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Non-traditional hot rod: restoring a 1934 Dodge Doodlebug

Discussion in 'The Antiquated' started by T&D1w, Jan 13, 2020.

  1. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    Ok, I'm like super new to this website, I've read the forum guidelines, but I'm still not certain this is the correct spot to post in. Please move the thread if I got it wrong.

    I've been working on the build for my 1934 Dodge for a while now and I thought that maybe others would be interested in the project. It's not a traditional hot rod in the sense, more of a hot... tractor. Back in the depression farmers would buy kits to convert their model T's to a tractor. Often the farmer would take the project on by cutting the frame off and then grafting in a TT axle or rear frame. These were nicknamed "doodlebugs". I think the home made tractors are an incredible part of americana that I wanted to preserve.

    The opportunity came up for me to purchase a doodlebug from a person that I'll affectionately call a hoarder. He's got some 40 acres and well over 100 vehicles. The vast majority are prewar, some restored, some are basket cases. Some really incredible examples. Let's say that his collection is good enough that a upcoming episode of American Pickers will feature him. What's neat is that he's willing to sell.

    My Doodlebug is a 1934 Dodge, can't tell if it was a coupe or a sedan that I believe was cut in WWII. This would make for one of the very last doodlebugs ever cut. I included a few pictures of the tractor as I found it. It was a running car, but the prior owner had already sold the original flathead 6. The trans was still in the car, but he wanted to keep it. I'd had seen a row of hemi engines in another barn so I made an offer contingent upon it including one of the engines. Surprisingly, he was receptive to the idea and we picked out the most complete engine of the lot. He also offered to include a transmission from a 1968 Dodge pickup. I knew nothing about vintage Hemis and even less about Dodge transmissions, but that's a story for another post.

    With every build, I believe it needs to have a story. In this instance, I'm thinking about the farmers son who, as a teenager in the early 60's, has taken an interest in cars. He can't afford his own, but his dad has the old doodlebug that his grandfather cut up during the war. Sadly, the son isn't much of a driver because he just wrecked mom's '57 Desoto. He pulls the engine out of the Desoto and transplants the engine into the Doodlebug. He's created a "hot rod tractor".
     

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  2. Cymro
    Joined: Jul 1, 2008
    Posts: 671

    Cymro
    Member

    This is seriously cool, could be in a similar vein to the bug , the model T drag car.
     
  3. Piewagn
    Joined: Mar 25, 2009
    Posts: 756

    Piewagn
    Member

    So, just exactly where is this row of Hemi's located?? :D:D
     
  4. treb11
    Joined: Jan 21, 2006
    Posts: 3,306

    treb11
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Doodle bugs are actually a regular topic on the main forum. If nothing else they are usually great doners for projects.

    Sent from my SM-G965U using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
     
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  5. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    North-central Wisconsin. :)
     
  6. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    Here are two pictures from when we picked the car... er tractor up. Notice the dent across the hood and radiator shell. Almost looks like tree damage. If a tree did fall across the car, it would have crushed the roof and this would explain why the car was a candidate to cut up with such low milage. The odometer showed 5,400 miles. I know the speedo cable was hooked up so I'd assume it was still working when the trans got pulled. The gauge cluster is like new so I hoping I can get them to work. Any tips on how to test the gauges? The body is incredibly solid. There is but only a tiny line of rust under one of the floor boards.

    As an item of curiosity, they shot the episode the day after we picked up the car. Would have been cool have seen it in the show!
     

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    lothiandon1940 and Okie Pete like this.
  7. woodbutcher
    Joined: Apr 25, 2012
    Posts: 3,168

    woodbutcher
    Member

    :D:eek: Now this looks like fun.I`ll saddle up and go along for the ride.
    Good luck.Have fun.Be safe.
    Leo
     
  8. 1930artdeco
    Joined: Oct 25, 2011
    Posts: 20

    1930artdeco
    Member

    Looks like a AA doodle bug-albeit your will have a trifle more power. Don't forget the wheelie bars so you don't flip it:)

    Mike
     
  9. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    My first project was to start with cleaning up the frame. At one time the Doodlebug had a snowplow mounted to it. Some of the welds were pretty good, but the vertical and overhead welds were terrible. I felt the brackets were rather unsightly so I decided to remove them. I had about a full day in this project. About the only thing more "fun" than busting welds is busting welds that I laid. I least these are not my welds.
     

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  10. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    Once I got the center brackets cut off, my attention turned to the front of the frame. Looking at what had been welded on, I realized the frame horns had been cut off. Thankfully, I already purchased a front clip from another 34 Dodge. I had tripped across the frame and figured that I could use the shocks off it to replace the ones in the Doodlebug. Well, those shocks turned out to be bad as well, but I could still use the joints and bushings. I checked the frame and sure enough it had a pristine pair of frame horns. I carefully measured and cut the frame off behind the brackets and then measured the same points on the replacement horns and cut them off as well. I beveled the joints before welding so I wouldn't lose any strength when the welds were ground flush.
     

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  11. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    Here's the after result.
     

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  12. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    I guess there isn't any interest in the project?
     
  13. OLDTINPUSHER
    Joined: Apr 28, 2009
    Posts: 513

    OLDTINPUSHER
    Member

    Looking good so far
     
  14. Greg Rogers
    Joined: Oct 11, 2016
    Posts: 101

    Greg Rogers
    Member

    I like it! I remember my father in law had a Doodlebug that was made from a Model T out in the woods behind his house. He also had a 65 Rambler, 53 Chevy some old farm implements, washers,dryers and junk junk,junk. Old farmers never got rid of anything, just dragged it out back. Anyway my wife actually remembers the Doodlebug in use when she was a kid in the 50's.
     
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  15. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    The back end of the frame was a cluster mess. I couldn't tell just where the original frame ended and the extensions started. Originally, I thought the axle was welded in, but it moved significantly when the back of the car was picked up. It appeared they had tried to weld the axle in, but didn't have a nickle rod so their welds didn't stick. After cutting on the frame for a while, I discovered they had taken a spring U-bolt, looped it under the axle and then welded that to their frame extensions. The bolt was loose which explained why the axle would move around. They had cut out the center of the X to make clearance for the driveshaft so the cross was providing no structural strength. After some debate I decided the best option was to drop the back of the frame and start over.
     

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  16. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    The stock frame rails taper, but I noticed a 5" channel was very close to a proper fit. Thankfully, the top of the rails were straight so it was easy to align the channel to the frame. I cut the remnants of the X off and then tacked in the channel.
     

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  17. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    I then bent and trimmed a scab plate to join the end of the channel to the frame. When I was mocking up the scab, I noticed the frame width was different on either side. The stitch welds were broken. I used some clamps to pull the frame back together and then tacked it off. This wasn't my best night of welding. I'm relatively new to glasses and I couldn't get close enough to get the bead in focus. I tried to guess... and it shows. I'll finish weld it later when I have better access.

    Last night I was under the front of the car and I noticed that the stitch welds up front are broken as well. In fact, every weld that formed the boxed frame is broken! I've decided that I'll fully weld the frame channels together. If anybody is running an antique car, this might be something to check.
     

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  18. ROADSTER1927
    Joined: Feb 14, 2009
    Posts: 2,636

    ROADSTER1927
    Member

    Looks like a Fun project! You are doing good. Gary:)
     
  19. Alister
    Joined: May 10, 2009
    Posts: 41

    Alister
    Member
    from Idaho

    Very cool rig! I love watching the doodlebug pullers at the fairs and threshing shows. Exactly the opposite of the wildcats and modifieds!

    Old half-Dodge with an early hemi? Even cooler!

    Say, what was the Case tractor in the background of the first pic? SC?

    Sent from my SM-G960U using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
     
  20. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    Those pictures were taken in the shed before I picked the bug up. That was one of several tractors that he had. Most of his tastes were pre 1960 with an emphasis on trucks from the teens. Some really cool FWD's and Oshkosh trucks. Most with C cabs and wood wheels. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about tractors so I can't say what it was.

    Thanks for the support! Keeps me wanting to post the pics.
     
  21. I like your plan n start. Those old doodlebugs are amazing, homemade machines.
    My ride is a 28 chev converted to a doodlebug. I changed out the rearend and been driving it for years. Good luck w yours.



    Rusty, Greasy, Noisy
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
  22. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    Well, I was away for a couple of weeks on business travel. Thought maybe you guys would like a bit of a status update.

    When I purchased the Doodlebug, it came with the engine and transmission. The trans was a NP435 from a 1968 Dodge pickup. Hot Heads made a trans adapter which replaced the OE transmission adapter. Yea, for some reason Desoto used an adapter to mate the engine to their transmission. I wanted to mock up the trans, but to do this I needed to first remove the torque converter. For some reason, Desoto bolted the torque converter on using bolts and nuts. You can just barely access the nut by reaching up between the oil pan and the crank flange. It's something that's not hard to take apart, but could be a real pain to put back together. The problem is that I needed to bar the motor over so I could reach all of the nuts. That lead to a second problem... the motor was stuck.

    Two years ago I poured a bunch of atf and acetone into the cylinders hoping that it would free the pistons up. Even with the extended soak time, it still wasn't enough. Even though I didn't want to, I was forced to tear the engine down. Typically, I'd do this with the engine mounted to a stand, but it wouldn't bolt up with the converter still attached. I was forced to tear it apart laying on the ground. Here are the photos...
     

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  23. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    Got the intake off... not good. It would appear the engine was wet. Based upon the rust "blisters" I'm thinking it's condensation. Years and years of condensation. Hopefully it stops at the valves.
     

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  24. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    Got the heads off. Yuck! The red is the atf/acetone mix. The sludge I believe was cylinder carbon. Either soot from oil or maybe fuel. Probably mixed with a little rust scale.
     

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  25. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    I noticed one of the valves was missing. Initially I thought the engine had dropped a valve which would be a death sentence. However, the cylinder still had the penetrating fluid in it. I think the valve head just rusted off because closer inspection showed no cylinder, piston or head damage.
     

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  26. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    Ok, at this point, my pictures got cut off. Let's say that I was distracted trying to remove the pistons. There were two that were horribly stuck. I was able to beat most out with a steel bar carefully snaked up past the crank so it rested against the wrist pin. That left me with three that I needed to bar the engine over so the rod bolts would clear the crank. Thankfully, I was able to remove the stuck pistons so by this point the engine would bar over. I'd guess it took the two of us a full three hours to get the pistons out.

    Did the atf/acetone work? I'd say 'yes', but with the caveat that it can't work miracles. By the time I was down to the last three pistons, I was thinking that I was really screwed, but those remaining pistons were free. I'm certain they wouldn't have been if the engine hadn't been soaking.

    The bottom of the oil pan had an inch of metallic looking sludge. The sludge was the same color as the rod bearings. The bearings all looked good with no scores or copper showing. My guess is that they were just heavily worn. There were no stamps on the rod caps so I don't believe the bottom end had been apart previously.

    In the end, it's pretty obvious I'll be needing a rebuild. It was at this point that I had my first Holy Cr@p! moment. The parts to rebuild the engine will be around $2,000 and the labor to rebuild it will be $2,500. Oofda.
     
    41 GMC K-18 likes this.
  27. 41 GMC K-18
    Joined: Jun 27, 2019
    Posts: 541

    41 GMC K-18
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    This is an interesting thread no doubt. Ultra double mega ouch on the price of parts and rebuild. There is no such thing as a free vintage HEMI if you get my drift. All that being said, your doodle bug project is still very cool. Purely as a source of inspiration to you, this very cool Packard powered kind of a doodle bug/all terrain vehicle/fun toy for the farm was seen at the Portland swap meet several years ago, it started up and ran smoothly. Enjoy the pictures. Don't be daunted by machines, just be patient and persevere !
    Be well and do well and when in doubt, apply heat and torque evenly! Rinse and repeat !
    Dennis.



    1924 packard 1.JPG 1924 packard 2.JPG 1924 packard 5.JPG 1924 packard 3.JPG 1924 packard 4.JPG
     
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  28. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    I do agree, that thing is pretty cool. The fabrication skills are quite impressive, especially considering the era. The guy I got mine from had a tracked one as well. That one had been sitting outside so it wasn't quite as nice as mine. Definitely had the rusty patina down. This tractor had four semi tires so the tracks were full length. It then had a very large home made winch on the back. They took a truck axle and removed half the axle housing and then mounted a drum to the remaining leg. It's a cool restorable tractor, just beyond what I was willing to take on as a project.
     
  29. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    Well, the engine is now mocked up. I suspected the steering shaft was going to be a problem and I was right. Step one was to remove the gearbox and it's integral steering shaft. Yea, no rag joints on this one! Looking back at the photo's I've come to realize some of the rework that is going to come from them.
     

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  30. T&D1w
    Joined: Jan 3, 2020
    Posts: 21

    T&D1w

    The Desoto comes with an unusual donut style mount that bolted into the chassis with a vertical bolt. There were then three horizontal bolts that attached the mount to the block using some cast ears. Rather than remake the entire assembly, I chose to cut the original mounts apart and then weld some tabs to it. This would permit me to use some leaf spring bushings for the motor mount.
     

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    Okie Pete likes this.

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