SEPTEMBER 2019: A 1979 DODGE D-100 WITH A 1956 354 HEMI? MYSTARCOLLECTOR FOUND ONE

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The post-Sweptline Dodge D-100 truck debuted in 1972 and was a fleet truck fixture for the rest of the decade.

The trucks were built for working people-but offered a few more creature comforts for their owners.

For example, the ride quality of the 1972 Dodge trucks improved with the new independent front suspension on them. The trucks also had roomier cabs that allowed three adults to exist in relative comfort compared to the Sweptline models that preceded them.

Little had changed in terms of overall body style by the end of the 1970s, including a 1979 Dodge D-100 purchased by Nick PochapskyNick is a talented car guy who is an aircraft mechanic by trade. He is also a dedicated Mopar guy who learned how to wrench on a car at an early age with his father, also a Mopar fan.

Nick purchased his ’79 Dodge after a search that took him from his home in Western Canada to the United States where he found his truck. Nick suspects the truck was used in a first-responder role because it appears to have mounting holes for emergency lights.

The truck had a tired 225 Slant Six engine buckled up to a three-on-the-tree manual transmission. The decision to add more power into the equation took a surprising turn when Nick decided to add a 354 Hemi donated by a 1956 Chrysler.

Nick was influenced by his dad because the man wedged a 392 Hemi from a 1950s-era fin car into a Plymouth Satellite. Nick had owned his 354 Hemi for a number of years and it sat on a pallet for about 15 years while he searched for the right vehicle on which he could perform an engine transplant.

The ’79 Dodge truck with a weak six-cylinder engine was the perfect candidate for the swap, in Nick’s opinion. Outside of the engine swap, Nick wanted to preserve the history of the truck as much as possible.

An engine swap like this one is not for the faint of heart because the Hemi was not a natural fit with the truck’s three-on-the-tree manual transmission. Fortunately, Nick was able to rely upon his own skill set, along with the experience of his dad, to tackle the project.

His father was able to help him with an adaptor plate so the 63-year-old Hemi could mate up with the 40-year-old transmission in the Dodge truck. The transmission was also “beefed up a little” so it could handle the extra torque from the Hemi.

The flywheel came out of a vintage Imperial and the Hemi’s crankshaft needed to be modified so it could engage with the clutch assembly in the ’79 Dodge. Nick’s father was able to provide a larger radiator that was donated by a 1967 Plymouth GTX Hemi. Also, some of the truck’s components came from a 1979 Dodge truck donor vehicle.

Nick wanted to showcase his unusual choice for an engine in his truck so he removed the cover rails on the Hemi valve covers and fabricated spark plug entry seals so the Hemi could be displayed in all of its glory.

Nick has demonstrated plenty of respect for the history of his truck and wants to preserve its cosmetic features because they tell its story.

However, he has added his personal family history into the mix and a 1979 Dodge D-100 with a 1956 354 Hemi is now a family legacy vehicle.   

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section. 

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