Down in the Dumps
Awakening The Beastly C50
I always love adventure on a whim. When a good friend or family member calls on me to accompany them on a half cocked expedition, I am more than eager to indulge.
This particular excursion was brought on by my cousin Jesse. Throughout our entire lives, we have never been the voice of reason to one another. When one would suggest some damn fool crusade, the other would subscribe with equal fervor. Usually why each other is the first to be contacted for such journeys.
Jesse called on me for assistance in another mechanized adventure. An in-law offered up an antique 1967 Chevrolet C50 dump truck, that ran when parked, for a paltry sum. Jesse willingly obliged. Just one catch, it had not been ran for some time, as the ignition key had gone missing. Simple enough I surmised, as all we would have to do is wire in a new ignition switch. The plan was hatched and we agreed to rendezvous for our task ahead.
We arrived near the resting place of the brutish dump truck. It was located twelve miles outside of town. Tucked in the back yard behind a large garage. It was clear it had been there for a bit, tires rutted slightly into the gravel. Moss had begun to grow over the doors, windows, and mirrors. Further scrutiny of the body showed little oxidation. For an Illinois work truck, this behemoth was quite solid. Very rare in these parts. As I cracked open the door, I was greeted with an anodized sea of blue.
The interior seemed quite original. There were stickers still in place highlighting instruction on how to use the Dana Power Take-Off system that was equipped. It even had the factory AM radio. This thing was a treat. I cackled with delight as I began flipping switches and fiddling with levers.
When my mania had subsided, we set to work on wiring in the new ignition. The job was relatively simple. The only minor hindrance being that Jesse wished to leave the factory wiring intact so that a stock replacement ignition switch could be added later. A harness adapter had to be fashioned from the limited stock supplied by the friendly local auto parts store. Once all the appropriate wires had been attached, the moment of truth had arrived.
Jesse reconnected the battery and I twisted the key. The engine began turning and showed some signs of life. Yet, no combustion was taking place. We were slightly dismayed, but I quickly set out to assess the next important item. A loud honk blared from under the hood and Jesse hopped with a shock at the sound. The horn worked. My mind was now at ease knowing the truck was able to announce its presence.
A dirty 327ci
We started to poke around under the crusty and dusty 327 cubic inch V8 resting under the hood. We were checking to be sure we were getting fuel and spark. With the air cleaner removed we were quickly able to determine the fuel delivery system was functioning. Albeit with a sticky carburetor float. We then moved on to spark. During our hunt for fire, there was an unrelated discovery. The truck came with a friend. A little field mouse that resided in the cab came out to greet us. I was excited at the prospect of a resident driving companion!
Once we were back on topic, it was determined that power was going into the distributor cap, but not exiting to send power along the spark leads. Inspection revealed a corroded cap and dodgy rotor. We sauntered off to acquire the needed parts.
Upon our return, we quickly installed the new distributor cap and rotor. Then we rushed back to rotate the key. The engine cranked but no fire. We looked to the coil to check for power and none could be found. A conundrum, as spark was there moments ago. Off came the new cap and the contact points were examined and cleaned. Spark was returned. Back together things went and a twist of the key revealed... Nothing. Power was lost again. The distributor cap was removed once more. I poked and prodded and a light touch brought to our attention a loose power connection for the points. I tightened the screw and reassembled the distributor. A spritz of starting fluid to the carburetor and...
Listen to that burble.
Success! With the truck resuscitated and running smoothly, we sought to remove the C50 from its entrenchment. Jesse endeavored to put the truck into gear. One foot onto the clutch and then the other onto the brake, which sullied its way to the floor. The truck was without functioning brakes. To the brake master cylinder we went. Off came the cap and we peered inside to discover an arid reservoir. Now our next feat was a full brake system bleed. Believe it or not, it went quite well. All bleed nipples were clean, uncorroded, and easily unscrewed. The whole process worked out great for a field repair. We were now ready for the test drive!
As the truck died at the end of the road, it was discovered that the fuel gauge was in working order and the indicated "empty" was accurate. We turned the key in desperation hoping to find what little fuel was left. The truck again came to life. We sought to turn the truck around in a nearby church parking lot, hoping that it would not join those resting in the nearby cemetery. The C50 made it back to the start on but a whiff of fumes.
To my delight.
I procured a few gallons of fuel from the former owner and Jesse emptied them into the truck's fuel tank. A tinny echo radiated out, indicating just how barren it was. Jesse climbed into the driver seat of the C50 and I found my place behind the wheel of the Ford to tail him to the nearest fuel retailer.
For those who question this endeavor.
After conquering the first few blocks to the gas station, Jesse filled the tank with fresh fuel. He and I washed the moss from the windows and mirrors to aid the view. Now was the moment. Would the truck make it the twelve miles to its new home? We pulled out onto the highway and set forth. Slowly, the truck crawled its way to what may be a top speed just slightly north of 50mph. We settled in and as each mile passed, the truck grew more impressive. From the highway and into town, through traffic, and onto the neighborhood street. The drive was the most uncomplicated part of the day.
0-60mph? Eh, maybe?
After a five year hiatus from road going, the C50 completed this journey. Just a couple of hours work, a few dollars in parts, and a decent helping of gumption, the truck was brought back to life and put back on the road. It now patiently awaits a well deserved cleaning and some light refreshing before returning to service. It was wonderful to spend a Sunday morning reviving a lingering relic from the working past. Another half-cocked adventure completed and another chapter to the story.
A new place and a new lease on life.