The 1969 Dodge D-300 that appears on the cover of the May/June 2014 issue of Vintage Truck magazine is built way beyond Dodge’s usual standards of toughness. Current owner Dan Kostelny speculated the heavy-duty improvements were made to carry a specific kind of camper at the behest of the original owner, Stanley A. Webb, Sr.
What else is in this issue?
- 1912 Ford Model T Commercial Roadster
- 1934 International C-10 panel
- 1954 International R-140 4X4 Woodie
- 1935 Studebaker Ace
- Proof of Identity – Mystery Truck Contest
- Delivery Designs – Willys Motors and Jeep Economy Delivery
- Chevy Talk – 1946 3/4-ton
- Triple Diamond Treatise – Metros March On
- Wagon Wheels – Hitch Your Wagon Body to a 1938 Pontiac
- Dodge Garage – 1938 Dodge RC
- Notes from the Corrosion Lab – Wrecker Restoration Revisited: Part 1, Painting Lessons
- Tech Tips – Replacing Universal Joints
- For Ford Fans – 1928 Ford Model AA
- Tailgate Talk – Cold Nosed
- Model Maker’s Corner – A Duo of Dodges, Part 2
Beauty in the Beast
1969 Dodge D-300
By Candace Brown
The green 1969 Dodge D-300 one-ton pickup posted for sale on eBay in August of 2008 was a beast built way beyond Dodge’s usual standards of toughness. Truck historian and collector Dan Kostelny of Olympia, Washington, stared at the computer screen and saw not only an eye-catching vehicle with 29,529 original miles on the odometer, but also something truly unique. He had to have it, in spite of its location, 2,000 miles away.
“When I saw the truck, I was instantly convinced that it was one of a kind,” Dan said, “and when I looked into that, I realized I was right.” Rather than simply installing a camper on the back of a truck, someone had built an especially heavy-duty truck to carry a specific camper.
Dan contacted the owners, Janette Kephart-Doughman and her husband Brian Doughman, and learned that Janette is the granddaughter of the original owner, Stanley A. Webb, Sr. (1915–2002) of West Portsmouth, Ohio, an Army veteran of World War II and retired crane operator at Empire-Detroit Steel. He and his wife, Elsie, raised three children in West Portsmouth, including Janette’s mother, Sheryl Summers.
Janette remembers her loving grandfather as a hardworking man with a zest for life. He excelled at archery, fishing, and hunting, and possessed all the skills of an outdoorsman and handyman. He also dreamt of hunting trips to the Colorado Rockies after retirement. To pursue that dream, he assembled and modified this particular Dodge D-300 in a way that would set it apart from all others.
Stanley bought a Franklin camper and a Dodge truck from his son-in-law John Kephart III, Janette’s father, who owned a camper business called Leisure Travel in Hialeah, Florida. John bought trucks from a Dodge dealership, installed campers, and sold the complete units. A sticker from Palm Beach Dodge remained on Dan’s D-300, and a sales brochure he owns from that era shows a variety of campers installed on Dodge trucks. Dealerships affiliated with camper companies offered these packages. Stanley, however, went about it differently.
“My grandpa bought the camper from my dad,” Janette said. “Then he bought the truck to go with the camper. He kind of did it backwards.”
There was just one problem: the D-300’s standard equipment included a nine-foot bed that was too long for the Franklin camper.
“It wouldn’t slide into a nine foot bed, but it would slide into an eight foot bed,” Dan said, “so somehow the bed got swapped out when the truck was new.”
He believes the dealership converted the truck, citing bobbed frame rails and discrepancies in the paint. Stripping down the truck during restoration revealed a different color on the bed. Since the bed had been repainted, and the tailgate displayed a sticker from Palm Beach Dodge applied on top of the fresh paint, Dan knew the truck must have left the dealership with the sticker on it.
Modifications included the installation, by John Kephart III, of an aftermarket dual-wheel conversion kit consisting of fender extensions, cast iron hub extenders, and extenders for the lug nuts to mount the outer tires. This D-300 boasted a 210hp 318ci LA engine, a New Process 435 compound 4-speed transmission, a gear ratio of 4.10 in a Dana 70 rear end rated at 7,500 pounds, plus factory power assist steering—everything Stanley believed he needed to haul an oversized camper.
Stanley did take his fancy rig on a couple of trips to the Colorado Rockies, but after that he mostly worked around home and fished locally with his granddaughter, Janette. The camper ended up on blocks in a shed, where Janette loved to sleep it in during her childhood summer visits. The D-300 hauled manure, rocks, or anything else Stanley’s projects required. Janette had fond memories of the truck and camper, so she and her husband bought both from Stanley in 1993 and drove the massive pair back to their horse ranch in Indiana in hurricane-force winds. Some years later, they discarded the camper.
In spite of low miles, the truck needed to be redone by the time Dan bought it. He spent three years obsessively collecting NOS parts—emblems, cab lights, headlight and taillight lenses, and many mechanical items. It took two years just to gather all the necessary nuts and bolts. Then he turned to his longtime friend and neighbor, Clint Eich, owner of Tumwater Collision in Tumwater, Washington. Soon Clint had everything apart and down to bare metal.
“The truck required almost no bodywork,” Dan said, “though it was crusty with surface rust. The camper saved the bed sheet metal, and I was able to reuse the original bed wood. The fender extensions were obviously professionally made, but done in aluminum. They were falling apart, so I used them as a pattern to make new ones out of steel.”
He felt that the yellow chevron mirrors and the war surplus ammo box that came with the truck should be part of the renewal of the Dodge, so he sourced some NOS mirrors and refinished the ammo box. Janette’s husband recalled that Stanley found the ammo box very handy for odds and ends, like a jack, snow chains, and an oil funnel.
The crowning glory of this restoration is the stunning Seafoam Green paint job, done by Clint himself. For two decades, Dan had watched his friend do amazing work, first on hotrods and customs in his own garage and then in the shop. He had no equal.
“The paint job on my truck came straight out of the gun,” Dan said. “Finished in a hand-matched, single-stage urethane in an attempt to replicate the original factory finish, the results were perfect—an OEM look that was exactly what I was striving for. It has no clear coat. It was never cut and buffed, and I haven’t even waxed it.”
Dan will never forget witnessing the painting process. “The guy was completely exhausted at the end of this session,” he said. “He went around the truck three or four times, just moved around the vehicle in a certain rhythm, swaying back and forth. It was like a ballet, honestly, a huge physical exertion.”
From the beginning, Dan knew he wanted to preserve what he calls the “old man stuff” on the inside: a plaid vinyl swing-out litterbag from the early 1960s, a vehicle registration holder secured to the steering column with springs, a compass attached to the dash, and a Realistic intercom once connected to the camper.
In addition, the sun visor on the passenger side features two mirrors, and the seat upholstery still looks like new. One aspect that makes Dan smile is the primitive “Fred Flintstone”-style cruise control. It consists of a simple cable connected directly to the accelerator, requiring the driver to use a knob to turn it off and on and a dial to adjust the speed.
“It was a newfangled thing, a kit that you attached,” Janette recalled. “We’d take the truck out on the highway to go to town so that we could use the new cruise control.”
This is the third of five D-300s Dan has added to his collection of trucks. He tries to keep everything as original as possible, and if you look closely, you can see the reproduced Palm Beach Dodge and AAA-Cleveland stickers.
Dan accomplished his goal. He erased the decades and returned the truck to the way it looked back when Stanley drove it with pride and gleefully put that new cruise control to the test. The whole project cost less than $10,000, including all parts and labor, thanks to the help of friends. Two months after completion, in August of 2011, it outcompeted over 300 entrants at the Sunbust All Mopar Show in Graham, Washington, to take home the huge Sponsors’ Choice trophy. Dan felt deeply rewarded. “When I take this truck to a show, some say it’s a beauty, some say it’s a beast, and some say it’s both,” he said. The truck has won a total of 11 awards.
“It’s a man’s truck,” Dan said. “It runs like a watch, and with the tall bias tires, it goes a mile a minute on the highway.”
When Janette’s husband, Brian, learned that Dan still owned the truck and loved it, he said with his slight drawl, “I’m glad it went to a home like that. I hated to think it would be destroyed because it was a beautiful truck.”
If you happen to see it on the road, take a good long look. There is no other D-300 like it. You might even glimpse the grinning ghost of old Stanley himself in the passenger seat, hitting the road again, as pleased as could be. Dan did right by him.