Looking Back in Time
photo taken by Bob Evans, courtesy of Jared Weeks
In a nutshell, in the year 1954, Dodge changed the design of their trucks with a new styled cab and frontend sheetmetal. In 1955 they changed the slanted A pillars to more vertical and installed the wrap around windshield. Basically that cab style stayed the same, with minor changes, until 1961. They still used the same basic cab design until sometime around 1975 in their big trucks. In 1957 Dodge truck sales were lagging behind Ford and Chevrolet truck sales. To compound that problem, Chevrolet introduced the Cameo pickup in 1955 and carried it over to 1957. Also in 1957, Ford introduced the Ranchero. That left Dodge without anything that stood out to match the competitors. Luckily for Dodge, they had a "Special Equipment Group" that could make changes to the finished product quickly without the red tape. Some "SEG" personnel got their heads together and came up with the idea of adding the Dodge two door wagon rear quarter panels to the pickup bed outside sides. This was never a production assembly line item, however you could order it from mid 1957 until early 1959 when it came to an end. It wasn't simply a matter of welding or bolting the fin panels on. The front of the panel near the cab had to be extended several inches and the rear, inside, panel sheetmetal near the taillight assemblies had to be narrowed a few inches to work on the pickup bed. The wagon tailgate wasn't as wide as the pickup tailgate. Some articles state that the pickup tailgate had to be narrowed slightly to work with the new panels, however, I don't see any difference between the two tailgates on my pickups except for the Sweptside has a different latch mechanism. The finished product was absolutely stunning! Not very many people have seen one of these jewels in person. I don't ever remember seeing one until (1999) when I discovered and bought mine.
There are very few Sweptsides around. Currently, the best estimates are that they only made roughly 1,000-2,000 Sweptsides. In the October 91
issue of Mopar Collector's Guide it states on page 38
"Estimates from various sources seem to place the figure
around 1000 units." In the October 95 issue of Classic Auto
Restorer it states on page 20 "Exact production figures aren't
available, but informed estimates put the number at around
1000 units for 1957 and a total of 2000 to 3000 trucks for the
Sweptsides three-year span". In the soft cover book Dodge
Pickup Color History co-authored by Don Bunn and Mike Mueller
it states on page 73 "It was a late-in-the-model year
introduction, a fact which held total production down to only 2,000 units". In a Washington Post article dated 3/19/2000, page N02, it states "A total of 1,050 Sweptside pickups were produced in 1957."
No one knows how many of these various numbers have survived. I would guess that it is far less than 500. It is probably less than 100. As rare as these are they are selling fairly inexpensively. I expect the value to soar in the future. Car crushing has been taking it's toll on all the 1954-1960 Dodge classics, but there are a lot of these pickups still out there. Owners love their trucks, just ask one! If you're contemplating owning a classic, why not try a Dodge? With more interest and ownership will come more aftermarket vendors. I will list some in my links. Be kind to one and spare it from the wrecking yards and crushers.
You can make a difference!
photos courtesy of Marion Crowder, and Gordon and Helen Miller