Many of us know how quickly one’s circumstances can change, and when they do, project cars are often the first casualties. That’s how the Sunshine Coast’s Scott Campbell ended up with his killer ’66 Dodge ute.
First published in Street Machine’s Summer Special magazine 2023
“I have a passion for the ute bodystyle, and the car I had was on a waitlist for some major bodywork. So I decided to instead look around for an unfinished project to get a head-start on a new club car, and I stumbled across this one,” Scott begins. “It actually drove, but it still had to be disassembled to a bare shell. It was the only way to ensure I’d be happy with the outcome.”
The previous owner had done much of the heavy lifting, with the driveline, bodywork and wheels already done. “But everything needed attention,” Scott clarifies. “There were oil leaks everywhere, poor wiring, and all the front end needed sorting. You name it, it needed sorting!”
The mill is a Chrysler V8 that pairs a PLR Engines-built LA block and bottom end with a Magnum-spec top end, displacing 437 cubes. The rotating assembly is all forged, comprising Wiseco pistons and H-beam rods bolted to a Molnar crank with a 4.180-inch stroke. Pump 98 dinosaur juice comes in via a race-prepped 770cfm Holley, paired to an Edelbrock Air Gap manifold and matching Performer RPM heads with Hughes Engines Big Mouth-style port work.
The valvetrain is all Comp gear, and Tristan Morton-Wild of Reaper Engineering fabbed up the custom 17/8-inch pipes and three-inch mandrel-bent exhaust system.
“It was already built, and the previous owner did the top end,” Scott explains. “I went right through it and checked all the rocker lash and that. I wish I’d pulled it apart a bit further though, because when I started it up, both head gaskets leaked water into the valley, so I had to pull the heads off anyway. I don’t know why it did that, but while the heads were off, I was able to do a little bit more work and tidy them up a bit.”
The GM T56 manual was another piece already installed, though Scott also had that pulled apart and rebuilt with brass shift pads and high-performance synchros. It’s all hooked up via a Quick Time bellhousing, with an NPC VE Commodore clutch and hydraulic pedal system.
A Strange alloy nine-inch third member manages the grunt, with 3.9:1 gears to take advantage of the six-speed’s generous double-overdrive. “It does 1400rpm at 60mph,” Scott says.
As the ’box suggests, the ute has been built to do more than just go fast in a straight line. There’s Nissan R33 GTS-T brake calipers all ’round, clamping FG GT-P front discs and redrilled VZ ClubSport rears. Like much of the ute, the brakes were already in place but not useable. “Once it was bled up, the pedal would go straight to the floor,” Scott recounts. “It had a one-inch master cylinder, but I was able to get a 11/8-inch R33 GTS-T master, which brought the pedal travel up a bit. Then I was able to change some pedal ratio settings to get it right.”
Manual rack-and-pinion steering yanked from a VK Commodore replaces the less-than-precise original box. “It’s terrific to steer; it’s the epitome of a pro touring car,” Scott beams. “It’s just as direct as a VK. When I first put it together with the big wheels, it wanted to steer off the road, because the nose would lift up and there wasn’t enough tension on the torsion bars as I was only 5mm off the bump stops.
So I had to get some two-inch drop spindles to put it all back to factory geometry and get another two inches of wind-up into the torsion bars so it would return to neutral. Now we’ve got the wheel alignment right, it drives wonderfully.”
The ute was already tubbed to the rails when Scott took custody. Calvert split mono-leaf springs and CalTracs are his own additions, which sit inboard to fit the 20×10-inch KWC wheels and 275-wide Toyo semi-slick rubber. The wheels came with the car but aren’t entirely to Scott’s taste, so he’s considering a set of big-and-little Auto Drags instead. “I’m thinking 15x10s on the back and 17x4s on the front to clear the brakes; that’s just more my style,” he says. “It would still corner fine with a set of 4s on the front if you got a good, stiff set of tyres.”
Scott was afforded a bit more artistic licence on the interior fit-out, as this is where the previous owner had stopped. Andy Britten of Coastal Auto Marine Trimmers wrapped a pair of Autotecnica seats in red vinyl to match the door trims by Winner Products.
The shifter knob, door handles and window winders are Ringbrothers pieces, and a Longacre alloy wheel completes the pro-touring theme. “A friend of mine, Jason Cavanagh, basically fabricated, flat-panelled and painted the dash for me, and I put all the holes in it and got it working,” Scott adds.
The exterior panels had already been painted by Tristan Morton-Wild in Crystal Granite, which Scott spent a week blocking and polishing before applying an ultra-smooth ceramic coating.
The extensive tidy-up and reworking paid off when Scott debuted the ute on the Queensland Mopar show circuit, scooping up Best Ute at the 2022 Chrysler Expo, and Top Ute and even the Scott Taylor Carnage Award at Mopar Sunday 2022.
He’s been driving the hell out of it, too. “After Lakeside, I thought I’d better give it a once-over, because I’d been to Willowbank and back and then Brissie and back three times, and up north too,” Scott says. “I put it up on my hoist, and you know what? It didn’t need anything! It’s just proven to be really reliable.”
Wiring is an art unto itself, and Scott says the Dodge’s was unsalvageable. “Think of just the worst wiring ever,” he laughs, “and that’s what it was! Just a big bird’s nest. I stripped the car to a bare shell and started again, and Tyler Wilson from ReWire on the Sunshine Coast did a full wiring job on it.”
“When you’re a tradesman, you really know your trade, and that shone through with Tyler,” Scott enthuses. “If I ever need to remove that powerboard, it just unclips, and the dash is the same. I don’t think I’ll ever need to, but what a cool feature!”
1966 DODGE 106C UTILITY
|Type:||437ci Chrysler LA V8|
|Crank & rods:||Molnar 4.180in stroke|
|Fuel system:||Carter Black fuel pump|
|Cooling:||BA XR6T radiator and thermo fans|
|Exhaust:||17/8in extractors, 3in system|
|Gearbox:||GM T56 manual|
|Clutch:||NPC VE Commodore|
|Diff:||Strange 9in, HD Pro centre, 3.9:1 gears|
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES|
|Front:||Torsion bar, Viking double-adjustable shocks|
|Rear:||Calvert split mono-leaf springs, Viking double-adjustable shocks, CalTracs|
|Brakes:||FG GT-P discs and R33 GTS-T calipers (f), VZ ClubSport discs and R33 GTS-T calipers (r)|
|Master cylinder:||R33 GTS-T 11/8in|
|WHEELS & TYRES|
|Rims:||KWC forged; 19×6 (f), 20×10 (r)|
|Rubber:||Toyo Proxes R888R; 235/40R19 (f), 275/40R20 (r)|
Tyler Wilson from ReWire; Big Jase Cavanagh for painting the engine bay and dash; Landsborough Tyres for their patience; Plum Krazy Garage for always getting my parts to me in record time; my partner Krissy for supporting me wholeheartedly