Her grandfather had purchased the new Dodge six-wheel truck in at the Hebert & LeBlue Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth dealership in Jennings, La., in 1948. Ann’s father drove the new truck home when he fired up the 252-cubic-inch, 87-horsepower, flathead six-cylinder engine and steered it north to the family rice farm in Hathaway, La.
The family soon dubbed the new vehicle “The Big Red Truck.” For more than 30 years the job-rated Dodge was vital to the tasks on the farm. Ann and her three younger brothers learned to drive and the art of double-clutching when shifting the manual four-speed transmission.
Eventually a pair of International Harvester trucks replaced the Dodge after it had earned retirement. The worn Dodge was parked in the back of a decrepit old barn on the farm. A few years later the barn collapsed in a storm, crashing down on the truck and crushing the roof of the cab.
That’s when the Allums came to the rescue. With the help of his brother-in-law, Hub Allums removed the remnants of the barn from the truck in 1998. “We had to use a backhoe to lift pieces of the barn off the truck,” Allums recalls.
Once the truck was free of barn debris it was dragged to a shed on Allum’s property. There it languished for the next eight years. The odometer at that time showed the truck had only been driven 36,000 hard miles. Most of those miles were accumulated in the eight miles from the farm to the rice mill. Allum’s wife finally lit a figurative fire under him saying, “You had better hurry up and finish that truck.”
The principal part of damage to the truck was at the lower rear part of the cab. The cab was trucked to Beaumont, Texas, where a shop fabricated replacement steel to make the cab whole once again.
The engine only needed a tune-up and Allums says, the transmission was opened and all the internal parts were tight and fine.
All of the flat glass was replaced while the original curved quarter windows remained in place. The vacuum booster on the brakes was sent off to be rebuilt in California. The brake shoes were re-riveted at a shop in Wisconsin.
The horizontal bars making up the grille were bent from the childhood years of Ann and her brothers using the grille as a ladder to climb up on top of the cab. Allums straightened the metal of the cab. For spare parts he found a similar truck 90 miles away in Sulphur, La.
The parts truck was a deluxe version of Allum’s truck so he upgraded his Dodge truck with pieces from the parts truck. The original 1948 truck had a single sun visor for the driver, but it now has two visors — complements of the parts truck. The parts truck also donated several other parts the original truck did not have. Allums found an AM radio in Oregon.
“It is so much nicer now than the truck ever was,” Allums says.
After the Dodge was resprayed in the original red, the black front bumper with guards and hooks and black fender flares and outrigger twin mirrors completed the package.
An aluminum box was constructed with a wood floor, each plank separated by a stainless steel strip. A 15-gallon gasoline tank was fabricated and installed in a protective cradle beneath the bed.
The rejuvenation project was completed Dec. 30, 2008, when six new 8.50×20-inch tires were mounted on the red wheels supported on a 152-inch wheelbase.
Now that the family heirloom has regained the presence it had back in 1948, Allums says,
“With a two-speed rear end the truck can run at highway speeds… it’ll get right up to 50 miles per hour.” But he admits, “I don’t take it on the Interstate.” — Vern Parker
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009