based on early '60's Mopar Logo

Dodge car hauler / Hauling A (FX) in 1965

Dodge car hauler and 1965 Plymouth Sox and Martin reproduction

Journey Through Hemiland - Hauling A (FX) in 1965
by Pete Haldiman P.E.

In 2003 I finished my 1965 Plymouth 10"/15" altered wheelbase project. The car was finished as a “from the factory” white, cross-ram, Hemi car with a 727. After Ronnie Sox died in 2006, a friend, Dean Miller, suggested that I should paint the car in Sox and Martin colors as a tribute to Ronnie. The original Sox and Martin altered wheelbase no longer exists so my car could not be confused with Ronnie’s original. Since Dean is a great car painter by trade, and he offered to do the work for free, I had a deal I couldn’t pass up.

The first race for the altered wheelbase Mopars was at Bee Line in Arizona on January 20, 1965. The Sox and Martin car was one of five at the race. I decided to paint my car in the same scheme as the Sox and Martin Plymouth at that race, their first outing with a Mopar. I poured through all my old magazines and stuff to see how Ronnie’s car looked at Bee Line so that I could do a faithful recreation. I happened upon a photo of the Sox and Martin altered wheelbase sitting on a Dodge ramp truck. The truck was towing a trailer with their Hemi Super Stocker on board. This photo was taken near an uncompleted bridge and was in black and white. The photo wasn’t much help as far as my paint scheme research was concerned but I do remember thinking “Boy that’s a Big Truck. I don’t know nothing about big trucks.” Well, here we are several years later and guess what, I now have a re-creation of that “Big Truck” sitting in my garage. After being a Hemi car guy for 40 years this truck stuff was all new and an enjoyable change of pace. The following is a brief recap of my “truckin’” education.

My notice of the Sox and Martin Dodge car hauler might have been just another Senior Moment except that I happened upon a photo of a truck owned by my favorite guy, Dick Landy, a couple of weeks later. Dick’s truck had the aluminum ramps affixed to the sides of the bed next to the car. This was the same distinctive arrangement I had noticed on the Sox and Martin truck. Whoa! “There is something going on here” I said to myself. One truck was from North Carolina and the other was from the Valley. I sensed the presence of Ma Mopar. Sure enough more digging produced photos of the haulers of Cotton Owens, Mr. Norm, the Ramchargers and Butch Leal. The trucks were nearly identical crew cab Dodges. They appeared to be 1965 D600s. From a story in Super Stockers in Action, April 1965, I learned that the beds were made by Baker Body in North Carolina. At the back of the bed was the sign “BAKER”. The Super Stockers article has a photo of Cotton Owens hauling a 1964 Dodge. I would venture to guess that Owens (or the Pettys who were in North Carolina) probably had the prototype for all the subsequent Mopar haulers. Did Owens design this bed or was it a standard Baker Body item? What I think happened was that if you were one of the eleven teams “chosen” to get a 1965 altered wheelbase you also were eligible to get one of the specially built trucks to enhance the “WOW” factor at the drag strips. By today’s standards those 1965 ramp trucks were pretty primitive. In the day though they were every bit as radical and as distinctive as the AFX cars they were hauling.

Today Dodge only makes Ram pickups in the 1500 through 5500 sizes and Dakotas. In the 1960’s though Dodge made a vast array of trucks ranging from A100 pickups to diesel powered semi tractors. Each line was given a distinctive alpha numeric designation such as A100, D700, L600, C900, NL1000 etc. (Note this is a partial list.). Generally the letter(s) indicated the style of the cab and the general layout of the truck. The “A” trucks were the small vans and pickups (Little Red Wagon). “D” trucks were called “conventional cabs”; the same cab was used on 8 sizes of truck. “NCT” was a “low cab forward” where “T” stood for “tandem” (3 axles). Dodge also made an “S” series of school buses and a “M” series of motor home chassis. The “numeric” part of the truck designation indicated the weight carrying capacity (roughly) of the vehicle. Dodge put these numbers into three categories:

These designations were rough because it was possible to get optional rear ends, springs, etc. that could allow a D500 to carry almost the same load as a D600 and so forth. My take on the AFX car haulers was that the basic truck was a “Medium duty”, D600 with a crew cab (four doors) and a custom made “Baker” bed.

When I initially took notice of the Sox and Martin car hauler, its size completely put me off because it seemed way outside my area of expertise. However, upon further study I realized that the basic cab on a 2 1/2 ton D600 is the same as on a 1/2 ton D100 pickup. The D600 just looked larger because the cab sat higher up on its frame, it had much larger tires and it had wider fenders to accommodate those tires. I decided it would be interesting to have a 1965 style hauler for my AFX but that finding an original would be a miracle. (Mopar seemed to have made six or eight haulers in the era so probably at least one has survived somewhere.) I figured that if I could find the basic parts I could put a truck together, i.e., building a car hauler seemed do-able even for a novice like myself. I gathered some sales brochures, service manuals and parts books and I was off and running. Several good omens appeared immediately. First, the D600 used hydraulic brakes not air therefore a special driver’s license wouldn’t be needed. Second, the trucks used normal gasoline engines such as the 318 and 361 (although with some differences from the passenger car engines). Third, I found a truck salvage yard about 20 miles away (Riverside Truck and Auto, Greeley, CO). Fourth, at our local truck show put on by a chapter of the American Truck Historical Society (ATHS), a chance conversation found a 1965 D500 with a two door cab for sale. Fifth, again by chance I learned that a nearby AACA member had a 1963 D200 crew cab for sale. I bought both trucks and I was officially a “truckee”.

1963 Dodge D200

This 1963 D200 pickup cab was used on my hauler project. 1963, 1964 and some 1965 grills were identical to what the AFX haulers used. These fenders were too small for the 19.5 inch wheels. The cab is connected to brackets on the frame by only six bolts.

I took the two door cab off the D500 and was several months into sandblasting and painting the frame when I started to have a little apprehension about the whole project. The truck was rated for over 20,000 GVW therefore it had some humungous spring packs, a two speed rear end (with 5.83 gears!), a huge 5 speed manual trans operated by a master cylinder / slave cylinder set up, a lowly 318 two barrel engine, a master cylinder / slave cylinder vacuum assisted hydraulic brake system, and 20” tube-type tires on “split ring” wheels. I know all this stuff was state-of-the-art in 1965 but my mind kept thinking that there must be something out there a little more modern and with components I am more familiar with. The Ramchargers apparently could cruise at 80 mph with their truck but I wasn’t so confident about the drivability of the thing I was working on. In general it seemed that you didn’t really need a 2 1/2 ton truck to carry a 3000 pound car.

The D200 crew cab was mounted on a frame that had “kick ups” over the axle to allow the truck to be relatively low. The D500 frame was straight except near the front. The D200 frame was 39 inches wide while the D500 was only 34 inches wide. (Most medium duty and larger trucks have 34 inch wide frames.) In another lucky twist of fate I happened to be in my local pick-a-part when I stopped to look at a large “Class A” motor home. The thing was on a 1977 Dodge chassis and it had the same basic dimensions as the D500 I was working on. I noticed the wheels. My D500 used 20 inch Budd wheels with 5 mounting studs. These were the “split ring” type for use with tube-type tires. The motor home had 19.5 inch wheels and used tubeless radial tires. I noticed the transmission: it was a cable actuated 727! The data plate said the engine was a 440 although it was missing. The rear end was a Dana “70 HD” dually with 4.56 gears and rated at 10,000 pounds. The front end had disc brakes. Four shocks. Front and rear sway bars. GVW 14,000. Width of frame 34 inches. My mind raced. Let’s see. Hauler 8,000 lbs. Car 4,000 lbs max. That’s a GVW required of 12,000 lbs. Hey this stuff could be used to “modernize” my hauler. I bought the wheels, transmission, and both axles. I got the front and rear axles all cleaned up and bolted them to my D500 frame and springs. The more I thought about the RV and the more I learned, the more convinced I became that a complete running RV chassis would solve many problems and speed my project up. I was trying to build a functional hauler modeled after those used by Sox and Martin and Landy. I wasn’t interested in a “Concourse” restoration of a vintage truck. Within a week another chance encounter found me paying $1000 for a running 1977 Diplomat motor home.
1977 Diplomat motor home

1977 Diplomat II motor home by Executive Industries, Anaheim, California. WB 178 inches. The 440 / 727 combo tells you it’s a Dodge. Nearly all of these big RV’s used the 5 inch round, amber turn signal lights at the front just like all the 1965 “D” series trucks. Dodge put a number such as “M50 - - - - ” on the outside of the right frame rail about 2 feet from the front, behind the right front wheel. The RV manufacturer may have used the number as the VIN number for the RV or, more likely, made up his own. A “M50 - - - -” is a M500 chassis with 5 wheel studs and a GVW of 14,000 pounds. A “M60 - - - -” is a M600 identified by 6 wheel studs and with a GVW of 16,000 pounds.

Within three weeks the RV was stripped of its body.

1977 Diplomat motor home, stripped

Remove the RV body (handle that black water tank with care!) and your left with this. Dodge supplied the chassis pretty much as seen here. The rig could be driven into the RV factory as a running vehicle. The propane tank and outriggers for support of the floor were added by the RV company. The floor over the engine, front bulkhead, gauge cluster, shifter and steering wheel all came from Dodge. AC, PS, PB, cruise, front discs, sway bars front and rear, and 80 gallon gas tanks were all factory items.

And a month after that the crew cab was sitting on its new home, a Dodge M500 motor home chassis.

D200 crew cab on RV chassis

D200 crew cab meets RV chassis. Here the wheel base is the unmodified 178 inches. The larger front fenders are from a D500 at the junk yard. Note the outstanding patina.

Throughout the build I never touched the engine, transmission, rear end, radiator, exhaust system or wheels. If I had kept working on my original D500 truck I wouldn’t have gotten it running in another year or two, it probably wouldn’t have run nearly as nicely as the ex-motor home does and it would have cost a lot more money.

I’ll spare you most of the construction details but I’ll list some of the highlights at the end of this article. There is one topic however, that I think is important to dwell upon for a moment and that is the tire / wheel / rear axle combination. Since I have taken up the Dodge truck hobby I’ve been to three ATHS national meets. At each there were around 600 trucks but only a couple dozen Dodges. (Ironically one of the most valuable and sought after trucks are the early 1970’s Dodge Big Horn semi tractors!) There were a couple dozen trucks which the club put in its “Special Interest” category which includes trucks “that have been significantly altered or modified from their original design.” Most of these trucks involve putting an old cab on a modern one ton dually pickup chassis. The cabs range from the 1951 White, to the 1959 Mack, to the 1962 Peterbilt, to the 1979 Kenworth, etc.. While these trucks are pretty cool and probably run well with their 1998 Ford Diesels and A/C, I must comment that they look like low-riders to me on their 16 inch wheels. The proportions are all wrong. I expect to see these things hop at any minute. And that is why I am just overjoyed that I stumbled onto the motor home chassis idea. The 1965 Dodge car haulers used 20 inch tube-type tires with the 6 stud wheels. The late 1970’s Dodge motor homes used the same bolt patterns but with 19.5 inch radial tires. From the side, my 1977 RV wheels closely resemble the 1965 wheels. An old cab on 19.5 inch wheels looks factory-built and mucho-macho not whimpy! Furthermore, with the one ton dually chassis you get the load capability of a 300 series “Light duty” truck whereas with the 600 series RV you can actually haul a serious load. Us Mopar folks are indeed fortunate that we have a range of vehicles not available to Ford and Chevy people. We can easily keep our trucks “All Dodge”.

D200 crew cab on RV chassis

Left to right. First: 1992 Dodge 2500, Wheel 16 inches, Tire 30.5 inches, Load 2800 pounds. Second: 1977 Dodge M500 chassis, Wheel 19.5 inches, Tire 33 inches, Load 3375 pounds. Third: 1963 Dodge D600, Wheel 20 inch (Firestone), Tire 38 inches, Load 3550 pounds. The 20 inch wheel would have been used on the 1965 D600 haulers. The RV wheel (center) looks more “correct” than the standard pickup wheel (left) used by many fabricators when they put a big truck body on a one-ton dually pickup chassis. There is also a 19.5 inch RV wheel with the same 6 stud pattern as the 20 inch wheel and it is a radial.

The following is a series of observations and comments on the Dodge hauler topic.

  1. In 1984 I bought a new trailer to haul my cars; it had 16.5 inch wheels. For the last 25 years then I have wondered why they made 15, 16 and 16.5 inch wheels. Shouldn’t 16 inch be good enough? Then recently I found that the Dodge RV chassis had 17.5 inch or 19.5 inch wheels. What were the tire / wheel makers smoking? At a swap meet I bought a reprinted “1964 Operator’s Manual” which covered the entire Dodge truck line. On page 95 was a “Tire Chart” listing the load capabilities of the many tire / wheel combinations. A “Tube-type” column listed 16, 17 and 20 inch wheels. The “Tubeless” column listed 17.5, 19.5 and 22.5 inch wheel sizes. Aha, haw! So apparently the tire makers did not want their new tubeless tires mounted on the old tube-style wheels so they made them an old-ball size. The 20 inch wheels used on the 1960’s Dodge trucks were generally replaced by the 22.5 inch wheels used on most large trucks today. The 19.5 inch RV wheels come in 5 or 6 stud patterns and look very, very similar to the old 20 inch wheels. One mystery solved!
  2. Dodge introduced a new cab style for the 1961 “conventional” or “D” series trucks. This design lasted through 1971. Initially Dodge offered crew cab models that were built by an outside vendor. Starting in 1963 Dodge actually turned out its own crew cab and these could be had as D200 through D600’s. The haulers made available to the AFX teams for 1965 were all crew cabs.
  3. The longest 1965 D500 and D600 wheelbases were 197 and 221 inches. I scaled off the vintage photos and it seemed like the 221 inch W.B. was the one used. I had to extend the W.B. of my 1977 RV chassis from 178 inches to get to 221 inches. (Note that the D700 was only available up to 197 inche W.B. and had a different wheel style.)
    D200 crew cab on RV chassis
    The truck was cut in half at La Salle Manufab and the wheelbase
    was stretched from 178 inches to 221 inches. 221 inches was the longest wheelbase available in 1965.
    D200 crew cab on RV chassis
    Jim Freeman (in cap, right) of Freeman Truck Bodies, who built the bed, discusses the project with the guys at La Salle. Thanks guys!
  4. The 1963 - 1968 Dodge Truck Parts Book says that they built two motor home chassis in this timeframe called the M300 and M375. The M300 had up to a 158 inch wheelbase while the M375 was 178 inches only. Both of these were considered “Light duty” vehicles and would probably not be a good starting point for a hauler re-creation. Additional they did not use the bitchin’ 19.5 inch wheels. By the mid - 1970’s larger M400, M500 and M600’s were available with the M500 identified by its 5 stud wheels and the M600 by its 6 studs.
  5. Interestingly Dodge also made school bus chassis for many years. These were generally “Medium duty” rigs with extremely long wheelbases. I haven’t ever seen one of these to examine it closely but surmise that the buses were probably sprung a little lighter than the trucks to offer a softer ride. They probably used longer wheelbases as 40 kids take up more room than 10,000 lbs. of sand. The RV chassis came into being after the bus chassis sometime about 1961. The bus was sold with the front truck sheetmetal installed while the RV had no body parts at all. By the 1970’s the motor home chassis was improved by lowering the engine and radiator about 6 inches so that a floor could be built over the engine compartment for the two front seats. I bought Dave Rockwell’s great new book “We Were The Ramchargers”. On page 181 Dave has a photo of their 1965 crew cab hauler which he labels “D600”. However, in the text below he says the truck was “Built on a full school-bus chassis”. There it is straight from the horses mouth. If you can’t find an original D600 crew cab truck for your hauler you could use a 1965 S600 school bus. Good luck in locating either one of these.

  6. Dodge started building the large M500 RV chassis in 1975 and the M600 in 1976. Both were discontinued for the 1978 model year although the motor home companies continued to offer 1978, 1979 and possibly even 1980 model year RVs on the 1979 and earlier chassis. If you’re contemplating your own hauler / RV rig, find as long a wheelbase chassis as possible with wheels that resemble the real 1965 crew cabs. Specifically, look for a 1975 - 1980 Class A motor home on a M500 or M600 Dodge chassis. These would all be 440 powered. I’ve seen many M500’s recently but I’ve never seen a M600. I imagine that the largest RV’s were pretty rare. (I just bought a used 1977 “Executive” brand M500 RV. The original MSRP was over $40,000!)
  7. I need to give credit to some highly skilled folks who brought my project to life. Thanks to LaSalle Manufab for stretching the Dodge’s frame out. Thanks to Jim Freeman and Herman Peterson at Freeman Truck Bodies for fabricating the bed, large box, gas tanks and so forth. It takes real craftsmen with some huge machines to fold and weld 10 foot long sheets of steel as if it were Japanese origami. Thanks to Dean Miller for painting the Sox and Martin tribute car and kicking off this whole project.
  8. The last two photos in this article are my completed hauler. It was made from a lengthened 1977 Dodge motor home chassis and the cab of a 1963 D200 pickup. It is a reasonable re-creation at a reasonable price. It is a reminder of a time when Ford, for a period of four months in the spring of 1965, told its factory drag racers that they would not be permitted to race a Mopar altered wheelbase car. If a Ford racer arrived at a track and saw a big Dodge crew cab hauler, he knew he might as well head for the gate.
Lengthened to 221 inch wheelbase

Lengthened to 221 inch wheelbase with bed, ramps and boxes complete in November 2008.

Dodge crew cab view

The crew cab saw only minor changes in the years 1963 1971.

engine compartment

The motor home engine and radiator remained untouched throughout the build. The RV used a “Hydroboost” power brake system. The power steering pump activates both the power steering unit and the brake booster. The Hydroboost / master cylinder have been relocated to the firewall. The engine sits about 6 inches lower in the RV chassis than it would have in a real 1965 truck engine bay.

1965 Dodge haulers distinct features

The 1965 Dodge haulers had several distinct features. Aluminum ramps were fixed to the sides of the bed. Very large chocks were employed behind the rear wheels. A sign “BAKER” was affixed at centerline of the bed. (It would have been just to the left of my license plate.)

front view Dodge hauler

I finished my project with a “500” emblem in the grill and corresponding 5 lug nut wheels. The orange turn signal lenses were used through the 1970’s by the RV manufacturers and offer a subtle hint that the chassis is by Dodge.

side view Dodge hauler

The Sox and Martin team was new to Mopar at the beginning of 1965. Dick Maxwell arranged for them to borrow this hauler from Haldiman Chrysler Plymouth of Detroit until their new truck was completed. Maxwell didn’t want them using their old Ford truck. The Haldiman truck was also used to transport the Petty’s “Outlawed” 43 JR Barracuda in late 1964 while Richard’s other Dodge crew cab trailered the B body Plymouth. (This photo shows me heading to the Goodguys show in June 2009.)

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Editor’s note: Check back for a feature on Pete’s Sox and Martin tribute 1965 Plymouth!


Thanks Pete!

That is a great “story behind the story”  detailing how the Mopars people flocked to the drag strips to see were transported to the competition matches. Your updated version is quite impressive! smile!

Gary H.


Posted February 3, 2012

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