Dodge lorry rebuild Dodge truck restoration

More progress on the Dodge lorry's bodywork, and further engine re-assembly

Restoration Part 23. Click here to return to the main Dodge lorry restoration page. Part of oldclassiccar.co.uk. Contact page.

January 2009.
Work on the Dodge picked up again in mid January after a festive breather. Two areas continued to be looked at in January, further re-assembly of the six cylinder sidevalve engine, and also more work done to the rear bodywork. The re-assembly of the lorry's engine (valves, head, manifold etc) and later the fitment of the clutch, bellhousing and gearbox, will mean that soon the drivetrain will be in a position to be installed. Prior to this though, the bulkhead and cab area will be prepared for a topcoat of paint. Work began on further improving these areas of panelwork in January. The truck's rear doors also received attention this month, revealing a fair bit of rot in the vehicle's ash frames, details of which are given below.
Engine rebuild
In January, the valve gear was re-installed, and the threads in the block re-tapped. New manifold and head studs have been made (see previous instalment), with the latter already in place when this photograph was taken. Evidence of the major engine work undertaken in 2007, to eradicate the various cracks that were found in the Dodge's block, can be seen in this photo. Much metal stitching was required!
Dodge lorry engine restoration
A couple of weeks later and this is how the engine looked. Head now re-fitted, along with the manifold studs and manifold itself. The water pump is still to be checked over. Fortunately I managed to find some new gaskets to suit this engine, easier said than done as very very few of these large, 331 cu in (5.4 litre) engines are around, even in the US. The head gasket turned up via a specialist at a local show, and the manifold gaskets from somewhere in the States. A new set of Autolite spark plugs, not currently fitted, were also sourced in the US. The carburettor, a Stromberg SF-3 unit, is yet to be checked over and re-fitted. Fortunately over the years I've bought a few spare carbs, so there shouldn't be any problem re-furbishing the original item.
Rebuild of the bus body continues
Back to the coachwork again now, the main focus of attention over recent months. The (repaired) roof vents are now in place, as are the rear wings/mudguards. It was during the fitment of the back wings that another little oddity made itself apparent. For some reason, the nearside rear wing protrudes some 1-1.5" further from the bodywork than the offside example. Why this is we don't know. Photos of the lorry before being dismantled also show this discrepancy, perhaps a legacy of being built in a hurry in readiness for wartime duties. The nearside rear door is also propped in position, ready for work to start on assessing and repairing both doors as necessary.
Rear wheelarches
The nearside rear wheel arch in position. Still to be made is a half-round section of beading, that fits between the arch and the flat sides of the bodywork.
Offside bodywork
A look at the offside bodywork. The gutters are now in place after being straightened, as is the rear lower locker door, with just a few beading strips remaining to be fitted. The remaining beadings will be fitted only once the window frames are built and installed. The arch has also been fitted. Slowly but surely the old crewbus/transporter is beginning to look like a real vehicle again, rather than a decaying pile of corroded scrap.
Rear step
A closer look at the rear step area. This cantilevered step was used during the war to enable RAF bomber crew members, clutching their parachutes and equipment, to quickly hop on and off the crewbus as they were taken to, and later collected from, their aircraft. To the left is one of the re-made sections in which rear lamps will be located. The Dodge had very little rear lighting originally. This is one area where improvements will need to be made. I've sourced some 1930s/1940s directional flashing indicator units, flush mounted, that will fit here, and I hope to track down some appropriate stop/tail lamps shortly. Originally the 'bus was fitted with semaphore/trafficator indicators only, behind the front doors. These will be re-instated, but supplemented by the flashing lamps. Up front, pod-mounted directional indicators, again from the 1940s, will be fitted to the front chassis irons.
The lorry's dashboard
As mentioned, thoughts of preparing the dash and bulkhead for final painting meant that further work would be needed in these areas. In this photo, the dashboard has been rubbed down. Various primer fillers and surface preparations will be required, to ensure a fully smooth surface, ready to accept a Westminster Green topcoat in due course. The engine has also been refinished in this colour (thanks to HMG), giving a clue as to how the finished vehicle will look once painted up. One or two of the holes in the dash may yet need to be plugged.
The lorry's engine bulkhead
A look at the bulkhead, another area that needs some more prep work before it can be painted. To gain better access, all the front end panels have been removed. Once the bulkhead has been prep'd and painted, the engine will probably be re-fitted. While they are off, the front wings are being painted underneath in a hard-wearing semi-matt black finish. The radiator support bracket has also been painted in a similar shade of black.
Rear doors now dismantled
Both rear doors were stripped down, allowing them to be properly assessed. Both rear door skins are in quite poor condition, and while they might be repairable(ish), the decision has been taken to re-skin them using zintec (same as used on the main body) to ensure longevity. Both door frames have also come under close scrutiny. The nearside door and offside one differed in many ways, and when they were stripped down, further differences in construction were noted. The offside door frame is in reasonable condition, just needing minor repairs before being re-used. In both cases, the original door glass and furniture will be re-used. The nearside door frame was in a much worse state, so bad in fact that a new one is being re-made, using the original as a pattern. The passage of time ensured that quite severe corrosion had badly weakened most of the original coachbuilt panels, and the back doors were no exception. In contrast, the original US panelwork up front had resisted the elements surprisingly well.
Woodworm in the front door!
The front doors were also inspected, starting with the nearside one. Both front doors will be re-skinned as a matter of course. The offside frame has already been repaired, a look at the nearside one shows that sections of ash will need replacement. Woodworm has wreaked havoc along the lower rail, fortunately the vertical sections look ok. The channel window frames will be re-made, using the same section steelwork as will be used for the rear frames.
Return to the Dodge lorry restoration page for more info on this classic truck restoration.
Previous Page: Part 22 - Re-panelling the back body continues.
Next Page: Part 24 - Restoring the rear doors & fuel tanks.
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