Dodge lorry rebuild Dodge truck restoration

Removing the rear body panels and both axles.

Restoration Part 3. Click here to return to the main Dodge lorry restoration page. Part of oldclassiccar.co.uk. Contact page.

May 2007.
Next up in the restoration story of this old bus, is the dismantling of the rear panelwork, to enable the restorers to fix up the rear framework and also expose the chassis so that it can be cleaned, and painted with Chassis Black.

The old 'bus came over as a chassis and scuttle from the Dodge plant in 1940 (more details here) and was bodied by Mulliners of Birmingham.

As more time was spent dismantling the back end, their method of constructing the back body became more evident. The inner frame is a composite of '[' section steel section, with ash infill. On to this the outer panelwork was tacked with several hundred nails in all, so that all the panelling was laid in final position. Then beading was placed over the joins in the panels, and screwed through to the composite frame beneath. Water has found its way between the layers of outer panel and inner frame, causing a fair bit of rot to break out, another reason why it all had to be stripped back. The photos below tell of how the outer panelling, and also the wooden floorboards, were removed.
Inside the bus body, viewed from the rear doors This is how the interior looked, prior to being dismantled. The wooden 'ramps' visible here were to enable the Alfa Romeo to be winched into the back, clearing the inner arches that had to be flattened to get it in. Plan is to leave the inner arches in this dented state, as there was a good reason for them to be hammered down! To the left are the threaded bars sticking out of the wall, on which the spare Alfa wheels (perhaps the twins for hillclimbing?) were stored.
Winch and wheel stops Fortunately the original winch and wheel stops remain, so they will be removed, cleaned up, and put back exactly as they were. The odd bits of wood nailed into the floor will also be put back, exactly as they were. They were hastily nailed in, when they first loaded a Works Aston DB3 into the Dodge. The lower sides of the Aston's bodywork would foul the inner arches, so the bits of wood lifted it up sufficiently so that it wouldn't get scraped as it was loaded.
Removing the inner panelling This photo shows the inside of the rear body, as work began to strip it down. First to come out were the myriad of plywood panels that formed the interior trim of the 'bus, screwed from inside to the composite framework beneath. The bits of wood nailed into the floor had also been removed by this time.
Removing the inner panelling First indications that the frame underneath would be needing more than a quick rub down. In fairness, much of it will be retrievable, although sections of the frame, and all the steel window frames, will need to be replaced with new material.
Removing the inner panelling Other side, this time viewed from the cab end. The steel outer skin and steel frame have done a good job of rotting beneath the interior ply lining, so will need some attention before things can be replaced. This panelwork hasn't been off since 1941 when the bodywork was first constructed, for the RAF.
Floorboards being taken out With the inner plywood removed, it was time to turn attentions to the floorboards. Sadly they didn't come out particularly well, so the plan is to replace them with aged timber from a reclamation yard, so that it'll all look 'just so' and not over-done when all back together again. The 'Thermorad' underfloor heating will be reinstated (not visible in this photograph).
Floorboards being taken out At this stage the floorboards were all out, exposing the crosspieces and chassis. The chassis is a massive section so won't need any welding work, but the same can't be said for much of the framing, especially on the lower edges.
Rusty panels Just a closer look at the inside frame, and two sections of outer panelwork, when viewed from inside the vehicle. I'm all for preserving as much as possible of the original vehicle, but when the condition of the steelwork has deteriorated this badly, you get to a stage where sympathetic dismantling and replacement is the only option, if you want to avoid rust bubbling up through the new paintjob after just a few years.
Floorboards all out Another view of the exposed chassis members, now that the floor boarding had been removed. The hefty axle is just visible here, and that gets removed a little further down this page.
Outer panels start to come off Work In Progress as it were - the outer panelling on the offside has been removed, along with the various beadings that help hold it all together. Only now can the true condition of the framework be assessed, allowing proper repairs to be made as required. Bodges or shortcuts aren't an option!
Nearside panels off The bus is looking really dismantled now! the nearside panels are off, with the rear corner verticals, and the roof sections, soon to follow suit. The side panels, with their original signwriting, will be preserved and displayed with the 'bus. They are too poor to be re-used sadly, but will be an excellent reference for the signwriter when it comes to re-instating the livery onto the new panels.
Rear corner of the body structure The rear corners of the body are very weak and will require a fair bit of beefing up. They support the two (heavy) rear doors so need to be made of stern stuff. The timber will be supplemented by extra steel box section in the rear corners, to help support the door hinges.
Roof now off! Looking even more like a skeleton now, with the roof panels all removed (along with the rear corners, which are badly dented). Due to the extent of corrosion found in the rear panels, it has been decided that the back end will be re-skinned in aluminium, taking suitable precautions to prevent the steel frame reacting to the new alloy outer skin.
Damaged wooden framing This close-up of the front corner, above the door, shows the type of work that will be required. The frame will be repaired, using ash wherever necessary.
No axles now either! This is how the Dodge looks as of May 22nd 2007, with both axles now removed from under the Dodge, leaving it almost ready for the lengthy rebuild to start taking place. The mechanical side of things will be looked at in parallel with the cleanup, and repair, of the body structure, and photos of all this will follow.
Return to the Dodge rebuild homepage for more info on this old lorry.
Previous Page: Part 2 - Removing the engine and transmission.
Next Page: Part 4 - Assessing the condition of the original panels.
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