Canadian Twist: Fargo trucks filled Chrysler Corp.’s truck void

By James Mays |

L ong respected by Canadians in the truck field, Fargo had been sold throughout the Dominion of Canada by Chrysler-Plymouth dealers beginning in 1936. Model for model, the badge-engineered Fargo was designed to match its Dodge counterparts, but was sold at Canadian Chrysler-Plymouth dealerships throughout the 10 provinces. Like Dodge, Fargo enjoyed a solid reputation for generous capacity and rugged construction. Under the watchful eye of corporate stylist Virgil Exner, Chrysler’s truck lines benefitted from the new “Forward Look” in 1957, and could brag of sleek styling.

For the Canadian market, Dodge trucks were badged as “Fargos.” This step side hails from 1958. (James Mays collection)

    For the 1958 selling season, Exner’s magic touch for the Fargo pickup trucks extended to the latest industry rage ‘ quad headlights. The face of the 1958 Fargo Power-Master was rugged and bold. Fargo was blessed with a slim, modern grille, a graceful application of Exner’s famed “forward thrust” to the down-sloping hood and overall crisp, clean lines finished in single solid colors or optional tasteful two-tone color combinations.

    Designated as being part of the D Series, the 1958 Fargo Power-Master trucks were advertised as “Built to fit your Job!” and “New and ready to work for you.” Lest good looks not tell the story on its own, styling was hammered home to the salesmen as an important selling point. Advertising bragged shamelessly that Fargo was “a leader for looks as well as function.” To drive the point home even further, salesmen were trained to point out to prospective customers that the Fargo’s new looks promoted new safety.

    “Driver-relaxing Fargo cab is safety itself!” shrilled the advertising. The Full-View wrap-around windshield offered an enormous 1,023 square inches of vision area “to let you see more of the road ahead.” A moderate extra-cost option appeared in the form of a wrap-around rear window, offering Wide-Scope view at the rear of the cab. All Fargo pickups boasted an alligator-type hood that opened to a full 90-degree angle for complete engine access, as well as to a less-gaping 45-degree angle for routine maintenance.

    Inside the stylish haulers, cabs were trimmed in a new Sandalwood color that “retains its good looks through months of hardest service.” The new Safety-Centre steering wheel was 18 inches in diameter (20 inches on the Fargo D700 models). The size was calculated by engineers to give an exact and true grip needed for safe steering. The new design reduced the probability of injury in the event of an accident.

    The D100 models included an express pickup on a 108-inch wheelbase, fitted with a 6-1/2-foot box or a 116-inch wheelbase with a 7-1/2-foot-box. A panel truck was also offered. Maximum capacity was 5,000 pounds. The 1958 Fargo D100 Express, with the 6-1/2-foot box installed, sold for $2,555. The D100 Panel carried a list price of $2,595.

    The standard engine for the D100 was the rugged L-head six, “proved in billions of miles of use.” It was mated to the exceptionally quiet steering column-mounted, three-speed manual transmission. As optional equipment, a 184-hp, dome-shaped combustion chamber V-8 engine was available as was the four-speed manual or the fancy, space-age pushbutton LoadFlite Automatic Drive.

    The Fargo D300 was offered with the L-head mill and the special four-speed Synchro-Silent transmission as standard equipment. These models rode on a 126-inch wheelbase, permitting installation of a king-sized 9-foot bed. The D300 models were rated at a 9,000-pound maximum gross vehicle weight and could be ordered in a wide choice of standard or special bodies, depending on the customer’s requirements. The 314-cid V-8 was optional. With a list price of $2,570 for the 1958 Fargo D300, on its generous 126-inch wheelbase, the truck was a natural choice for farm operations.

    Got a real workhorse job? Then one would want to check out the Fargo Model D400 in the 10,000- to 15,000-pound GVW range. These big Fargos rode on a 129-inch wheelbase or a 153-inch wheelbase. In addition to the rugged deep-frame construction, the 400s boasted dual rear wheels. The L-head six-cylinder engine was standard equipment and mated to the four-speed manual on the D400 models, but the 192-hp V-8 was available as an extra-cost item as was the heavy-duty five-speed synchronized transmission. “Steering is light and easy, [the] cab’s a real pace-setter for comfort.” Fargo’s D400 chassis and cab models ranged in price from $2,934* to $2,965.

    Further up the scale, the D500 could handle tough jobs with plenty of muscle to spare in the 19,500- to 34,000-GVW class. Wheelbase choices were 141, 153 or 171 inches and were created to take plenty of punishment. The 153-inch-wheelbase chassis and cab for the 1958 Fargo D500 sold for $3,417 and weighed in at 5,060 pounds. If that wasn’t enough to get the customer to sign, the salesman was instructed to say, “And for all its stamina, the Fargo D500 is the handsomest truck in its weight class.”

    Last but not least, Fargo fielded the D700, the first time it entered the 25,000- to 50,000-pound class. Wheelbases were listed at 129, 141, 153 or 171 inches. These mammoth workhorses were all fitted with the Chrysler-engineered 218-hp, hemispheric combustion V-8, to “give you the power you need to take any job in stride.” The brawny Fargo’s mill was coupled to a five-speed manual transmission. When riding the 171-inch wheelbase, the 1958 Fargo D700 chassis and cab listed for $3,483.

    As a truck offering conceived to generate brand loyalty for Chrysler-Plymouth dealers, the Fargo was never as popular as its Dodge kin. Fargo model-year production for 1953 amounted to 6,134 units. In 1954, that number slipped downward to 5,317 units. In 1955, the number dropped again as only 3,454 Fargo trucks had been built. The total for 1956 was encouraging, as 4,750 units were built, and the 1957 total rose again ever so slightly to reach 4,816 units. A recession hit the country, and calendar-year production for 1958 was off by a wide margin, as only 3,018 Fargo trucks were assembled in Chrysler Canada’s Windsor, Ontario, plant.

*Prices are listed in Canadian dollars.

Leave a Reply