Showmanship: Maverick Golden's Little Red Wagon
When marketing literally reached new heights
How originally an unsuccessful experimental race truck becomes an accidental crowd favorite.
When it comes to marketing strategy, not many can do it as exciting as Chrysler. In 1964, Chrysler offered a range of compact economy truck/van called the Dodge A-100 with a cab-over design propelled by a frugal inline-6.
However, despite being more fuel-efficient than a V8, easy maneuverability in tight spots while still offering plenty of room for cargo. Sales of the compact workhorse weren't so hot. So Chrysler went to one of their strongest departments in the company. The PR department.
The conclusion was to add some excitement through another one of Chrysler's specialty. Their reputation in the world of drag racing. So Chrysler set out on converting the A-100 into a head-turning dragster, the transformation was no easy task.
Like most of the dragsters Chrysler made around this time, the motor of choice is the trusty 426 Hemi to a robust version of their TorqueFlite automatic transmission. But the A-100's compact cab-over chassis design was never designed to fit such a large motor. So they resorted to the extensive job of mounting the engine in the bed. A new steel subframe was fabricated to help provide a mounting point and to strengthen the unibody to prevent the truck from tearing itself apart by the new engine. The truck's interior was stripped down to accommodate just a mid-mounted driving position with a roll cage around it.
The truck in its first dragstrip debut can complete a 1/4 mile run in a respectable mid-11 second range at 120 mph which was enough for it to claim the record of the world's fastest truck at the time.
But despite that, Chrysler deemed the truck somewhat a failure.
The reason was with the engine being fitted in the bed, it made the truck rear-weight biased causing it to constantly do wheelies which weren’t good for setting the quickest ETs (elapsed time). Chrysler soon stowed it away until one man named Bill “Maverick” Golden came along and see a potential in the truck's crazy wheelie capability. Being a champion drag racer in the Super Stock class, Golden bought the truck from Chrysler with the help of Chrysler's Director of Marketing Frank Wylie.
The truck may not be the fastest in Chrysler's eye, but was a good show stopper capable of doing wheelie 4,230 feet long, more than the distance of 3 1/4 mile tracks and set a Guinness Book of World Records in 1977.
Maverick Golden took the "Little Red Wagon" across the nation to liven up the already exciting drag races back in the day. The crowds love the truck and gave standing ovations watching the truck doing an entire 1/4 mile with its boxy cab pointing to the sky the entire way. The truck even started many copycats with other drag racers building A-100 trucks into wheelie exhibition dragsters.
The little truck left an everlasting impression and in 2019, stunt driver Mike Mantel built a modern day "Little Red Wagon" with a methanol-fueled 526 cu in. Hemi capable of producing over 2000 hp to light up the dragstrip and the crowds once again.