In Lake Charles, Louisiana, Brian Deeds' street truck caught our attention and earned the Coolest Mopar award. Brian turned the little truck no one wanted into a ride worthy of envy.
"I found the truck on eBay," he says. "It was listed for $200 and didn't sell, so I contacted the owner to find out more about it. The owner lived in a different state than where the truck was located. She told me she had not seen it in over 18 years. It was parked at her grandparents' house after it had started to run bad. All the owner knew was it was blue and had a camper on it. It was three hours away from me, so I went to look at it the following week. In my mind, I was thinking since it was a camper, it was probably a long-bed. When I laid my eyes on the truck, I had to have it. It was a '69 SWB D-100 with factory air, automatic, a 318, and it was Basin Blue ("Petty Blue"). It had most of the high-end Adventure trim, but it is a D-100 custom. The truck looked pretty rough. It had been sitting under pine trees for 18 years. You could barely tell its color. The tires were rotted off, and the rockers and frame were a dirt-sad sight. The floorpans were terrible. You could see the ground after pulling the mat back."
Once Brian decided he wanted the truck, he enlisted some help to get the immovable hulk back to his house.
"My best friend, Cully Dodd, and I went the following week to get the truck, armed with four tires that would hold air, several jacks, and a trailer," he says. "We had to beat the drums off with hammers so the wheels would turn. After about two hours of crawling around in the dirt and fighting mosquitoes the size of 747s, we had it loaded. Then, with $10 in quarters, we went to the car wash. My only regret is we didn't take any pictures of the truck dying on the ground.
"My wife was not very happy when she saw us pulling up to the house (where have we heard that before?--Ed.) She couldn't believe I bought the junk. She was not too understanding (when) the old Dodge got a spot in the garage and the new Durango got the driveway."
The engine wasn't in as bad of shape as the rest of the truck would indicate. Brian was able to get it turned over with some simple maintenance. Then he made an interesting discovery.
"A few days later, I had it running," Brian says. "It did have a miss in it, so just for fun I did a compression test. The little (318) had over 130 psi in all but one cylinder; No. 6 was dead. I pulled the valve cover to discover the intake and exhaust pushrod poking through the rocker arms. I replaced the rockers and she ran like a dream. The owner told me the 81,000 (odometer) miles were correct."
Then Brian put on a pair of mono-leaf front springs to get the front end down. He also installed a pair of 15x7 Mopar Rallye wheels. After driving it for a little while this way, he started to tear it down.
Brian's original plan was to just put on a new paint job and use the truck as a driver, but that changed.
"I did everything in my two-car garage," he continues. "I replaced the rockers, built my own floorpans, and did most of the paint and bodywork for the first time. I did everything in sections. I did not have the room to tear everything apart, so I replaced the floorpans and rockers first, then the front-end sheetmetal bodywork came off. I had the fenders and hood blasted. That's when I realized the 318 was not going to work for me. I had a 400 engine from a '76 Dodge truck and a 440 steel crank. I had always wanted to build a 451 stroker. Hughes Engines helped me greatly with sorting out my engine combination. After about a year, it was back on the road. It had a lot of go, but stopping the truck was a different story. A good friend of mine, Earl Schank, machined the spindles to my specs. A few weeks later, I installed 11.75-inch Mopar rotors and pin-type calipers on the truck.
"I finished up a few more details and took it to the Houston Mopar Show and Race. I won the Classic Truck class at the show and ran a bunch of 12.40s. I wished I had some 4.10s and slicks."
Brian thought the Hot Rod Power Tour would be the perfect event to test his truck's streetability.
"Once I found out (it) was ending in Texas, I had to go, and I had to make some changes," Brian says. "In January 2003, I started to design an IFS crossmember to use C4 Vette parts. I finished it about a month before the tour started. I also needed new wheels and tires for the look. The American Racing Salt Flat wheels were my choice. I think they complement the truck's lines.
"The Power Tour was great. The best thing is all the great friends you make. I drove about 2,400 miles round trip with no major problems and I got about 11 mpg. It's pretty neat to have a 12-second street truck that runs on pump gas and can make long-distance trips."
Brian says he hopes to have the A/C working on next year's Power Tour. That way, he can make one of its coolest Mopars even cooler.