I had quite an adventure working on a 1937 Fargo half-ton truck in 1968-69 which had belonged to Bruce MacLennan, our neighbour. As a very young person, I remember Bruce driving Dad, George, and I on an errand in the 1937 Fargo. I was in the middle staring at the controls, “when turned” would push out the bottom of the windshield.
I saw this truck in 2017 in Summerside, sporting a blue and black paint job and all dressed up to the way it would look in 1937.
Bruce and Maybelle MacLennan lived directly across the road from our home farm on the Smith Road. One day in 1968, Bruce asked me if I would like to own his old truck. Yes! Yes! He said I could use the engine from his 1952 Dodge car to make it run. Bruce had bought this truck from Donny Barlow and built a wooden bed on it to haul his hay to the barn.
Bruce and I towed both truck and car up behind our barn beside the chicken house. I used our tractor with the front end loader to remove the engine and strip down the truck. My shop was the “Sunny Day Green Grass.” Cans of liquid wrench were my friends helping take off all the many parts with rust on them. This ’37 was stripped down to the bare frame, with the cab removed also. Many long days were spent cleaning everything with a wire brush and scraper. So it went getting it ready to paint the motor, the tranny. I painted the frame silver and the other parts primer and black.
Many parts needed came from the farmers Dad knew. Gordon Carew from Hunter River helped with a complete 1947 Dodge half-ton truck. Many parts were used from this truck, the main one being a complete metal box with a tailgate. Albert and Blois Weeks helped me with the welding on the cab and other places needed to complete the Fargo.
I took the engine apart in my “Sunny Day Green Grass Garage” and Eldred Weeks helped me with the head work and replaced 2 valves on the bottom end (crank). If needed you could buy brass shims, different thicknesses that looked like small sheets of paper. When you determined the thickness to use, you took scissors, cut to size and installed. Then you would have better oil pressure and many more happy miles, not kilometers! I remember a day it took me 6 hours to install a clip, without the proper tool, on the engine. With a good cleaning, painted silver, this engine was ready to run.
Bruce told me this story about the time he needed the internal part for the Brake Master Cylinder on the Fargo. Bruce went to town and told the part person what he wanted. The clerk tells Bruce he will need to bring in the Master Cylinder to make sure they sold him the correct part. Bruce handed him a bag with the Cylinder inside. The parts person with a surprised look said, “How did you drive that truck here?” “Using the emergency brake,” answers Bruce.
Nearly all the 1930-40’s automobiles would run with a 6 Volt DC Battery, not a 12 volt. Also on this Fargo truck the negative battery post would be connected to the starter, and the positive post would to the frame and cab ground. This battery would be located under the cab floor.
At this time I was studying electronics at the Provincial Vocational Institute in Charlottetown finding wiring information on the truck. I wired up all the electrical system from front to back, adding turn signal devices to the column allowing you to have signal lights and 4 way flashers, definitely an added feature.
My concept was to build a hot rod looking truck. The Fargo came with A-V-Looking front end. The head lights would be fastened to the front sheet metal going round the rad shell. The front fenders and running boards were removed, to use small boat trailer fenders over the front tires. For the front bumper I used a narrowed 1949 Dodge car bumper.
Inside this truck cab was a custom built center console, making the prototype from cardboard and thin wood. Wilfred Wills built me a complete wooden console. The transmission long handle came up the center through a slider with the floor emergency brake handle to the right. At the back was a raised section to hold a radio. 95 percent of all the gauges, switches, buttons and dash lights were on this console, connected to a junction box that ran up under the dash. Laying on it was a long rubber hose with a large rubber bulb on the end going to a bike air horn fastened in front of the rad.
With my electronic background, I designed and installed electric door openers on each door, no fancy kits available then! Both door handles were removed and welded shut. The opening device was made from levers, pulleys, chains and an electromagnet which came from a 6 volt Chev starter. When opened the primary and secondary coils were rewired together. When the door opened you could hear the pull of the magnet. Where did I put the stitches to open the doors? No wireless device on a keychain then. The location of the right and left door switch went down inside the gas filler tube located on the cab beside the driver’s door. Two more switches were in a hiding place on the center console. After I installed the metal truck box from the 1947 Dodge truck, the new gas tank location was moved to the back of the truck under the wooden floor between the two frame rails with a very short filler pipe.
The back bumper was made from hollow pipe with flat washers welded on each end. Two welded arms went back to the frame to hold it in place. The back tail light I used a newer tail light, two on each side to allow for the brake signal and driving.
Each year many family, friends, and visitors enjoyed a drive on the farm in the ’37 Fargo truck. One time it was due for a tune up and small problems to be taken care of. With no plates, I drove many miles to the mechanic shop to have the work completed. Along the way, there was a paving crew stopping the traffic. Going by the workers I started blowing the bicycle horn. They all started waving at the old 1937 Fargo and with much luck, I made it there O.K.
The day came for me to drive Bruce’s ’37 Fargo to his yard and have Bruce take me for a ride again. We started the drive grinning from ear to ear as we drove out his longer driveway turning left towards South Granville. Driving slow Bruce was explaining, sound, sputters, the shifting from gear to gear. This truck came with a fast idle cable. I replaced this with a longer choke cable coming out on my side of the cab. I gave this a sudden pull and the truck took off. I shut it down fast. You should have seen and heard his reaction! On the way back I told Bruce what I did. We both finished the drive all smiles!