Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson
This truck has only 37 miles since a complete restoration. It features a rebuilt flathead 6-cylinder engine and 4-speed manual freshly synchronized transmission with a new clutch. It also has upgraded front-disc brakes, oak bed stained black, rare dual horns, original air and oil filters, and a vintage oil bath. It has all-new brakes, bearings in rear end, new glass and seals.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1949 Dodge B-1-B-108 1/2-ton pickup
Years Produced:1948–53
Number Produced:299,900 (all B-1 production, 1948–49)
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $14,605; high sale, $45,000
Tune Up Cost:$150
Distributor Caps:$12
Chassis Number Location:Tag attached to the driver’s door frame or stamped on the side of the frame aft of the left front spring hanger
Engine Number Location:Stamped on a boss on the driver’s side front of the engine block, just below the cylinder head
Club Info:Dodge Pilothouse Era Club of America, American Truck Historical Society
Alternatives:1950–53 International L-110 pickup, 1949–53 Studebaker 2R-5 pickup, 1946–62 Willys Jeep pickup
Investment Grade:B

This truck, Lot 599.2, sold for $28,050, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s Northeast auction at Uncasville, CT, on June 23–25, 2016.

Piloting a new era for Dodge

Dodge’s new post-war trucks were introduced in December 1947. Updates included a revised location of the front axle, which was farther back. The engine was moved farther forward on the chassis as well, which, when combined with all-new steering geometry, resulted in the most nimble of America’s immediate post-war trucks. On top of this was all-new sheet metal and a new cab.

There were two variations of the cab in three trim levels. The standard cab was taller than its predecessor, with a larger glass area. It had dual-vacuum motor windshield wipers at the bottom of the windshield, a cowl ventilator and a sun visor on the driver’s side only. The Deluxe cab added door-vent windows and rear-quarter windows, while the Custom cab further added dual sun visors, a driver’s door armrest, and foam-rubber seat padding.

That greater window area gave this generation of Dodge trucks the nickname “Pilot House,” which was used extensively by Dodge to market the new cab’s greater visibility.

A custom Custom

Our featured truck is a Custom Cab and then some. It was trimmed out inside with changes that include armrests on both doors, vinyl-covered door panels (over the stock dyed cardboard), floor carpeting, and a seat reupholstered in a non-stock vinyl pattern.

A Signal-Stat turn-signal control quadrant clamped to the left of the steering column was likely added as a Day Two modification (Day One in states that pioneered the requirement of turn signals by 1948). Other concessions to the 21st century include a 12-volt electrical system and front-disc brake conversion.

This is like a lot of trucks on the market today. For most, it’s more accurate to substitute “refurbished” for “restoration,” as a lot more has been changed and upgraded than returned to as it was when originally manufactured. I’d also like to know how you “freshly synchronize” a 4-speed transmission with straight-cut gears — barring a different transmission.

It was repainted a not-entirely-stock yellow, as the only yellow available beyond special-order fleet paint was school-bus-like Armor Yellow. Pickups from the Pilot House era also came standard from the factory with black cargo boxes with black rear fenders. Getting them painted to match the cab was an extra-cost option, but the majority of production used black pickup boxes. The front bumper was correctly painted, as chrome bumpers were an extra-cost option across the board.

The beauty of this truck is that, barring the repaint, there’s nothing here that would stop you from taking it back to bone stock. Even the most involved changes are essentially bolt-ons. This gives the new owner the option of just driving the truck as is, and when it’s time for major maintenance or to redo it, it’s an easy restoration.

Which part do I need?

One thing new owners of trucks like this tend to overlook is parts supply and maintenance.

That disc-conversion kit from the mid-1980s may be based on a vehicle that has even less parts support than your old Dodge. Front-disc brakes on a truck that originally had a one-inch-diameter master cylinder for all four corners sounds like a godsend until 30k miles down the road when it needs pads. Or it needs front wheel bearings. Good luck figuring out where those parts came from.

As the voice of experience here, while the original part may sometimes be difficult to locate, more often than not it’s still available. And more readily than you’d have guessed.

Piloting a Pilot House

Pilot House Dodges are among the best trucks of this era for today’s new vintage-truck enthusiast. They steer better than their period peers, and one could make the argument that they handle better than the rest, too.

The standard 3-speed (a floor-shift, until the column shift B-2-B of 1950) has syncros in second and third, so it’s a breeze for anyone who knows what to do with three pedals on the floor. Even the heavier-duty 4-speed in our featured truck is not too difficult to master, despite the double-clutching required due to the straight-cut gears.

Therein lies a certain amount of the appeal in trucks of this era: They are a pure driving experience. You can’t yak on the cell phone when driving one. You need to be focused on the task of operating the vehicle. You are mastering a vehicle that the majority of license holders now can’t drive, let alone figure out how to start.

Each time I do the secret handshake of pulling the choke and kicking the starter in one of these, I’m rewarded with the direct road feel, the now-unique chorus of the straight-cut gear whine, and the light burble of a flathead six that won’t beat anybody off the line (except for longevity). These are vehicles built to savor the Blue Roads. Put a small-block V8 with an automatic transmission in one and you lose those tactile feelings. Might as well buy a Chevy SSR and save a lot of trouble.

The going rate for going slow

The selling price of our featured truck is in the realm of today’s market reality. It probably cost at least this to build the truck, and refreshed generally stock pickups from the post-war era are now firmly in the $20k to $30k region anyway. Even rough originals and poorly modified underlyers are rising in price.

While Dodges and the independents have traditionally lagged in value compared to brands C and F, today everyone else is moving up the food chain at a higher rate. You can make the argument either way that there are plenty of Fords and Chevys out there to keep their market in check — even approaching seven decades after they were built — or that all the other makers are finally getting their due respect and now folks who otherwise weren’t traditional “old truck guys” are buying them. These new buyers aren’t as Bowtie- or Blue Oval-biased, so they are willing to consider a Dodge, International or Studebaker on its own merits, and greater numbers are doing that.

As such, call this market-correct, if not well bought if the owner is in it for the long term.

(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

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