What do a decommissioned Ohio Bell Telephone Company van and a '67 Dodge Monaco have in common? Put them together, and you get Doug Denig's customized '68 Dodge A-100.
Doug's brother-in-law, Tom Kennedy, found the van three years ago in Dayton, Ohio. Tom knew it was the kind of van Doug was looking to restore, so he picked it up for $2,500. "It was just a stock van," says Doug. "The brakes needed to be redone, and it needed a lot of work. I could get it down the road, but that was about it."
Doug and Tom pulled out the original 318 engine, and they didn't have to go far to find a replacement. Doug's father had given him a '67 Monaco, which held a 383 Magnum big-block with a pair of 915 heads.
"I was surprised to find that because those were the better heads of the day," says Doug. "The car ran wonderful, but the body was rusted out, so I salvaged what I could use and sold off the rest. We had to modify the engine mounts on the van to get a B block in." Doug and Tom needed a flex fan to get clearance on the radiator, and they also shortened the driveshaft. With a Holley 650 carb, an Edelbrock intake, and a 727 TorqueFlite transmission, Doug's van now runs at 375 hp.
The body modifications were kept to a minimum. Doug modified the grille, gas cap, and door handles, and replaced the external antenna with an internal one. The only major body modification, a CAL-Jammer by Wingmaster, is the product of Summit Racing Equipment in Tallmadge, Ohio. "I sketched out what I wanted the spoiler to look like just from looking at semis, and Summit had what I wanted," Doug says.
Doug even attached a Competition Engineering Pro Street Wheel-E-Bar kit from Jeg's High Performance to the rear, but he says it is just for looks. "I have had it off the ground a couple times, especially around corners," he says, "but if I really popped one, I would bend that thing in half. I've scared a few people inside and outside of [the van]. I've gotten some strange looks, too, but mostly a lot of thumbs up."
Doug said the van handles surprisingly well for its size, due to its good turning radius and the position of the driver at the very front. "That's how they got the name 'Suicide Vans,' " he says. "If you hit something, there's nothing between you except the dash."
Doug took out the original dash cluster and replaced it with his own custom instrument panel on what he calls the "1968 airbag." The interior door panels are also stock and were re-covered with burgundy. The interior resto was done by Bob Evans of Lancaster, Ohio, who combined the burgundy with a light-gray tweed carpet. The interior was the last part to be finished, only one week before Mopar Nationals.
The back is reserved for four Sony Explode speakers (two 10-inch woofers) that Doug has hooked up to a JVC stereo system. "I wanted to keep it a two-seater and keep that space in the back," Doug says. "I haven't put in the amp [for the speakers] yet, but with the acoustics in the back, it is more than enough. I could go crazy with it if I wanted to, but I'm not into the thumping, hear-it-two-cars-down sound systems."
The van's exterior originally bore the olive green of Ohio Bell, but when Doug got it, it was a combination of black and burgundy. He liked the idea but wanted to make the paint job his own. He went to PPG in Columbus, where they concocted a blend of base black and Metallic Raspberry to create PPG Black Cherry Pearl Metallic. Stan Fleming took a different shade of nearly the same color (a little more reddish) and applied the custom flames.
Combine the van's original intended use with its motor, paint, interior, sound system, and body modifications, and you can sum up Doug's cruiser in one word-custom.