Mother MoPar may not have been first to the performance party, but she became the life of it. Wild colors, outrageous stripe packages and hairy engines meant MoPar had arrived. Beating MoPar to the go-fast fun were Ford with its flathead V-8 of 1932 and General Motors with its overhead-valve V-8 in Oldsmobile and Cadillacs in 1949. When the hemi-head V-8 came out in 1951, Chrysler Corp. swung the door open and didn’t stop partying. The quick Chrysler C-300 luxury sports car arrived in 1955, wildly low and finned models appeared for 1957, dual-cross-ram intakes swirled on the market in 1960 and shrunken Dodges and Plymouths for 1962 took a “Max Wedge” version of the big Chrysler/Imperial 413-cid V-8 and went racing.
By this time, Ma MoPar was dancing on tables and asking, “Why not build a performance truck?”
Whether or not the decision to build a hot pickup was alcohol-induced, there was an immediate precedent for such a fanciful machine. In 1963, San Diego drag racer and radio director Dick Boynton plucked the Slant Six from his relatively new Dodge D100 shortbox pickup and shoved in a Ramcharger 413-cid V-8, which had dual four-barrels on a cross-ram intake good for 410 hp. According to a period article by Martyn Schorr, Boynton’s D100 raced in the B/Factory Experimental class of NHRA racing and catapulted the radio man to 110.80 mph in 12.95 seconds over the quarter-mile — and that was with a leaded tailgate for traction!
Four dealers sponsored Boynton, and perhaps that put the prospect of a 413-powered truck on the radar back at MoPar HQ in Detroit. According to the online Dodge Custom Sport Special Registry (www.cssregistry.com), Dodge is known to have installed at least one 413-cid V-8 in a D-series (two-wheel drive) pickup in 1963, and the High Performance Package (HPP) Dodge truck was born.
The HPP Dodge truck
For 1964, Dodge officially offered a 413-powered HPP truck on its 122-inch-wheelbase D100 (two-wheel-drive 1/2-ton) and D200 (two-wheel-drive 3/4-ton) longbox pickups. In addition to the four-barrel 413 offering 360 hp, the HPP package included the 727 TorqueFlite push-button automatic transmission; torque rods mounted over the rear axle to function as traction bars (borrowed from the Imperial); “heavy-duty” instruments (6,000-rpm tachometer, speedometer, and gauges for oil pressure, water temperature, and amps); power steering; dual exhaust; and heavy-duty front and rear springs. Soon after the start of 1964 production, the HPP’s 413-cid V-8 was replaced by MoPar’s Street Wedge 426-cid V-8 of 365 hp. The Custom Sport Special registry states that the HPP package added more than $1,200 to the price of a Dodge pickup truck — more than 50 percent of the base D100’s approximate $2,000 base price!
The CSS Dodge truck
Along with the HPP, Dodge introduced its new Custom Sports Special (CSS) pickup for 1964 and documented its availability in a brochure titled “THIS IS A TRUCK?” The brochure also mentions the HPP, as MoPar no doubt figured that many HPP trucks would be ordered on the flashy new CSS version. So while the CSS and HPP packages could be ordered together, they could also be ordered independently of one another. If the CSS owner didn’t order the HPP, the base 225-cid Slant Six was standard and the 318-cid V-8 was optional. Either of these more pedestrian engines could be shifted through an automatic or three- or four-speed manual transmission.
The 1964 CSS was Dodge’s ’60s twist on the dressed-up Chevrolet Cameo and GMC Suburban of 1955-’58. The CSS was also better-timed, as trucks were growing in popularity in the early 1960s. An April 1964 Motor Trend article on the CSS said there were more than 1 million trucks registered in California alone, and the “[truck] tally is skyrocketing” with sportsmen the largest growing segment of truck owners. Among trucks’ growing number of owners were suburbanites who wanted a truck that was not only utilitarian, but also comfortable and dressy enough to be parked in the driveway within their new housing development. The Custom Sports Special definitely delivered. These CSS trucks could be based upon the slab-box-side Sweptline or step-side Utiline truck styles, both of which had designs dating to the 1961 restyling of Dodge’s pickup line. The CSS package dressed up the D100 or D200 truck by adding four thin “sports car racing stripes” — paired two per side — to the roof and the standard, louvered hood. There was also a chrome grille, bumper and roof moldings.
Inside is what really set apart the CSS. Black-vinyl-upholstered bucket seats from the Dodge Dart GT offered passenger car comfort and were separated by a Dodge Polara-sourced console incorporating a cigarette lighter, ash tray, courtesy map light and extra storage space. The CSS interior also featured plush carpet that even covered the fuel tank inside the cab, plus dual arm rests and sun visors. A tachometer could be ordered on the CSS, but if the HPP wasn’t purchased, the Slant Six- or 318-powered CSS truck was fitted with a 5,000-rpm tach instead of the HPP’s 6,000-rpm tach.
Testing the CSS Dodge truck
For the April 1964 issue, Motor Trend’s Carl Isica tested a 318-powered D100 Custom Sport Special, which was initially called the Palomino Sport Pickup. (Interestingly, Isica’s story noted the availability of the 413 instead of the later 426 in the HPP, so use of the 413 appears to coincide with the early use of the Palomino name.) Isica is the MT author who noted the growing interest and purchase of trucks in 1964, and used words such as “luxury” and “racy” to describe Dodge’s new sport pickup, going so far as to say, “…it’s hard to think of the Dodge Sport as a truck.” His review later said, “In this one unit, you get the following features: 1) A rugged, heavy-duty truck for hauling coach campers. 2) Plush, comfortable cab for the most demanding twosome. 3) Tasteful styling — it’ll be at home in any neighborhood. 4) Power and performance to suit any lead-foot driver.” (Even with his 318-powered Custom Sport Special, Isica was able to chirp the tires driving from low to second on “normal starts.”) And while Isica said the truck’s “road feel is solid, like a sport car,” he found the steering wheel too high, although he appreciated how the seats could be raised 2 inches.
For 1965, Dodge facelifted its trucks to single headlamps and made a few other tweaks, and the CSS and HPP returned, soldiering on with little promotion or fanfare until 1966, when the HPP was dropped. Some sources state the CSS package was also dropped after 1966, but the Custom Sports Special Registry lists a number of documented survivors from the 1967 model year.
HPP + CSS = The Ultimate Party Pickup
Not surprisingly, the most exciting and desirable 1960s Dodge pickups are the Custom Sports Specials with the High Performance Package. However, Dodge pickups of the 1960s lag behind Ford and GM when it comes to popularity, so few people are even aware such beasts exist. That’s surprising given the popularity of 1960s trucks as a whole, and Dodge and Ram’s more recent forays into striped, performance pickups with the Ram SS/T of the 1990s and the SRT of the 21st Century.
The online CSS Registry lists 67 CSS, HPP and CSS/HPP survivors. It also shows that ’60s Dodge trucks equipped with only the CSS package represent the greatest number of survivors. Survivors with only the HPP are almost equal to the number of CSS survivors fitted with the HPP, with a slight edge to those trucks built as the CSS model with the HPP. Almost all of the 67 CSS and HPP (and CSS/HPP) survivors are Sweptline trucks, with only one Utiline step-side survivor listed.
It’s difficult to value one of these sport-luxury trucks, as they are very rare and very rarely sell, and it’s even rarer to see a restored example. That’s a lot of use of the word “rare,” but it truly illustrates how hard-to-find the trucks are. A Number 1 condition Dodge D100 Sweptline pickup truck, which is what most CSS and HPP trucks are based upon, is worth about $28,500 according to the latest Old Cars Report Price Guide. The CSS package would likely add about 20 percent to the value of a standard D100, and on top of that, the HPP would likely add the standard Old Cars Report Price Guide addition for the 413 or 426 Street Wedge (30 and 50 percent, respectively).
Documenting a CSS/HPP
As with any performance or special-interest vehicle, documentation is important. After all, you don’t want to pay CSS money for a standard D100/D200 modified to look like a CSS. The CSS Registry only recognizes CSS and HPP trucks with a SERT (Special Equipment Release Truck) sticker still on the inside driver’s door jamb, which lists the special CSS components, and/or a build sheet or SERT documents showing the bucket seats, console, etc. HPP trucks can be further identified by the data plate, which would state “SPECIAL” in a number of its fields.
Sure, Ma MoPar wasn’t done going wild in the late 1960s and early 1970s with lightweight Hemi Darts and Sassy Grass Hemi ’Cudas, but the party started before them. With a big-block up front and a pickup bed in back, the HPP CSS may have been Ma MoPar’s ultimate party machine from the crazy ’60s.
Custom Sports Special Registry
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