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!
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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
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!
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!