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This is Howard's 1962 Town Wagon. He bought this truck to haul his kids around in, and since buying it has done a LOT of work to it.

The drivetrain has been all rebuilt or replaced, the front cab floor has been replaced, and he is right now working on putting in a shaved door kit.


History of my TW_

As the story goes, I was driving down the road one day, on the way to go roller blading and I see this old truck by the side of the road. I didn't even know that Dodge ever made a panel truck. But anyhow, I stop and I look and I go back the next day and drive it and it was pretty rough. The motor barely ran, the back doors were welded shut, no back seat, the windows were boarded over with metal on the outside and wood on the inside.

It ran however, and the price was right, $1000 with a clear title and the owner would deliver. The drivetrain was a slant six, a push button automatic and a 3.91 rear end. It had giant wide tires in back, that rubbed every bump you hit and a skinny ones on front on offset rims that rubbed on the fenders on turns. And the owner said it has a rebuilt motor and rebuilt transmission. So I was good to go, a little body work, some interior work and I had a cheap way of getting my kids around. So I thought_and I was proved wrong. The ol' TW needed far more work than that.

Not that I wasn't ready to work on the truck_I had worked as a bus and truck mechanic between high school and engineering school. I had owned old trucks and Harley-Davidsons and when I first got married, gave my newlywed bride my new little Blazer and commuted in her old, old Karmen-Ghia, so I was no stranger to working on old vehicles.

But I guess I had gotten used to newer vehicles, vehicles that started easily and had everything working properly. I had done a few restorations with friends over the years. One was really fun, it was a restoration a 1931 REO Speedwagon, another was a 1948 Ford F1 pickup and only five or six years earlier had built a really nice Landcruiser starting with a five year old chassis with a blown engine. The Landcrusier ended up with used motor, tube headers, weber carburetor, pipe bumpers and BIG wheels and tires and it was FUN and could go almost anywhere_

During my last year of engineering school, I bought a old HD XLCH Sportster with a crack frame and blowing excessive oil and did a really nice frame up on that! Once I got my first real job the HD went and a new BMW R80RT touring motorcycle took it's place. So for years, I was driving a new vehicle, had a couple of new van around to run the kids and for my then wife to run her photography business and life was good_and then things changed!

The marriage fell apart, I moved out leaving my nice warm garage, and a basement shop behind and found that I no longer could afford a late model van to run my kids around with. I still had a little, little Toyota pickup, but that would not fit three kids. I was living in a nasty apartment and storing my tools, books and motorcycle in a storage locker not far my old house. So the Town Wagon was bought as a cheap way of getting my kids around since I was now a full time dad on a part time basis and the pick-up just wouldn't do.

First step was a complete turn up, including moving the distributor one tooth over to make it run decent, a back seat from a junked Dodge conversion van, some JC Whitney seat belts and I though I was set. A few problems developed_.the temperature gage kept reading cold and the ammeter was dead, but the oil pressure light and the speedometer worked just fine. A few gages from JC Whitney later and the dash board was rebuilt with a new ammeter, oil pressure gage and water temp gage, all electric with nice senders. Now I see that I don't have MUCH oil pressure, and at highway speeds it runs HOT and I keep getting oil in the water_

So I change the head gasket, no change, then the head, no change and I am starting to wonder what is going on until I finally hit a WARM day. I started work on the truck in December so warm days were few and far between. On the first warm day, the truck starts skipping and has NO power, so I pull off to the side of the road and open the hood. Blow by from EVERY orifice_So then I realize the new engine was only new pistons and pear shaped cylinders were left pear shaped. This makes me think that the blow by is excessive and the water in the oil is from excessive, nonvented blow by. When I finally took the carburetor off the manifold, after I put the new block in, I found that a SECOND gasket has been added, effectively blocking off the crankcase ventilation.

So off to a local wrecking yard for the guts of a 62 Dodge crew cab, D200 Air Force Fire Truck, a 225-1 engine, and a NP420 transmission. The engine block went to my local automotive machine shop for a rebuild, the tranny and clutch when to a local truck driveline shop and the whole mess got installed on a single weekend, along with new hydraulics for the brake and clutch. The only hitch the entire job was the starter_I hadn't realized I needed a three bolt starter, since the old engine had a two bolt, but I found a NEW starter at a local automotive electric shop, and that took until Monday morning to track that down.

What was interesting was taking the floor apart to get the transmission in. The hump cover and been removed and a solid floor of old street signs had been fabricated. It was held in place with screws and rivets and tape and bailing wire and such so a temporary hump cover was fabricated until I got a chance, six months later to build a new floor and a decent hump cover.

I also ended up rebuilding the carburetor, new shoes and wheel cylinders on the front, rebuilt the springs and shocks, chrome 16" wheels, 225/75R16D rib tires, tie rods ends and king pins. I did have trouble with a steering box and went through a few used ones until I found a decent one, but NOT that decent, so I thinking of have one of the old ones professionally rebuilt for big bucks. I also talked a friend out of a modern flange axle, 3.58 suregrip rear end and did a complete brake job on that when I installed it.

A friend in Wisconsin found me a good front bumper and a decent back doors and I rented a welder for a day and welded up a nice strong back bumper for towing and such. So mechanically, the truck is solid_and just about every last piece of running gear HAD to be rebuilt or replaced including the radiator getting recored and a new driveshaft fabricated_

Now it is body work time_I just installed plexi-glass back side windows and they look nice, a shaved door latch kit with bear claw latches is in progress. While tracking down parts for another project, I stumbled across a super six manifold set, including air filter housing and got those_A JC Whitney Carter BBD carburetor and I'm in business_all the carburetor and manifold switch needs now is a new bell crank for the throttle linkage. I can't wait to fire it up and see how much MORE power I will get with the paper air cleaner instead of the oil bath one and the two barrel carb instead of the single barrel.

But more on the body work. The body is amazingly straight and some poorly done body work was evident. A previous owner used old street signs and screws and rivets instead of steel and welding. The front bumper and mounts and the frame end were cut off, there was NO back bumper or mounts, and the back doors were sealed closed with rivets, bondo and more old street signs.

When I got it, there was NO way of parking on a hill, the parking brake assembly from the automatic tranny had been removed and the old tranny had no OTHER park feature so a block of wood was mandatory. The master cylinder was leaking so you had to keep pumping to stop, the exhaust stopped at the end of the head pipe and had a old muffler clamped on_so it was ROUGH when I started. The "rebuilt" automatic transmission kept leaking at the pan, no matter how many times I took it off. I tried different gaskets and sealers and I kept finding lots of chips in the pan, the rear end was blowing oil from the breather and I never could get the rear drums off the tapered axle (not the I REALLY tried). I found the internal parts I needed for the parking brake, but never got it to work properly_so that's when I found the old crew cab at the yard and took the entire drivetrain, rebuilt it and installed it_

The short block I installed was a 225-1, the correct motor for the truck, I had the shop turn the crank and bore the cylinders and installed new cam and lifters and timing gears and oil pump_NICE oil pressure now. The shop used Federal Mogul Platinum parts with a 100,000 warranty so I am good for quite a while_ With the motor was a relined clutch, a rebuilt pressure plate and new pilot and throughout bearing. I had a the shop build me a new driveshaft to attach the NP420 and the tranny and that looks NICE_ But NEVER have a shop that builds 18 wheeler shafts build one for you TW_this one is strong enough for a 10 ton truck and has a shaft SO big, compared to the u-joint yokes, that you can't grease the joints without dropping the shaft.

More to come_

Howard Etkind

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