Dodge lorry rebuild Dodge truck restoration

The continuing restoration of this racing car transporter.

Restoration Part 34. Click here to return to the main Dodge lorry restoration page. Part of oldclassiccar.co.uk. Contact page.

August & September 2010.
Progress in August and September ebbed and flowed somewhat, with paintwork and the sourcing of some key parts being the main areas where steps forward occurred. The previous update ended with the truck finished in a semi-shiny topcoat. There were several different routes regarding the final topcoats to choose from, in the end we decided to run with our initial idea of painting everything with gloss, including the signwriting, then finally toning the lot down with a clear coat that will incorporate a degree of matting agent. A test coat of a much matter top coat didn't seem the way to go, so it was back to Plan A. The interior of the bodywork also received the attentions of a paintbrush, and a few missing interior parts to further complete the puzzle were located during this period.
Painting the interior of the lorry
In July the first coats of white interior paint were applied to the rear of the truck, as per original. HMG supplied the paint. The final coat(s) will use a batch of satin white that while looking neat and tidy, won't be overly glossy. Once this has been completed, the original brass air vents can be re-fitted in the panels above the side windows. When this lorry was an RAF crewbus during WW2, there would have been several rows of seats lined up in here. Fortunately they were taken out after the war, so that avoided a costly re-upholstering session.
Interior of the truck now painted white
The truck had been rolled outside when I took this shot. A couple more coats of white were in place and being left to fully harden. The metal partition, that fits in behind the driver's seat, has yet to be painted and re-installed. Once the interior paintwork has been completed, it'll be time to decide on how best to treat the keruing hardwood floor.
New window pulls for the truck
One item that's been on the "to do" list since day one is the replacement of the metal grips that attach to the four rear sliding windows. The original ones had rotted badly, so new ones had to be fabricated. Fortunately a local contact of mine is a dab hand at building vintage vehicle bodies, and offered to make up some new grips to fit on the original panes of glass. The replacements were made in aluminium, and will be ready to fit once they've had a coat of etch primer and a topcoat.
Dodge truck receives another coat of paint
As mentioned, a coat of a matt green was applied to the truck during this time. The theory was, I'm told, that it could be painted in a matt finish for its final topcoat, as could the signwriting, and a level of shine brought back up by use of the final clear coat(s). Apprarently some canal boats and steam traction engines are painted using this approach. However I wasn't particularly comfortable with going down that road, so we had a meeting early in September and I suggested that we go back to Plan A - ie paint everything as normal, and tone the shine down with the final clear, rather than trying to go the other way. Glenn from HMG agreed to prepare a test panel with the gloss green, and apply matting agent in mixes of 10% increments along the piece, so that a final percentage of matting to mix within the final clear coats could be arrived at. Not being a painter myself, I was happier to go with the more straightforward route to getting the truck finished.
Dodge truck bonnet
The loose panels were also painted during this time for consistency, including the bonnet side panels which can be seen here.
Dodge truck wings
Both front wings and inner panels were flatted down and given some more fettling, before they too received an extra lick of paint. The rear side locker doors can also be seen to the right.
Old leather vehicle seats
The issue of sourcing some appropriate seats for the cab had been bugging me for a while. Originally, the driver had a large leather seat while the passenger(s) had to make do with sitting on a wooden toolbox. Somehow I couldn't see my wife being too chuffed with sitting on a toolbox, so I needed to find something suitably comfortable, especially as the original seat had disintegrated. The seats shown above were sourced off the internet. Needing restoration, they were a handy size and the right shape, having been removed from a pre-war motor-car many years before. However some tentative enquiries suggested that re-furbishing both seats could end up lightening my wallet considerably, so a weather eye remained open in case something more suitable turned up.
And another pair of vintage car seats
A few weeks later this much better pair of leather seats appeared on the 'net. Again they had been removed from a pre-war car back in the 1960s, but unlike the first set had been well stored. Trimmed in brown leather, and in good original condition just needing a little hide food, they looked to be a perfect match for an old green lorry. So they were bought, and collected from a rural retreat near Coalville.
Preparing to signwrite the lorry
But back to paintwork, a process that began in March. Before any signwriting can be done, the two large coloured panels at the rear of the truck had to be painted. The nearside panel was originally orange, the offside yellow. The former advertised Notwen motor oils, while the yellow panel advertised Dunlop tyres. The paint on the original panels had faded badly, so was of little use in determining the shades to go with now. A Saab car colour from the 1970s was chosen as a suitable shade to use for the Notwen panel, having compared paint chips with an old Notwen oil can that I have in the garage. The yellow was more difficult to decide upon, but in the end a suitable shade was found, given that it is also used for the lettering elsewhere on the lorry, including the SU logos on the rear doors.
Notwen oils logo
A flashback to 2007, showing the very faded old signwriting that needs to be re-created. The paint on the two rear doors has clearly faded in different ways, again adding confusion to how the yellow should look. The nearside rear door had fallen off into the lorry many years ago, and therefore had been subjected to less daylight and weather than the offside door, which had faded further. Therefore none of the original yellow signwriting accurately reflects how it looked some 50-60 years ago. Old black and white photos of the Dodge show the signwriting to be quite bright and fresh, and even if old colour photos turn up sometime they couldn't really be relied upon after all this time.
Yellow panel
The yellow panel now painted, with the masking tape still in place. It'll look different again when the tape's been removed and the truck receives its final coat of green gloss. Plus workshop lighting means that these shots can only give a clue as to how the lorry should end up looking one day.
Original Yellow panel
And a comparison with the old offside paintwork, so badly faded that it wasn't much help in determining the shade to run with now. It's hard to imagine that the main body was ever painted dark green, so badly has the colour and finish deteriorated over time. The original old panels are being retained and will remain with the truck, just no longer fitted to it! Same for the old tyres, a real variety of military and road tyres - some of which have been remoulded during the Dodge's life on the road.

Other news.

In 2009 a signwriter came up to assess the work that would be required to recreate the old signwriting, but recently we discovered that he'd since retired. The search for a suitable, preferably local, replacement is now in full swing and I'm following up a few leads. An organiser involved with a large historic motorshow in 2011 is due to call by the workshop in October, as for several years now he has expressed a keen interest in it being at his event. If the paintwork is completed soon, and the engine fired up successfully, there's a chance that it might just be ready in time - fingers are crossed.

An old photo of the Dodge turns up at VSCC Prescott.

At the VSCC Prescott hillclimb, I found myself rooting through a pile of old photographs on Ferret Fotographics' stall. I usually manage to find one or two new (old) photos of the Alfa on Ted's stand, and this next shot turned up while I was looking in that section. The chap stood alongside was flicking through the ERA racing car file, and dropped this image on the top of a pile of old photos. Evidently the subject of the photo was the ERA, but lurking in the background are several old transporters, including the Dodge. The location was Silverstone racing circuit, in the early 1950s. In its day, the truck would have been a regular visitor at venues such as Ibsley, Silverstone, Goodwood, Prescott, Shelsley Walsh, Bo'ness, Rest and Be Thankful plus many more, before being retired from use in 1955.
The Dodge and other classic transporters
Also at Prescott I bought this (cropped) colour photo on Simon Lewis Transport Books' stand. In the background are two classic Dodge transporters, neither of which is mine though. The vehicle to the left looks like an ex-military 1.5 or 2 ton lorry. The green Dodge is Bob Gerard's pre-war example, quite possibly the same truck as appears in the b/w photo shown above. The signwriting certainly seems to match. The green transporter appears to have been painted a similar shade of green to mine, and has a satin-type sheen to the finish rather than a deep shine. Something approaching this finish would be perfect for my old truck.
Bob Gerard's racing car transporter
With a bit of luck, the next couple of months should see the paintwork completed and many of the loose parts re-attached to the truck. I'm also itching to hear the engine run again for the first time since its rebuild. Only then can the front end panels be re-fitted, and it starts to look like a complete truck once more.
Return to the Dodge lorry restoration page for more info on this rebuild.
Previous Page: Part 33 - More paintwork and preparation.
Next Page: Part 35 - Final paint prep prior to signwriting.
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