The Dodge out on the road again

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With the paint complete, it was time to screw everything back together and get the old girl back out onto the road.

Although the deadline was completely self imposed, I wanted to get the Dodge back on the road in order to drive it back from East Yorkshire to Cumbria at the end of my 3 year stay over on the other side of the country.  So the end of March was always something of a target.  In addition I had a notion that it would be good to enter it in the classic commercial vehicle rally that is held annually in Kirkby Stephen.  Not only is this close to home, but it would also signal the fact that for the first time since the late 1970s the Dodge was back in the county (almost)where it had served since 1943. 
Westmorland might have been subsumed into Cumbria, but as far as the old Dodge was concerned the aim was to get homeward bound!

GXO 480 back on the Queen's Highway

The list of jobs that needed to be done before hitting the road seemed endless:  not only had all the unpainted alumuinium to be fitted into the back, but all the doors (both the cab and lockers) had to be fitted, some new tyres and tubes fitted, the glass put in and, above all, the wiring completed.  The candle was burned at both ends but the great thing was that this time, once the jobs were done, they were done for good (with one or two exceptions where it didn't go right first time!)
The wiring was done using original pattern braided cable which looks good, and even the original generator was coaxed back into life with a new set of brushes and springs.  Likewise most of the switchgear and instruments were carefully cleaned and refurbished for re-use.  The end result is not concourse perfect, but is satisfyingly original looking.
A pair of seats were procured and fitted, and the steering wheel given the RustyTrucks magic treatment, and with the windscreen wiper motor finally fixed (it was full of rust and rubbish and needed lots of TLC).  In addition, with the truck up on a ramp, new fluids were provided for both the gearbox and the back axle as well as half a dozen othe small jobs that were easier done with the truck up in the air.
A small test run revealed lots of smoke but having stripped, refurbished and rebuilt the engine I was confident that it was fundamentally sound, so one fine Sunday morning, with the help of big brother Chris, the snub nose of GXO 480 was gently pointed towards the open road.
Progress was steady at first; still a lot of smoke and a steady 30 MPH but each mile along the 120 mile journey saw both an improvement in the haze left for other road users to enjoy and an improvement in the old trucks willingness to pull.  Eventually, after the very hard pull up over the Pennines the exhaust was clear, 40 to 45 MPH was the order of the day and I was having a ball driving this fine old motor.

After a long drive back things were looking good

Once back in Cumbria it was time to re-unite the truck with both its ladder and its bell in preparation for the Easter weekend truck rally.  Before then, however, there was the little matter of taking the Dodge out on a slightly sadder mission.  Just over a year ago, my father died, thus he was denied the opportunity to see the Dodge back in its former glory.  But the family took the opportunity of Good Friday to drive up onto the fells where he worked in all weathers in order to scatter both his, and my late mothers ashes.  I like to think that he would have apreciated the gesture, and the Dodge rose to the occasion by not missing a beat throughout what was a moving but immensely satisfying day.

Familg gathering on the fells after scattering Mum and Dad's ashes

A day later GXO 480 was taking her place in amongst some very fine old trucks at the Kirkby Stephen rally.  The high point though was seeing the Dodge joined by its old stablemate from Windemere fire station in the form of a Leyland Cub fire engine.  The two engines were based together for many years; the last time they parked together was in 1962.  I also took the opportunity to go up the old A66 for a bit of a photoshoot.  It was a cold wet weekend, and there remains lots and lots to do on the Dodge.  But as a milestone in a long restoration, it was a great weekend.

GXO 480 reunited with ladder and bell

Ex Westmorland Leyland and Dodge together for the first time since 1962

Lots still to do - but it finally looks like a Fire Engine

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