In May 2015, I bought a 1950 Dodge pickup from Country Classic Cars in Staunton, Illinois. Someone had done a lot of work on the old truck, but it was still a long way from being a finished product. By some standards, it still is, but I’m probably not going to do a whole lot more to it right now. I’m just going to have some fun driving it around for a while.
The original flathead 6 engine runs good, the 3-speed transmission with column shift is functional and, after installing a new drag link, the steering is once again tight. The truck had been converted to power brakes, and the brakes had been rebuilt all the way around before I purchased it. The electrical system operates on 12 volts with a Chevy alternator, and I added aftermarket turn signals for safety reasons. I also had seatbelts, outside mirrors and an aftermarket windshield wiper assembly installed for added safety. The truck had previously been rewired, but the workmanship left a lot to be desired. After a really impressive spark shower one morning when I started the truck, that problem was dealt with.
Bruce Schull at G&J Auto Service in Columbia, Missouri, wore out a couple of good cell phones chasing down obsolete parts. Steve Bradshaw installed them, while Harry Blumberg offered lots of (sometimes) helpful advice from the adjoining bay. Bruce said this old truck got quite a bit of attention from other customers while it was sitting in his shop.
Costs drive compromise
I liked the looks of the narrow whitewall tires that were on the truck when I bought it, but they were way too rotten to drive on. After I found out what it would cost to get a set of them shipped in from a specialty tire company, I decided I liked blackwalls better anyhow. Steve McCray at Cross-Midwest Tire Co., Columbia, furnished and installed the 7:00x15-inch 8-ply bias tires, two in highway tread and two in the old style zigzag mud-and-snow tread that most pickup trucks used to run.
The truck didn’t have a back bumper, and I was hoping to find one from the late 1940s or early ’50s that I could modify to fit. However, while visiting family members in Rushville, Missouri, my neighbor, Zane Dodge, contacted his friend Mr. L.G. Rainey, who located a rear bumper from a 1950 Dodge pickup, complete with mounting brackets, for a lot less than I was expecting to pay for a “make-fit.” After painting the bumper with a rattle can, it looks like it’s been on the truck forever. Mr. Rainey also located a chrome headlight ring to replace the one that sailed off and landed in the middle of I-55 in front of a semi the day I hauled the truck home from Illinois.
Melloway Auto Body in Hallsville, Missouri, lettered “Dodge” on the tailgate and took care of some other little items that needed help. They also devised a permanent mount for the left wing-window that had a bad habit of blowing out and landing in my lap while I was driving.
A salute to the past
From the 1940s through the ’70s, Missouri law required that pickup trucks have the owner’s name, town and license information displayed on the side, just like the big trucks. I decided since that would have been required when this truck was new, I would letter the doors and make it look period correct. The truck now sports 1950s-era door signs, only these are cut vinyl instead of being silk-screened like they were years ago.
The previous owner put a pretty decent “pass-by” paint job on the old truck. Sometime in the past it had been painted purple inside and out, but thankfully most of that got covered up with a rather attractive shade of off-orange. There was still enough purple showing in the cab to make me really appreciate the orange. The interior is now painted gunmetal gray, matching the seat and floor mats. It’s definitely an improvement over the purple. The truck’s not going to win any trophies, but it looks fine if you just pass by, and I don’t have to worry if someone wants to lean against it or sit on the tailgate. If it picks up a scratch or two, that really isn’t going to hurt it much, because after all, it’s just for fun. FC
Alan Easley, an occasional contributor to Farm Collector and the author of It Must Be True: PawPaw Said So, is at work on his second book. Contact him at 8300 E. Turner Farm Rd., Columbia, MO 65201; (573) 442-0678.