1966 Dodge A100
1966 Dodge A100. Click image to enlarge

Article and photo by Bill Vance

When Volkswagen introduced the original flat-fronted minivan, called the Transporter, in 1950 it introduced a new kind of light commercial vehicle. It came in three distinctive types: a window van, which VW called a Microbus; a panel van; and a pickup truck with an elevated bed made necessary by the rear-mounted engine. This compact layout was characterized by a flat nose with the seat at the very front of the vehicle for maximum cargo capacity on a short wheelbase.

Volkswagen had the minivan and compact panel/pickup market pretty much to itself until 1957, when Willys Motors brought out its Jeep FC (forward control) pickup with a cab-over-engine design. Then in 1961 Chevrolet and Ford also introduced competitors.

Chevrolet’s Greenbrier minivan and Corvair 95 (named for their 95-inch wheelbase) pickup and panel trucks were based on the rear-engined Corvair car. Since the Corvair was a knock-off of the Volkswagen Beetle’s layout, it’s not surprising that the minivan and trucks bore a similarity to Volkswagen’s trucks.

Ford based its Econoline compact truck on Falcon compact car components, and to achieve the “cab-over” configuration, its overhead valve inline six-cylinder engine resided in a “doghouse” beside the driver. The flat nose provided these compact trucks with much more carrying capacity than would be expected on a wheelbase of 2,413 mm (95 in.), or in the Jeep FC 150’s case, only 2,057 mm (81 in.).

Chrysler Corporation was a little slower in responding but finally got its Dodge A100 forward control compact truck to market for 1964. It followed the theme of the others, most closely resembling the Ford Econoline, and came in pickup, van and “Sportsman Wagon” window van configurations. A more luxurious “Custom Sportsman” option was available.

The A100’s most distinguishing styling feature was the use of chrome plated “pie plate” rims around the headlamps. The boxy appearance was relieved by a wide, sculptured indentation running completely around the vehicle’s midriff. The pickup could be ordered with optional rear corner windows that enhanced both appearance and visibility.

Like its competitors the unit construction A100 drew on car components, in this case the compact Plymouth Valiant. The base engine was the corporation’s sturdy 2.8-litre (170 cu in.), 101-horsepower overhead valve “Slant Six.” Those seeking more performance could opt for the corporate 3.7-litre (225 cu in.) 140-horsepower version. Transmissions were the standard three-speed manual or an optional three-speed automatic.

Connect with Autos.ca