MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By: Robert Tate
Photos courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection
Posted: 03.15.2016 


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The 1960s were a decade of dazzle and style, and the far-out psychedelic designs of the day even extended into the automotive industry.

One particular great looking custom truck design that was introduced in the late 1960s was the popular Dodge Deora show truck. I remember this model as a young kid and I can honestly say it was a very popular concept truck at the time. Most people loved its design and its radical, stylish cutting edge look. 
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The model was designed by brothers Mike and Larry Alexander, who were popular car customizers in Detroit. The Alexander brothers was a very popular family that contributed to many of the great custom car designs for the show car circuit during the 1950s and 1960s.

The 1967 Deora custom truck project began in 1964. The model was based on Detroit's new cab-over pickup trucks being offered by the Chrysler Corporation (Dodge A100). The design work was commissioned at the time by General Motor's Harry Bentley Bradley.

At the beginning stages of the Deora design project, the talented brothers had moved the powertrain 15 inches toward the rear, thereby putting it into the bed, where it was concealed by the hard Tonneau cover design. The custom truck design had offered no standard size doors for the driver or its passenger. The driver and passenger had to lift up the front windshield to enter the vehicle. 
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As the custom design construction would continue, the model was turning into one of the world's coolest show truck designs. To make room for the driver and passenger, the Alexander’s way of thinking was to move the slant-six engine rearward 15 inches.
The custom model also offered a great looking chopped roof design while the body was sectioned and channeled. The Deora custom model was powered with a stock slant-six engine and a three-speed manual transmission. The gold paint job really enhanced the model’s appearance.

As the model was beginning to take shape, it was Bradley – who was a talented designer in his own right – who helped and shaped this great looking custom truck design.
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The project took over two years to complete with a cost of $10,000. Although, Bradley at the time worked for General Motors as a designer, this was a project that he worked on outside of his regular job at General Motors. The Deora concept model reminded me of the great designs of Syd Mead – another famed designer from the 1960s.

As the model was completed, the truck was now ready for the custom car show circuit. At its first public custom showing, the Deora model created a huge and positive sensation among the show crowds. Many people from all over the world recognized the model as a great design that would have an immediate impact. Some even said it was a major advancement in modern styling.
At the 1967 Detroit Autorama, one of the world's leading custom car shows in America, the Deora show truck had received a total of nine awards including the prestigious and coveted Ridler Award in 1968. And because of its great popular design, the toy manufactures began to get involved with manufacturing miniature replicas of the Deora models which became very popular toys for young adults.
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The AMT Corporation, which was one of the world's largest model kit manufacturing companies, produced a variety of model kits. For example, they made the Alexander's Drag Time model which was an AMT advanced concept model along with another model called the Dodge Deora Custom Cabana model which became very popular for the teenage market.

The AMT model manufacturing company was not the only toy manufacturer to produce the Deora models in miniature form. The Mattel Toy Manufacturing Company, with the help of Harry Bentley Bradley, created a Hot Wheels version of the Deora truck. The models were manufactured in assorted colors and were available with surfboards.

The toy models became a great and huge sensation for the Mattel toy company and stayed part of the Hot Wheels toy line for 1968.

In conclusion, the Deora show truck started out on an artist’s drawing board and became very popular with enthusiasts and today lives as a popular piece for the show car and custom circuit. Many years ago, the Dodge Deora custom truck headed to the RM auction block and sold for $350,000 to $550,000.
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The National Automotive History Collection. “The Deora Concept;” Strauss, Thomas Michael. “Tomart's Price Guide to Hot Wheels” authorized by Mattel 1993.

A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for contributing this story to the MotorCities Story of the Week Program. (Bibliography: Olney R., Ross. “Janet Guthrie first women at Indy,” Harvey House Publishers; New York 1978.)

For further information on photos please visit http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/ or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area.