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A conversation with my Dad

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I've been asked a lot of things by a lot of different people in my life. Giving advice, lending a hand, being politely asked to leave..., they are all generally of a similar class of requests such that not many are ever a surprise anymore. That was true most of my life until as of late. Now I'm getting surprised all the time. Here's some examples.

Looking for any and every excuse to drive my truck, I took my kids to a birthday/costume party. In a few minutes parents were asking for kids to pose in and on the truck. Why not?


A couple weeks later, again looking for an excuse to drive it, we used it to go to the local Chili Cook-off. It was pretty easy to just put the old slow cooker in the back and drive over. I stopped to drop off my entry and then went and parked. Within 30 minutes the organizers were looking for the owner of "that old black truck". They wanted to park it in the middle of the event for ambiance. Well, ambiance and picture poising. So many people wanted to crawl in and out of it, my view was obscured more than once.


The wife bought a new mattress and box spring from Sears but refused to pay the $80 delivery charge. She was going to bring it home on the top of the Ford Escape. I mentioned that I had a truck which she had not considered. Not sure why she didn't - too "special?". We laughed.

So we drove down to the outlet, tied the new items up and headed home. Near home I was trying to make a lane change but was blocked by some lady in a car. She kept matching my speed! I finally just decided to turn right. She ducked in behind us and followed. I remarked to the wife that if she pulled along side that the truck was $17,5k firm. We laughed and turned left. The lady followed.

A couple of stop signs later, the car behind us pulled up and waved for my wife's attention. Seems she was getting married Saturday and wanted to be taken to the church and reception in my truck. My dirty, old, smells like gas, farm truck. If you would have seen her smile, heard her excitement, you wouldn't have said no either.


What to charge her got me thinking about one of 48Dodger's blog posts. The question was about being able to put a proper the price on our parts or services. I was struggling with that and it took me a while to come up with a clear answer for myself.

In the end I didn't charge her a penny. Couldn't really. There was no price on a blushing bride, clearly happy about going to her wedding in an old farm truck. There was no payment large enough for the looks on people's faces, the thumbs up, as we passed them on the way to the church. You certainly could never have found enough of any payment of any kind for the entire church gathering's collective look as we drove off with the newlyweds in the front cab.

I got paid with this story. With smiles. Good feelings all around. I'm lucky enough to be in a position to make some people happy.

Whether you know it or not Tim, you do the same thing for a lot of people here. Did for me.


I used to worry about big things. Can I really do a McArthur on the frame and survive. Will the gas tank fit. Does anything forward of the spliced midsection of the frame actually work. Will the DMV let me drive it. Can I afford to keep doing this.

Now I think about little things. Ignition switches with real Dodge keys. Blinkers signaling inside the cab. That paint chip on the tailgate. How to keep the smell of gas out of the uninsulated cab. How I will sound proof. If I should redo the doors and windows myself or farm it out before I break the rattling glass. How to deal with dim bulbs (thanks Plymothy, I'll try that). Is the gas tank empty yet. Should I hook up those heater controls. Where do I get mirrors from. How can I make a monthly budget to keep it going.

That's right, now I'm driving it. Any time I have an excuse. They are short trips. Less than10 miles. But it is out there. People point. I get thumbs up. I am now the the guy waving back. I've taken it to a car show as a participant. People ask questions. I show pictures to anyone foolish enough to listen - like a Dad with a new born child. I talk their ears off. I'm passionate and knowledgeable about it.

I used to be a guy who wanted a truck. Now I am an owner of a running truck. It's different. I am very excited by it. Not sure what it means.

I think it's a journey.

First Car Show - done done

Thank you Mr. Hemingway


Well, I finally drove my truck today. Only took 16 months. The first 9 looking for it, and the other 7 making it safe enough to get behind the wheel. This would not have happened without everyone here. Thank you one and all.

If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, here is War and Peace. The loud parts at least. ;)


Post script (next day):

I've put on fourty miles now, and the carb is clearing itself. Only a little hesitation left so I don't have to drive a maniac. If we have to, we will use a rebuild kit on the Carter but it is not looking like it will need it.

Right now, it just keeps getting better.

EDIT: Same drive eight months later.



Back to the future

Well, we started the engine for the second time in six months. The difference being that this time it really can move under its own power (and stop) if we were so inclined. Granted there are things like parking brakes and seat belts that still need to be implemented - I think we all know there will always be something, even after you sell it; "I remember ol' bessy. Dag gummit, if I had her now I'd be able to ..."

So after troubleshooting a bit for the bad fuel flow ...

Fuel filtering

... we finally turned it over again. We still have a mediocre flow though. We were watching the fuel filter "fill" level as we ran it and it just never seemed to want to play nice. When we idled it, it eventually choked itself off. Or maybe that is the way these work. Jeff B once told me they are all cold-blooded and don't run well until warm. Maybe a rebuild or at least a cleaning of that pump is warranted as we know flow to the pump is good.

Turn your volume down, it was recorded kind of hot.

Engine Test (video)

All and all today is a milestone for me, and an affirmation that perseverance and pig-pigheadedness will eventually win out against the general tide. I also am reminded that there is no predicting what anything will turn out like. Not really. Sure you can have an over-arching goal. A vision. You can make specific plans if you want. In the end, you make the best of what is there at the time you reach the point of making the decision. The plan changes. The vision becomes a fluid adaptation of the times and opportunities. The momentum you put into the project goes in a certain direction that you want, but you can't really say what will be out there on any horizon when you get to it.

I thought I was building up a truck for a daily driver with a Jeep Cherokee rear end, fully decked out interiour and a little something special extra under the hood. What I have is something that keeps wanting to move more and more toward its roots. It is pretty close to stock now. I didn't expect that. At the same time, I really enjoy watching this progress and grow into what it seems to want to be.

Reminds me of my kids. You have ideas, but the only real issues you can stand your ground on are the safety items. They take on a life of their own. You give them a direction but they pick up their own drives and style that you can only be surprised at and support.

I think Tim is right about the ZEN of the whole thing.

Flow like water my friends.


I was in a scramble to get everything lined up. I was taking the wife to her annual week in the Sierras camping - and with this truck by now - I sure owed her. So I flew through the ordering and rushing of parts to have dropped shipped to my guy. By the time I got back, we would have the sending unit, tank, new lines and associated sundries all installed. I figured that if the deliveries went through, I would be driving the truck when we got back.

New tank

Guess what? ...

Half of the work is done. All the parts came in but my buddy deferred finishing the work until he could ask me one really important question.

  • Do you have the ignition key?

Honestly, I had no idea how to respond. It ran through my head how that truck had been in his shop for the last six months. No one had ever removed the key. There was no reason to. I myself had only ever touched it once - about a couple of days after delivery to start and check the engine operation. After that I never even thought about it. Then he asked me another question.

  • Maybe it fell out?

It was the best laugh I had all month. I almost split my side laughing, imagining that little lonely key with nothing attached to it suddenly popping out like like a wet bar of soap in the shower. Not bloody likely.

I figure the guy at the frame shop took it out by habit. The upshot is that, it's still not running, it can't run, and he's buying.

It is actually more interesting to me how stuff like this pops up when trying to get a project of this magnitude done. It is sooooo unpredictable. You just can't make this stuff up.



The truck finally came back from the frame shop. Parked right next to me was this. I swear he was just taunting me! LOL

Shop where I get work done is taunting me

<-- not my truck! :(

But back to important matters. Not only did they line up the two halves and splice it together but they also took out a 1/4" diamond shape noticed in the new section. Nothing left to that part but the worrying. Now that we have a real frame, things started falling in place faster.

  • New brake lines could be run, bled and completed
  • Rear wiring back to the tail end re-established
  • Drive line completed
  • Gas tank mounted and ready

On the ground - why it needs front springs - Back

On the ground - why it needs front springs - front

Well, it wasn't that easy. Turns out the driveshaft was STILL an inch too long. I did all the math and thought it was because the lowering shortened the hypotenuse between transmission and rear end. Although it helped, it wasn't enough. The only thing we can figure is that this is not the original drive shaft. So we sent it out to get shortened and rebalanced. THEN we completed the drive line.

And ... the gas tank isn't really on anymore. We hadn't actually had it inspected so that has to happen first. Plus I never bought that gas tank sending unit. But we did weld in some mounting points so we know it fits where it needs to go. Couple of screws and "bob's your uncle" we have a running vehicle that also stops.

And .. I am going to replace the front springs with the set I got from TIm so it doesn't look like a 70's street racer.

And ... well, there is always more. The important thing at this point is that the list of things yet to do is approachable.

I appreciate everyone's advice and help with this. It makes all the difference.


Rear finished with brakes

Driveshaft complete

Outside frame join

Inside frame join

Gallery for the frame build ...

UPDATE: Springs on! Did a mock with the bed up on the frame loosely.

Mock final build - front

Mock final build - rear


Metal work


I wait. I'm impatient. But I'm not in a hurry. I contradict myself and am consoled in hiding within that. We are still in the frame shop but I don't press my man for dates or even a reason why a weld should take so long. I make an excuse to myself that he just got hit by a garage door. In fact, he just went for knee surgery today because of it. Whatever the reason, he is busy. I use that to buy myself more time.

But really, I'm just afraid of getting the frame back and done.

I think about having it back a lot. The next steps and what it means. The work that is ahead. The planning that needs to be executed. To put it in real terms, when the frame is done we have just the brakes and fuel before it moves on its own.

Having it move on its own scares me.

I think that realization of the truck in three dimensions will completely change the character, priority and commitment to - what turns out to be - a recreation. There are now tens of things to worry about that were beyond the horizon before. New things to plan for. To budget. To learn. To get right. To worry for. The day when it is done and we call it complete looms in front of me.

Not having a truck to work on deeply concerns me.

This is my ode to Paul in a obviously poor descriptive 17th century poem using an analogous device between the build and my daughter, and my nod to Tim for his continued help perusing an old and nagging dream in reality with my father. I can never thank either of you enough.

Well, we finally got a couple of things done and I am happy to say that the truck is off to the frame alignment machine for final welds. Should have it back Tuesday to start working the gas tank, then brake lines.

I am really very glad about the decision to go back to stock height. It will make it drivable I should think and - based on the trigonometry - the drive shaft should fit properly again (it was a bit short). It does add the need to replace the front wheels and springs, but I'm thinking of that as a safety feature now.

One of those things that you don't expect came up (of course) while swapping the parts to the new donor frame. Apparently there was a change in how the shock mounts to the frame. The brackets I have from the original truck don't quite match the new (and much appreciated) frame. Who would have guessed that!

Niggly Little Problems

Here's some shots of getting it together. I'll add the final when we have it back.






... what's around the corner.

Well we were supposed to have the frame spliced by now but we ran into a little delay. My buddie who is doing the heavy lifting at his garage had the 12x20 foot garage door fall off its hinge and land on him.

No broken bones but more than one doctor visit, crutches, a physical therapist, some pain medication and two weeks of healing a black and blue mark from his toe to his hip . Now he is limping enough where we will give it a shot next week.

In the meantime I did the springs for the rear.

Spring Cleaning

Thanks to 48Dodger for being such a great part horder! Hang on to those front springs for me too. Looks like the previous owner torched them all.

Sagging Front Spring


Cleaned up the frame yesterday with an angle grinder and 3" wire wheel. Took seven hours including two coats of rust prevention. Man am I sore - my old knees hate me. Never had so much fun though.

After cleaning with the wire brush and noting the areas to touch up we coated the entire frame with Zero Rust. My friend used it on his early 60's Willies Jeep with good results. Plus it was only $81 a gallon instead of the $165 for POR-15. Some day we'll see if that was a good cost-cutting decision.

Can't wait to start making the cut and splice that will close up this chapter.

Frame Clean up montage

The other plus is that I finally got to use the truck. I had lunch in it!


Now we are finally ready for the long haul. All the parts are here to rectify the framing problems thanks to pFlaming and 48Dodger. It also has given me a chance to compare the two parts to understand what when wrong with the previous work. Remember the old

- "One of these things is not like the other"?

Making Good Choices

We plan of splicing it forward of the main cross member (under the cab) with a little boxing to ensure strength. It was pointed out that these things are supposed to move under load some amount. That's why the gas tank has springs. We shall be mindful of this. It will be an adventure in any case.

Frame Cut And paste thoughts



Tomorrow I get to go and get the parts so I can fix the truck so that it drives like it was supposed to when I bought it.

Without two pretty darn nice guys it would be a lawn ornament. PFlaming and 48Dodger have restored my faith in humanity and kept the project viable and moving forward. I cannot thank them enough, but I will at least start here.

Thanks Tim

Thanks Paul

You guys are the best.



Marking Time

My daughter and I were able to spend some time together this week to work on the bed - recently removed from the frame.

Honestly, we were only going to stain the bottom. Guess we both got carried away.

Should be back together this weekend.


My Dad passed April of last year. A small inheritance came after but it really bugged me to just spend it paying off the car, or some bills. I wanted something more than a receipt to remind me of him.

At the same time, I always wanted an old truck. Seemed to me that I am at an age where it probably is the last vehicle I'll ever buy. That seemed fitting so with the OK of the Misses, I set off looking for something.

I'm a renter. Have almost no room to work on something and not that much experience in automotive to begin with. The chosen truck needed to be already running. That looked pretty achievable based on today's prices. The biggest part was finding the right one.

I mostly looked at Studebakers because the Fords and Chevys seemed to carry a premium price. I was also strongly gravitating to 1948 and earlier.

Then I found the 48-53 pilothouse. Like most every Dodge ever made, it was more reasonably priced and ahead of its time in design. They had a lot of style. Used to have something very similar to this on the farm where I was raised.

That took about nine months. I bought and shipped a '53 daily driver home. I expected to convert the brakes to a dual cylinder master and to lower ratio differential and still come in under budget.

I was pretty excited and got some good advice from this forum.

But then, when the truck finally arrived, we did an inspection and got some more good advice.

Now you're all caught up. And I am moving forward with the project. As Dad often said, "Nothing good worth having is ever easy."