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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

1965 Dodge Camp Wagon


The 1964-1965 Dodge Camp Wagon
 North Americans have long burned with wanderlust and as road building began in earnest in the mid-1920s, there was no stopping folks from seeing the magnificence the continent had to offer. Roads were jammed with cars pulling trailers, many of them homemade.

            After World War Two, the travel phenomenon mushroomed out of sight. Manufacturers were mindful of it, early on. Ford offered a sleep unit that could be slid onto a truck bed in 1950. West Germany’s Volkswagen was quick to offer a self-contained Campmobile. 

Willys advertising featured Jeep FCs with camper units.

            Not about to be left out of the travel segment of the market, the boys at Dodge introduced a self-contained camper to the lineup in 1964. 

The 1964 Dodge Camp Wagon
Based on its top-of-the-line Sportwagon model, the home on wheels was a natural addition to the family. Camp Wagon looked mighty smart indeed on the new, compact, 2 286-millimetre (90-inch) wheelbased A-100 body.

            At the factory, Sportwagons destined to hit the highways as Camp Wagons were given the 3.7-litre (225-cubic inch) Slant Six engine, generating 140 horsepower. The 4.5-litre (273-cubic inch) V-8 engine was made available, too. With 174 hot-to-trot horses, the Dodge Camp Wagon could hold its own on the highways with the best of them.
Brekena made a Dodge Camp Wagon in HO scale.
 The mill of choice was mated to the three-speed Type A745 heavy-duty manual transmission or the extra-cost LoadFlite three-speed automatic tranny. Beefy 1,110-pound capacity front springs were installed along with a 997 kilo (2,200-pound) capacity front axle and a 492-kilo (1,085-pound) capacity rear springs.  Oversize six-ply tires, 7.10 x 15, were part of the package.  The rear axle ratio gearing was 3.55:1.

            Optional equipment for the Dodge Hilton included two-tone paint treatment and a fully transistorized radio. A pair of Jr. West Coast dual outside rearview mirrors made driving less stressful. Dress-up items included chrome bumpers, deluxe wheel covers and white sidewall tires. More practical than pretty were the oil pressure gauge, undercoating, an oil bath air cleaner, variable speed electric wipers and a 70-amp heavy-duty battery. Ordering dual horns got the owner a chrome horn ring too, adding a little sparkle to the steering wheel. A unique, “youth-sized” reversible center jump seat could be fitted over the engine hump.

            Completed vehicles were shipped to the Travel Equipment Corporation in Elkhart, Indiana for conversion into Camp Wagons. Here, craftsmen installed wood panelling on the interior walls and ceiling. They added vinyl-covered foam dinette seats that cleverly converted into a double bed. A 203-centimetre (80-inch) long canvas bunk, dubbed the Crow’s Nest, rolled out of sight ran down the centre of the vehicle and stowed away neatly when not in use. Another kid-sized bunk, this one 152 cenitmetres (60-inches_ long and transversely mounted, stretched across the bucket seats up front. 

Canadians could buy Fargo trucks at their Chrysler-Plymouth dealers, not offered in the United States. (1970 model seen here.)

            A fold-up, laminated dinette table, a two-burner propane gas stove, an insulated, non-electric icebox, a stainless steel sink with pressure spigot and a trio of 11.3-litre (three-US gallons) water tanks were bolted into place. Wooden cabinets, a dustproof zippered wardrobe bag, a portable, non-chemical toilet, Hehr combination sliding windows with screens and shades, a 12-volt transformer and a 110-volt outlet were all part of the base package.

Chevrolet offered a camper in its Corvair Greenbrier series for the 1965 season.
            The folks at Travel Equipment cleverly built in plenty of storage under the dinette seats, behind the rear seat and in all the special built-in cabinets. Not a square millimetre of space was wasted in the Camp Wagon, yet it boasted “plenty of room to move around in.”

The industry's benchmark camper was West Germany's Volkswagen Westphalia, a.k.a. the Westy.

            A nifty optional feature was the Elevating Top. Taking only two seconds to erect, when popped into place it offered plenty of “man-sized relaxin’ room” inside for big burly men. In the “down” position, it added a mere ten centimetres (four inches) to the overall height of the Camp Wagon.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

            Other extra-cost items and upgrades for even more fun on wheels included deluxe seat cushions and a matching garment bag. One could choose drapes instead of shades, vinyl flooring instead of rubber matting, too. A 1.8 metre square (6’x’ 6’) side awning tent with its own self-storing topside zip case added a whole new dimension to camping. An AC generator was most useful. Promising to keep lettuce crisp and beverages cold, an electric refrigerator that could run on AC or DC was a great idea. For keeping toasty warm, the Adventurer #30 Therm’x Safety heater with a 3000 BTU capacity or the larger 4000 BTU model, by the same manufacturer, were hot sellers.

Canadians could choose a Ford or Mercury Econoline Supervan Camper from 1961 to 1965.

            One would certainly want to order Thermasol fuel for the heater and Insta-Lite propane fuel for the range. To help Smokey the Bear prevent forest fires, a fire extinguisher with refiller cartridges was on the options list.

 An optional, glass-lined, aluminum septic toilet was a good upgrade. A separator curtain, located behind the front seat, offered a modicum of privacy.  A window screen for the driver’s front door was an extra cost item. One could also have screens with reversible zippers specially fitted for the tall and wide curbside doors. For those with a serious travel bug, a trailer hitch with ball and a roof rack for skis made perfect sense.
The 1965 Toyota Stout with camper.
The nifty Camp Wagon was given star billing at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1965 in Dodge’s “Work and Play” exhibit. One look at the Camp Wagon would help folks “understand why so many Americans enjoy life a lot more, traveling this self-contained way!” and  “Get away from it all in style, comfort, convenience in a new Dodge Camp Wagon” were the advertising themes. “Travel anywhere—any time!” was yet another inviting lure. The Camp Wagon boasted living facilities for six and promised to be the perfect companion for vacations, weekends, hunting and fishing tips. When not at play, the versatile vehicle was touted as having station wagon utility the rest of the year.

The 1965 Fargo A100 Transline family.

The 1965 model year was a banner year for Dodge trucks. With 45 different models on the market, retail sales hit 119,395 units, making the season the best in Dodge’s postwar history. Dodge could claim fourth place in domestic truck sales. Of that number, 36,535 units produced were in the A-100 series and the Camp Wagon only sweetened the bottom line.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays
2005 All rights reserved.

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