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Steve's Dodge WC51
100th Bomb Group Flying Control
2008~2021
100th BG, 351st Bomb Squadron
2021~present

My Dodge WC51 was built in 1944, rolling off the production line on August 11th. The wartime history is unknown, but after the war, it went to Norway, and served there up in the Arctic circle until 1995 when it was retired. It was bought by a Norwegian collector who then sold within Norway in 1999. Rupert Fox imported it to North West England in 2005. He kept it olive drab for a few years before starting the 'Flying Control' conversion by painting it checkered. It appeared at Elvington in May 2008, still with the canvas rear body as seen here.

Rupert had fancied a Flying Control caravan to tow behind it, but the roads around where he lived were less than ideal for that. During the Elvington Show, I convinced Rupert that we could do an 'Airfield Conversion' on the rear body instead, in line with so many other converted airfield vehicles. The wooden panels were built onto the existing bows.

We built the wooden rear body with fold down sides for vision when driving and removable rear doors. The shuttering ply, rescued from a skip, had the right look about it for recycled packing crates.

Most of the body work is complete in this picture, and the sides are seen folded down in the driving position. The roof now needs the hole cutting for the observation dome.

The painting begins, a long job.

This is how the Dodge looked for the remainder of the 2008 season.

The Dodge remained like this for the following two years, until early August 2010, and it was then put up for sale. I didn't originally think of purchasing it, but after a few days, I couldn't let someone buy it and turn it back green, so bought it myself in mid August. 

AFTER MY PURCHASE

The 'Flying Control' conversion is ongoing, but one of the first tasks was to add side and rear windows to the rear body for good visibility when driving. The spare wheel was moved from the drivers side to under a false floor in the rear body. This allowed doors to be built for the cab, a typical conversion for airfield vehicles. These help to keep the cold out, especially when my young daughter is travelling with us.

A shelf for radio equipment was added to the rear left of the body. On this is mounted a BC-375 Transmitter and two BC-348 Receivers. Below the radios, an additional tuner and signal corps speaker are mounted, while Signal lamps hang from the roof.

On the right side, there is a meteorological station, giving wind direction and speed, temperature, pressure and humidity and both GMT and Summer Time or Double Summer Time. Above on the side wall, there is a rack for signal flares and an M8 Pyrotechnic Pistol.

The windsock was mounted above the meteorological station so its rotation could operated the wind direction indicator. A red warning flag was added at the front which was a common feature on vehicles used on the live side of an airfield. It is seen here at Breighton airfield, next to one of the original wartime buildings.

I fitted a 12 volt battery into the front left locker, charged from a 6v to 12v step up converter. This powers the lights and dials in the transmitter and receivers, so when switched on, they appear to come to life, despite the fact that many internal components are missing. While the radios don't work, I have a modern Air Band Radio which is wired into an amplifier and Signal Corps LS-3 loud speaker. This now gives me the impression of sounds of aircraft radio traffic coming through the radio system.

Croft Nostalgia 2015, the Dodge on display with an airfield Signals Square. This was scaled down, the fullsize being 30 feet square to indicate the runway in use, ground conditions and hazards to aircraft without radios.

The last show before the Covid lockdown was at Tanfield Railway 1940's show in September 2019. From there, the Dodge was returned to its storage container and then sat out covid on axle stands. It was run occasionally in the container, with the clutch and brakes exercised and wasn't driven again until March 2021 when we moved house.

At the new house, if the garage door lintels were raised by three courses of bricks, the Dodge would fit inside with the dome removed, just as it had in its shipping container storage.

The next and last appearance as a Flying Control truck was at the Fishburn Airfield Fly/Drive-In during mid August 2021. After that, circumstances dictated a change was in the air for the Dodge.

The Dodge was brought to our new house in March 2021. The new house had a garage that would be big enough for the Dodge and both our Jeeps, but the garage doors would need raising and widening. We booked some builders and waited.....and waited. During this time, the Dodge sat outside under a plastic cover during the worst of the Spring weather.

It got to September and still no sign of the builders. I didn't want the Dodge outdoors over winter and for some time, had been thinking about a change. A change from Flying Control meant I wouldn't need the wooden body. Without that, the Dodge would fit through a standard garage door. So on September 16th, stripping the Dodge began.

Most of the bodywork was bolted to the roof bows, or glued/screwed to other pieces of wood that were bolted to the bows. By late in the afternoon, the wooden body was off the truck.

Getting the Dodge through the door was a challenge as there was only 1/2 inch clearance on each side of the body. However, at least it was indoors now and out of the coming winter weather. I was no longer in a rush to get the garage doors modified, though they will still need changing.

I was now able to start chiseling off the checkers, grinding out rust, welding a few areas of rust and sanding down the lower layers of paintwork. I worked on the left side first, as I had more space to work on that side. The Dodge was then turned around to gain better access to the right side.

 The rear attaching points on both fenders were quite badly rusted beneath the doubling plate. New metal was welded in and new doubling plates made to spread the load. The space between was filled with mastic to prevent water being trapped behind and starting the rust again.

The rust pits were ground out, primed and then filled with a fine surface filler to level them up with the surrounding paint. There were also a few chisel marks that needed filling, following the removal of the checkers.

Time for paint. I ordered a 5 litre tin from Jeeparts, as their Very Dark Drab was suited for later war vehicles. I'm not too keen on the lighter, more brown olive drab on earlier vehicles. As it turned out, the new paint was a very good match for patches of original paint found under the reflectors and in the cab. It is seen looking very glossy below as it had just been applied, but dried to a matt to satin finish.

The fenders were the last parts of the main bodywork to be painted, as I had been waiting for some new coach bolts to attach the replacement doublers.

Markings came next and I cut my own stencils using sizing, positioning and fonts from AR850-5 on marking army equipment.

The stencils were taped in place and then the paint applied by dabbing the stencil with the end of a glossing roller, lightly wetted out with paint. Keeping the roller fairly dry prevented the paint from bleeding under the stencils. Around three light coats of white was needed to give a reasonable coverage.

I can't be 100% sure of the hood number. I repainted the hood several years ago and there was no trace of any numbers, not even any primer. So I used the chassis number and a chart of known numbers, which gave a range of 173 possible hood numbers to narrow it down. The range all started 2253xxx so the last three numbers were chosen from the remnants of a number found on the front bumper during sanding down the paint.

The rear end stencilling was based on wartime airfield Dodge picture. The back end looks very busy, but virtually all of the tailgate markings are hidden under the pioneer rack.

The Dodge was complete by October 16th 2021, with a dry morning forecast the following day, a drive was a possibility, though rain was due in the afternoon.

The following morning was indeed dry. Tools and rubbish were moved out of the Dodge and from around it and it was carefully driven out of the garage. The spare wheel was moved from under the false floor and fitted to the side, then the bows and canvas were fitted. For now, removing and refitting the canvas and bows was the only way to get the Dodge in the garage - at least until the builders show up!

We just went on a short local drive to get some photos in the new colour scheme, then back home to pack it all away before the rain came. There were still a few small jobs to do, such as touching up various nuts, bolts and screws after fitting and these jobs were finished off over the next few days. It's possible it will be out for Remembrance Sunday.

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