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

Illustration for article titled 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.

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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

Illustration for article titled 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!

Illustration for article titled 1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!
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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.

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Illustration for article titled 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.

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Illustration for article titled 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.

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Illustration for article titled 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!

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Illustration for article titled 1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!

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

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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.

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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!

Illustration for article titled 1966 Dodge Sportsman Hell Project Begins: Hide The Metric Tools!
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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.

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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.

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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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DISCUSSION

ocbrad1
ocbrad1 used to be iamhoff but is now just wandering around

Seeing the pic of the vintage Pentastar key in the ignition brought me back to one of the earliest times where I sensed I would grow into a car guy. My parents had been Mopar folks, with a mid-60s Dodge Polara and I want to say a '70 Chrysler New Yorker. In late '74, my sister was born and as a gift, "she" gave me a Big Wheel when she came home from the hospital. Shortly thereafter, the folks somehow decided that neither of those behemoths were suitable family vehicles for life in snowy Denver, so they were summarily replaced with a used IH Scout 600 and a '75 Plymouth Fury wagon. Since I always wanted to be the one to start the cars, dad had the Plymouth dealer hand over a Pentastar key blank (didn't want me able to start the car on my own, I suppose), gave it to me, and fashioned an ignition slot on my Big Wheel. I absolutely couldn't go anywhere if I couldn't find my damn keys! Thanks for the flashback, and have fun with the van!