- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

Back when Ed Johnson was a student at Osbourn High School in Manassas, the 1940 Chevrolet dump truck he drove wasn't considered all that old.
After school and on weekends he would load his truck with sand by hand and deliver it to housing developers for a small profit. Unloading the sand was a lot easier than the loading operation.
Mr. Johnson recalls witnessing the delivery of a brand-new Dodge truck to one of the city officers in the summer of 1954. The six-wheel tractor was equipped with a fifth wheel and the gears were designed so the 354-cubic-inch, 275-horsepower hemi-head V-8 engine could serve as a tractor for a car carrier.
After three years it became apparent the Job Rated "J" truck was never going to be used to haul new cars to their destinations. Consequently, the fifth wheel was removed and replaced with a three-yard dump body with a Galion single-piston, scissor-action lift.
The original owner kept the truck, using it sparingly, until he died. After a suitable time passed, Mr. Johnson offered to buy the old, but barely used, truck from the widow.
His offer was rejected.
Years later, after the widow died, Mr. Johnson again offered to buy the truck from the son of the original owner.
This time the answer was yes, but not for a couple of weeks because the seller wanted to haul some gravel to his farm in the Dodge.
Mr. Johnson finally bought the truck in November 1983, 29 years after he first saw the vehicle. He used the truck for 16 years on his farm to haul farm stuff, always double-clutching when shifting gears both up and down.
"I've hauled seven- to eight-ton loads many times," Mr. Johnson said.
"It goes in gear well," he said, "but you've got to help it." During the years Mr. Johnson has owned the truck it has been stolen twice. He's convinced the thieves were after the hemi engine. Fortunately, the truck was quickly recovered both times.
When June 1999 arrived Mr. Johnson realized his Dodge truck with the factory-installed hemi V-8 was a rare model and relatively unused. He decided to restore it to usable, not show, condition.
The six 8.25x20-inch 10-ply tires were replaced, along with a new, relatively dent-free dump body. Six big lug nuts secure each wheel. Mr. Johnson installed white oak trim on the sides of the black body.
The cab was repainted blue after the rusted-out floorboards were replaced, along with the rusted-out bottom portions of both doors. The mighty hemi V-8 engine remains nested beneath the two-piece engine hood, which opens from either side.
From the driver's seat in the towering cab the view is unobstructed through the panoramic one-piece windshield.
The 17-foot-long Job Rated Dodge stands 7 feet high, 7 feet, 4 inches wide and rides on a 130-inch wheelbase.
After three years the restoration was complete. The curved quarter windows at the rear corners of the cab, though useless in this application, remain attractive. The outrigger mirrors, however, are functional.
The truck has a four-speed transmission. It is mated to a two-speed axle, which translates to eight forward gears.
The 80 mph speedometer is visible through the three-spoke steering wheel. Will the big truck reach 80 mph? "No question about it," exclaims Mr. Johnson. "It'll scoot right along with a seven- or eight-ton load," Mr. Johnson said. The only creature comfort item offered is the heater.
The six-volt battery is under the floor, accessible by removing a steel plate beneath the driver's feet.
"You don't go for Sunday drives," Mr. Johnson said. When the truck is empty he reports fuel economy of about eight miles per gallon. "You're lucky to get six when its loaded."
The fuel tank has a 30-gallon capacity.
Although the heavy-duty Dodge is in the best condition, both cosmetically and mechanically, since it left the factory in 1954, Mr. Johnson keeps his truck with the hemi semiretired.
It still has the muscle to haul heavy loads but Mr. Johnson takes great pleasure in occasional drives. He likes to baby his baby.
The odometer on the Dodge has yet to reach 26,500 miles, an incredible average of about 550 miles each of the past 48 years.

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