I have been collecting World War II items for many years, particularly US Army Air Forces ETO Items, with a special interest in B-17 Groups. I also did reenacting as a Major in the 100thBG, 351st Squadron. I have been wanting to purchase a big piece of iron to restore, and since a B-17 is a little outside of my price range, I settled for a Korean War Era 1953 Dodge M37.
There was a time when your average citizen didn’t need or even want a 4×4 truck. SUV’s were a small item described in Popular Science as a future type of all around vehicle. America was coming out of World War 2, and thousands of GI’s were buying up surplus Jeep’s left and right, and Willy’s was selling a new civilianized Jeep. But there wasn’t a big call for all those surplus trucks; sure, the road departments, fire and forestry departments were getting there fair share of CCKW’s, WC’s, and many others.
In 1948 the Army was in need of a new vehicle, something to replace the WC’s, fill the gap between the Jeep and the bigger deuces. The first prototypes were delivered in 1950, and finally spec’ed out the final design 1951. This design, known as the M37 became a solid performer for the military. While most of the M37 production missed serving in the Korean War, a lot of them served all over the world, including Vietnam. Then around 1978 the Army began selling off its surplus trucks to local governments for a dollar.
These M37’s were used by men on a new type of mission, fire departments, forestry departments, city parks departments. After many years of service, even these trucks had life in them. Enter the civilian owner, not the type to want a vehicle to sip their double mocha cappuccino while hauling the kids to soccer practice, these owners wanted a truck to do what a truck should, climb mountains, ford streams, and do it all in a different sense of style. Many of these trucks, like mine, were purchased by owners who wanted to restore them to their original military ancestry.
In restoring the truck, I have found some surprises such as; finding an airman’s name scratched onto a rebuild tag, dated 1954, or finding the brass bullet casings behind and under the floorboards. You wonder and begin to research where this vehicle had been, who drove it, and what did it see. In the disassembly of the truck, I found discarded in the driver side door pillar an empty cigarette pack of Murad Turkish cigarettes, stuffed inside that was a match book from Adana Air Base 1955 now known as Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. Maybe my truck was on patrol when Gary Powers U-2 took off in 1960 and succumbed to a volley of Soviet surface-to-air missiles over Sverdlovsk. Maybe my truck was a world traveler…. Who knows?