My Dodge has been resurrected after a 10 year layover, you can see the picture of it taken just before being put in storage on first row, far right, with the motorcycle in front. Jerry Collins of Collins Street Rods and Motorcycles did most of the work on it. You can reach Jerry at 541-683-5998, here in Eugene, Oregon. He works mostly on British and American motorcycles, but also enjoys working on older American cars. Back in the 50's Jerry built cars similar to my Dodge, so he knows these things pretty well. He found some original Fenton split exhaust headers, and an Edmunds Aluminum intake manifold with 2 Carter Ball&Ball carburetors. Jerry built the front half of the exhaust system himself using the old "cut and shut" hacksaw and welding torch process, then after we got the car running, I drove it to Eugene Muffler and Brake, a local shop who did the tailpipes with the bends over the rear axle and around the gas tank. They did a very good job on my custom exhaust system, and were also very complimentary of the job Jerry had done fabricating the front half of the system.
Now that I have the car on the road, I'm very pleased with it.. I get smiles and waves from everyone who sees it, and it always starts conversations in parking lots wherever I go. I'm satisfied with the power output, it's definitely quicker than it was with the stock carburetor and exhaust, and still has that bottomless torque curve that the old flathead Chrysler engines were known for. The exhaust note is very muted at low speeds and throttle settings, but puts out a significant roar when you floor it, or get up to higher speeds. I don't mind too much, I think hotrods should be loud! The sound is very different from your typical V8 noise, the only word I can find to describe it is "symmetrical", kind of a round, even tone. There is also quite a rap from the tailpipes when you back off the throttle from high rpm (well, high for one of these motors, about 4500 rpm). Before I got the carbs set up properly, there was a lot of backfiring, which made the car a little unpleasant to ride in, but it's working quite well now. There is still a lot of work to do, it will be a "work in progress" for quite some time, but in the meantime, I'm very much enjoying using the car again after all these years.
Pictures of My 1949 Dodge
To open a larger copy, just click on any picture.
|Here is the finished product with the "before" picture on the far right.|
|The 2 pictures on the far right show the motor after it was first assembled, and the initial build of the exhaust system. Click to hear it speak.|
|The pictures on this row show the final configuration of the motor with the head painted red to emulate the old "spitfire" performance option.|
|These pictures are of some of the stickers that are in the windows of my Dodge. I think the history is far too important to remove. The Cow Palace parking tag is from a show I attended in San Francisco over 25 yrs ago.|
|Here are a couple of shots of the dash, after a good cleaning, and the location where the parking tag sat for 25 years, unnoticed.||A lot of history, it would be a crime to remove these. I'll be cleaning up the old silicone seal that was put on back when I had to drive the car daily.|
The speedometer still has the Automotive Engineering "tight engine" warning sticker from when Bunny had the motor rebuilt around 1960
|That Indian decal above was supposed to go on my Indian Enfield. I eventually found the proper metal badges for it, and put this on the car about 1978||I don't know how I missed this all those years, it only turned up as Jerry and I were running the engine for the first time, after the rebuild.|
The Wayfarer Series was created in 1949 to fit into the lower end of the Dodge product line. There were three body styles, all built on a 115 inch wheelbase chassis. The Wayfarers were part of the 2nd Series 1949 models introduced in February, 1949. Prior to this, the 1949 models were basically the same cars Dodge had made from 1946 through 1948.
The Wayfarer model line included a 2-door sedan (with a back seat), a 2 passenger coupe (with no back seat, hence, really a coupe), and a very neat little roadster with side-curtain windows which were replaced with roll-up windows later in the year.
There were a total of 49,054 examples of the sedan built, selling for $1,756, and weighing 3,180 pounds. Dodge made a total of 9,342 of the coupes, which sold for $1,629, and weighed 3,065 pounds. The roadster production totaled 5,420 units, which sold for $1,745, and weighed 3,145 pounds.
The powertrain in all models used the ubiquitous 230 ci flathead 6 that was used in all Dodge automobiles` and rated at 103 hp. All the Dodges of that year featured a unique fluid coupling between the engine and the clutch, that greatly increased the life of the clutch. There was also a "semi-automatic" transmission available as an option.
My coupe was purchased new by my aunt Bunny in Minneapolis, and driven to California in 1949, where she had accepted a teaching position at Lincoln High School in Stockton, California. The Lincoln Union School District sticker is still in the windshield. I bought the car from Bunny in 1973, when I was in Stockton doing some work on her house. I was quite familiar with the car, having been forced to ride in the space behind the seat along with my cousins, when I was 5 years old. Fortunately, it's a fairly large space, made even more ample by the fact that Bunny was only 5' 2" tall, so the seat was always in it's most forward position. When I got the car, it needed a lot of mechanical work, having sat unattended for a number of years. It was otherwise in pretty good shape, a "rust-free California car" as they say in Hemmings. I had a replacement engine installed around 1975 at the Sears Automotive department in San Mateo, CA. I recall that it cost me about $700, or so. The car served me as basic transportation for quite a few years, and was then placed into the "hobby/collector" status when I bought a 1964 Falcon Ranchero. I eventually moved here to Eugene, Oregon, and placed the car into storage, to be brought out once in a while and driven. Eventually, I lost interest, and just left it sitting. Amazingly, considering the climate here in Oregon, the car didn't suffer too much, the motor was still free and the tires were still inflated (I never jacked the car onto blocks) after 10 years of sitting, from 1985 to around 1995.
Around 1995, I decided to get the car out, and fix it up. The first thing that needed attention was the brakes! I still don't know how I managed to drive it home 8 miles from the barn where it was stored with no brakes, and if you know anything about the emergency brakes Chrysler used in the late 40's, you'd know that mine was no help, even if it hadn't been completely worn out! After rebuilding the brakes, honing the wheel cylinders, and replacing the master cylinder in the process, I pulled the cylinder head off to see why I had 30 pounds of compression on the number 4 cylinder, and 250 pounds on the number 5 cylinder (all the others were about 60, or so). The exhaust valve on number 4 had a neat little pie shaped chunk burned out of it, and the valve lifter on number 5 had about an 8th of an inch clearance at the fully closed position. You could hear both of these problems when you cranked the motor over; uh-uh-uh.......uh, I once heard a car talk "stump the chump" contest where they asked the audience how the old time mechanic knew that a motor needed a valve job after only hearing the starter motor run; I know!-I know!, call on me, I know! You could really hear that pause when the number 5 piston came on compression.
The car sat around for a few more months while I pondered my options. Finally deciding that there was only one! Unfortunately, with a side-valve motor that wasn't to take the head in and have the valves redone. I talked to some people who said the best thing to do was take the front sheetmetal off the car to get a clear shot at pulling the motor out. This proved to be good advise, the job was quite easy with the fenders out of the way. In the process, I discovered that Sears, or Automotive Engineering (Bunny had had a new engine installed around 1960) had cheated. Someone, rather than pull all the front sheetmetal out of the way (Total of 4 bolts on each side, near the doors, and two big bolts in the front center chassis crossmember), had cut the top off the radiator mount, then welded it back on after the job. What a waste! They had to have spent twice as much time butchering the sheet metal and slapping it back together as it took to remove and replace the fenders. In addition, it gave me a great opportunity to clean up the front suspension, and steering gear, which had nearly 50 years worth of grease and road dirt coating everything.
I took the motor to a local machinist who had a reputation as being pretty good with these old Chrysler flatties, then brought it home with new valves, and everything cleaned up inside. The outside still looked terrible though, so I bought an engine stand and set it up so I could clean the outside of the engine and paint it. There it stood. I couldn't make myself go work on it, there were too many other things to do, so the car sat in the carport, fenderless, engineless, and the motor sat on that engine stand pushed into a corner of the garage. This lasted for nearly 5 years, with me trying to ignore my wife Anne's pleas to "get rid of that old car". Finally, in early 2000, something happened that pushed me out of the inert state I had been in regarding working on my Dodge. We had decided to do an addition on our house, and hired a designer to help us figure out what to do. I had already decided that the only option was to remove the garage roof and build up over it. The designer came up with the same idea, but said that the only way to do that was to completely gut the garage, tear the floor out, and reinforce the garage foundation to support the extra load. This necessitated completely removing everything that had accumulated in the garage over a 10 year period, including the Dodge, the motor, and the fenders and hood. I began hauling stuff out and renting storage spaces, including a big one for $120 a month to put the car and its parts in. The day I towed the Dodge away, Anne looked at it, and said "that car's not coming back", to which, I said nothing. After over 20 years of marriage, I've learned when to keep my mouth shut. The building project lasted from May until December of 2000. Sometime around August, I got to talking to Jerry Collins about my car, and realized that if I was going to pay out $120 a month just to store it, I'd be a lot better off letting it sit in Jerry's shop, and pay him to work on it. He agreed to take on the project, and our needs matched perfectly, he couldn't afford to devote too many hours a week to the car, and I couldn't afford to pay for too many hours a week. First, I hauled the motor over, and he began cleaning it up, and painting it. Eventually, I towed the rest of the car over, and he cleared out a space in his shop for it.
While working on the motor, Jerry found that the main and rod bearings were close to worn out. The crankshaft was still in good shape, so we got some bearings from Doug Crawford of Elderly Auto, a local specialist in antique Chrysler products, and Jerry installed them. I had already taken the bell housing, and some other hardware to the Aircraft Mechanics Dept. at the local technical college where I work, and bead blasted and painted them green, so I got some more of the same green paint and gave it to Jerry to do the rest of the motor. He did a fine job of cleaning everything and making it look nice. Sometime after he got done with the motor, he showed me a very nifty looking aluminum intake manifold with two Carter carburetors on it, and asked me if I'd like to have that installed in place of the standard intake manifold and carburetor with its oil bath air cleaner. Without thinking, I said, sure! put it in! Then he showed me a pair of old cast iron exhaust headers with three inlets on each one. "you'll have to use these too, if you change your intake manifold", they were the most ugly, rusty, worn out looking things I'd seen in a long time. The bolts holding the exhaust pipe flanges to them were all broken off, and rusted into the threads so badly that they looked impossible, one of the flanges was broken off. Jerry assured me that he knew how to deal with them, and since I'd seen pictures of some of the junk that Jerry had turned into cars in the past, I agreed to let him use them on the car.
Eventually, Jerry restored the headers to their original state, put it all on the motor, and began hooking things up. I was about ready to take the front clip to his shop, when Jerry got the motor running with the battery and radiator propped into place. What a great sound! A few weeks later, the car was ready to take home. I haven't added up all the bills, but I think I probably paid Jerry a total of around $2500 for all the work and parts that he put into it. I had to do quite a bit of tinkering on my own after I got it home. The speedometer quit. That was caused by lack of lubricant to the bearing in the unit. I managed to free it up, and while it was apart, cleaned the glass and bezel. It looked so good, that I took the rest of the gauges out of the dash and cleaned them as well. The original set-up used some kind of tar to hold the glass to the bezel without rattling, and over the years, the tar kind of oozed out onto the glass. This happened with all three instruments. The one holding the ammeter and temperature gauges was the most fun to remove; one of the ammeter connections is live even with the ignition off! I didn't find this out until I pulled it of its terminal, and grounded it against the back of the dashboard! Sparks! Ow! Hot!
As I pointed out in my initial description of the plan for the car, I wasn't expecting to end up with a "restoration", or even something that looked like one. However, I began to realize that this was really a pretty clean car (those gauges looked like a million bucks after a good cleaning!), and that it might be possible to make this thing pretty presentable without doing a major job on it. The paint is chipped badly in a few places, but it's a good thick coat of enamel that had been applied in around 1960, probably when Bunny had the motor rebuilt. It takes a shine pretty well, and I went out and bought a fresh can of rubbing compound. I have been working on small areas a little at a time. If you look closely at my pictures, you can see where I've worked on it, and where it's still needing to be done. Interestingly, the front fenders and hood are actually still pretty shiny, since they were stored indoors while the rest of the body sat out in a carport for 5 years. I'll need to completely replace the interior, and there is some rust in the floor, probably no where near as bad as if the car had been in Oregon for 50 years, and not bad enough to require cutting out and replacing, but it will need some work. Doug Crawford recently got in some very good parts from a car that had been parted out for some reason, and I'll be buying the seat from it, which has useable original upholstery (don't bother calling him, guys, by the time this is posted, I'll have the seat in my possession, so a large part of the interior is already in hand. I'm going to try to make my own door panels, and probably the other interior hard panels. I think I can buy a replacement headliner, and I can get new weather-strips, door welts, and window channels from Andy Birnbaum back east. The only thing I'd like to replace that I can't make myself, or find anywhere, is the floormat, and trunk mat. Those were definitely made just for this car, rather than being cut from large sheets to fit. If anyone knows where I can get these, please email me.
Oh, and Anne's declaration about the car not coming back? Once she saw how great it looked, and how much our kids liked it, permission was granted to let it stay. After all, how could anyone hate a car like that?
Last update was December 22, 2001
Copyright Carl Best, 1997-2001
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