Dodge lorry rebuild Dodge truck restoration

Progress with the Dodge, and two local show appearances.

Restoration Part 41. Click here to return to the main Dodge lorry restoration page. Part of oldclassiccar.co.uk. Contact page.

May/June/July 2011.
With the Dodge back home early in April, I thought that would be my final involvement with VHC, the company involved with the restoration of the truck in recent times. However this didn't turn out to be the case, and relations didn't improve for various reasons. During this period I was getting pretty fed up with the whole project, and few of the entries on my 'outstanding jobs' list were attended to. At the end of June though, progress here on the old truck re-commenced as and when time allowed, and a lot of time was spent setting up the carburetter correctly. This enabled me to take it to a couple of local gatherings, of which more anon.

Set-up work prior to two local old-car gatherings.

The positive aspects of May, June and July played out as follows.
Polishing the truck
A writer for one of the classic car magazines dropped me a note in April, asking if he could call by and prepare a write-up for his magazine column. Before his planned arrival I wanted to crack on with polishing the paintwork. A trade-sized tin of carnauba wax was bought off the internet, and I set to with the polishing rags. The aim was never to get it shiny - the 80% mix of matting agent in the final clear coat would never allow a shine as such - but the hope was that an application of this wax would add some depth and extra protection to the finish. In all I spent 3.5 days polishing it by hand, the most time-consuming part of the job was making sure that no remnants of wax remained in the heads of the many many screws that hold all the rear panelwork in place. The photo above shows the truck once the scuttle area had been treated, with the bonnet still outstanding.
The Dodge after being polished
The final finish after the application of wax, just enough of an "oily rag" -type shine, without looking overly dressy or garish. The polish went on quite easily and buffed up without streaking, the bonnet badges were removed to prevent any build-up of polish around the letters.
The Dodge parked outside
The Dodge parked outside after its marathon polishing session. I don't envisage making this waxing business a habit!
The Stromberg SF-3 carburettor

Getting the engine to run correctly.

Unfortunately the journalist had to cancel his trip due to illness, but he hopes to re-schedule sometime soon. It was now time to turn attentions to why the engine wouldn't pull properly, despite idling reasonably well. The hoped-for run out on "Drive It Day" had to be aborted due to it being unable to pull the skin off a rice pudding, but I'd been reluctant to start pulling things apart until the photographs for the magazine article had been taken. As this had been cancelled, it was time to pop the bonnet up and have a fiddle about.
I noticed that the carburettor, a Stromberg SF-3, had been replaced during the restoration at VHC for one of the spare carbs. Before delving into that too deeply though, it seemed like a good idea to check over the ignition side of things, and run some compression tests, to make sure things were in order there. The cylinder head was also re-torqued down at this stage. The ignition side checked out ok, so it was back to the carb. The original SF-3 carb fitted to the Dodge had a fixed main jet, but this was no longer fitted to the carb on the truck. In fact a "new" carb had been built up and fitted to the truck, using one of the spares I'd bought off eBay in the US. I suspect this "new" carb had started out in life destined for a Chrysler Industrial Engine version of the 331 cu in motor, rather than a truck installation, as they were fitted with an adjustable rather than fixed main jet, something that was now fitted to the carb on the truck. Looking at it, the aperture was far smaller than that of the original, fixed, jet, so the latter was fitted to the carb, after all the jets and passages had been blown through. This improved the engine a little, but it still wouldn't pull properly, so it was time to remove the carb and take a look at it on the bench. The plugs were checked on a number of occasions during this testing phase, and varied from bone dry to soaking wet, so something was obviously awry in the works.
The carbs on the bench
It didn't take long to spot a problem, once the three carbs were laid out on the bench. The photo above shows a spare carb, the original fitment, and finally the carb now used on the truck. The Stromberg SF-3 has a form of accelerator pump arrangement housed within the carb, actuated by engine vacuum. The accelerator pump piston and spring had been swapped to the "new" carb from the old. However the gauze-topped "Check Valve", or fuel pick-up, located in the float chamber hadn't been swapped over, a blanking screw was in its place instead. The "Economizer Valve / Bypass Jet", which should also have been swapped over, wasn't in place either, a blanking plug being in position here too. Consequently, whenever I'd tried to accelerate, there was no way for the accelerator pump to pass an extra slug of fuel into the engine.
Diagram for the Stromberg SF-3
The diagram above depicts the workings of this carb, items (17) and (18) are the ones that were missing from the carb fitted to the truck. Industrial engines tend to run at a constant speed, with no requirement for acceleration, which re-inforces my view that this particular carb wasn't originally put together with truck use in mind. Fortunately the missing parts were still in my original carb, and easy to swap over. The diagram shows the adjustable main jet - earlier Dodge trucks fitted with this engine incorporated an adjustable jet, but the VK series was specified with a fixed jet of 0.034" only, which has now been re-instated.
Adjusting the float height
With the carb in pieces, I double-checked the float level (it was correct). The accelerator pump piston & spring can be seen in the background of this shot.

First successful drive out to a classic vehicle meeting.

Now that the correct parts were once more where they belonged, a few brief drives backwards and forwards revealed a marked improvement in the engine's willingness to propel the 4.5 ton Dodge along the road. This was quite a relief as coming up was the local VSCC (Vintage Sports Car Club) monthly meeting at a nearby watering hole, and my plan was to take it on a brief roadtest to this evening gathering. More engine runs were undertaken, and the signs were promising.
Ready for a test drive
The meeting was held early in July, during a spell of fine weather. The engine was run up to temperature on the driveway, and all the levels re-checked, before heading out on to the road. The pub was only half a mile away, so just enough distance to prove that the engine was pulling a lot better. It still wasn't exactly bursting with "pull", but it was certainly better, and the drive to the pub went quite smoothly.
Driving it has to be approached in a similar way to driving an old car. The gearchanges are quite slow. Double de-clutching the five speed gearbox is required, as are pauses between upshifts to allow the engine revs to drop down again, before selecting the next gear. The steering is also quite low-geared, so the trick is to get all gearchanges over and done with, before tackling a turn, as both arms are needed for the steering. The vacuum-assisted brakes are amazingly light, and work well (touch wood).
Pre-war vehicles attend the pub meeting
The meeting coincided with a week-long beer festival, which meant that the VSCC (and later) vehicles on display met with an interested audience. Unfortunately I wasn't able to sample any of the fine ales on offer, I was simply glad to have made it with the old 'bus. I think the last proper run undertaken by the Dodge in 1955 would have been to a VSCC Seaman Memorial meeting, so it seemed appropriate that the first gathering that it attended under its own power post-restoration, should also be a VSCC meet.
Late evening sunshine at this classic car meet
Back safely in the garage
Back home safely in the garage once more, the 6 volt lights blazing (!) away.
A check next day of all the spark plugs now revealed a consistent mixture across all six, unlike before, so things were definitely improving although not yet perfect. A few more checks were made in the carb department.
Checking the carb once again
Another close look at the carb revealed that the throttle lever, attached to the throttle flap spindle, wasn't able to move fully through its travel. This explained why at the pedal there seemed to be very little movement. Comparisons were made with a spare carb (above), and adjustments made which appear to have improved things there somewhat. A slightly heavier return spring was also fitted at this time.
One thing I hadn't double-checked was the adjuster for the accelerator pump. I'd assumed that this had been set as per the book, but when I checked the setting, it wasn't giving the correct stroke. It only took a moment to adjust it, and again a few brief tests were done backwards and forwards, enough to suggest that another step forward had been taken.
Ten days after the VSCC meeting, a transport festival was set to take place six miles away. I'd planned to take the Morris, but as the Dodge was running better than ever, it was decided to take the truck. The weather was miserable to say the least, but a six mile run would be a good trial so off we set, with dad following in his Vanden Plas. The truck drove well although I didn't go much above 30 mph. With no sound deadening anywhere, and a large open space in the back to add an echo, the overall noise level was quite impressive to say the least. Ear plugs, or perhaps better a small door to block off access to the rear area, might be a worthwhile future modification. The drive to the show went without a hitch and we met up with friends who were there in 1954 and 1941 Chevy pickup trucks.
Dodge and Chevy trucks
A very wet truck
A few old lorries turned up despite the changeable weather, so it was still an enjoyable day despite the best efforts of the weather gods. Fortunately I'd reset the position of the wiper prior to this show, and the vacuum wiper motor was put to good use, especially on the drive home.
Drying Dodge
Occasionally the sun did break through the clouds, so some half-decent photographs could be taken before the rain returned.
Home again with two other trucks
The return trip home was done in convoy with the '41 and '54 Chevrolets, the latter delivering my recently-purchased Mobylette moped.
Washing the Dodge again
A week or so later the decent weather returned, so it was out with the hosepipe and time to wash the old truck down after its Grand Day Out. The engine by this time was pulling better than ever, now that the accelerator pump system was back in place and adjusted correctly. I wouldnt say that the engine setup is fully sorted yet, but it's definitely a lot closer now.
Fixing the horn button
One small outstanding job had been bugging me for ages. I'd jury-rigged the horn button as a temporary "fix", but it was time to get it sorted properly. The original hornpush assembly, and indeed the complete steering wheel, had been forcibly removed prior to me collecting the truck in 1995 and were never found. A new steering wheel turned up in Australia a few years ago, but I was still missing some of the nine components that go into building up the hornpush assembly. Gordon M in Scotland, a Dodge enthusiast of many years, came up with the parts I was missing (thanks) so it was time to dig out the soldering iron, and put it all together, which actually went more smoothly than I'd expected.
There are still many jobs to cross off the "to do" list, but one by one they'll get done. Hopefully I'll get chance to drive it again shortly, as there are still a few local events scheduled to take place this year, which might act as suitable proving runs.
Return to the Dodge lorry restoration page for more info on this rebuild.
Previous Page: Part 40 - The Dodge returns home.
Next Page: Part 42 - Further road tests and reliability problems.
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