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Q&A with Kit Foster: April 2, 2015


Q. This is my father-in-law’s tow truck back in 1948 when he owned Sam’s Garage in Bridgeport, Conn. Could you help us identify the make and year of this truck?

— Art Jensen, via e-mail

A. At first glance, the pre-war cab-over-engine trucks of Studebaker and Dodge came to mind, but close comparison with your photo dismissed both those ideas. Eventually I ended up at, an indispensible website for learning about not only U.S. builders of custom bodies for Full Classic automobiles, but also those who bodied trucks, station wagons, hearses, ambulances and many other things. I’m convinced your father-in-law’s wrecker had a 1938 Dodge chassis with body by Montpelier Mfg. Co. of Montpelier, Ohio.

Successor to wagon makers Turnbull & Shelly, Montpelier Manufacturing was established in 1921 to build truck bodies. It was an early producer of sleeper cabs for long-distance trucking, and also built police vans, ambulances and funeral coaches. In 1938, Montpelier’s Harry Schwartz approached the Dodge Truck Division of Chrysler Corp. with a cab-over-engine body for its 1-1/2- and 2-ton chassis. Many makes were offering COE models, but Dodge and Chevrolet in particular did not have them. Montpelier advertised its Dodge and Chevy COE bodies widely and they became quite popular, for a while. Their popularity, in fact, resulted in both Dodge and Chevy offering their own COEs by 1939. Montpelier went on to develop forward-control delivery vans on Dodge and GM chassis. Photos of trucks similar to your father-in-law’s Dodge can be seen at

Q. In response to Warren J. Broz [and his overheating Chevy-engined Plymouth] (Nov. 13), I had a similar problem with a 1947 Plymouth I built on a 1975 Dodge D100 chassis. I used the 318 engine with an engine-driven fan and matching radiator. All was fine until a parade use caused it to overheat. I installed an electric fan in front of the radiator. That didn’t help.

The problem was the shape of the engine compartment not allowing enough hot air to escape with the V8 engine. Air was blowing up and following the contour of the hood and then going down to the area in front of the radiator. The solution was to make a shroud above the radiator to stop the hot air from going that way. I didn’t open up the inner fender splash shields, but that might help the hot air to escape.

— Richard Rushton, Keaau, Hawaii

A. Good point about getting hot air out of the engine compartment. With more heat generated by the V-8 engine, and less room for it to escape, there’s bound to be a problem, and even a bigger radiator won’t get the hot air out. That’s why many cars have louvers in the splash shields. Thomas Smith from Brookhaven, Miss., also wrote in to suggest taking off the front fan because it blocks incoming air. He has a radiator from Walker Radiator Works in Memphis, Tenn., (800-821-1970) with a Cooling Components electric fan behind it, operated by a toggle switch. He reports no overheating problems with air conditioning on in stop-and-go traffic.


Q. This Model T head is 1/2-inch shallower in the compression area and markings are different than my other Model T head. Can you tell me anything about it?

— Bob Farrell, Northeast Kingdom, Vt.

A. Shallower combustion chambers result in higher compression. I suspect the numbers cast into it represent a casting date, which would differ from day to day, head to head. There also appears to be a “T” or “+” cast into the mounting area for the water outlet. Model T folks, any comments?

To submit questions to this column: E-mail or mail to: Q&A, c/o Angelo Van Bogart, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.

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