Update No. 1 - 1936 Dodge Ram Hearse Restoration Project

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We rescued this hearse from an old farm shed east of Taupiri back in June 2012 and have had it in dry storage for the past 18 months or so leading up to our project start date of April 2014.

The hearse originally went into service in 1936 from brand new at the funeral firm based in Dargaville, Northland, most likely having being shipped out to New Zealand from America as a cab and chassis, then having the coachwork carried out in Auckland somewhere at a guess.

It remained in service for many years until being sold several times over to different private owners and has had considerable motor work carried out in the mid 1970’s. It carries a vehicle registration sticker and warrant of fitness dated in 1984.

I see by the date on my photos that it is now one year on into our restoration project. Our hearse, in the form of a rolling body and bits ‘n’ pieces was loaded onto Craig Pedens transporter for delivery to Westcoast Restorations west of Huntly for work to get underway.

Neil Holstein, along with his brother in law Tim, who is a joiner with 30 years experience have taken the project on jointly, Neil with the expertise required to repair the body work etc. and Tim to tackle the all very important timber work.

Work began firstly on the big job of stripping the already removed panels, guards, doors, bonnet and roof etc all back to bare metal. Once the many layers of paint were removed an etch primer was applied to the bare metal. No real panel beating is attempted at this stage.

While Neil is busy with this work, Tim started to measure up the timber framing in order to craft the new timber structure along with the floor supports. After taking some measurements and making a few phone calls I sourced some White American Ash timber for the construction. This timber has good qualities well suited to coach building.

Once the required 42 metres of timber had arrived from Auckland Tim got underway cutting and building a side at a time, firstly the left, then the right side and at the same time tackled the tricky job of replacing the rotten floor structure, these also act as the main support for the entire wooden frame and go forward right up under the front firewall.

Now that the two sides and the new floor pieces are in place it was then time to reconstruct the rear end, namely the rear door housing. Once this was completed the temporary bracing that was thankfully installed by someone at some earlier point, could be removed. This bracing was a God send as it held the ailing timber body true, while awaiting restoration. The timber roof structure was largely sound and intact with only two of the outside edge braces needing replacing.

At this stage the project is really starting to take shape. We can now clearly see the form of the timber work that will be instrumental in supporting the metal panels that will be pinned and glued onto the timber frame. The full replacement of the timber structure has resulted in a very strong and true project at the end of the day.

It is at this stage that we are about ready to lift the fully refurbished timber body, along with the front firewall off in order that the chassis can then be sandblasted.

So, one year on and making steady progress on what could be classed as a bit of a big project! But thanks to Neil and Tim, work has progressed well over the past twelve months and I think we are pretty much on target and on budget.