by Rob Nieuwpoort
After a intense research period on the internet, including many hours spent on the specialized WWII Dodge forum, I finally found a Dodge WC-60 at Midwest Military in Prior Lake, Minnesota. It was November 2009, and the owner, John Bizal, did not have the intention to sell his truck. However, after many e-mails and phone calls, I persuaded John to sell this special Dodge to me. Well, then things went fast: Custom forms were cleared, the Dodge was put in a 40-foot container, and shipped to it’s new home! In March 2010, it finally arrived in the Netherlands. I was as excited as a little kid on Christmas morning.
It all starts with extensive research
As a true military vehicle enthusiast, I was working on several projects. So, it wasn’t until late November 2011 before I started with this challenging restoration project. The cold Dutch winter offered me a great opportunity to spend lots of time at a warm fireplace, as this unique Dodge required quite some research. Not only did I need pictures, drawings, and parts, I also wanted to find out if there were any other Dodge WC-60 owners in Europe.
Actually, that was the biggest challenge. In the end, I found out (via the previously mentioned Dodge forum) that there were a couple of guys working on a WC-60 somewhere in France.
As a true gem, they protected their project. They wanted to know if mine was a “true” WC-60. After convincing them this was the case, a great partnership arose. Of course, they wanted to know all the details of my Dodge, which resulted in a wonderful exchange of data, photographs, and other valuable information.
They had a very nicely restored chassis, cabin, and engine, but the truck bed was in a poor condition as it consisted out of a couple of doors and some scrap metal. As mine had all the details, I provided them with all the relevant details of the truck bed.
During this same period, I found out that a guy named Manny Rogers also owned a WC60. So that made us to a unique group of owners…especially after seeing only replicas on the internet.
Getting things done!
So after a cold winter, finally the job could get started!. We moved the Dodge to the workshop, and all parts were separated from the chassis. The fenders, hood, cabin and all small parts were with the utmost care stored. During this process, we found out that the right side of the truck bed was in a poor condition. Luckily, the left side of the bed was in a good shape and could be used as the “master” for copying the right side.
Not only was I missing the cupboards in the bed as well as the gas and oxygen bottle holders, but the wooden floor was rotted away and the steel bottoms of the cupboards and many parts of the framing were missing or gone. In total, it became quite a challenging project
Carefully, all parts with damage or rust were removed. During the process, I concluded I was heading in the same direction as my French friends: A truck bed in a desperate state. Luckily, my background as a marine engineer helped me to reconstruct the bed.
A huge pile of drawings and sketches were made to reconstruct the truck bed. I found an old school sheet metal company who took care of cutting the metal exactly the way it originally was. I took the nicely cut parts to my shop to mount them on the chassis. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well, it took me a couple of months to get the job done properly.
Not your average truck
The doors and flaps in the truck bed were one-of-a-kind. All sides were double-folded and had to be shaped by hand.
After this challenge, the folding mechanism of the hood had to be reproduced. I remembered seeing this on a WC-41 1/2-ton truck belonging to a British owner. And this is why I love the Internet. After a couple of days, he sent me all details by e-mail.
Now things speeded up! I got to the stage where the hood could be produced. A company that specialized in making sails and hoods (www.kuiperszeilmakerijenonderhoud.nl) built the hood completely to order based on a pile of photographs. To sum it up, old school craftsmanship guaranteed success!
In the meantime, I completely stripped the chassis. This was more like an ordinary restoration with which you’re familiar: Cleaning, restoring the bad bruises, putting on a protection layer, and finally getting the right olive drab finish.
The same treatment was applied to the cabin and engine. As all parts were fully original, I wanted to restore them to the original status. The engine was seized—that took quite some time, but a challenge is part of the deal isn’t it? After installing new parts such as the pistons, valves, and crankshafts, the engine is purring again like a kitten.
Normandy 2014 was calling.
Months were flying by. I was telling everyone that a unique vehicle was going to be present at the 2014 commemoration of D-Day.
A lot of things needed to be taken care of. Night rest became optional. Thanks to the help of my two sons and a close friend, we managed to get things done before June 6. We got the historical license plate just in time. Finally, the preparations for our Normandy field trip could take place.
Because the restoration of the WC-60 was complete, I didn’t take the risk to damage it on it’s maiden journey. So, we placed it on a flatbed truck with a couple of other WWII vehicles and headed for Normandy.
After arriving in Courseulles-sur-Mer near Juno Beach, we built camp and inspected the Dodge. From that moment on, it was like being on tour with a celebrity. The whole European historical military vehicle scene landed in Normandy during the 70th commemoration of D-Day and they all wanted to find out all the details of these unique Dodges. Yes, in plural, as the only two original WC-60’s in Europe were on display at Pointe du Hoc (actually accompanied by a WC-61 with the Emergency repair truck bed).
Since that memorable trip to Normandy, I’m enjoying it everyday. I’m looking forward to many days to come. I am delighted to share this unique Dodge with all military vehicle enthusiasts in Europe and the United States.