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Homepage. This page: A look back at some of the information I've tracked down since 1995.

Tracing the history of the 1940 Dodge lorry.

Dodge is collected by a 40s Foden lorry
The Dodge being collected, behind an equally venerable Foden recovery lorry from the 1940s. From this point on, it was time to find out more about this tired old curiosity.
Since 1995, when I first found this interesting old Dodge truck, I've tried to root out as much information as possible relating to its previous lives. I say "lives" because when it was new, the RAF employed it during WW2 as a crewbus on the wartime bomber bases, then post-war went on to perform a completely different role in civilian life. On this page I've recounted some of the many avenues I've gone down, both in trying to uncover facts about the Dodge's past, and also the ongoing search to find suitable spare parts to aid the epic restoration that the vehicle requires. Some of these research ideas have been covered in a separate article I wrote about tracing a vehicle's history, and this hopefully will add some more tips for anyone thinking of digging up the history on their classic car, lorry or whatever.

Part 1, on this page, will cover the research I've done so far into it's post-war motor racing history. The military research will feature in a separate article due shortly.

Part 1. The Dodge's motor racing past.

Initial enquiries letter
From the very beginning of this lengthy project in '95, I've contacted as many people and organisations as I could think of who might have information on the truck, those who ran it since 1940, and those who may have come across it for other reasons later in the vehicle's life. However I wasn't too sure where to start. I knew that it had been used to transport an old racing car, but I knew virtually nothing of the driver or the car it once carried. To start the ball rolling, I had several conversations with Tom Wheatcroft. He was able to give me the gist of the story, some basic information on the driver who had used the Dodge to carry his car, and how it came to be in the position and condition that I found it in. This info proved to be very useful, and soon set me off trying to contact anyone who might be able to assist in my search for the vehicle's story. This was in 1995.
Letter received from the auction house
Early in 1996, I learned that the Alfa Romeo it once carried had been sold, in December 1995, to a collector based in the USA. This seemed like a good place to start. I was hoping that he'd have some old photographs, showing the car and hopefully the transporter back in the '40s or '50s. The only problem was, I didn't know his address. A little investigation work brought up the fact that the Brooks auction house in London had handled the sale, so this seemed like a good place to send a letter to. I asked if they would mind forwarding my enquiry and contact details to the car's new owner, as part of my research into the Dodge's past. They sent me a written acknowledgement in February 1996, and assured me that my enquiry would be forwarded to the Alfa's owner, which they kindly did.
Letter received from the Alfa Romeo's owner in the US
In April of 1996, I received a pleasant letter back from the latest owner of the Alfa Romeo, P. Giddings, from his home in California. In his two page letter he was very enthusiastic about the fact that the Dodge had gone to be preserved, and suggested that one day it would be fun to pose the car and transporter together once again. He suggested I also try and secure the matching enclosed trailer that was towed by the Dodge, this I did, re-uniting them both shortly afterwards. Usefully, he gave me a contact address for one of Dennis Poore's former mechanics, Bill Lawes, who by this time was retired and living in New Zealand, suggesting that I contact Bill to see if he had any memories or photographs relating to the Dodge. He rounded off his letter by congratulating me on rescuing the old truck, and then signed off.

By complete coincidence, the following year I was to meet the Alfa's owner in person at a historic race meeting, giving us chance to have a chat about the car, the transporter, and my plans to restore the latter back to how it would have been when Poore used it.

Former team mechanic Bill Lawes.

Letter received from Bill Lawes in NZ
In August 1996 I received a fascinating letter back from Bill Lawes in Kaikoura, New Zealand. He was Dennis Poore's Chief Mechanic during Poore's racing activities with the Alfa, at hillclimbs and sprint meetings in the late '40s and early '50s. To hear firsthand stories from someone who had actually driven the Dodge, back in the 1940s, was a real stroke of luck. Sadly Bill is no longer around to add to these anecdotes, so I am all the more grateful to have received this letter from him in '96.

It turns out that he did much of the work required to convert the Dodge from its military role, to its new one as a racing car transporter. He fitted the winch behind the driver's cab, made up the long ramps (sadly missing), and later on built the hinged awning frame and canvas cover, fitted to one side of the truck's rear body. Prior to the Dodge coming along, Poore and Lawes had made do with an elderly Ford V8, but the weight of the trailer and Alfa was proving to be too much of a strain on the old Ford. A year or two later I was fortunate enough to meet Bill in person.

In his letter, Bill relates one or two hair-raising stories relating to the Dodge. Late one night, returning from the Prescott hillclimb, they ran off the road and "tried to climb a tree .... I repaired the bent front axle on the spot utilising an ancient blacksmith's forge in the next village". He also commented on what the Dodge was like to travel in on race weekends: "There was a vibration period around 55mph but it got through that, the old girl would sail upto 70mph. This was important when travelling between meetings and running short of time. I had an impressive list of speeding convictions".

I later learnt that the Dodge was only ever run on tradeplates. This allowed them to run without a governor on the carburettor - at the time lorries were restricted to 30mph - which explains how they could wind the Dodge up to such heady speeds. The fact that one of the truck's tanks contained nitro methanol race fuel may have helped too I suspect.

C&SC magazine feature turns up another ex-Poore mechanic.

Magazine article
By now I'd been able to put the feelers out and had turned up some useful information, the next stroke of luck would come along the following year, thanks to a mention in a classic car magazine. I'd noticed that Classic & Sportscar (C&SC) magazine ran an occasional feature in their Lost & Found section, describing some of the old transporters and trailers that were still in existence across the globe. This seemed like a good place to give the Dodge a mention, especially given the worldwide circulation that a magazine such as C&SC would have. I sent a couple of photos to Mick Walsh, and the Dodge and trailer were featured in the Spring of 1997.

As a result of this exposure, I received a call from a chap who lived in Totton, near the New Forest in Hampshire. Sten, or 'Tammy' Aberg as he was usually known, had been Poore's occasional Second Mechanic, working underneath Bill Lawes in the preparation of the Alfa and of all the other team's effects. I remember him telling me that one of his first jobs was to rebuild the Alfa's 3.8 litre straight-eight engine following a rebuild. In fact our first telephone conversation went on for quite some time, and I picked up all manner of useful information regarding the Dodge. I asked him why the lorry has French Marchal headlamps fitted to it. Apparently the original 6v lamps were less than useless, so they were junked and replaced with a smart set of Marchals, not unlike those seen on pre-war Type 35 Bugattis. There was also a large ex-Bentley lamp fitted up front, complete with wire mesh cover. This lamp has long since vanished but I'd like to replace it if possible.

Connaught GP car in the hands of Poore
Another tale that Tammy related was one about their leaving the Rest and Be Thankful hillclimb in something of a hurry. With the normal exits blocked by traffic, they decided to take to the track and use an alternative exit - the Dodge was timed up the hill at 8 minutes 25 seconds, with car on board!

From time to time, the Dodge was also employed to carry a different racing car, usually if two different races were to be contested at the same meeting. When this happened, the Alfa would go in the trailer, and the newer car safely stowed away in the transporter. So in addition to the 8C-35, the Dodge has also carried a Connaught and DB3 (possibly a DB3S) Aston Martin in its time.

Streamlined trailer
The trailer was built by Tammy's father, and carried Poore's J4 MG (supercharged, ex Hugh Hamilton), and later his R Type MG, to events prior to WW2. In fact the trailer's winch, still all nicely present and correct, was assembled from a spare crownwheel and pinion from this very same R Type. When the Alfa arrived on the scene, the trailer was beefed up, widened, and the original knock-on wheels and hubs replaced by the more substantial units now fitted. The aluminium canopy was also added at this time. Although I've not yet been able to prove it, the canopy, with the high quality aviation-style riveting that holds it together, could just be part of an aircraft fuselage, shortened and cut down to fit the trailer, but as yet I've not been able to confirm this. The full story, and several period photos, of this unique trailer, can now be found on this page.

Other nuggets of information gleaned from our conversation included the fact that Tammy's father was chauffeur to Poore's mother. Poore lived at Rownhams in Southampton, a site now taken over by motorway services on the M27. During the war Poore had worked in the Ministry of Aircraft Production, ending the war as a Wing Commander with the RAF. During the 50s, Poore was one of the founders of Autosport magazine although he kept this quiet at the time. Tammy also let on that Poore's widow still lived in London, and this piece of information led me to have a couple of telephone conversations with her over the next few years, again adding to the file of information I'd been building up.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 1997.

Alfa book: Flying a Rampant Horse
With Tammy living near the Goodwood estate, he offered to put us up if we ever wanted to travel down to the Festival of Speed. This seemed like an excellent idea, so we made plans to attend the '97 FOS, staying over at Tammy's, allowing us to attend all three days of the Festival. In return for putting us up, we bought an extra ticket so that Tammy could come along with us.

While staying at Tammy's, he showed me his rare copy of a book written about R.D. Poore's motor racing activities in the early 1970s. Written by Michael Lindsay, the booklet is titled Flying a Rampant Horse, a reference to the Pegasus logo that featured on both car and transporter, shared too with Ken Hutchinson and his P3 Alfa, who with Poore formed the Hutchinson-Poore Racing Organisation. I've since been able to buy a copy of this fascinating 14 page booklet.
Alfa 8C-35 at Goodwood
The photos above show i) Tammy re-united with the Alfa ii) RJ sat in the Alfa, with the then-owner alongside iii) Alfa taking to the hillclimb
To our complete surprise, the restored Alfa was one of the cars attending the event. We had no idea that the car would be there. I was amazed to see the car, after having read so much about it, and Tammy was extremely pleased too as he'd not seen it for 20+ years. It also gave me chance to have a long chat with the then-owner of the car, he having commissioned the car's restoration. He was interested to find out the latest news regarding the Dodge rebuild, after having learnt of my restoration plans early in 1996, and was pleased to hear that the Dodge and trailer were safely stored away, out of the elements. Paul Grist, the car's restorer, was also present and able to pass on some info about the car and the restoration. More details about the Alfa can be here, on the 8C-35 page.

More magazine mentions.

In addition to the magazines already mentioned, the Dodge has also appeared in the following publications, again in a bid to find out more about it. In 1999 I sent some information off to Classic Car Mart, and the old 'bus was featured in a 1999 edition of their magazine. A few years later, in 2004 to be exact, someone I know who had a number of vehicles stored in a Cheshire farm building alongside the Dodge, wrote an interesting 2-part article about the farm, and the unusual vehicles that were stored there. Many were public service vehicles, buses & coaches etc, but there were also some other interesting commercials, including the Dodge, which he kindly featured. In 2006, Practical Classics magazine ran a feature on car enthusiasts who might be classed as 'hoarders', owning as they did a variety of older vehicles. The Dodge, along with a couple of my cars, featured in this magazine.
Several years ago I was approached via the website by a German researcher, who was working for someone preparing a book on old and new racing car transporters. They had seen the photos of the Dodge, and seemed keen to feature it. I sent some photos over, and thought little more of it, until in 2005 I heard that the German-language book 'Renntransporter' (racing car transporter) had been published. It took some finding, and I finally tracked down a copy on Amazon Germany. If you're interested in old transporters, its worth looking out a copy (authors Matthias Braun and Alexander Franc Storz, ISBN-13: 978-3-613-02539-4, ISBN-10: 3-613-02539-6).
More features

Online research.

Dodge website, set up in 2003
From the very beginning of this project, I've used the internet to try and dig up more details about the Dodge and its history. This has been quite fruitful so far. Mentions have appeared on military vehicle forums, and also forums and chatrooms dedicated to motor racing past and present. Perhaps the most high profile of these posts appears on the Atlas F1 forum, in the Nostalgia section. There is a long-running thread (seen here, started in 2003) on Atlas F1 focusing on elderly transporters, in which the Dodge has appeared on a number of occasions. This led to me being sent some interesting photographs of the Dodge, prior to me finding it. Back in 1995, few people had any interest in old transporters, with just the Ecurie Ecosse Commer bucking this trend. Since then, interest in these old haulers has increased and a number of transporters have been resurrected, and pressed back into use. Audi built a replica of the 1930s Auto Union transporter, and Mercedes re-created their 50s transporter, both originals having long since been scrapped.
It was also in 2003 that I published a website featuring Dodge trucks of the 1939-1947 era. There were two aims - one, to spread the word about 'Job Rated' civilian-type Dodges, and secondly, to put the word out among Dodge 'people' about my old lorry, in the hope that this might turn up some leads regarding spare parts, literature, photographs and so on. It has also featured here on oldclassiccar for several years, with the same objectives in mind.

Finding parts.

Dodge coachwork blueprint
Several old blueprints were discovered, showing the design for the crewbus coachwork.
It became clear early on that finding spares to suit this truck was not going to be easy. Wartime Dodges are around, but usually either 1/2 ton or maybe 3/4 ton in rating. Trying to find other examples of the civilian TK/VK series 3 ton lorries has been much more challenging; in fact so far all I've been able to find is a restored chassis/cab in an American truck museum.

Trawling around autojumbles has turned up a few service items, engine gaskets mainly, but by far the most useful resource has been the internet. Ebay has been a major help in sourcing replacement parts. Most bits as expected have come from the USA, with a new-old-stock steering wheel (the original had been hacksawed off!!) being sourced in Australia.

Needless to say the search is ongoing, so if you know of any parts available to suit the 331 cu in straight six engine, please get in touch. I'm also looking for one or two 20 inch 10 stud Budd wheel rims.

Thanks.

Over the last few years I've pestered lots and lots of people, some involved with old military Dodges, some who deal in historic motor racing memorabilia, others who write for the classic car magazines or who are automotive historians, and others who have simply been in contact with Poore, or his vehicles, at some point in their lives. A number of people have also offered specialist advice about certain parts of the rebuild. These people include Bill Lawes, Tammy Aberg, Doug Nye, Simon Taylor, Michael Ware, Mrs P. Poore (Dennis Poore's widow), Paul Campbell, Gordon McMillan, Stephen Hull, John Falder, Eric Bannerman, Simon Lewis, Spencer Elton, Lionel Smith-Gordon (Poore's Grandson), Sandra Smith-Gordon (Poore's daughter), Tom Wheatcroft, Roger Lund, plus David Beckett and Christine Thomas from the Griffin Trust, to name just a few.
Some of the Dodge information I've uncovered is featured on this page, with further photos of the Alfa over here. The latest instalments of the restoration process can be found on this page. As more things come to light, I'll update this page.
Return to the main Dodge transporter restoration page here.
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