Dodge lorry rebuild Dodge truck restoration

1940 Dodge truck restoration - front end panels are re-fitted.

Restoration Part 38. Click here to return to the main Dodge lorry restoration page. Part of Contact page.

February 2011 Part 1.
As in January, this month's update will be in two parts. This instalment, part 1, describes the ongoing re-assembly of the Dodge, with the front end panels - namely the nose section, bonnet, inner and outer wings, and cab doors, being the main areas worked upon. The remainder of the wiring was also completed, bar the semaphore indicators which will be fitted later. Assembling the front end took a great deal of time, not only in fitting the parts, but also lining them up, installing the wing beadings and bonnet tape, and then running the wiring beneath them. The hope is that the nearly-finished truck will be going to a show at the end of the month, fingers crossed...These photos show the step by step re-assembly of the truck in early/mid February.
Last month's update ended with the nose section (grille) of the truck loosely installed on the chassis. The following day I drew a deep breath and unpacked the restored grille trim that I'd bought from the States a while back. The trim incorporates four stainless steel pieces, polished to a mirror finish, topped by the traditional Dodge Ram mascot, a new-old-stock part again sourced in the USA. One by one these pieces were re-fitted. Needless to say the nuts that secure the trim from behind were tightened very carefully.
Dodge truck grille mascot and trim
The parts went on without a struggle, although someone a little shorter than I was tasked with clambering up behind the grille to tighten up the chrome mascot, as no-one else could get up there with a spanner!
Front trim back on the truck
Next it was the turn of the bonnet. The four parts that make up the bonnet, or hood, were assembled away from the truck. Each of the bonnet rods were given an application of Vaseline, then attached to an electric drill. Each hinge rod was then slid into the hinge parts, all the while being spun by the drill. With this done, the installation of the bonnet could be completed. The grille had to be adjusted on both sides to achieve an acceptable fit. It still wants a little fettling, mainly at either end where the bonnet meets other panels, but it's pretty close.
Fitting the Dodge's bonnet
By this time the screen assembly had been put together, using new glass (the only new glass to be used on the truck). With a fresh rubber installed, it was offered into place and bolted up. The opening mechanism, actuated by a handle on the dash, was restored a year or two ago, so simply needed re-attaching to the windshield surround. I still need to source the two joining clips that fit on either side of the screen frame. The centre strip, bought from US ebay, has been painted but hadn't yet been fitted at this point.
Dodge truck windshield
Next, the in-fill panels that fit between the bonnet/inner wings/grille, and the outer wings. The heavy Dodges of this era have these in-fill panels to cover the increased track of the 3-ton models, and the headlamps are fitted to small mountings bolted to these panels. These were relatively straightforward to bolt on, although the beading that runs between the panels took a while longer.
Front wings start to go on
The doors were next to go on. Although glazed and fitted with the window frames, the interior and exterior door "furniture" had yet to go on. At first, a new non-locking door handle was fitted, but this was soon replaced by a locking version.
The Dodge truck's doors are re-fitted
Things were really starting to come together when the outer front wings were bolted back in place. This photo was taken shortly after they'd been re-united with the truck. Also now on, the re-furbished DODGE hood badges, the original "WD" (War Department) Butlers sidelamps, and the headlight mountings. Although I've some new-old-stock examples of these sidelamps, none of them has the WD inscription stamped into them. Because of this, I welded up the originals and they came out quite acceptable.
The Dodge's fenders now in place
Step by step the old girl was starting to look the part. The French Marchal lamps had been fitted by this stage. These were fitted by Poore during his post-war ownership of the truck, Tammy Aberg - second mechanic to Poore - commented that the original Dodge lamps (6v) were less than useless, hence the switch to these rather smart (also 6v) Marchal units. One of the original lamps had been broken prior to me finding the truck, so a replacement had to be hunted down. The doors at this point had yet to be fitted with their catches, which explains why they're part-open in this shot.
Headlamps fitted
A general view from the nearside front showing the truck, still on axle stands, with its front panels restored to the vehicle. While all this was going on, a lot of time was spent underneath the truck, giving some parts an extra coat of chassis black, and enabling the wiring runs to be clipped, using brass clips, to the chassis and underbody. The lighting in the workshop isn't particularly good for photography, especially later in the day, so I'll get some better shots once it's outside for the first time.
Nearside front
With the front wings, or fenders, re-united with the Dodge, the remaining lamps could be installed. The two directional turn signals, made in the 1940s era, were bolted to the front bumper, in addition to the signwritten front numberplate - a period Bluemels item. The spotlamp is a Simms unit designed to be used on commercial vehicles. A new-old-stock item, I purchased this years ago from a gent who worked in the security lodge of a firm I once worked for. He noted that I was interested in old cars, as I regularly turned up in either my S1 XJ Jaguar or else a Volvo Amazon, so dug out some bits for me from his shed. I gave the lamp a fresh lick of paint, sourced a suitable 6v bulb from my collection, and fitted it to the offside chassis leg in a convenient hole.
Bumper and turn signals re-fitted
It was around this time that the re-painted wheels were fitted to the back axle. The fronts haven't yet been fitted as there is still work to do on the front brakes.
Rear wheels back on the lorry
Another front-end view of the truck now that the bumpers and other lights had been fitted. The single wiper had been fitted by this stage too, while the spotlamp had been temporarily removed.
Front of the truck
Inside the cab next, and a general photo of the driver's door. The interior plywood trim was now in its position, as were the door catch and inner handle. The hornpush has yet to be attached to the steering wheel, as we're still trying to figure out which parts we're missing from the assembly!
Inside the cab
As the truck is lefthand drive, it seemed like a good idea to let other drivers know this. I had thought of having a signwritten note added to one of the rear doors, but when this old ex-army plate turned up, it seemed like the perfect choice. I re-painted it in black, then asked Martyn - the signwriter - to pick out the raised lettering using the same off-white paint that he'd used on the numberplates.
Lefthand drive sign
One of the as-yet unsolved mysteries surrounding the truck is why these aluminium trims were ever fitted on a military vehicle? It seems like an odd thing to do. As far as I know once it left military service, it was sold - either at a dispersal sale or by direct sale - to Poore. I'm sure he didn't put them on, so why they were fitted, and by whom, I really don't know. The old panels show signs of trims running down either side of the main body too, in the style of a 1930's coach. Perhaps Mulliners of Birmingham, who bodied motor coaches in the years leading upto WW2, had a quiet Friday afternoon and embellished the body with these trims as a reminder of what they used to do? Or perhaps it went back to the coachbuilders at the end of the war, to be "bulled up" for a VE Day parade somewhere? I really have no idea.
By the time I found the truck, only the trims on the doors and bonnet remained. These were polished and straightened, and re-fitted to the truck using dome-headed 2BA fixings.
Door and bonnet trims
The semaphore indicators haven't yet been fitted, but a hole for a switch remained in the centre of the dash. Over the years I've built up a fair old collection of period switches. Amongst them was this single switch, made in bakelite, and unlike any other illuminated turn switch I've ever seen. As I don't know what switch the Dodge originally had in it, this seemed like a reasonable choice.
Old-stock indicator switch
Being a coachbuilt truck from the scuttle back, virtually nothing has been fitted "straight out of the box". Everything has required some modification or other to make it fit. One good example is the rear numberplate. We decided that this should go above the rear doors, as it was simpler to run wiring for the lamp up there rather than, say, across a door hinge and into one of the rear doors. To do this, a bracket had to be designed and fabricated. Adrian at VHC came up with a design, and produced a bracket to which the (Bluemels) plate could be attached, bearing in the mind the type of numberplate lamp that was going to be used. I'm really pleased with how it came out. All that remained was for the lamp to be connected up.
Rear numberplate and lamp
To the front of the Dodge again now, and the turn of the two running boards to be fitted. Before they could go on, four pieces of wood had to be cut, drilled and painted. These sit inside the running board mounting brackets, on top of which the running boards are positioned.
The Dodge's running boards
A general view of the offside rear corner, showing the numberplate and LHD plate in position.
Rear view
On the mechanical side, we decided to strip the starter to investigate why the engine was so slow to turn over, despite heavy cables and two large 6 volt batteries being used. The internals were in a bad way, so the starter was taken to a nearby specialist who stripped it, re-furbished all the internals and fitted new bearings, before re-assembling it all once more. This has improved things a lot, and enabled us to fire it up for the first time on 6 rather than 12 volts.
Re-conditioned starter motor
Picked from a box of old interior mirrors I've had stashed in the garage, this one looked like the best bet, although it needed several layers of paint stripped off before it could be re-painted in Westminster Green, with the aluminium surround polished up a little.
Interior mirror
With all the front end lamps back in place, the auto electrician came back and completed the connections. Adrian routed the wiring, again clipping it with appropriate clips. With the newly-rebuilt starter back under the bonnet, we fired up the old girl using the 6 volt batteries and correct, base-mounted, Autolite coil. During the engine runs all the lights, including the spot lamp and flashing turn signals, were tested out...
Bright lights
The main door at this end of the workshop isn't opened very often right now (thanks to the Dodge being sat in the middle of the workshop), so when it was open recently I took a few shots of the truck from outside the door. Almost ready for the road!! Well, once the brakes have been fully tested, several other parts including the exhaust tailpipe have been re-attached, and a curious blockage in the carburetter has been remedied that is...The offside front brake drum has been removed, again, to investigate a leaking wheel cylinder.
Looking out of the workshop
A general look at the offside front corner now. The undersides of the front wings were re-painted shortly after they were re-fitted.
Offside front corner
This view of the front, taken from up a ladder, shows the truck as of February 19th 2011, and clearly show the rather natty aluminium trims fitted to the top of the bonnet. It's been a long time since I saw the truck with all the front end panels in place.
Front of the truck
With just a few days remaining before the truck was due to be collected for its debut show outing (happily a static event!), the outstanding jobs list was whittling away nicely. The final entry for this page, part 1 of February's update, saw the "new" driver's seat installed into the truck. The original leather seat had disintegrated completely. I found a pair of pre-war car seats in good, original condition during 2010. Both will be fitted to the truck, but this side of the show there was only a need to get the driver's seat in position. The original wooden seat base was re-used, although for now the seat winding mechanism that I cleaned up over Christmas can't be used.
Driver's seat in
The plan is that the truck will be collected on Wednesday 23rd February, and taken down to Stoneleigh in preparation for Race Retro 2011. Thursday will see us down there, helping to install it on the Midland Automobile Club's stand in Hall 2. The event itself runs from Friday 25th, to Sunday 27th February. On the Monday it'll return, again in enclosed transportation, to VHC's headquarters. All that remains to be seen is that it'll fit inside the covered transportation being arranged by the show organisers...Part 2 of February's update will hopefully report on the final preparations made to the truck, and its appearance at this historic motorsport show.
Although not essential for the show, it'd be good if we can sort the brakes before re-fitting the front wheels.
After the show, attentions will turn to the other outstanding jobs that are required. The plan is also to treat the paintwork to a coat of carnauba wax, recommended to me by both the signwriter and the technician from HMG Paints. Not only will this silicone-free polish provide some extra protection from the elements, it will also add a little extra depth to the final finish (judging by a test piece that I tried it on).
Return to the Dodge lorry restoration page for more info on this rebuild.
Previous Page: Part 37 - Other restoration work done in January.
Next Page: Part 39 - Show appearance at Race Retro 2011.
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