Half a century ago, Blodgett’s Floor Covering was delivering supplies around the San Francisco Bay area in a 1952 Dodge half-ton Panel Truck. That reliable truck was worked hard for several years before a bigger, newer truck replaced it.
Kermit Blodgett founded the company in 1946 that today is headed by his grandson, Larry Blodgett. When Blodgett’s grandfather died in 1991 several 8mm home movies of the family were given to the grandson. The old Dodge truck was featured prominently in some of the reels of film. That is when Blodgett decided to find a truck like the one his grandfather owned.
The problem with finding an old truck is that they are rare because most of them were worked to death. Blodgett’s search led to several dead-ends spanning 14 years. In the autumn of 2005, he saw an ad for a 1952 Dodge Panel Truck located in nearby Sacramento. “It was just an hour and a half up the hill,” he says.
Blodgett and his father, George, drove to inspect the old Dodge. The 218-cubic-inch, inline six-cylinder engine started without too much effort when he stepped on the floor starter. Unfamiliar as he was with the three-speed manual transmission with a column shift lever, Blodgett took the truck on a test drive.
“There were several speed bumps in the neighborhood so I only got into third gear once,” he says. In spite of some cancer in the doors, Blodgett said, “I’ll take it.”
Once the 1952 Dodge truck was in his possession Blodgett set about making it safe — as well as reliable. He says his truck was painted an ugly blue, yet Blodgett drove it that way until May of 2007 when he set about turning it into a twin of his grandfather’s truck, complete with the family company name painted on the sides.
He had purchased the Dodge from a general contractor who got it from a locksmith; a flea market vendor had it before him. Earlier than that the truck’s history is fuzzy, but Blodgett suspects that when new the Dodge was used by the U.S. Air Force.
As the layers of paint were stripped off Blodgett saw that his Dodge had once been green, yellow and red. It now wears a coat of red.
He reports that a lot of plastic body filler was found in the grille near the “Job Rated” legend. More filler was found around the gas filler pipe. In just three months the restoration of the Dodge was complete. During that time a new radiator was installed and since the freeze plugs in the engine were weeping they, too, were replaced.
As expected in a work truck, the floor in the 63.3-inch-wide cargo area showed years of accumulated dents. Since Blodgett owns a floor covering company the beat up floor was simply carpeted.
Blodgett is pleased with the hinges on the “barn doors” at the rear of his truck. The doors can be opened perpendicular to the back of the truck or they can be pushed on around to the sides of the truck for enhanced accessibility.
Evidence indicates to Blodgett that in 1952 his Dodge was a bare bones vehicle. As the truck was being renewed he made a few upgrades, including two visors to block the sun coming through the two-piece windshield, plus a radio. One of the previous owners had installed an aftermarket heater, which has been left undisturbed. An electric fan has been added to help keep the driver cool.
A new set of 4.50×16-inch tires support the truck on its 108-inch wheelbase. Blodgett says his Dodge is still a working truck, but the work it does now is primarily publicity. Because the Dodge Panel truck is serving more as a sales tool than as a work truck, the new tires have white sidewalls.
The two-piece engine hood opens from either side. “That doesn’t make it easy to work on the engine,” Blodgett says.
With 97 horsepower at his command, Blodgett says he once — briefly — had his truck up to 70 mph. “It’s called white-knuckle driving,” he adds, “It isn’t a garage queen.” — Vern Parker, Motor Matters