Restoration: Dodge — Part 23

By: Lyndsay Whittle, Photography by: Lyndsay Whittle

The latest updates of the Dodge restoration

One of the first pics of the (C)ommer

When embarking on this restoration, I placed a few  items on my wish list that I knew would be difficult to find but were nonetheless required if I was going to end up with a truck that would honestly represent a 1982 Dodge instead of what I initially started with — a 1978 Commer

Readers who’ve been following this project from the get-go know the story to date, however, for the benefit of anyone who’s reading this saga for the first time, this is how it goes.

The cab and parts that Noel Galloway found

In October 2020, I purchased the truck, the registration of which was on hold; it was registered as a 1982 Dodge, however, at the time of purchase, it was sporting a Commer badge with the ‘C’ of the ‘Commer’ name missing.

Even though the truck was badged as a Commer, the cab was fitted with doors that suggested it might be a later model Dodge, which was what it was registered as.
Without getting too geeky, around 1979/80, the Chrysler takeover of the Rootes Group Commer brand saw Hi-Line Commers being rebranded as Dodges.

Also, at this time, this marque truck underwent a few subtle changes to the cab layout, includng an updated dash fascia from black to a light brown, a repositioning of the rear vision mirrors further forward and lower on the doors, along with that all-important Dodge branding.

Not wanting to be put off by the slim pickings of authentic parts to complete the project, a little over a year after the purchase of the vehicle, I pulled out a few spanners from the toolbox and started removing the first bits.

Outside help on its way

Kevin Healey (Kev) with the dash panel he donated

I was only into a few monthly Deals on Wheels articles on the restoration when offers of help to find some much-needed parts started to flood in.

There was Kevin Healey in the Horotiu, David Gander in Timaru, and Noel Galloway in Woodville — all good guys who were happy to put their hand up to help.

It was Noel who came up with the first big find — a 1982 Dodge that had been stripped of most of its running gear but had most of the cab bits still intact.

The upshot of this was that he collected the cab and chassis from a farm paddock where it had been sitting for quite a long time and took everything that was left of the unit back to his farm in Woodville.

The plan was that I would travel to Woodville in my little Mitsubishi transporter and spend a day or two removing all the goodies I’d need to transform my cab from Commer configuration to that of a Dodge.

Having cogitated [thinking deeply about something – Ed] over the methodology to be used in this transaction, Noel in his infinite wisdom decided that it’d be much easier if we simply removed the entire cab from what was left of the chassis, place it on my transporter, and off I’d go on my merry way back up to Auckland.

As things turned out, Noel’s brilliant idea transformed what would’ve been a week-long job into one that was done and dusted over a few days.

Fitting the seats fixed the cab tilt problem

I wound up with many parts, including seats, the Dodge badging, and some original rubber floormats that while being less than perfect were nonetheless better than the ones I previously didn’t have.

Those mats will do us just fine

More recent events saw to it that Noel would come across yet another truck that aside from having a few more usable cab parts, had an even better set of mats.

All I needed to do was to hop in the car and take a trip to Woodville to collect the mats, remove the seats and existing matting, fit the even better mats, replace the seats, and hey presto, we had a pretty tidy cab interior.

One problem solved

Having finally fitted the seats and improving the truck’s looks, I inadvertently fixed a problem that has worried me for many months.

It was bothering me that either I’d lost a whole heap of upper body strength, or I was facing a problem with the cab tilting mechanism because although I could raise the cab easily enough, getting it down again was an entirely different matter.

It had got to the stage that I’d resigned myself to the fact that every time I needed to work on the engine, I was going to have to call on some help when it came to getting the cab back down.

The fitting of the seats solved the problem in one fell swoop, as all that was required to completely balance the mechanism was a little extra weight sitting towards the rear of the cab.

While I’ve cursed the designers for many apparent blunders, I have to eat humble pie on this occasion and give them a hundred points out of a hundred.

Second parts expedition

I mustn’t forget to mention Noel’s other find on his second parts finding expedition: a pair of original front indicator/side light units. These were one of my biggest worries as far as parts procurement is concerned, as they were prone to disintegration due to UV damage, thus they’re as scarce as those proverbial hen’s teeth.

I should point out that these units weren’t perfect either, but when combined with the two sets of the tatty ones I already had, we’ve been able to construct a decent matching set.

That was until a discovery was made as I write these words: I’ve lost one of the pedestals that allow the units to sit squarely on the rounded edges of the cab.

I’ll have to add this misfortune to the ever-increasing number of items that get lost in a space of 50sqm — yet another justification for making this my last restoration project, I suppose.

Anyway, another day is dawning, and plans have been already hatched to get stuck into fitting the lower grille, along with some other accessories, such as a stone guard and a sun visor.

It should make for some good photos for next month’s issue. With the rash statement I made last month regarding having this job completed by August/September haunting my mind, I’d better get a move on.

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