When the work day is over, there's nothing like having a little fun. We can only assume that vehicles feel the same way. Sure, they're only a compilation of steel, glass, and rubber; but deep down beneath the sheetmetal, we know that our "babies" enjoy a good round as much as we do-especially after doing their time as practical transportation.
It's easy to understand, therefore, the exhilaration Tom Ressler must feel with his '79 D-100 Adventurer. Having faithfully served nearly a decade as a home project "gofer," the truck was released from its domestic duties and sent on the fast track toward fun.
Tom, a truck driver from Lititz, Pennsylvania, bought the D-100 new in July of 1980 because, as he says, "I needed a truck to do projects around the house."
"The day after the factory warranty expired," says Tom, "I installed an Edelbrock intake and Holley carburetor. But the truck was driven daily and hauled everything you can imagine until 1989, when I bought a 1980 Cordoba to become the daily driver, and the truck became a project vehicle.
First came the interior. The doors were removed for easier access and painting. The interior was completely gutted, all metal areas painted, and the interior's color changed. After painting and dyeing the plastic parts (door panels, dash, etc.), a Flexsteel seat was installed, a Lecarra steering wheel added, and carpet replaced the rubber mat."
Tom also set to work freshening up the body and suspension, adding a touch of creativity along the way. Chisolm lower control arms found their way to the front suspension, and in back Tom added de-arched springs supported by his own custom hangers and shackles. The 831/44-inch axle housing was embellished with Richmond 4.10 limited-slip rear gears and a pinion snubber, while KYB shocks were sent to the four corners. Rolling stock now consists of Billet Specialties wheels with 15-inch BFG T/As up front and 16-inch BFG Sport Truck radials in back.
As for the body upgrades, following some minor touch-ups, Tom added a rear roll pan, smoothed the front bumper, and incorporated rear wheel tubs. The original "nasty brown" exterior topcoat was replaced with a custom-mix red applied by Tom and his brother John.
The real work took place beneath the hood. Tom pulled the original engine and tapped a '71 thick-wall 360 block as the new powerplant foundation. The short-block was fitted with polished and shot-peened stock rods, Keith Black pistons, an Ultradyne cam, Mopar Performance solid lifters, Comp Cams roller tip rockers and Mopar Performance stainless steel valves with dual damper springs. For induction duties, the 360 was fitted with pocket-blended Chrysler "J" heads topped with a polished aluminum intake and a Holley Six Pack carb setup (an anniversary gift from his wife) flowing 1,350 cfm. Hooker headers featuring 151/48-inch primaries and 211/42-inch collectors send exhaust gasses through two-chamber Flowmaster mufflers and out 211/42-inch tailpipes. A Mopar Performance vacuum advance distributor and Jacobs Pro Street ignition module make up the energy distribution system.
Further down the driveline, Tom upgraded the A-500 auto tranny with a Trans-Go shift kit, Hurst Pro Comp shifter, and an aluminum driveshaft.
"Since the major redo," says Tom, "we hit the streets during warm months and tackle smaller projects in the winter. The exception to this rule was in 1997, when the truck was completely disassembled from the firewall forward to paint and detail the engine compartment. We got a little carried away and, due to the limited time at home (I'm an over-the-road truck driver), the truck missed the entire year of 1997. Looking back, that was probably worth it. This winter's projects are the addition of a billet grille, AAR fiberglass R/T hood, and Autometer gauges in the dash."
Tom explains that customizing early Dodge trucks isn't as easy as building up more modern vehicles.
"Altering a pre-'94 Dodge pickup means you need to be able to manufacture your own parts, or someone else has to do it for you. There are very few parts other than factory stock components to be had for these trucks. You can't pick up your sport truck catalog, order them, and bolt them on. It's undeniably frustrating at times, but it makes the end result much sweeter."
Tom gives much credit for the success of the project to his son Scott. "He's always there to help, no matter what the project is. At 16, he's my right hand man."
Most of the truck's duties today involve attending local cruises and simply driving around. And while seldom does Tom take the truck to shows, it has managed to take First in its class at the 1999 and 2000 Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals.
A couple of years ago Tom did send the D-100 down the quarter-mile to see what it could do. "I still had a 600-cfm Holley on it and street tires, which made it extremely difficult to leave the line with anything more than half-throttle. The best time was a 14.0 e.t."
So much for ferrying home improvement goods. Now Tom's feisty street truck is hauling something else-rather rapidly.
Owner: Tom Ressler
Engine Displacement: 360 cid.
Power at the tires: 272hp@5750 rpm, 291 lb/ft@4250 rpm
Interesting Features: Tom's the original owner and used the truck every day for ten years before giving the hot rod treatment.