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1940 Dodge VK62B Ex RAF

This unique old Dodge was used in the late 1940s and early 1950s as a racing car transporter by R.D. Poore motor racing, when Dennis Poore competed with his 1935 ex-Scuderia Ferrari / Nuvolari supercharged Alfa Romeo Tipo 8C-35. He competed in numerous sprint meetings, hillclimbs and formula libre motor racing meetings in the postwar years.

Dodge VK 3 ton

Immediately after WW2, Dennis Poore used his old Ford V8 road car to tow the Alfa on its custom made trailer around the country. This was proving to be heavy going for the wheezy old Ford, as the Alfa was a lot more substantial than the little K3 MGs that Poore raced pre-war.

The search began for a replacement tow vehicle. Poore was ex-RAF himself, and I understand that the Dodge he bought came from a dispersal auction not long after WW2, when many of these sturdy 3 ton Detroit Dodges were disposed of, not least due to their thirst for 4 star. This LHD example, shipped over originally in 1940/41 as a chassis/scuttle assembly direct from Chryslers plant in Michigan, was part of a consignment originally destined for France, but, on the invasion by the axis powers, was re-assigned to British forces where they were split between both the Army and Royal Air Force. Many RAF vehicles were fitted out with a standard cargo body, but a number were dispatched to the coachbuilding firm Mulliners, in Birmingham, to be fitted up with coachbuilt crewbus bodywork. 2 versions were designed, one with the standard Dodge cab and separate Mulliner rear bodywork (a speaker tube connecting the driver to his crew) and an integral version, where the Dodge chassis/scuttle (to just above the windscreen) had an integral version of the 'bus bodywork fitted. Its the latter that mine has, featuring non-Dodge panelwork from the doors and cab roof, back. Separate bodies were also fitted to Fordson chassis' of the period, one of which has been restored as an RAF vehicle at East Kirkby airfield in Lincs.

During the war, it would have been fitted with a substantial brush guard ahead of the grille assembly (as testified by the holes let into the front grille to accomodate the guard stays), and blackout curtains to the rear windows, none of which are there now (and were probably removed prior to auction just after the war). Other than these few modifications, the truck would have been sold on pretty much 'as is', the intricate folding step below the 2 rear doors for instance still remaining. I haven't yet found any markings to indicate where my old Dodge was used, or anything else to shed light on its wartime role.

Dennis Poore Dennis Poore

To modify the vehicle for its new role, Poore added in a winch, wheel stops, and bracketry to support the ramps that the car would have gone up and down. Later on in its new life it was fitted with a hinged frame to the nearside bodywork, which hinges out and clipped to a pair of vertical support legs, over which a canvas cover would be rolled, this being rolled up and tied to the Dodge's roof when not required. This acted as an awning under which repairs could be made to the Alfa Romeo between races. The original headlamps were removed at some time in its life, being deemed not very effective (6v electrics still remain however) and were replaced with an expensive pair of Marchal lamps, one of which has been damaged some time ago, but for which I have a replacement 'in stock'. I have no idea where the original lamps went to.

Similar vehicles were used by other drivers & teams after the war. I understand that the Connaught racing team used a similarly styled separate bodied version on a 6 wheeled Austin chassis, and I have seen a photograph of a converted Dodge crewbus (separate rear body, standard Dodge cab) behind a photo of George Abecassis' racing car, this one having had its windows paneled over and covered with numerous period sponsor advertisements. My Dodge still bears some of the hallmarks of its earlier, pre-racing, life, most notably in the varied selection of tyres that it still wears, a few of which are to original 1940s military pattern. Behind the rear doors, a pair of small lockers with hinged down lids are visible, and careful investigation beneath several layers of paint exposed an original plastic-type label affixed to the cover of one of these locker lids, proclaiming 'Chains', which presumably meant that they held tyre chains for fitting when the going got boggy out on an airfield somewhere.

A few years back I was fortunate to meet a gent that makes small volume white metal kits for the specialist model builder market, and needed an original crewbus to measure up for his plans. This he did, spending several hours measuring and making notes on my truck. In return, he was able to provide me with some faded photocopies of the original Mulliner design blueprints for my exact vehicle, and the separate bodied version also, both on the 3 ton 188" wheelbase VK spec (VK62B) Dodge chassis.

This was a great find, and has allowed me to further understand the original layout of the vehicle during it's earlier years in active service. From an article in Wheels and Tracks there is a good write-up on the VK62B Dodge, and mention is made of my type of vehicle, plus details of how some were converted later on in the war to be used as mobile training classrooms, used by companies such as Rotol in the maintenance of their propellers. Wheels and Tracks was also able to confirm that the civilian style Dodge panelwork is correct for this model of Dodge used by both the Army and Air Force, the only change being the inclusion of holes in the front ('41 style) grille for the brush guard stays.
Aerodynamic racing car trailer


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One of many Dodge trucks books on sale
One of many Dodge trucks books on sale
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Hell Drivers out on DVD, probably the most famous appearances ever of Kew Dodges being worked to the limit back in 1957
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1941 Job Rated Dodge advert
 
Kew Dodge advert
Military WW2 Dodge ambulance
Civilian US Dodge pickup