The term barn find gets thrown around recklessly, so when a barn find is found in an actual barn, the world somehow makes sense.
That is essentially the story behind this rare 1957 Dodge Suburban Sierra. Dave and Brittany Mckill are the proud owners of this Exner era long roof, thanks to a friend who thought the wagon would make a pretty cool couch.
Dave and Brittany rode to the rescue of this dry Montana car because they knew it deserved a better future. The Sierra had been shoved into a barn for 40 years where the front end was exposed to the weather, so the hood and fenders are not quite as clean as the rest of the car.
They plunked a 413 into the big Dodge and drove it for a few years until as Dave explained, “I got tired of single-digit gas mileage”. This Sierra was also their wedding car a few years ago so it’s been a part of the family since Day 1.
The answer came in the form of Brittany’s 1991 ¾-ton Dodge pickup. She gave it a nickname “Babe” because she drove it for ten years and became attached to her truck. Unfortunately, Babe’s body was miled-out, but the Cummins 12V with the 5-speed manual was still in great shape so the plan came together.
Covid shut the world down for an extended period of time so Dave, Brittany and a few of their talented friends decided to take on the ’57 Sierra wagon/Cummins swap. They did the ‘Covid project’ in three months and now they have a fully functional trailer hauler. Dave pointed out how the original push-button section on the dash was formatted into a mount for a trailer brake.
Brittany drives this long roof regularly, so she asked for a modification on Day One. The gear shift had to be bent down because the stock position was really awkward. Brittany said they “got lucky” because the hollow shifter didn’t break, and the shifting position is perfect now.
They added front seats from a ’75 Dodge because the original seats were annihilated by rats, plus they’re a lot more comfortable. Dave said they also upgraded the front torsion bars because the Cummins is a lot heavier. They were custom built to handle the big diesel plus there are eight-leaf rear springs to handle a 30-foot trailer.
The driving experience has been excellent. Brittany said the car has pieces of her beloved Babe—the pickup truck—so she thinks it still lives on in this car. Dave is really happy with the nearly 30 miles per gallon fuel mileage—and the built-in torque of a Cummins diesel.
They both love the idea that this ’57 Dodge can “roll coal” on demand and the reaction people have when they realize the big wagon has a diesel under the hood. They also love how people react when the car is pulled up to a diesel pump—some think it’s a mistake and try to stop them.
By: Jerry Sutherland
Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post, Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.
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