The challenge to simply restore an early 50 B-Series, half-ton Dodge truck would be ominous enough. So imagine, if you will, the effort it would take to build a 52 Dodge that was to be surrounded with only parts from the Chrysler parts booksand do so with a budget in mind.
For Joe Thiel, that was the only way it would be built. Joe says, There was no question at all that the truck would remain all-Chrysler, so my plan from the start was to reuse Chrysler stuff.
What a plan it has become! Not only is this one of the most tasteful applications of Lil Red styling weve ever seen, it may look even better than the original that came more than two decades later.
Most importantly, Joe, with help from his son Greg, did the majority of the work. Joe explains, The process spanned over seven years, two of which when the truck sat idle. We must assume that part of the delay was the momentous task that lay before Joe, as he describes the condition of the truck when he received it.
Joe says, The truck had been sitting in a nature-ventilated wooden garage since 1966. Prior to that, paint jobs consisted of a series of brush jobs, which were only applied when surface rust appeared. The paint was most likely applied by those who used the truck to move concession stands from one fairground to another, as indicated by the fifth-wheel hitch in the center of the bed. On top of that, Joe adds, the front of the box and back of the cab were caved in from workers tossing tools into the back of the truck. It almost looked like someone had been hitting the cab with a ball-peen hammerrepeatedly.
Under the hood, the L-head, 230ci inline six would be replaced with a big-blockon a budget. The donor engine was a 440 from a 74 Imperial that was treated to a .030 overbore, fitted with Federal-Mogul TRW pistons, and reassembled by Greg. In order to make the 8.5:1 compression engine fit, the oil pan was modified and the stock exhaust manifolds were kept in place, due to the restrictive space. Backing up the 440 is a 727 stirred by a Lokar shifter, with the same Imperial serving up its 3.21-geared rearend suspended from 84 Dodge Ram leaf springs. The exhaust is routed from stock 74 Chrysler 400ci manifolds to a set of Turbo mufflers, and on to the exhaust stacks, lifted right out of a J.C. Whitney Co. catalog and modified for a tasteful, top-of-cab appearance.
Underneath and up front, Joe modified an 80 Dodge Mirada torsion bar front end to fit, including the steering. At all four corners, Joe used American Racings Atlas 360 wheels fitted with BFGoodrich Radial T/As225R6015s up front and 295R6015s in back.
As for the exterior of the truck, aside from the backside of the cab, it was in great shape. Joe says, I never touched the doorsin fact, the only rust cut out and replaced was at the bottom of the cab, just above the frame. In addition to that metalwork, the front of the bed and the tailgate were replaced with a panel from a 58 Dodge, and the taillights were from an 84 Jeep. The final paintwork was accomplished by Tim Merkl of Tims Auto Body in Appleton, Wisconsin, using DuPont acrylic enamel. Once out of the paint shop and well on its way back together, Joe, with help from friend Bill Kramer, added the well-done wood accent panels and formed the overhead console. Toby Van Handel from The Lettering Shop in Darboy, Wisconsin, reproduced the door insignias and brush-painted the accents on the hood, fenders, cab corners, and tailgate.
Inside, more retrofitting of Chrysler parts took place, as the 74 Imperial offered the steering wheel while an 80 New Yorker gave up its seats. A wiring harness lifted from a 78 Ramcharger provides the circuitry for the VDO gauges to monitor vital signs. Erickson Trim of Menasha handled the upholstery work. Were really glad that Joes wife Marianne was understanding of the hundreds of hours that Joe spent away from her on this project, and that he chose to keep his truck all-Mopar, as he says, There just arent enough old Mopars out there to represent a different type of vehicle. We couldnt agree more!