There are some things you just don't see every day. A Mopar veteran could go to a lot of car shows and never find another '50 Dodge pickup street machine, which is precisely why Roy and Jane Braden's truck caught our eye. When it comes to standing out in a crowd, it's hard to beat antique Dodge sheetmetal. "A lot of people don't even know what it is," says Roy.
Those who do know are certainly appreciative. The attention to detail shows on this frame-off rebuild, and many people express surprise that a truck this clean is driven regularly on weekends.
As you would expect, Roy is not a one-Mopar kind of guy. He also owns a '68 Sport Fury and a '71 Dart, so his truck is solid Mopar from stem to stern. The engine is a balanced and blueprinted 318 out of a '73 Charger, upgraded with an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold and Carter four-barrel carburetor. It still has many of its stock '73 features, such as the electronic ignition and stock exhaust manifolds, but 2 1/2-inch exhaust pipes and Flowmaster mufflers give the small-block a healthy rumble. As for making the relatively modern small-block fit in the antique engine compartment, Roy says they welded in custom frame mounts and used stock 318 block mounts. The engine swap required no cutting of sheetmetal, and they were able to retain the stock front crossmember.
The transmission was a different story. The '73 TorqueFlite automatic required a custom crossmember and linkage. The other major undertaking was the wiring, which had to be fabricated to accommodate the newer engine and modern additions such as turn signals.
It's probably just as well Roy didn't opt for a larger engine, since the truck's brakes and suspension are stock. He says the Dodge handles and stops just fine, but obviously it wouldn't take much to overrun the 46-year-old suspension and braking technology. The addition of radial tires-235/60-15 in front and 275/60-15 in the rear-were a big help, says Roy. Other changes include the removal of two front leaf springs, which gave a softer ride and lowered the truck slightly.
The under-the-skin tricks make for a better truck, but Roy's Dodge is often a book that is judged by its cover. The paint, sprayed by Spook's Rod and Custom Shop of San Antonio, Texas, is a close approximation of the original green along with blue pearl accents. The interior is nearly unrecognizable from stock, with custom upholstery, VDO gauges, an aftermarket steering wheel, and an unusual dash-mounted shifter of mysterious origin. The original bed surface has been replaced by handsome oak and polished stainless steel.
Roy's Dodge has come a long way since he bought it three years ago from his brother-in-law David Dentinger (who has done most of the mechanical work on the truck). Now that the work is complete, the reward is the admiring stares from appreciative enthusiasts-many of whom have never seen a '50 Dodge pickup before, and may have to wait a long time to see another.