This Off-Roading 1952 Dodge Military Truck Is Stuffed with a 3.9L Cummins
The result is a zombie-apocalypse-proof vehicle for the ages.
One of truck restorer Winslow Bent’s customers was looking for a vehicle he could “dash the hell out of” while out fishing and hunting. Bent, who owns Legacy Classic Trucks in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, went on a hunt for something that fit the bill. He knew that Dodge military trucks were notoriously tough and can take a beating, and he set out to track down a Dodge M37.
Once he sourced a 1952 model from Vintage Power Wagons in Iowa, Bent plucked a 3.9L four-cylinder 4BT Cummins from a late-80s box truck and stuffed it inside. The installation was quite straightforward, he says, and he picked this kind of engine to match what his customer (who is also a friend of many years) would need to tool around his place at Yellowstone Club just west of Big Sky, Montana. This combination of zombie-apocalypse-ready truck and Energizer-bunny engine was the perfect marriage.
“’What would never leave me stranded?’ the buyer asked me,” says Bent. “I said to him, ‘Have you ever seen a UPS truck broken down?’”
Dodge’s WC 4x4 trucks were important World War II vehicles. Post-WWII, the automaker took its lessons from real-time field testing and followed up with the M37, which was slightly narrower and lower to the ground. Dodge replaced the four-speed gearbox with a synchromesh four-speed that was easier to drive and gave it the ability to ford 30 inches of water (and more with the optional deep water fording kit). The M37 was key during the Korean War, where it was used extensively.
Bent’s father restored military vehicles as a hobby, passing down his interest in trucks and mechanical inclinations to his son. Now with more than decades of experience under his belt and a treasure trove of truck history stored in his brain, Bent is doing his part to save vintage trucks and come up with creative ways to keep classics alive.
Once this M37 build was complete, Bent’s friend let him take the truck for a spin. It didn’t exactly go as planned.
“I was having a merry old time and the rear axle shaft broke,” he told me on the phone. “It was a good reminder of how quickly things can go from great to not ok in a vintage truck.”
Bent says trucks like these can still be had for relatively cheap prices; the entire budget for this one was $15,000. You could also get a $400,000 version with a highly modified engine and other enhancements if you want to turn this tank into a luxury truck. This $15,000 version is built for rough roads at a slow pace.
“I think you can wind them out to 52-55 miles per hour, but 45 is better,” he says. “More than 45 and the time-space continuum is going to start to open up.”
Now this truck rides on Super Swamper Boggers as it crashes around the woods every fall for hunting and fishing duty, and the rest of the year it rests and waits for its next adventure. It will probably outlive all of us.
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