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My Former WC51 "Flying Control Dodge" - A New Chapter


Jessie The Jeep

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Posted (edited)

Well, it went into the shipping container, so as long as floor to lintel height is equal or greater, it'll fit!! Four wheel drive and first gear and it would fit now with a bit of crunching!!!

Edited by Jessie The Jeep
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  • 2 months later...

On the home and vehicle front, I'm still waiting for the builders to start work on the garage modifications. He said he would order the new RSJ to support the roof when the door openings are enlarged and expected to start soon, but due to almost three weeks of solid rain during May, he's probably running a bit behind on other projects. So for now, the Dodge is still gift wrapped outside my workshop.

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I did give it another run and warm through to temperature on Friday, plus exercised the brakes to make sure things don't seize up. The 6v battery was then removed and brought indoors for some maintenance charging. I suspect it is actually on its way out and not holding charge as well as it should. I've never fitted a new battery to the Dodge and neither did the previous owner ( to my knowledge ), so it's at least 16 years old. At rest, each cell is giving about 2.15 volts. The case around the terminals has had cracks in for years which was probably from over charging at some point in its life. I periodically clean them out and re-seal them to stop leaks. I've always unscrewed the cell caps when ever I've charged it, but left them lying loose over the holes to minimise evaporation.

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The negative battery terminal clamp bolt has also become severely corroded from leaks over the years, so that was removed, the clamp cleaned up and a new bolt found and fitted. Once the garage is sorted and the Dodge indoors, I'll probably go over all the terminals and earths to make sure everything is clean and corrosion free before I take the Dodge out again. It will also give me time to monitor the battery health and see if I need a replacement. If I do, it will probably wait until 2022. There aren't going to be that many events in 2021 and what there is I can do in the Jeeps. That will give me time to go over the truck and give it a good service and inspection after its long covid sleep.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Dodge has been under wraps since it arrived at the new house and throughout May, was heavily rained on. We're still waiting for the builders to start work on modifying the garage, so for now, the Dodge is still outdoors. However, I took the rain covers off today, which allows easier access to the engine bay. So over the next few weeks, I want to do a bit of servicing with the intention of getting it ready for the Wings & Wheels show at Fishburn airfield in August. That's only 9 miles down the road, so not too far to go. I'll probably take the Follow Me Jeep and Dodge and do a flying control display. Not sure if we'll camp, but at only 9 miles, we can leave the Dodge overnight and come home in the Jeep. With the Dodge hiding away in the shipping container all of 2020, it would be nice to try and get it to at least one event in 2021.

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The next Jeep event is in a couple of weeks at Springwell Village, just a couple of miles from where I used to live. They are still holding their 1940's event, but due to covid, have scaled it back quite a bit from the usual show. I'm just planning on attending for one day and heading to a fly-in in Yorkshire the following day.

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Dodge/Noctilucent Cloud Photoshoot - June 18th

Operating military vehicles is just one of my hobbies. Since childhood, I've also been interested in astronomy, getting my first decent telescope in 2012. I built a small observatory at my old house and I'm waiting to start work on a larger one at the new house. So I'm often on the lookout for astro related happenings and in the Summer months, that is often Noctilucent Clouds. The name comes from the translation of the German words, which mean night shining clouds. These electric blue clouds form right at the edge of space, when ice crystals form on tiny particles of meteor smoke, floating at 250,000 to 280,000 feet altitude. I got a heads up on my local astronomy Facebook page and went out to see. After a few shots of the clouds alone, I decided to go a bit more 'arty' and compose the Dodge into some of the shots.

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  • 1 month later...

Dodge Tinkering and Test Drive - July 24th

"Faith" the Dodge hasn't been anywhere since arriving at the new house in late March. It was run once, but I had trouble starting up, so decided to look into it today. Starting on 6 volts can be a challenge after a long period of inactivity. The starter pulls all the amps away from the coil. It had done amazingly well on old fuel over the lockdown, but it was time to do those little cleaning jobs and tinkering jobs to make it a little easier!

The battery has been in my workshop, so that was fitted first. Next the plugs and points were cleaned and set. Various electrical terminals were cleaned and after I still couldn't get the Dodge to fire, a new condensor was fitted. This seemed to fix it and I got the engine running. I'd dated the old condensor 2014 before fitting it, so it's had a few years of use. The new one was a 2018 purchase and has been sitting in the spares tub.

The oil bath air filter was removed and a cotton strip 'gasket' wound around the base tube, as it drips from here onto the manifold and exhaust. After refitting it, I left the engine running for some time burning off this oil.

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After that, I switched off and went for a coffee, to see if it would restart after a break. All the temperatures and pressures seemed in order.

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Anyway, the engine did fire up after the coffee break, so I made a short trip up and down the drive to check the engine would pull under load. All seemed well, so I fitted the "Dodgecam" and went for a local four mile drive.

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After I parked up, I made a thin aluminium shield to cover the manifold where the drips happen. It's not a permanent fixture, just something to pop in place when I park up; same as the rubble sack over the cylinder head to stop rain water dripping through the hood hinge and filling the spark plug depressions.

I now need to see if the Dodge will start after a day or so sitting, as I want to take it to the Fishburn fly-in where I'll park up on Saturday and bring it home Sunday evening. I still haven't decided whether the 15+ year old battery is perhaps on its way out.

It was nice to be behind the wheel again.

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  • 3 weeks later...

August 10th - Dodge Service

With the Fishburn Fly/Drive-In just a few days away and a sunny morning, I got to work servicing the Dodge. It had been a couple of weeks since I'd done the plugs and tinkered with the ignition, but even without a charge, it started at the second press of the starter. It was run up to temperature to warm up the oil, then stopped and the sump plug pulled.

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While the oil was draining, I started greasing everything. Transmission oils were checked and topped up while I was under there. It wasn't long before the gun was empty and needed refilling. I learned a while ago, that when filling the grease gun, it was worth putting a locking bolt in the hole next to the plunger. If you are filling it with more grease and knock the plunger, the spring pulls it in and will launch the grease out of the open end. A bolt in the hole stops the plunger from slipping ( it only happened once years ago and fortunately, there wasn't much grease in the gun at the time! ).

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Posted (edited)

I thought my phone was in the cab, but it had actually fallen out of my back pocket, screen down, onto the gravel drive under the Dodge. While crawling around trying to grease everything, I managed to force it into the gravel. When I found it, I thought I'd crushed the screen, but I was lucky that it was only the screen protector that I had well and truly destroyed. The phone will live to call another day!

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Not too long after I finished with the Dodge, the sky went dark and the rain came hammering down again. You can see splash/impacts on the roof of the Dodge like meteorites hitting the Moon!! Anyway, I think we're good to go and the weather looks to be sunny, so it will be a Flying Control pair on show.

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Faith the Dodge is also 77 years old today...

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Edited by Jessie The Jeep
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Posted (edited)

Fishburn Airfield Fly/Drive-In - August 14/15th

The weather looked good for the first day of the Fishburn event. It was Faith's long awaited return to public life, having last been on show at Tanfield Railway in 2019.

It was around a twenty minute drive to the airfield, of which a few minutes are shown in the video below, shot on three action cameras - two on the Dodge and one on the Jeep.

Here's the pair, along with a friend's Jeep, shortly after parking up.

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Edited by Jessie The Jeep
spelling error
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Posted (edited)

Here's the military line up, with my two at the far end. Just after the Land Rovers is a three quarter size Jeep, scratch built on a ride on lawn mower chassis.

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I'm not a big classic car fan so have only added a few pictures of those. In addition to the aircraft on the live side of the airfield, there were a few static examples from the Aircraft Restoration Group on display and open to the public.

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Day two was a damp day. Lynne wasn't free, so I went on my own in Jessie.

Edited by Jessie The Jeep
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  • 5 weeks later...

End of an Era!

September 16th - Dodge Body Tear Down

It's funny how plans can rapidly change. We've still no word on when our builders will show up to modify the garage door openings. With Autumn and Winter just around the corner, I wanted the Dodge indoors sooner rather than later. Of course, as it stood, it wouldn't fit - the doors are too low.

After Beamish, I'd decided that after 13 years of being a Flying Control vehicle, it was time for a change. If I lived in 8th Air Force country, there would be plenty of airfield events to attend, so I'd be unlikely to make a change. However, when I got the Dodge, I was a solo act, so having two odd vehicles on my own wasn't a problem. Now I often attend events with a group of friends ( such as the Beamish show ) and checkered Flying Control vehicles don't fit in. The Jeep is an easy swap from one scheme to another, but the Dodge isn't. I also got fed up of ignorant parents telling their kids, "Oh look, that one's an ambulance". Quite why "an ambulance" would need a windsock, meteorological instruments, a flare pistol and aircraft radios escapes me!

This change opened up a possibility. If the Dodge was no longer going to be a Flying Control truck, it no longer needed the wooden body on the back. If that was the case, with the canvas roof bows removed, the Dodge should fit in the garage without modifying the doors; at least for now. The first job was to move the B-17 model from the middle of the garage into the trailer, now that we've finished using the trailer for moving from the old house.

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This left a space in the middle of the garage floor for the Ford GPW. It was a tight squeeze jiggling it into the centre, but that shouldn't be a problem once the doors are enlarged.

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The garage doors do still need altering, but if the Dodge was altered to fit the garage ( rather than the other way around ), there was no longer the pressure of when the builders will turn up. All three vehicles will have to live outside briefly when the work does start.

So with the Dodge's future looking more like a standard cargo truck ( but not completely normal, this is me after all ), I set to work taking the first steps towards the conversion and getting it indoors. The Dodge radios and internal equipment were stripped out as the first step.

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The doors, dome and canvas cab roof were removed and then I started removing the wooden panels. Some of the internal wiring and shelving needed to come out before the side panels as there were lots of items connected together. Here's a few stills from a time lapse video of the teardown. There was some light gluing of panels onto the bows, but most fixings were coachbolts.

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The section of bodywork attached to the front bow would be kept and reused. This would also allow the doors to still be fitted and have something to latch on when closed. It will also help to keep the wind out of the back.

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Now with the existing garage doors, it is a tight fit and I REALLY mean TIGHT! Allowing for odd fittings on the body, Dodge is a tiny fraction under 84 inches wide. The opening between the garage door mechanism is 85 inches!!! It took a while to turn the Dodge around and get it lined up with the entrance for a last visual check.

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With my daughter's help in the back of the truck guiding me, I carefully lined lined up on the opening, though it took several attempts.

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So six months after arriving at the new house, the Dodge finally joined the two Jeeps indoors in the garage. It's cozy in there, but there's room to get between all the vehicles. There'll be a little more space between them once the door openings are wider and the vehicles can be angled better. For now, I'm just happy that they are all under cover.

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Since the Dodge is now out of the weather,  over the Winter, the transformation to its new form can begin. Here's most of the body ready to be recycled. Just the dome and rear doors are missing from this shot.

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To finish, here's the day's work, compressed into 6 minutes. Actually, the stripdown only lasts 1 minute - the other 6 minutes are turning around the trying to fit through the door!!!

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  • Jessie The Jeep changed the title to My Former WC51 "Flying Control Dodge" - A New Chapter

September 17th - Paint Stripping Begins

On the 17th, I began stripping the checkered paint from the Dodge. A few days ago, I did a test with a chisel, chipping away at the paint and lifting it in flakes. This would be quicker than trying to sand through the black and white layers. The green below could then be lightly sanded to key the surface for a new olive drab paint layer. While scraping near the radiator cap, I found the blue circular marking seen below. I suspect this may have been something from Norwegian army service, but can't be sure.

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After school, little legs came out to help and surprised me by managing around 3 hours of scraping. I underestimated her staying power! By the end of the day, one fender, the section over the radiator, most of the radiator grille and part of the rear body were stripped of their paint.

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The light protectors were removed both to aid stripping the paint from them, but also to better access the paint on the fender and lights. Once I'm down to green all over, I'll probably go for a drive and get some photos; then it will be back in the garage for the sand and painting stage. Of course, olive drab and canvas is just step one in my master plan!!

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September 19th & 20th - Paint Stripping

On the 19th, I focused on the step and cowl over the instrument panel. The paint on the step proved to be particularly difficult to remove. After that was done, I worked forwards along the small upright section of body beside the seat. From there, upwards passed the mirror bracket and over the top of the instrument cowling.
 
The following day, I began work on the main section of the hood. I'd repainted this some years ago due to rust patches. The black and white didn't want to chisel away from the olive and in places, even the primer lifted. The paint was very hard and wasn't in the mood to be chiseled! However, having been decorating recently, I decided to give the wallpaper steamer a go. It had worked well to remove emulsion paint from a wall, so perhaps it could do the same for the checkers, which were also emulsion. Back when I did the rust repairs, I'd only given the area a thin coat of olive paint as it was going to have checkers over the top anyway. The steamer brought off the black, white and olive fairly easily, in most areas leaving the primer behind.

The side of the hood was going to be harder to steam due to the louvres, but as it turned out, the paint came away very easily, having no primer at all and very little olive drab. I'd never touched the side of the hood, so I'm guessing it has had a lack of primer since its Norwegian Army days or during the ownership of the Norwegian collector who was the first owner. The paint was scraped away and the whole panel given a light polish with a rotary wire brush to remove some surface rust.

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The steamer had worked really well on the hood, so I gave it a try on the rear body, starting at the front. It wasn't long before I found some lettering, which once uncovered, read " STOR. " and below it, " OCT-53. ". These words weren't on the lowest layer of paint, so I'm guessing they date from Norwegian Army service.

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I continued rearwards until reaching the back, then chipped out the paint from the fuel filler and canvas tie depressions. That's the progress so far - almost one side completely stripped.

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