Creating off-the-wall concept car designs is not solely the province of contemporary car companies, as proved by this 1965 Dodge Deora. And this car is pure 60s, from its inclusion as one of the original 16 Hot Wheels matchbox cars, to the styling, and the car even bares a relationship to the band The Beach Boys. So get ready for a trip down memory lane. The Deora Concept was designed by two brothers, Mike and Larry Alexander. While their names are mainly remembered by auto historians today, they used to be the toast of Detroit’s auto industry. In fact, they even launched a movement when they designed the “Little Deuce Coupe” hot rod, based on a 1932 Ford, that was featured on the album cover of the Beach Boys record of the same name. When it came to customizing cars, Mike and Larry Alexander were the forefathers of tuners like Steve Saleen, Chip Foose.
The Deora began as a Dodge A100. The A100 line, which was introduced in 1964, comprised of compact vans and cab-over pickup trucks. The Alexander brothers enlisted a friend of theirs, designer Harry Bradley, to take the modest look of the A100 and make it look futuristic and slick. Once Bradley came up with the exterior look of the Deora, The Alexanders got down to making it a mechanical reality. The cab of the original A100 was completely removed and replaced with a custom structure that had a front-opening hatch and the seating was moved forward and inside of the front wheel wells. This necessitated some repositioning for the slant six engine and, due to the lack of available space, made any thought of installing a V8 impossible. In fact, the slant six was almost too big as it protruded into the truck’s bed.
The biggest modification was in the trucks height. A stock A100 pickup measured 72 inches tall. The Deora clocked in at a mere 57. In order to drop those 15 inches, new springs had to be fitted to the front that actually ran through the front axle. Also, the radiator could not fit in the front, so was relocated to the back of the pickup bed right in front of the rear axle. Holes were cut in the bedliner and an electric fan shuttled air to the radiator. While this was a serviceable fix, it did create another problem: the fuel tank. No long able to fit behind the rear axle, it was instead moved just behind the cab and in front of the radiator. In 1967, the Deora was set to take the stage at Detroit’s Autrama show, but initially, the Alexander brothers weren’t even going to attend, as their father had passed away just a couple days prior. Their mother then convinced them that their father would have wanted them to show off their new car, so the Alexander brothers attended the show. Despite the legacy of the Deora, the 1967 Detroit Autorama marks the only time that the Alexander brothers presented the truck. After Autorama, it became a fixture of traveling car shows, but the Alexander brothers remained in Detroit.
The Deora won the Ridler prize at the Detroit Autorama and was then selected to be one of the original sixteen models adapted into the Hot Wheels matchbox cars. Harry Bradley, the exterior designer, actually ended up working for Mattel, the company that produced Hot Wheels, and he said of his time there that, on average, every kid in America at the time owned 1.3 Hot Wheels car, but barely a handful of the realized that the funky Deora was, in fact, a real car. But, the Deora was not all Dodge. While constructing the show car, the Alexander brothers ended up utilizing a lot of Ford parts. For example: the front-opening door hatch is based on the tailgate from a 1960 Ford station wagon; the dual exhaust bevels are actually taillight bevels from a 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang; and the Deora’s taillights, which are hidden under a wooden veneer, are the sequential turn signals from a Ford Thunderbird.
The Deora definitely has a firm place in automotive history, and in the hearts of all of us who played with Hot Wheels when we were younger. And, there’s an opportunity to own that piece of history, as the Deora is about to go on the auction block. On September 26, at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, the concept will be auctioned of by RM Auctions, with an expected sale price of about $500,000. Well, maybe we’ll stick with the Hot Wheels verison. Dodge Deora Pictures Gallery