Confessions of a Sledge Hammer Antique Truck Restorer

YORK SPRINGS, PA — As a fossil at the ‘seasoned’ age of 74 years, I must confess to my fellow hobbyists that I am not a vehicle restoration specialist. I have, however had many folks over the years provide me with Packard motor truck literature & complete many mechanical jobs/new manufacturing of parts projects that were way beyond my capability. Personally, I can only claim skills of appearing pathetically incompetent, pleading, begging and knowing only enough to be dangerous with engines to be able to have such wonderful friends that help me to bring back to life deceased commercial vehicles.

At the Hershey Fall Meet I have had numerous chance encounters with really knowledgeable experts (Matt, don’t get too swelled up with pride, OK?) with their commercial vehicles who put me to shame, so I must rely on my acid tongue/wise guy stupid comments that the public identifies as humor. Such was the case with my 1919 Packard truck. For 32 years on the day after the Hershey Fall Meet my friends along with the full support of my wife Joan, we held the ‘Packard Truck Organization’ meet that came to a screeching halt in 2018.

Packard truck: 1919 Packard Model E courtesy Dave Lockard
1919 Packard Model E
(courtesy Dave Lockard)

Over the years I got to know an elderly & true gentleman by the name of Charles White who for years lived just north of Philadelphia. Charles was a regular attendee at the PTO meet held at my home in York Springs, about a half hour above Gettysburg. Charles owned a fascinating original ex-Connecticut chemical fire truck chassis long after the body had been removed years ago — inheriting the Packard from his late father James, who purchased the Packard back in 1955. In the interim, following James passing, the Packard was stored in a south Philadelphia warehouse & home of the ‘Anthracite Battery Company’, was then taken south to Waverly, Florida Charles had residence. Sometime later Charles moved back north to South Carolina, his final residence.

The Packard remained in Florida where a local garage was supposed to begin restoration, however, that never happened. In early 2000 I had sold Charles a spare engine for his truck along with a spare transmission as his Packard truck did not run.

Moving forward to March 2008, I received a phone call from Charles who sadly,told me he had sold his White truck he had so coveted and now had to pass the Packard onto someone else. I explained to Charles that having seen pictures only of this original Packard truck that I knew several fellows who would be thrilled to buy the Packard (I cherish my solid capitalist business ethic of being a ‘Zero Commission Agent’). When asked, I constantly answer “I lose a little bit of money on every sale, but I always make it up in volume.” (Duh!) Charles emphatically told me not to contact anyone and he would get back to me shortly.

So, I waited.

A few weeks later, in early April 2008, I received a letter from Charles telling me that he was giving me the Packard plus the spare engine and transmission I had sold him years earlier, and was signing the Pennsylvania title to the truck over to me!

I was flabbergasted!

If there is one thing I have learned over time, if someone gives you something and if you really want it, go get it right away – which I did! My good buddy, the late Charles Linus, a retired long-haul truck driver readily accepted the challenge and left for Florida in April 2008 (Yeah, another ‘Charles’ so I’ll refer to Charles Linus as ‘Charlie’). Charlie had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer but refused to let his affliction slow him down if he could help it. We used my 1986 Dodge 360 gas engine w/4-speed transmission 17 foot- long ‘Beavertail’ Ram truck and Charlies’ dual axle open trailer.

Arriving in Waverly, Florida after staying in truly a flea bag ‘El Cheapo’ motel the night before, we arrived at our destination and began the arduous process of manually loading greasy, rusty truck parts on the back of the Dodge then eventually accomplished a prolonged hand winching of the Packard onto the trailer. It was stinking hot & miserable and every 10 or 15 minutes we had to take drink water and take a break to catch our breath. Finally, all was loaded & we left Waverly.

As we traveled up Interstate 4, Charlie and I were perspiring like sweat hogs (no A/C in the Dodge) and reeking of perspiration. Shortly before 8 PM we decided to stop for the night in Jacksonville just off Interstate 95. My brother Jeff lives in Jacksonville, and since we were in Jax, I thought I’d call him and let him at least know we were passing through town. Brother Jeff insisted on coming out to see us and the Packard.

We showered and awaited Jeff’s arrival.

It was close to 9PM as Jeff arrived & drove to where the Packard was located at the hotel parking area. Apparently upon seeing the Packard, Jeff’s jaw dropped. I believe there may have even been a few expletives as he approached the Packard & eventually saw and talked with us. Jeff left shortly before 10 PM as Charlie & I crashed being completely exhausted.

The following daylight arrived too soon, and Charlie and I got back on the road again. In Virginia, Charlies’ chemo-fatigued body caught up with him and we stopped for a cat nap. Arriving safely in York Springs late in the day, we claimed our trip to be a big success – Charlie, a real go-getter hammered my poor 360 Dodge engine like never before as it consumed 6 total quarts of oil but ran well for the entire trip!

The 1919 Packard truck conform to the AACA Class designated as HPOF (Historic Preservation Original Features). (courtesy Dave Lockard)
The Packard truck conforms to the AACA Class designated as HPOF
(Historic Preservation Original Features).
(courtesy Dave Lockard)

Later in 2008 Charlie and I removed the original engine and a buddy from my work took that engine and the spare engine to the late Tom Schlarb, a master machinist in Topton, NC. After examining both engines, Tom determined the original engine block had serous cracks and was not usable, so Tom proceeded with the restoration of the spare engine. In 2009, Tom had finished the engine restoration and had even sent me a video clip of the engine running! I retrieved the engine in N.C. and had friends assist in installing the engine in the frame.

Early on after bringing the Packard home and after an in-depth look at my (lack of) finances, the decision was made to have the Packard conform to the AACA Class designated as HPOF (Historic Preservation Original Features) – so there was no attempt of removal of surface rust! All went well as the now-restored engine was installed in the Packard frame. Now a serious strategy had to be developed on the rest of the ‘restoration’ – with a net budget of $ ZERO. But good fortune was upon me – and sequence of connections with friends overtook the massive challenge the 1919 presented.

1) Charles White had given me, along with the Packard parts, two 900 x 24 recaps I used on the rear axle. A good friend from my church, Leonard Mortorff worked for Carlisle Tire & Rubber & made up four new tubes for the above tires – this is equivalent size to 36 X 6 that were the original 1919 size. Amazingly, even though the front tires were cracked badly, they both held air! However, over time the tire on the right refused to retain the pressure and to this day the right front tire gave up the ghost of holding air.

As a matching set of original ‘Goodyear Diamond Tread’ tire & tube, I wanted the front tires to match. My good friend Ted Valpey of Dover, NH gifted me an identical 36 x 6 to replace the bad tire on the right side! Gee, it’s great to have friends!

2) Several years prior to 2008 a fellow (I failed to get his name) who knew I had old Packard trucks stopped by my home and told me he had an original ‘C’ cab – and asked if I wanted it as he was looking for someone he could give it to! Guess what I said?

3) Lacking any upholstery skills, I had a dilemma as to what to do for a seat for the above mentioned cab. In my repertoire of ‘stuff’ I had saved the foam from a ‘less than a top of the line’ mobile home mattress – problem solved partially and built a frame from 2 x 4’s.

4) Now for the covering. My late father in law was a retired Pastor – his Quarryville, PA church had removed yards and yards of room divider velvet curtains that were no longer needed due to massive renovations and construction – and with a quick shot of 99 cent flat black spray – BINGO!

5) Another local York Springs friend was in the process of getting a divorce. Over the years he had dismantled numerous 1900 era homes and was going to sell the full dimension wide antique boards. His ex-wife’s lawyer informed him if he sold anything, he had to give his ‘ex’ half of the proceeds. I was able to intervene and get the wood for free for the truck’s body – just before he burnt the wood for spite in a fit of anger!

6) Why I had ever accumulated piles of crusty and rusty carriage bolts and square nuts finally came to fruition as I realized no shiny new hardware would do as I built the ‘original’ truck body. Another local friend (a real Massey-Ferguson tractor guy, Chris Kessel has 50 such units) supplemented my final hardware shortage just prior to completing the body.

7) Upon completion of the ‘now naked body’, I realized the body needed some ‘BLING’ – so while looking around my shop I saw some ragged worn out old heavy rope (I had obtained the rope from a fellow who cleaned out an old barn), an old split handle wooden shovel I had retrieved from someone’s trash, and some other rusty rubbish-picked stuff to adorn the sides of the truck.


8) Well, no, the story does not end there. I was sitting home one day a year or so ago when a gal from church called me up. Denise Van Artsdalen’s father had passed away, and the family was cleaning out her late father’s garage – and Denise had found some old wooden truck bows! Denise, being a fellow ‘conservator of things old’ knew I’d go nuts when I saw the old bows. Upon arrival at the garage being cleaned out I noted there was a dumpster present with many treasures already thrown in – including ancient automotive stuff – metal cans, parts, etc. I had brought our Suburban – which got so full I had to go back a second time!

Is there a moral to this story?

Well, yes. It is great to have such amazing & giving friends. Also, I have heard on many occasions & most recently heard when Jay Leno said something along the lines of “We don’t actually own all this stuff, we are merely temporary custodians for future generations.”

I firmly believe this is true.

Packard Army truck Mem Day 2014 Ray and I courtesy Dave Lockard
Ray and I on the Packard Army truck Memorial Day 2014. (courtesy Dave Lockard)