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OCTOBER 2014 TRUCK OF THE MONTH

CATEGORY:  [CAR OF THE MONTH]  |  TAGS:  [newsletter,cotm,october 2014]

Oct
04
2014

October 2014 - Truck of the Month

 

Mike Krieger's 1970 Dodge (Fargo) A-100: It's fair to say that many of our automotive passions were likely influenced at a young age.  Growing up with our parent's vehicles, and coveting the cars that were first introduced to us as kids certainly shaped our idea of the rides we one day hoped to own. Mike Krieger is no exception, with his conversion taking place at a very young age. Mike’s dad, George, had been racing the ¼ mile in Chevys for most of Mike’s young life, giving his son a first-hand introduction to the automotive entertainment scene. At age 11, Mike met "Miss Hurst Shifter," (real name: Linda Vaughn, who I’m sure left a lasting impression on many a young man's mind) - and they became lifelong friends.  When Mike was 14, Linda introduced him to Bob Riggle, professional driver of the ‘Hurst Hemi Under Glass’ wheel-stander. This custom racer was a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda with a fuel injected Chrysler Hemi mounted at the rear under the exceptionally large rear window, which allowed the car to wheel stand for exhibition purposes.  This might very well explain the Hemi obsession! The other half of the obsession could be attributed to meeting Bill “Maverick” Golden, who raced a red A100 Dodge known as the "Little Red Wagon". This ‘cab-over’ pickup was the first wheel standing truck and the world’s fastest truck circa 1965.

 

As a young teenager without wheels of his own, Mike enjoyed making models of his favourite rides and had built a model of the Hurst Hemi Under Glass.  Bob was suitably impressed when he saw it and invited Mike to come and see what he had hidden in a few trailers. Inside the first was the Hurst Hemi Under Glass and, in another, was Bob’s new wheel-stander, another Dodge A100 called ‘The Hemi Express’ looking striking in its bright orange paint scheme.  From that moment on, Mike knew he had found the car that simply had to be "his first." 

 

George (good father that he was) decided to entertain his son’s vision and started searching for a truck to build on. Father and son hunted through the papers day after day until finally tracking one down. It was a rusted out pile of junk but once Mike laid eyes on it, he was even more convinced that he had to have one.  George didn't necessarily get the appeal at first, and just stared at the bizarrely shaped utility vehicle - but Mike was adamant.  "I didn't know why", he has said of that moment "but it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen".  George was always a Chevy guy so when Mike told him he wanted a Mopar, George was a little taken aback.  He decided to at least try and get his son into a piece of muscle, so he discussed doing up a 1968 Barracuda for which he’d supply the 426 Hemi. Mike’s mind, however, was already made up - and only an A100 would do!

 

For the next year, Mike scoured the internet and trade papers looking everywhere for a suitable vehicle.  Since he hadn’t even turned 16 yet, and didn't have a driver’s license of his own, it up to his parents to do the wheel work as they traveled around the country, throughout Michigan and Ohio and even hunting cars down in Utah and California. “I just couldn’t seem to find a truck that was in my budget that was clean enough to build on. The stuff we found was in complete heaps and the owners wanted too much money for them”.  Having covered most of America (and Canada), George was growing tired of looking for a suitable A100   He told Mike they would make just one more pilgrimage - and he had to figure out where they would look.   Mike had previously made contact via the internet with the administrator on the Randy A100 Van Association forum website who told him about their big "Chryslers at Carlisle" event in July. The A100 guys had their own gathering at the show with a line-up of fifteen A 100s with three pickups coming from Ontario, Canada. These Canadian built models are known as Fargos after the town in which they were constructed. Mike met the Canadian owners and discussed his desire to own one. One owner had another five at home and said Mike might find what he’s looking for there. They exchanged details and later, Mike and George headed up north of Toronto to check them out. Upon inspection, the young teen found the owner was asking too much for the poor condition they were in. He figured he’d be better off buying the one the owner had at Carlisle.  Although it was basically stock and in excellent shape,  Mike really had no use for most of the bolt on parts. The cool thing was that it was a 1970, the last year they were produced and had five windows, the same as The Hemi Express he saw earlier. The plan after all, was to build a street version of the Hemi Express. Mike approached the owner and said, ”I’m interested in the ‘70 but I don’t want the motor, I don’t want the transmission, the good wheels and tires, or the fibreglass trans tunnel. I just basically want the rolling body.” The owner said he’d think it over.

 

A week later the owner called back and revealed a price that was still too high for a school aged teen with very little money.  It was then that the family matriarch stepped in, proving that ”the family that plays together, stays together."  Mike's grandma, who lived with them and took an interest in the family’s hobbies, knew how much work he had put into his search.  "Mike", she said, “I’ll give you the rest of the money that you need to buy that thing because I know how bad you want one.  I also know you’ve been all over the place trying to find one so go and get the truck that you want”.  On August 22, 1998, Mike had himself an A100 pickup sitting in his driveway - and he and his dad tore into it.  Mike quips that “at sixteen, you have this dream of what you want to build and then all of a sudden it sinks in that you’re JUST 16 - and you don’t have a whole lot of money to build a project like what you’re envisioning” He sat down with his Dad and figured out what was feasible and what wasn’t. They wanted to stick to the visual side of the project as a wheel-stander but the 426 Hemi blew out the budget.

 

They considered a small block 360 or 340 for the dog house and began work on the project. Over the next ten months, with help from long-time friend Andre Mallioux, they cut out the rear frame rails, tubbed it, narrowed up a Dana 60 diff with 35 spline axles, installed Posi trac center with 4:10 gears, ladder bars, coil over shockers and disc brakes front and rear. The classic cab over was now looking more like Mike’s vision minus a Hemi V8.

 

Tom Johnson, a friend of George's who was big into Chryslers, contacted the Kriegers to say he’d be at the Woodward Dream Cruise in Michigan later that year and would like to catch up. Sitting around chewing the fat, Mike mentioned how he would love to have a 426 Hemi in the truck but that it wasn’t achievable. “Did you ever think of putting in a 392 in the back?” asked Tom to which George replied they hadn’t. At this point, Mike had no idea what a 392 was. Tom clarified “they were early generation Hemis that came out before the 426s. They were produced from 1951 to 1958.” With his heart still set on the 426, Mike did some research on the earlier Hemis and found out they were making a resurgence back into rodding “Man, the thing looks just like a 426 other than the distributor’s in the back “, he thought.  Further investigation revealed they could be found easily enough and were a fraction of the price of the later model motors.

 

Beyond Mike's back, his mom and dad went on the hunt for one and located a relatively healthy low mileage unit with the machine work already finished. It had been bagged up and sold a few times before ending up in a basement and subsequently, in the current owner’s way - which always makes for a quick sale!

 

On Mike’s 18th birthday, his parent’s handed him just a simple birthday card leaving Mike wondering if becoming a grown up was all it was cracked up to be.  When Mike opened the "simple card", however, the clipping of the ad for the motor fell out. “Oh my God, you guys got me a 392 Hemi for my birthday!” Mike yelled, much to the delight of his Mom who had bought it for him. Now Mike owed a debt of gratitude to both of the ladies in his household!

 

With his newly acquired power plant in hand, Mike and George wrote up a shopping list before contacting Powerplay, the early Hemi gurus, and ordering a bunch of parts. These were subsequently passed onto good friend and legendary Canadian drag racer, Barrie Poole. Barrie is credited for becoming the first Canadian to ever win an N.H.R.A major national event back in 1970 in a 1969 Mustang Cobra Jet. Who better to put your motor together than one in the know!?!? Once completed, it gave Mike 400hp with 400 ft/lb to play with. Next the 727 Torqueflite trans received a freshen up with a 3500 stall converter mounted in front.

 

With the running gear now complete, it was time to look at the body.  When first purchased, it had a shiny 1998 GMC green and gold two tone paint job but the years of mechanical work had taken its toll and the classic vehicle was due for a strip back and respray.  Mike still had his heart set on orange as a tribute to the Hemi Express but his Dad had other ideas.  George felt strongly that orange wasn’t the way to go, pointing out “every other A100 that’s out there, all done up, is either red or orange. Why not keep it green and gold but we’ll do it in period correct colours”.  Mike could see his wisdom and decided this was the avenue to take. The green is a 1970 Mopar colour used on the Roadrunners while the gold - as a tribute to good friends and Hurst employees, Linda Vaughn and  Bob Riggle - is 1966 Pontiac Tiger Gold used on all the Hurst cars (and commonly known as Hurst Gold.)

 

The whole build took seven years, and while it is considered to be complete, Mike has subsequently continued to add to it over the last eight years it’s been on the road.  Mike never considered the truck to be an attention grabber as it wasn’t a muscle car - so he's been blown away with the attention it has received claiming “when Dad and I were building the truck, I never thought for one minute that when the truck was done that anybody would pay attention to it or even really care about it – mainly because it’s not a 69 Camaro or 66 Mustang, it’s very oddball.” I think Mike is just now realizing that it’s the oddball stuff we dig.

 

 

 

Story & Photos: Greg Forster

Caprice Photography - www.capricephotography.com.au

 

 

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