Jim Brown Builds a Big Block, Stick Shift ’68 Dodge Pickup

By Tommy Lee Byrd   –   Photography by the Author

There’s no question that the classic truck market is flooded with pickups that wear a Bowtie or Blue Oval. Mopar trucks don’t quite have the same aftermarket support as the other big dogs, but they certainly turn heads when a cool build hits the street. Jim Brown is a longtime Mopar lover from Cedar Hill, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville. He picked up this unique ’68 Dodge D100 pickup from a local estate back in 2010. He picked away at the truck for 10 years, getting help from friends as needed, with the goal of building a truly sanitary truck with horsepower from a legendary Mopar muscle car.

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03 Side Profile of a Beige 1968 Dodge Pickup

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Jim is a general contractor, so he’s spent his life behind the wheel of a truck of some variety. His father was a police officer, and he said he can remember hearing his dad coming home from work in his 440-powered Plymouth Fury, so it gave him an appreciation of big-block horsepower early on in life. When he got his hands on this Dodge pickup, it had the original Slant Six cylinder engine and three-speed manual transmission, so it didn’t offer much excitement. He wanted to change the running gear, while also cleaning up some of the details that the Dodge didn’t address at the factory.

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04 Front View of a Beige 1968 Dodge Pickup Truck

The body style on Jim’s pickup sets itself apart from other trucks from the late ’60s, thanks to a unique roofline and front sheetmetal. Another unique aspect is the Stepside bed, which Dodge called the Utiline bed. This bed design was most often used with a long box or on heavy-duty trucks, so a 1/2-ton shortbed Utiline is seldom seen. Jim didn’t want to modify the body, but it required some rust repair, so he enlisted the help of Randall Carver and Brian Padgett to repair the cowl, rocker panels, and steps. The bed required some serious work to get it square and straightened, in preparation for primer and block sanding inside and out. When all of the body panels were straightened and aligned, Randall Carver painted it using a color called Mojave Sand. The wooden bed floor with stainless strips provides a great finishing detail.

The emblems are the only polished components on the exterior, as the grille and bumpers are painted satin black for a clean look that coincides with the satin black wheels. The artillery-style wheels are from Detroit Steel and measure 18×8 up front and 20×11 out back and wear Nitto Motivo rubber, sized at 245/45ZR18 and 315/35ZR20, respectively. The original-style dog dish caps give the combination a little extra pop, thanks to a polished finish and red pinstriping.

07 Rear View of a Beige 1968 Dodge Pickup Truck

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Jim dialed in the stance on his Dodge pickup by ditching the original solid front axle in favor of a Fatman Fabrications Mustang II suspension, which uses tubular control arms, adjustable coilovers, and rack-and-pinion steering. Out back, a Fatman four-link setup features another pair of adjustable coilovers and a track bar to provide a smooth ride and excellent handling. Jim used a Currie 9-inch rearend complete with 3.73:1 gears; Wilwood disc brakes ride at the corners.

Horsepower comes from a tried-and-true Mopar muscle car. The 440ci big-block Chrysler originally powered a ’69-1/2 Dodge A12 Super Bee. Jim kept it mostly stock, utilizing the original rotating assembly with 10.5:1 compression ratio. Tommy’s Machine Shop handled the necessary machine work on the block and cylinder heads. Jim upgraded to an Edelbrock Performer 440 intake manifold, and a dual-line Holley four-barrel carburetor. A billet electronic distributor delivers spark through a set of Accel 8mm plug wires. Coated Hedman long-tube headers lead into a 2-1/2-inch exhaust system with MagnaFlow mufflers.

08 Interior of a 1968 Dodge Pickup Truck

The engine wears Chrysler orange paint with black Mopar performance valve covers, providing a nice contrast in colors. He also used black on the air cleaner with factory-style 440 decals, and then painted the inner fenders and aluminum champion radiator in a semigloss black for a superclean finish. The alternator and power steering pump are also finished in black and use custom bracketry. Behind the 440 is a TREMEC TKO 500 five-speed manual transmission with a mid-shift relocation kit to position the shifter properly inside the cab. Jim used a Hurst shifter with a custom pistol grip handle for the perfect Mopar finishing touch. A McCleod clutch transfers the power, while a custom driveshaft hooks it all up.

10 Engine of a 1968 Dodge Pickup Truck with a 440 Badge

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Inside, the truck has a subtle appearance thanks to Mojave Sand paint and black leather. Chris Hillman handled some of the interior work, while Jim’s wife, Angela, stitched the customized seat upholstery with the ’60s Dodge logo in the middle. The dash is modernized with a set of AutoMeter gauges inside a custom bezel. An ididit tilt steering column places the Dodge Challenger steering wheel in the perfect position. Creature comforts are at a minimum, as the truck does not have a radio, air conditioning, or power windows. A Painless Performance Products wiring harness is hidden from view.

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Although it has an upgraded chassis, Jim’s truck still possesses the utilitarian qualities it was built with, except it now has a little extra muscle underhood. Jim and Angela have driven the truck to several shows, including the Holley MoParty, where we saw the truck on display. With a subdued color combo, minimal accessories, and muscle car horsepower, Jim’s ’68 D100 Utiline is all business and ready for the highway.

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Jim Brown Builds a Big Block, Stick Shift ’68 Dodge Pickup.ctp april 2024

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