Chelsea Proving Grounds: Vintage Dodge trucks

You never know what stories you'll find behind some of the many classic and vintage trucks out there. American Trucker contributing editor Aaron Marsh stumbled across a truck that may have fueled planes at Chicago's O'Hare Airport back when the Allies were fighting World War II and a 1940s Dodge that perhaps delivered milk, logs and other goods decades ago in Wisconsin.

Much as the focus was on the latest capabilities of the 2016 Ram Trucks lineup at the Heavy Hauler demo event last week, some much older timers that made an appearance got lots of attention as well. A group of five vintage Dodge trucks, most dating back to the WWII era or earlier, was at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Chelsea Proving Grounds for the event.

That included a 1938 Dodge Airflow tanker, which restoration specialist Dean Reifsnider tells Fleet Owner may be the last actually running example of its kind in the country. It was purchased in very rough shape years ago from an owner in South Carolina, he says. A press release from 2001 when the Walter P. Chrysler Museum unveiled the restored truck stated it was one of only 12 remaining in the world.

"You'll see a lot of models of this truck if you're in a truck stop or a fuel station," however, Reifsnider points out, a testament to the truck's classic lines and design. He also notes the possible history of the truck being used at O'Hare, "but we're not 100% certain of that." 

Though the Airflow was gazes-only, reporters got in and drove the other vintage Dodge hardware: A 1940 half-ton pickup, a 1941 Command Car WC-6 half-ton 4x4 military truck and a sleek 1964 D100 pickup. A 1947 2 1/2-ton heavy truck may have once hauled goods for an old-time trucking entrepreneur — the name painted on its side is John Maldonis, and it shows an address of Dorchester, WI. 

Some online digging turned up this obituary of John Charles Maldonis, born in 1918 and died in 2004 at age 85. According to the obit, John — who "enjoyed woodworking and was a hardworking man who loved his family" — "also owned and operated his own trucking business, hauling milk, gravel, logs and pulpwood." 

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TAGS: Equipment News
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