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There is a standard program for trucks from the past.


They are bought, put to work until they outlive their usefulness, and then they either get forgotten or crushed upon retirement.


Millions of trucks have followed this grim pattern since the first truck hit the road in the early 20th century.

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Occasionally the forgotten trucks rust away quietly until they are consumed by the forces of nature or belatedly meet their date with the crusher.


Les Johnson’s 1938 Dodge pickup was well on its way to the crusher after decades of neglect until he discovered it.


He saved the truck from oblivion about five years ago and put it back on the road-with plenty of extra bite.


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Les is a car guy with plenty of skills and he applied all of them to his Dodge. He learned about cars from his father, starting at five years old, and used all of his talents on the truck when he turned the Dodge from salvage into salvation.


Most car guys will use whatever they have to put a project on the road. The truck was all there, but the engine was too far gone to save, so Les took it in a different direction. He shoehorned a Chevy 350 small block and Powerglide automatic into the Dodge.


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Les also installed a Corvair front suspension on the truck and he was ready to take the truck on the road after only seven months. Les was pretty confident in his work and his first road trip was a 300 mile (500 km.) shakedown a mere two days after he completed the swap.



He took the truck on a busy major highway for his first adventure and acknowledged that he was not passed by anyone along the way. The speedometer topped out at 80 mph (about 130 km/h) and began to bounce after that threshold, so Les could only guess his actual speed with the new power train in the rig.


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Les learned to slow down in the truck after that maiden run and admits he was not really comfortable with that kind of speed as a regular philosophy. Since then, he has put 10,000 miles on the truck and is now happy to stay with traffic instead of viewing it in his rear view mirror.


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The engine may be Chevy, but the truck still wears most of its original features and is almost a poster truck for the term “patina” as it applies to the vintage vehicle hobby.


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In fact, the plate reads OXID8N and that translates into oxidation, the process behind rust.


One original feature is the front bumper, although it is now found on the back of the truck. Most old school trucks from the pre-war years did not come with rear bumpers, so Les decided to add one to his project.


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The only regret for Les is a minor one: he wishes he has not recovered the front seat, a decision he described as “too hasty”.


We at MSCC applaud Les for his best decision.


The one where he saved a long forgotten truck destined for the crusher.


Jim Sutherland

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