Many of our favorite Mopar custom projects start out as tattered vintage vehicles. This one began life as a 1968 Dodge D200 Camper Special—a heavy-duty pickup with an 8-foot bed and chassis optimized to carry a big, heavy slide-in camper. This camping arrangement left the trailer hitch free to tow a boat, dirt bikes, or other recreational gear.
This truck, procured in Ohio for $6,800, miraculously survived its working life without getting rusty. Nevertheless, the body and box came off the frame, so it could be media-blasted and have its C-channel section fully boxed for strength. The wheelbase was also stretched 3 inches in front of the cab.
Moving the front wheels forward improved the proportions (especially with the new 22-inch eight-lug wheels, which look like giant steelies but are milled from billet aluminum) and made it easier to package the 325-hp, 610-lb-ft 5.9-liter Cummins turbodiesel I-6 crate engine (which dates to roughly 2006). That engine is backed by a six-speed manual, the physical size of which limited the degree to which the Lowliner could be slammed. Some 4 inches were cut out of the engine’s oil pan to allow the powertrain to nestle as low in the truck as that transmission would allow. The air-sprung control-arm front and Dana 60 live-axle rear suspension is entirely custom and adjusts to three heights: slammed, drivable, and clearance for loading on and off trucks/trailers.
Packaging the giant wheels, that huge powertrain, and all that air-suspension gear required minor modification to the cab firewall and a major redo of the pickup bed. Basically, the bed features a modern Ram floor tubbed for the fat tires and installed (very shallow) inside the ’68 truck’s walls and tailgate. The air-suspension gear lives under a subfloor in the rear.
Design-wise, Joe Dehner’s Mopar team started by removing all the trim, shaving off the drip rails, filling the door-handle holes, and sharpening the signature “check-mark” bodyside character line. Then making the revised front-end bodywork into a unitized forward-tilting engine cover. Another cool touch: The big, dorky fuel filler cap was removed from the B-pillar right behind the driver’s door and replaced with a custom motorcycle-style filler on the top of the pickup-bed wall. Press the flush-mounted cap once, and it pops up to allow you to unscrew it.
The team removed the Camper Special’s diamond-plate rear step bumper and replaced it with a stamped steel one from a base D truck of the period, while the stock front bumper was subtly reworked to give it some plan-view curvature. Custom taillamps were fabricated, incorporating Mopar logos and the reverse lamps, which had been separate in ’68. Finally, the body and frame were treated to a deep coating of Candy Delmonico metallic paint, set off by a grille, bumpers, and wheels in Dairy Cream.
We expect the Lowliner to spend the next several months on the show circuit before (hopefully!) giving auto scribblers like us a chance to test drive it on Woodward Avenue during the week of next year’s Dream Cruise. Stay tuned.