Last update : 11DEC99

This page details the process of going from an impossible idea to owning and driving a bargain of a truck. Well, okay as it stands the page only goes up to "throwing money in a hole" but that's going to change within a week or so when I get her running and rolling home!
It lives! It's alive and seemingly well after waking from it's year plus nap sitting in the lot at the shipyard. Things are moving along well!

October, 1998:
I attend a state run auction with a friend. There were some pretty nifty older forestry department trucks but nothing amazing until we peeked over the fence and saw about a half dozen 5 ton trucks, some cargo and some dumps. Those were _cool_. Too bad this group was still reserved for state agencies. For a few weeks I tried becoming a state agency but didn't have much luck.  Some web surfing showed that these trucks were available commercially, but for high prices. Time went on and I learned of the DRMO, that great recycling bin in the sky.

January, 1999:
Said friend and I bid on 5 tons 3000 miles away. He went for a cargo, I opted for a tractor.  Well, we got really, really outbid on those. Too bad because I think it would have been great fun to run our 'convoy' across the country.

March, 1999:
Another auction so I headed down to the local base to check out some deuce-and-a-halves. The trucks were fair, and one caught my attention. This truck was not up for bid at this time however. The reason that this 5 ton drew my attention?  I was pretty confused by the vehicles I saw, some little more than basket cases and those in seemingly great shape. But who would want to get rid of a good truck? I figured that the good looking samples were probably concealing something. [That's probably pretty wrong but here's the rest of the logic:] This particular truck had a broken steering linkage, it was undrivable. In my mind I figured that it was shipped off to DRMO for that reason. Oh the rest of the truck was in pretty good shape, complete soft top, 11 good tires, under 10,000 miles. Well I bid on another truck that was up for auction, no luck, no truck.

August, 1999:
I returned in August to inspect another truck but the DRMO had that truck 300 miles away so it was a wasted trip. We couldn't even get into the yard. So a peek over the fence showed the truck sitting exactly where it was months ago. There was still a big pile of dirt (~100 pounds) on the hood. That pile was there months ago, also.

October, 1999:
Well my Jeep was getting full so I needed to expand. I was lucky enough to get some time off of work and became a DRMO junkie. Turns out that I was able to place winning bids on _two_ M332 ammunition trailers. Cool, that adds a lot of cargo space to the jeep. However, in all honesty, these trailers were bigger than the Jeep, and something just didn't look quite right... But maintenance is low on the trailers. Actually I had gone through the effort to rig the air compressor on my jeep to support the air brakes of the trailers but neither trailer had working air brakes. Their parking brakes stuck like glue, however!

November, 1999:
I was browsing a fresh DRMO listing and see the previous noted truck coming up for bid. I had remembered that I had some desire to bid on it, and here's the sale listing detailing the broken steering gear. Got to be the same one!! It slipped my mind for a while until I was talking with my cube mate at work and he told me about a deuce or 5 ton bed for sale. OOH that reminds me... got to squeeze in that bid ! It went in with a couple of hours to spare. Another week goes by and I forget about it, then I get stumped at work and need a change of scenery. I surf over to the DRMO site, look at the auction results and there's my name!!  Panic rapidly set in...  How am I going to get this thing home? Where the heck will I find that steering bit? Will it ever run again? Where can I park it? (My landlord already asked me to move the M332s!)   I mentioned this to my friend who I was last at the base with and told him it was the one with dirt on the hood and then it sorta came together that if it _still_ had the dirt on the hood then I hadn't even looked under there. I reviewed my old notes and saw that I hadn't even done a walk around on this truck. Oh boy. In my panic I find a good deal of moral support and stumble across a few great resources on the net, like the Military Vehicle e-mail list and some parts sources.  I ordered a pitman arm that I thought was needed by the truck too. That will be here in another 3 days. I got a call from DRMO in Battle Creek, MI. They apparently are not accepting form 1822 yet so I was asked to resubmit on a form 2 so I did that. And I did consider not resubmitting so I would lose the truck! But sanity quickly passed and I filled out the form as fast as I could!

November 26, 1999: (CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE)
I headed down to meet the truck the day after Thanksgiving, figuring that the DRMO and base would be a ghost town so I could monkey around with the truck a bit, maybe sneak some acetylene on the old pitman to get it removed. Turns out that it's pouring out, I can't find two good 12V batteries, nothing goes right, etc. I managed to get into the DRMO yard, escorted. I give the truck a once over and things look good. (aside from the 10 shovelfuls of dirt that I had to take off the hood.... with a shovel!) It's solid, in pretty good shape and 95% complete. Engine oil is okay, radiator is full, and diesel came out of the petcock on the filter.  The plan was to take the batteries out and return with two new ones to try to fire up the engine. Well, the escort wouldn't let me as there was some outstanding paperwork or something so I didn't even bother to push it. It was wet and I was cold and in mental overload.  Turns out the pitman arm that will arrive here tomorrow is not what I need. It's a "relay lever bracket" that is needed. Similar function but wildly different hardware. The original bracket was ripped from the frame!

Now back to the logic I used on bidding on the visibly broken truck-  The escort with me in the yard told me that this particular truck drove in and the steering linkage gave as the driver was entering the yard. Well that blew my logic but this truck entered the yard under it's own power! Yeah I guess it did have to get moved into position by a front end loader but boy that's half the battle.

I gave her a good look see while I was in the yard. No tools or anything, but that's nothing new. It did have a spare tire in the bed and 10 decent tires on already. Soft top was complete, windows worked, passenger door latch was a little sticky but that's nothing to complain about. I'm sure that there are only 3 or 4 parts in that mechanism anyway! The light switch cluster was missing, along with the fuel gauge and the back cushion of the passenger seat. That's an easy fix- don't fix the passenger door and I won't need to have a passenger seat :)  I took some advice and checked to be sure the 'engine stop' lever was connected. Yes, and I'll verify it again. Accelerator returns, clutch feels good, transmission feels smooth, brake pedal had some resistance to it, too. I didn't try the transfer case yet. Only other things missing were the towing shackles on the front bumper. Also the front fender connection for the e-brake air pipe was broken. I'd be willing to bet it has something to do with the front end loader used to jockey the truck into position!

So as things stand, I now know exactly what I need for the steering linkage and I got some numbers off the batteries so I hope that I can get her running in an hour of two. I'll bring down some fuel as the 78 gallon tank sounds pretty hollow. I'm not too worried, I feel pretty good about this coming together.  I plan on returning to the yard next week, as soon as I can get the steering bit and finagle a day away from the office.

November 29, 1999:
Started off today with some parts hunting. This had been a slow weekend due to the holiday. First order of business was to get a set of drag link sockets. I figured that would be the easiest of all but apperently they are scarcer than hen's teeth. Sears catalog and express shipping and my fingers are crossed!

Next problem was to get the steering brace "relay lever bracket". I called SECO, the same place I had incorrectly ordered the pitman from. Off the shelf came the bracket, and also a NOS light switch and a parts manual that I hope I won't need! Boy that was easy. I'll be happy to see that package in three days.

Last hot item was to lay my hands on some batteries for the beast. Someone on the MV list posted the address to the Exide site that had the GI batteries. I tried the local Exide distributor who insisted he had something on the shelf that he could get to fit. I gave up, called back, and got someone else who would check into that line, but anything would be 1+ week to get here due to the fright requirements, etc. Bummer.

On a whim I called my local NAPA. Turns out they don't carry Exide batteries but they do carry their house brand that's made by Exide. After some catalog searching he came up with what I believe is an exact match, size, specs, and post configuration. Cool. I asked how long to get one in. They had 5 in stock!! Oh this is good! As an interesting note the batteries are stocked empty, add your own acid. I though it was odd but the more I thought about it, that idea was pretty cool. I'll be there ASAP right after I get the official confirmation from DRMO.

November 30, 1999:
A preliminary award comes from DRMO letting me know that it's mine as long as my payment clears. Whew. Hate to think I'd be going nuts for nothing!
RPS drops off one sweet looking pitman arm. Too bad I have no use for it. I'll hold on to it while driving the M54 home just in case.

December 1, 1999:
Nothing happens. Not the good kind of nothing, this is the "Where the hell is the UPS package from Sears with my drag link sockets?" nothing. The operator assures me that Second-Day air takes 3 days. Somebody, someday will invent a phone that lets you smack the person on the other end.

December 2, 1999:
Drag link sockets arrive along with a care package containing the lighting switch, a parts guide and the steering relay lever bracket. This bracket is a lot bigger than I remeber the original... a _lot_ bigger.

December 3, 1999:
Took a ride down to the base after work. Only got to spend about 3 minutes with the truck because it was closing time at the DRMO office. I needed to lay my eyes on the truck again just for a sanity check.

The truck does have the gauges and directional. I guess that I've been looking at too many other green trucks and just lost track!  Spent some time under the hood. Belts look great but there's a radiator hose that may not make the 100 mile trip home. Had some difficulty finding how to purge the fuel filter. There's a petcock on the bottom and a hex plug up top, no bleed nipple. The fuel line seems to head out from the one filter to the regulator. I'll have to dig further on this one. As it looks this will be the biggest challenge in getting her started (I hope!)

The steering silliness continues. The old (broken) relay lever bracket bolts to the frame with two bolts from the side and two from the top. My replacement part has 3 on the top and 3 on the side. I did some measuring and it looks like the replacement will mount to the old location and it leaves me another 2 holes that I should drill and tap. Maybe the old style bracket was prone to failure as the newer is very beefy. One other thing of note is that the parts manual shows the bracket fastened to the frame with rivets, and I have bolts. Hm, well I hope this all gets sorted out soon.

I still don't know who the manufacturer of the truck was, that could hamper registration or insurance. Odds are Mack, Diamond-T, Reo, International Harvester, or Studebaker.
As of now, I've got just about everything I'll need to fire it up and drive it home. I will need to pick up some pipe fittings to replace the broken e-brake air line ell, but it should be gravy as a whole!

As it stands I need Battle Creek to finalize paperwork then get down there and do a little wrenching to get it rolling. I'm pretty eager to get moving on this as I've been spending a lot of time over the past weeks getting everything lined up for it. Actually I'm not sure if I could pull the truck out with my draft award notice. DRMO said they have already loaded a couple of trucks from the same sale. Hmm. I'll call Battle Creek monday. I want to get it out of the boneyard before too much walks away.

December 6, 1999:
I had to run an errand to the hardware store and swap out some welding tanks. A perfect job for the M332 trailer. (Actually not perfect. Had I been able to hook up the lights on the M332 to the Jeep it would have been perfect!) While unloading, I see a worker from the electric company approach me and he's really digging the trailer. Turns out he just found the DRMO website and had spent most of the previous weekend online checking it out.  He's scouting for a deuce. They seem to be sneaky to catch in this area.

Next stop was BigA autoparts. Now I'm a Napa boy, but BigA had the correct Exide 6TL batteries for about $30 less than Napa so I grabbed a pair at BigA. After I grabbed them I kinda hunched over because those are some heavy suckers!

December 8, 1999:
I'm not able to pull together any info at all on serial numbers, so it looks like I may have to accept a SF97 that has the make listed as 'unknown.' Also, waiting for official release has me quite impatient. I called the SCO in Battle Creek today and he checked his papers and told me that it was cleared on December 1, a week ago. Well I'm glad I asked!

At work I'm waiting on a few things, kinda twiddling at the moment, so I asked my boss and he's letting me shift my schedule around so I can head down to the DRMO yard tomorrow and try and get her running.  I've got the Jeep loaded to capacity with just about every hand tool that I own, most of the larger stuff like some power tools, a 1200 Watt inverter, Oxy/Acetylene setup, new batteries, and even taking a small steel workbench are riding down in the M332 trailer :) Rolling in 9 hours. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Toes too!

December 9, 1999:

Got to the shipyard around 8.  As soon as I got out there I threw 5 gallons of diesel into the tank (Ok, 4 got in the tank, one kind of got all over!) and I figured I'd give it time to sit and mix with what was in there. Fuel had to be at least a year old.

First issue was to remove the broken glad hand from the front end. I just plugged it and it's not even a good plug but it holds more than enough pressure for driving.

Next step was to put the batteries in and diagnose on the fly. I put the low battery's ground on, then the high battery's positive. To be sure there wouldn't be any crazy electrical gremlins, I put my ammeter across the open battery posts. No current drawing! This looks good so far.

The air intake was pointing at a funny angle and I needed to turn it around on the 'can' so if the engine was to run away on startup, I could get in with a piece of plywood to smother it. I had to pull about 20 pounds of dirt off that finder to get the cover off! Slow and tight but it moved along well.

I couldn't find a bleeder for the fuel line and I didn't want to mess with troubles on removing the whole filter, so I did the next best thing. I hopped in and hit the start button for about 3 seconds. It cranked nicely but didn't fire. I paused a moment and tried the starter again. In under a second the LDS465-1A mill sprang to life!  Let me mention that I had my relatively clean jeep parked to the right of the M54. On startup, more black oily crud went airborne than you could imagine- My jeep's just about tattooed with soot spots!   As the engine warms up oil pressure comes up soon to about 50psi. Air charges the tanks and the buzzer shuts promptly at 60psi. Step on the clutch and find first. It moves!! Okay so I only moved it about a foot and it only goes right due to the broken steering assembly, but in under 2 hours I've got it up and alive.

The steering bracket was another matter. For starters it was very difficult to get to the nut and bolt at the same time. After I managed to get the old (4 bolt) bracket remains cleared off, I sized up the 6 bolt replacement. I had to make a little trim on the inner fender and then just kiss the front of the bracket. It went on okay, but I didn't drill out the other two holes as I was planning on getting just the 4 originals for now, then rip it apart later and paint the new bracket, etc.  The agonizing part was aligning the relay lever's bore with the bore in the bracket. Both drag link ends were buggered up so I couldn't easily remove them. Well some hammering and a lot of finesse on the steering wheel and it lined up well. That cross bolt was another story. My casting was a little damaged and the hole was deformed. I had to hammer the bolt through and that damaged the threads. A quick run of a die solved that. I'm feeling really good about this! It's getting into the afternoon and the DRMO is about to close. I pulled my jeep out of the yard and left the trailer.  My first time driving the M54 is to hitch to the M332! It was about 4 attempts and that was _with_ a spotter!

So for the fun part- I get let loose on the base trying to get the feel for the 5-ton at the same time as everyone got out of work. I took a couple of laps around the building and parked the truck to wait for traffic to ease.  Drove the jeep off base next and walked back for the '54 and had a ball in traffic in the shipyard.

Stopped for about $45 in diesel, then made about an hour ride to a friends house (like 15 miles but I really overshot!) and parked the M54 and M332 there for the weekend. He gave me a lift back to the yard to get the jeep and I just got home! What a day!

WooHoo!  Maybe next week I won't get passed by so many school busses!

Gonna head down Monday after work and make the last hour of the journey home!

December 10, 1999:

I got insurance! My agent only asked for VIN, year and make. I told her the title (SF97) said "unknown" but I thought it could be an IHC. I chose IHC because it has the best recognition in the civvy auto insurance market. Turns out that she had to put me on hold while she called their classic car group to find out what an "International Harvester" is. Heh heh, oh well I was damn patient!

Next challenge will be paying excise tax. My town has a "blue book" that they use as the bible. It took about a week for them to decide what my Fiat was worth. This will be a challenge! After taxes I can get a plate. As long as they let me run as an antique, this will be sweet ($13 for antique registration, $600 for 40,000#GVW truck plates!) The Antique plate basicaly carries a restriction of non-commercial, not a primary mode of transportation, and you have to be having fun or something to that end.

Also as I read my state's (Maine) CDL manual, I am exempt if I don't operate commercially. This matches well with the Antique plate's restriction. I'm afraid to ask if I could tandem the M332 trailers behind the M54 without a Tandem endorsement, and that's only available with a CDL. More to follow!

to be updated soon!
questions/comments? email me

Extra special thanks to : David Doyle, Bill George, Nick 'Cougarjack', Byron Morris at SECO, Ron at BigA in Westbrook, and the whole parts desk of NAPA in Westbrook!

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