DAMIEN Veness and his son Tom are Chrysler guys to the bone and every couple of years they come up with another killer Mopars for us to enjoy. Here’ one from the September 2006 issue of the mag, the rarely-modified Dodge D5N.
This 1971 Dodge pick-up was the talk of Chryslers On The Murray this year — it seemed like you couldn’t go five minutes without someone saying: “Have you see the green Dodge pick-up?”
The trouble was that I hadn’t seen it; I was starting to wonder what the fuss was all about. It was starting to become a mission. ‘Find the pick-up’ became my mantra and — thankfully — when I did finally stumble across Damien Veness’s Dodge D5N 200 pick-up, I wasn’t disappointed. In a sea of unusual cars, such as you’ll find at any Chrysler show, Damien’s pick-up stands out; people just don’t seem to modify these old Dodges.
“I’ve never done a vehicle twice before,” says Damien, whose ’49 Dodge Coronet Coupe was in the Nov ’03 issue of Street Machine. Twice? Well Damien’s had this truck since ’93 but he used it as his plumber’s truck for most of the early years of his ownership. Being a true hot rodder Damien tinkered with the pick-up even while it was his work truck. “Had a 10-foot tray on the thing,” he says. “I drove it around as a table-top for three or four years.”
Then he built up the first step-side back with the rear guards widened 200mm (7.8in) on each side. According to Damien it was a pretty tidy truck back then. Of course as time passes, work trucks tend to get banged around and another five years down the track the pick-up wasn’t looking so good. Damien was elbows deep into his Coronet coupe at that stage and didn’t have the time to start a new project so the pick-up was parked pending space in the calendar.
After the coupe was finished Damien was soon struck with itchy fingers again and he figured that the old pick-up was a good starting point for something really special. “I channelled it, then I went cold on it for couple of months,” he says. Good hot rods always call you back though, and it wasn’t long before he was back in the shed cutting, welding and panel-beating.
“I was tempted to chop it but it was getting hard to fit into,” Damien says. That’s not surprising given Damien’s 6ft 4½in frame — the two-inch channel job was already giving Damien a headache. “I want to be able to drive the bloody thing,” he said laughing.
So the truck looks pretty much stock with its standard roof profile but looks can be deceiving. Those front guards have received a lot of attention, closing up the arches around the wheels. “They’re a pretty big opening as standard,” Damien says. That’s because Dodge used the same body and guards for all its trucks, from the lowly pick-up to the semi-trailer where those huge guards were filled with 21in truck wheels.
Even with a set of 15×8 Torque Thrusts on the front, the wheel opening looked massive so Damien added material around the edges while maintaining the original lines. There’s a lot of work there and most of us would have just shaken our heads and walked away but Damien reckons it was easy.
Easy for him to say but it gives you an idea of his capabilities. With the help of a good mate, Carl Mills, Damien has given this pick-up the full ugly-duckling-to-swan transformation.
Check out the pick-up bed. That was built from scratch. Damien liked the script on the original tailgate but to use it on the new 400mm narrower bed he had to section each end. If you start thinking he just sliced off the ends you’d be wrong. You see Damien liked the curves around the ends of the pressing so he sliced sections out and welded the ends back on.
“I would have spent at least a week on the tailgate,” he says. He’s a man who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to invest a little time getting it. Post-’74 doors with flush handles were sourced, then fitted with aftermarket hot rod mirrors and brand new glass. Where do you find glass for one of these babies? You don’t — it was custom made. “You can’t beat new glass on a vehicle,” he says, “I’d recommend it to anyone.” While the front screen is a brand new stocker, the side and rear glass is custom Evergreen tinted glass which has been properly tempered and stamped.
The end result of all this is a Meadow Mist Green hot rod pick-up with the perfect stance for its wheels and 170mm lowered ride height. Trevor Pethers was called in once again (he’d previously painted the Coronet) to fire the Glasurit paint over the modified metal.
Inside, the truck features old and new parts as the re-trimmed and re-sculptured bench seat mixes it up with Auto Meter gauges, Pioneer MP3 head unit and a Billet Specialties steering wheel. A Toyota Hi-Lux power steering box brought power steering into the game, and a B&M Megashifter controls the tough 727 Torqueflite under the cab.The big Dodge left the factory with a low-compression 245 Hemi six but while it was still running plumbing duties it was upgraded to a 318 Chrysler small-block. That’s since been retired and a fresh LPG-fed 360 now nestles between the frame rails.
Chrysler’s 360 has a reputation as a tough customer and for Damien’s requirements the engine only needed mild tweaks by experienced engine builder Ian Anelzark to deliver the goods. Ian was also responsible for the Coronet’s tunnel-rammed 360 and used to spin spanners for Leo Geoghegan back in the day. Check out the cool-looking Technocarb LPG mixer sitting on the Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap manifold. The Canadian mixer certainly looks better than any LPG mixer we’ve ever seen before.
“It goes pretty well but it’s a bit dry in the top end,” Damien reckons. The 360 still needs some top-end tuning to get the best from it. Once that’s out of the way, Damien wouldn’t mind seeing what the small-block is capable of on the strip. “I’d love to take it to a Mopar or nostalgia meeting — it’s got good pull out of the hole.”
As it is, he isn’t afraid to drive the Dodge and has made trips with his wife Susan to Albury/Wodonga’s Chryslers on the Murray, as well as the Brisbane Hot Rod Show and Wintersun on the Gold Coast.
“That Chryslers on the Murray is the best Chrysler event I’ve ever been to,” says Damien, “I’ll be taking the coupe next year.” Ain’t it great to have that kind of choice?