style shift knob!

1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

The data plate indicates that it's an original V8/Torqueflite 727 van with a 3.23 rear axle ratio. I haven't looked at the casting numbers on the installed engine to see if it's the 273 that came with the van or some other Chrysler LA engine that got swapped in. Since it's got an end-of-the-world rod knock, it's coming out immediately.

1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

The deal included this running-when-pulled 318, which I'll be installing pretty soon. Hope it's good! In addition to the extra engine, I got a Wollensak 8-track recorder, which means I'll be playing 8-track mix tapes when I get this fine machine on the road.

1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

It feels good having a genuine A100 in my garage. I've owned an early Econoline, but never an A100; I've been a huge fan of the old Dodge vans since a friend bought one for 50 bucks and drove it from Los Angeles to Brazil and back... in 1985, through war-torn El Salvador and Nicaragua. The only malfunction was a sidewall puncture caused by a big thorn in Honduras.

1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

For rough Central American roads, you need a beam front axle with leaf springs! Independent front suspensions make you soft!

1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

Here's the climate control console. What more do you need?

1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

Since it's a luxurious Sportsman Custom, it has a snazzy door-operated entry step. I'll probably have to ditch this accessory when I install lake pipes, but for now it stays.

1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

Now that I've removed the engine doghouse, it appears that I needn't fear this engine swap. Plenty of room to get the cherry-picker in through the side doors, and everything on the engine seems quite accessible. Of course, the late-70s 318 probably has different accessory mounting points than the original engine, so some futzing around with that stuff will be needed to make everything work. I sure hope the flexplate bolts up to the torque converter!

1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

The good news is that 98% of the fasteners on this vehicle are one of three sizes. It's been about 15 years since I've owned a non-metric vehicle (unless you count the 20R Sprite, which features an unholy mashup of metric, SAE, and Whitworth hardware), so I had to do some digging in the toolbox to find sockets that fit non-Comintern-approved machinery.

1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

Another great feature of this van is the front seat mounting method: quick-release pins! Yank two pins and the seat lifts right out. I assume this is so the Sportsman Custom owner can pull out the seats and set them up by the campfire when on a camping trip.

1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

So all I need to do is drop the new engine in, clean up the sitting-for-10-years fuel system, hope the transmission still works, and then fix ten thousand other things before I can drive my new van. After that, I'll get rolling on the customizing process!

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