Dodge lorry rebuild Dodge truck restoration

The Dodge returns home, ending VHC Engineering's involvement with the project.

Restoration Part 40. Click here to return to the main Dodge lorry restoration page. Part of oldclassiccar.co.uk. Contact page.

March/April 2011.
Race Retro, and the enjoyment we had in displaying the Dodge at Stoneleigh for its post-restoration debut, seems like a long time ago now. Especially as the truck was well received and some interesting information and photos came to light. Some more work was undertaken on the truck during March, but in April I decided to end the involvement of VHC Engineering Ltd (also known as VHC Classics and Vehicle Protection Services Ltd) in the restoration. I made arrangements and had the un-finished project returned home early. This is the last thing I expected or wanted to do, but it was the correct decision and subsequent events have re-inforced this view.

Post Race-Retro activity.

Re-winding now to the beginning of March. The Dodge is shown below, back at VHC Engineering Ltd's premises shortly after its Race Retro appearance.
The truck back at VHC Engineering Ltd's workshop
Attending the show was very interesting for a number of reasons, one being the interest that it generated with the show-goers, especially on the Friday, which led to a few of them suggesting that it was their "vehicle of the show", not bad given the company it was in. One chap remembered hitching a lift with Dennis Poore in the Dodge, and sent me some photographs that he'd taken of the Alfa, with the truck in the background, as a child. Another chap, a modeller, visited Poore at his home in the late 1960s in order to photograph and take measurements of the Alfa, so that he could scratch-build a model of it. A few days later this same gent emailed me scans of these old photographs - fantastic.
Photos of Dennis Poore's Alfa Romeo
A dealer in motor-racing memorabilia mentioned that he had an old advertisement snipped from a magazine, that featured the car and the transporter. He kindly posted that out to me in March. On another stall, I turned up a photograph of Poore racing his R-Type MG prior to the war. This is the first photo I've seen of that particular car, which used to attend events in my old trailer before the Alfa came on the scene.
Notwen Oils advertisement featuring the Dodge truck

Back at VHC Engineering.

With the Dodge back at base, it was time to draw up a revised "action plan" which would, or rather, should have seen the Dodge completed and road-tested by the end of April (or thereabouts). Sadly that plan didn't come to fruition, but a few key jobs were undertaken on the truck. The first of these involved the fuel tanks. A modification was required to the mounting of the sender units (they needed to be isolated from the tanks). To do this, both tanks had to be removed from the truck. While this was going on, the roadwheels were again removed so that the brakes could receive some more attention.
Dodge off its wheels again
A block of nylon was purchased, and from this mountings were machined that allowed the senders to be re-fitted to the tanks, yet isolating them from the body of the tanks. This should correct a gremlin that we'd spotted a while back - the fuel gauges weren't reading correctly. In addition to finding the nylon block, I bought a set of four lashing rings. Once painted, they were bolted into the rear floor, one in each corner, so that should I ever need to put a racing car in the back, it can be securely attached to the rings. Inset, a photograph of the flexible ducting that will be used to connect the carburettor to the (non-original) air cleaner that has still to be fitted.
More bits bought for the truck's restoration
A significant alteration was made to the electrical system too. Instead of the entire system running from two hefty six-volt batteries, a twelve-volt battery was introduced, replacing one of the six-volt units. The 12v battery now takes care of the starter circuit (only), while the 6v battery takes care of everything else. The 12v doesn't receive a charge from the dynamo, but will be topped up prior to any trip. For safety, two isolator switches - shown below - were incorporated in the revised design, both now mounted alongside the driver's seat in the floor.
Battery isolator switches
March also saw the new door mirrors fitted to the truck. Sourced in the USA, they were the best option I could find to give a half-decent view of the road behind, while still looking suitable for an old truck. The inner door trim panels were removed, and many measurements taken, before the drill came out of its box.
Ready to fit the door mirrors
I had been a little worried that the mirrors may look OTT on such an old lorry, but seeing them fitted I think they look ok. Some new stainless steel dome-headed nuts and washers were sourced on eBay, and I fitted them to the mirror mountings once the truck had returned home.
New mirrors on an old truck

Calling time on VHC's involvement.

Up until quite recently I'd had every confidence that the truck would remain with VHC Engineering until completion. Our original agreement made it clear that it would remain there until it was fully finished, proven and road-tested. More recently though I began to take a different view of how best the remainder of the project should proceed.
My wife and I had a growing feeling that perhaps the time was right to bring the truck home, even though it was un-finished. Friends I spoke to about this agreed. It would be neither right nor proper to go into specifics here regarding the factors behind our decision.
As a result, arrangements were made to have the truck collected from their premises. While these arrangements were being put into place, several trips were made to Newcastle Under Lyme to retrieve all the loose parts that were stored in their building.
Moving the parts
All the loose parts were removed without a problem, leaving just the truck to collect. A number of us converged at VHC's premises on Saturday 9th April while we waited for the transporter to arrive. By this time the Dodge was back on its wheels, and the opportunity presented itself to drive it out of the workshop under its own power, for the first time since being rebuilt. This it did successfully, and a number of low-speed drives up and down the car park were completed.
The Dodge outside awaiting the transporter
Shortly afterwards the Scania transporter arrived, and the Dodge was lined up before being winched aboard. Not quite the glorious drive home I'd had in mind, but c'est la vie. A big relief to see it on its way, but tinged with some sadness.
Loading the truck
A winch bolted to the front of a Land Rover Discovery did the pulling, edging the truck into position.
Loading the truck
With everything secured, the Dodge was ready to leave VHC. A trouble-free journey homewards followed, the weather being perfect for the job. It was regrettable to take it home in this way, transported rather than driven.
The journey home
A mile or so before home, the entourage pulled up into a layby. The Discovery went on ahead to the next layby, to ensure that it was large enough to unload the Dodge into, and wasn't currently occupied by someone else. The next layby was available, so we headed off to it, and began to unload the Dodge, approximately 1/4 a mile from home.
Nearly time to unload the truck
A prod of the brake pedal confirmed that they were working ok (the front cylinders had recently been sent away for honing and pressure testing), so the decision was taken to drive the insured and taxed Dodge home, rather than tow it behind the Disco. It was interesting to drive the Dodge on the road, quite probably the first time it had turned a wheel on the Queen's highway since 1955, and we (I was accompanied by Dave, or Buzzy Bee from the forum) pulled into the driveway, after shunting backwards and forwards a couple of times to get the angle right. Back home at last, almost four years to the day after first leaving for CRR Restorations (later VHC Engineering).
Dodge back home
Home once more...
Dodge back home
One of the first jobs to do was wash the Dodge from head to toe, after its spell alongside the rustproofing bay at VHC. I think I need some taller ladders!
Washing the truck

The Cheshire (not) Run.

My plan was to give it a trial road-run the following weekend, which just happened to coincide with Drive It Day, and also the Cheshire Run - a local road-run of vintage and classic lorries. Several of us gather each year at an old-car garage sited opposite the Cheshire Run's half-way stopover, turning up in a variety of elderly motors. To this end I gave the truck a going-over, and re-greased the running gear. The day looked like it was going to be a scorcher, perfect for taking the lorry on a gentle road test.
Unfortunately it soon became apparent that something was amiss under the bonnet. It just wouldn't idle or accelerate cleanly, so the proposed run was cut short after a couple of miles, and I drove it back home - slowly. Further test runs of the engine haven't yet identified where the gremlins are hiding - I suspect there is a blockage in the carb somewhere. Hopefully it won't take long to correct this malfunction, and cross off the remaining entries still sat in the "to do" list. I had received an invite to take it over to Donington Park at the end of April for a new historic race meeting, but sadly with it not running correctly, it wasn't going to happen. Maybe next year!?
The truck at rest
So, the Dodge is back home and VHC are regrettably no longer involved with this project. I had hoped that it wouldn't come to this, but best laid plans and so on. Overall I'm really pleased with how the truck looks, although it should really be finished by now. High points over the last four years include seeing the truck re-panelled after the lengthy stripdown and re-furbishment of the body frame. Hearing it run for the first time, and watching the signwriting being applied over four days, were other high points. As time allows I'll attend to the outstanding jobs that remain to be done, and hopefully it'll be out and about in due course. Attentions will then turn to the streamlined trailer that goes on the Dodge's tow hitch.
My understanding is that VHC is in the process of re-locating to an alternative address in the Newcastle Under Lyme, Staffs area, and now operate under the name(s) of VHC Classics and Vehicle Protection Services Limited. I am more than happy to provide a reference to anyone who is contemplating having their car restored.
Magazine mentions
Return to the Dodge lorry restoration page for more info on this rebuild.
Previous Page: Part 39 - The Dodge attends Race Retro 2011.
Next Page: Part 41 - The Dodge goes to two more car shows.
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