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Car of the Week: 1951 Dodge M37

Introduced in 1951, the Dodge M37 was used extensively in the Korean War, and then again in Vietnam by the U.S. military.
Car of the Week 2020
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By Tommy Cockrell

In October 1969, I received my orders to Vietnam where I was assigned to the 14th Combat Engineer Battalion at Fire Support Base Nancy. After getting a temporary assignment as the battalion mail truck driver, I was given my first truck — a deuce and a half. I drove that deuce for several weeks before settling into my regular duty as Courier Driver for the battalion, with a daily run from Firebase Nancy to 45th Engineer Group Headquarters in Phu Bai. But this time, my truck was a mid-’60s Dodge M37.

Introduced in 1951, the M37 was used extensively in the Korean War, and then again in Vietnam by the U.S. military. The basic body style remained unchanged from 1951 through 1968 and was ultimately replaced in the mid-seventies.

The M37 was powered by a 78-hp Dodge straight-six mated to a four-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive. It’s top speed of 40-45 mph created no problems for me in Vietnam. My 70-mile round-trip took me through several villages and the city of Hue where my speeds were lucky to reach 25 mph.

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After seeing a couple of the old Dodge M37s at local car shows, I began my search for a reasonably priced M37. I wanted to recreate the one Uncle Sam loaned me 48 years ago. Finding one proved to be not too difficult. However, many of them had been butchered or cut up pretty bad. I located one at the Goldenrod Garage in Freeport, Maine. After negotiating the deal, including the removal of a snow plow, the M37 arrived in Camden on June 27, 2017. The truck seemed to run pretty well, but had an issue keeping consistent voltage running through the still-intact 24-volt system. Fortunately, a simple coil replacement seemed to rectify that problem.

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I knew that I wanted to get it cosmetically refurbished and ready for the local shows and parades. The M37 already had a new canvas top and seat covers. The cosmetic needs involved body work, paint inside and out and new wood rails and troop seats in the bed.

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Gordie Medieros was able to work the M37 in his schedule in mid-July. Gordie had previously done a show paint job on my 1962 Olds Starfire and was excited to work on this “fun” project. Other than having to replace one fender, Gordie was able to work with the rest of the truck.

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One of my requirements for the M37 was correct markings for the 18th Brigade, 45th Group, 14th Battalion and Headquarters Company. I could also recreate the specific truck U.S. Army number from pictures that I had from Vietnam. Unfortunately, I do not remember my truck number (HQ). It didn’t show up on any of the pictures from 48 years ago. However, my first truck, the deuce-and-a-half, was “HQ7.” I decided to assign that company number to my “new” truck.

After I got the M37 back from the body shop, I started tinkering with it over the winter. My truck and I will be ready for the spring shows.

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