The Dodges at Ernie’s

Last Saturday Scott Roberts and I met with Ernie Baals to salvage parts for the Hanson mechanical WC 27 project.  Ernie’s place is a history of 1940s Dodge with vehicles tucked away in old garages, buildings, and hidden away in the trees.Image

The car in the garage is a 1941 Plymouth Staff car. Most of the military accessories came from Mahalchik’s military scrapyard in New Jersey (Mahalchik’s article, Mahalchik’s Airfield with views of scrapyard)  Many parts for my Willys MB came from there as well, back in the days when Scott Roberts owned it. The next vehicle we saw was a beautifully restored 1940 Dodge VC5.ImageImage

Ernie and his buddy, Troy, estimate that they have 2,500 to 3,000 hours in this restoration.  There are only a handful of these trucks left. Many parts had to be carefully restored or altered to be correct for this Dodge.Image

As we explored the buildings Ernie showed us this Wc 55/52.  It had both German and Italian dataplates on it.  This Dodge was quite well used after the war.ImageImage

Not only were there beautifully restored and maintained vehicles in garages, there were many others outside.  Below are a couple of my favorites, an early Dodge being used as a plow truck, and a civilian Dodge Power Wagon.ImageImage

The Dodge below was converted into the ultimate tow truck decades ago.  When the truck was moved to Ernie’s they had to cut down a tree growing through it.ImageImage

Ernie believes this truck was built off of a Dodge command car chassis.  The cab interior was interesting with a dual set of gauges.  the second set may be because the owners could not find replacements for the first set.  Also there were many 1940s Plymouth sedan parts in the cab including a radio and dash console.ImageImage

While it may never see the road again, I would love to see this Dodge come roaring up to save a stranded vintage car or truck.  Whoever owned this must have put a great deal of time into this conversion.

This is only a small sampling of the Dodges at Ernie’s.  His collection reflects his and his father’s love of these vehicles.  Ernie was a wonderful host, a font of knowledge and he provided great parts to help our WC 27 along.  Soon I will post photos of the jeeps he has.

Two Saturdays of Dodge Ambulance rescue

On the 17th of August we set out to rescue my 1942 Dodge WC 27 ambulance in Virginia.  The last time I went down to see it traffic flowed nicely.  However, 95 being what it is, we sat from DC to Richmond in this traffic.Image

After five hours of this traffic we arrived in Petersburg to load up the ambulance.  Dave had it sitting ready to load at his place.Image

Using some long tow straps we pulled the ambulance up onto the trailer using Dave’s Toyota.  The ambulance rolled freely and we were shortly ready to bring it home.Image

This ambulance may have been converted into a work truck during WW2. It has the correct pintle hitch for a Wc, but ambulances would not have worn those.  The interior is all heavy duty shelves. It was used by a refrigeration company after WW2 until the company building burned down in 1971.  Since then it sat in a junkyard until Dave found it… Hours before it was to be cut up for scrap.

The ride back was happily uneventful. Though many folks slowed down to stare at the WC27 on the highway.  We got many waves and smiles as we drove along (and much less traffic!!)


With some ingenuity using ratchet straps and 6 by 6 lumber Ben and I walked the ambulance off of its trailer and soon it was settled in at Hanson Mechanical.Image

As if one Saturday of highways and Dodge rescue was not enough, I headed to NJ this Saturday to meet my friend Scott Roberts. Scott had arranged to get a rear axle for my WC from Ernie Baals. Ernie has an amazing collection of Dodges that I will post soon. At Ernie’s we toured the collection and then went back to the parts section.Image

It was easier to cut the rear off of a beyond repair WC21 than just remove the axle. Here Ernie is using his trusty Sawzall as Scott looks on.Image

We used a defunct WC that had a boom hoist to load the rear into my truck.ImageImage

I was amazed removing the driveshaft from another truck for the ambulance. Nuts and bolts that looked totally seized came apart nicely after a little tug from a pipe wrench. Ernie said this is common with the old Dodge trucks.

With parts to play with and the ambulance at home I look forward to bringing the old WC 27 back to life 🙂  Thanks to everyone who has helped with this rescue so far!!

(Ernie’s collection and Scott’s WC will come in posts soon.)

Jeeps at the Rough and Tumble

Every summer I try to make it to the Rough and Tumble Engineers Historical Association in Lancaster, PA for their annual Threshermen’s Reunion.  This is a gathering of steam traction engines (giant tractors!!), antique engines, antique cars and anything ancient and mechanical.  This year we packed the car and a few of us made the trek to mechanical mecca.ImageAmongst the ancient mechanical marvels there were of course… Jeeps!! The first one we saw was driven by Henry Welch of H.W Welch Co.ImageWe enjoyed chatting with Henry about the Jeep he was driving, and sharing restoration stories.  The Jeep he was driving belonged to a customer and had been in their family for a few generations.  It was interesting trying to talk as a steam tractor punctuated every sentence we uttered with its whistle. After talking with Henry for a bit we wandered on. And discovered a couple M151’sImageImageThe first one was sitting by a back fence near the flea market.  The second one was out and about.  John spoke to the owner and found it was (I think) a 1964 Ford.

There were small Jeeps as well, we stumbled into this beautiful pedal car and the very detailed Bemak mini Jeep in the flea market. The Bemak had a minor incident right in front of me when its front right wheel fell off. Happily the owner found a new snapring and had it rolling around within short time.ImageImageWe found a display of agricultural Jeeps inside the main showgrounds.  This CJ2A was the first to catch my eye.ImageAnd this red CJ2A is at many shows.  I last saw it at the York PA All Jeeps show.ImageThe final Willys we found was not a Jeep, but it was really the Piece de Resistance.  This was a 1929 Willys dump truck.  The owner said he has six figures in the restoration.  The truck was perfectly done and one of less than five in existence.ImageNow that I have given all the Jeep folks their fix we will have photos of the various mechanical oddities of the Rough and tumble in the next post.

Ode to a truck

Back in February I was contacted by Nate of Great frogs Winery in Annapolis.  He asked if we could do a restoration on a truck. Within a day I was talking with John Still, our new mechanic, about coming on board so we could handle more projects like this. The goal of this job was to keep the rough, farm-used patina of the truck, but to make it reliable and driveable.  Without seeing the truck (it was being shipped from California) I was unable to give an estimate and we awaited delivery to see what we were getting into.ImageImageWhen it first arrived I had no idea what to make of it.  The interior was a shambles, glass was missing or cracked, the drivers’ side floor was a massive hole, tires were low or flat, and the key had disappeared in shipping.

The truck spent its life on an Avocado farm in California of all places.  Happily this meant it was somewhat solid, and contained less bondo than rustbelt vehicles.

When we set to doing a compression check (this shows the health of the engine) the compression was horrible and the starter burned out halfway though the check. The engine was a replacement Chevy straight six and we managed to source a good one quickly.ImageSoon we found that the radiator was bad as well, and numerous small issues popped up. As we worked our way through brakes, a bent driveshaft, electrical issues and more we did not know we would fall totally in love with this truck.

Then we found out that it had to pass Maryland inspection! This involves the inspector taking apart, testing, prodding and poking most of the vehicle.  Many hours went into getting it perfect for inspection.  Despite the trucks battered appearance we managed to present a solid and reliable vehicle.ImageNate told us to drive the truck in during this time and so we did.  Every one of us fell in love with the truck. Despite a lack of speed, its character, reliability, and ability to climb straight up a wall made us bond with it.ImageMy girlfriend and John’s wife both decided they wanted one.  People in town were asking about what it was as they had never seen one.  But as we fixed the final details for inspection we knew that the truck would eventually have to leave.  As a gift to the owners and the truck John added nice details like the Great Frogs logo on the stickshift.ImageEventually the day came where the wipers finally worked, exhaust leaks were sealed, rattles and squeaks tightened, inspection was passed and it was time for the truck to go.  I felt like I was losing a favorite pet as they loaded the truck on the flatbed for its trip home.ImageNate said he began driving the truck at 5:30 in the morning after it arrived.  He placed to wine barrels in the bed to advertise the vineyard at Farm markets.  While I enjoyed driving it, I am much happier that the folks at the vineyard can finally enjoy their new mascot.  If you are in Annapolis keep an eye out for the Great Frogs truck, and be sure to try their wonderful wines as well.  Dear truck we shall miss you.Image