Keeping 87 Years of Patina

Owner of 1934 Dodge appreciates patina built over 87 years

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by Charles Lowry

Sometimes a pile of rust has more appeal than a beautiful, like-new paint job. We like our 1934 Dodge pickup just like it is. Almost everyone that sees us driving down the street agrees, as evidenced by the high signs, horn toots and “thumbs up” that we get.

It took 87 years to develop this beautiful look. Our truck worked hard on a farm for many years, then spent several years in storage with lumber and other materials stacked on it. We have a copy of the original build paper – yes, it had paint in 1934 (green). We were told a nurseryman bought it new and used it on his farm in Compton, California. It was not licensed for street use until later in life. It only had about 70,000 miles on the speedometer when it went to the junkyard, but they were hard miles.

The Dodge sat in that junkyard, out in the weather, for about 30 years, perfecting its unique finish. About 15 years ago, we rescued it, restored the running gear, and brought it back into full-time service. It was a gift that came with the very stern stipulation that we would not allow it to be chopped down and hot rodded. Such a thought would never have entered our minds. Our original intent for this lovely derelict was to restore it to look like new.

But after rebuilding the frozen engine, transmission, radiator, brakes, gas tank and electrical system, we decided to remount the bed and cab just to tool around and have fun with it before we restored the body. It didn’t take long before we realized that this treasure was more beautiful with all that patina than anything we could achieve with body work and new paint. It took a while for the ladies in the family to support our decision, but now I think it is unanimous.

Our decision is consistent with a growing trend in preserving old things, rather than restoring them. Colonial Williamsburg and the Smithsonian take this preservation approach more and more. Restoration tends to erase an item’s history (dents, scratches, repairs, etc.), whereas preservation “preserves” all that.

For 12 years now, we have driven our truck around southern California. I drive it almost every day and occasionally haul things in it. I’m 89, and the truck looks and works better than me. My old dachshund thought she owned it and put up a fuss if I got into it without her. So, we would drive over to the park for her romp a few times a week and go on old car tours with fellow rust-lovers.

Everyone knows that an old truck is supposed to rattle, leak oil and need an occasional push. All these give an old truck character and ours has a lot of that. People come around frequently, wanting to buy it, but it’s not for sale. It’s fun, reliable and loved – and a member of the family. And since it is now housed in a warm, dry garage, it will probably outlive us all. FC

For more information, email Charles Lowry at

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment