Curbside Classic: 1952 Dodge B Series Panel Truck – Work In A Pilot House

The area just west of Huntsville Texas has recently been very good to me, car spotting wise.  I ran across a bunch of interesting cars and have just about all of them written now.  Although this Curbside Classic is a bit rusty and worn out, it’s still a neat truck. Maybe too far gone to restore, but who knows?

Regular readers have most likely seen this little beauty before.  If you need to jog your memory the little red car is the accidental Maserati BiTurbo Spyder. The for sale sign painted on the windshield of its companion identifies the Panel Truck as a ’52 Dodge.  Most of these trucks have been worked to death without a whole lot of documentation of their passing.  I did find some items of interest while reading about this one.

Dodge made its first pickup after it was acquired by Chrysler in 1929.  It had a four cylinder engine and the biggest selling point was that it had hydraulic brakes on all four wheels.  If you ever drove an old Ford with mechanical brakes through a puddle of water, you know exactly why this was a selling point.

In 1936 Dodge moved the front axle on their big trucks back about 8 inches and brought the engine closer to the nose.  They shifted the payload forward and gave it greater capacity.  In 1948 they extended this treatment to the small trucks.

The B Series, as it was known, consisted of the B1-B 1/2 ton and B1-C 3/4 ton versions. Heavier duty versions, such as chassis cab models, were also available with greater capacity and towing ratings.

These models had different model designations than the more run of the mill B1-B and B1-C trucks. Of course, a panel truck was available, and a really neat woody station wagon (seen below, on the left) was also in the line for those with the cash.

The Dodge B Series was introduced at the same time as Chevy and Ford came out with their new postwar trucks. Despite the many fans of the other two truck brands, the B Series was just a little bit better, for several reasons. First of all, the Dodge had a much nicer cab, with greater glass area and a taller seating position. Optional rear quarter windows on pickups improved visibility even more.

These new trucks also had better weight distribution, as the engine was moved forward and the rear axle was moved further back on the frame. Wheelbase on the 1/2 ton pickups was 108 inches down 8″ from 1947 and earlier versions. Other notable features included a high-torque starter motor, moistureproof ignition, and a heavy duty battery. Little wonder that Chrysler Corp. called these “Job-Rated” trucks.

Another plus was a new cross-steering arrangement that resulted in a mere 37 degree turning radius, very good for the times. Chrysler Corporation was still known as the “engineering company” at the time, and it showed.

This new cab style was called the Pilot House in advertising and included raising the bench seat for greater visibility.  It was all business and the only concession that I found for the driver’s comfort were the flexible springs and heavy duty shock absorbers.

During its run there were some detail changes. In 1950 the 3 speed manual transmission moved from the floor to the steering column, and in 1953 the big news was Truck-O-Matic, which you have probably guessed was an optional automatic transmission. The last year for this style was 1953.

Dodge’s first flathead six was borrowed from Plymouth.  The Dodge sixes that were developed later had a 230 CID model rated at 102hp for the one ton truck.  The half ton came in with a 218 with 95hp, while 3/4 ton models got a boost to 108 horses. This one has been outdoors for so long you can’t read anything but rust on the side.

One thing I found interesting while reading up on this truck: I always thought the Fargo was just a Dodge with different name stamping.  According to the source of most of this information, the Fargo actually used mostly Plymouth and DeSoto parts.

Panel trucks may be a thing of the past (unless you count the recently departed Chevy HHR), but this old Dodge is proof positive that they can take a lot of abuse and neglect – and weather a lot of seasons.