Big Kid’s Toy: 1940 Dodge Wrecker

If you spend any time surfing craigslist for your next hole to throw money down, you’ve undoubtedly seen that big trucks are becoming popular.  With increased numbers of them being offered at prices that are temptingly low, medium and heavy duty trucks seem to be catching the eye of value conscious shoppers.  In their day, these trucks may have seemed large.  However, this illusion goes away when one of these old timers is parked next to what today passes for a 1/2 ton pickup.  Faithful reader Fred H. has discovered a great example of a big truck at what might be a reasonable amount of money.  This fascinating 1940 Dodge wrecker can be found on craigslist in Vermont, but the seller strangely hasn’t stated a price.  While the ad is sparse, this old work horse may end up being a real bargain if you are a savvy negotiator.

Dodge trucks from the immediate prewar period have exactly the right Art Deco looks.  This truck has that perfect combination of curves and straights, and the look is enhanced by a wrecker body that blends well with the original styling of the cab and chassis.  The gentle curve downward to a bob tail enhances the looks of this heavy hauler.  The stainless rail that follows the line of the body is like a cherry on top.

Unfortunately, not everyone will fall as in love with the wrecker mechanism in the back.  My guess is that it could be removed without too much fuss.  You could argue that it would be a sin to separate the mechanism from the bed.  Not many prewar wreckers have survived.  Dodge made thousands of wreckers during the war, and many were sold by the U.S. Army as surplus after the conflict ended.  Why would a service station keep an older one that was likely worked to death through the war years if a newer one could be bought for peanuts?  Furthermore, wrecker bodies were often transferred to newer trucks when the old one was too worn out to continue.

Thankfully this truck has escaped that fate.  It may be well worn, but nearly all of the mechanical parts are still available through aftermarket vendors.  Powered by the familiar MOPAR flathead six cylinder that was known for its low end torque, this brute has been treated to a recent valve job.  Despite this, the seller says nothing about the engine running or its condition.  The flat tire on the passenger side rear outside rim probably answers that for us.

For being a Vermont truck, it seems that rust isn’t a big problem.  Since they were made for work not play, trucks like this one were built of heavier gauge steel.  In an era before cowboy Cadillacs hauling personal watercraft to the lake, trucks like this one were Clint Eastwood tough.  Heavy springs and granny gears ruled the day.

Inside, the interior looks to be remarkably well preserved.  No rust is visible in either the dash or the floor.  A heater is present, as is a finger chopper fan.  Even the steering wheel looks free from cracking.  For those of you who have never driven such a truck, the steering wheel is big for a reason.  There was no power steering fitted to these trucks.  This is how you got an upper body workout back in the day.

The only thing wrong here is the lack of an asking price.  It is almost if the seller is carefully screening the potential buyers to weed out rat rodders and dreamers.  Commercial grade trucks don’t get restored as much, but nobody can deny their neat practicality.  Trucks like this one are a favorite among enthusiasts.  As kids we played with toy versions of big trucks, and it is hard to resist the call to play with them again as adults.




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  1. Mike Sublett

    $6500. Would be a decent project start @ $1800.

    • Joe

      I bought it for 5000. I’m not gona chang a thing I’m gona leave it all original

      Like 2
      • Ian Bartels

        Hi Joe, where’s the truck now? Interested in selling?

        Please email

  2. Van Cardwell

    I like it. New tires, repair brakes and suspension. Install new crate HEMI. Perfect truck to (drag) race.

  3. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Super cool toy for sure! Great writeup also Jeff.

  4. Derek

    The one question we should all ask ourselves before we whip out the ol’ checkbook is, what do you actually do with it?

    • Joe

      I’m gona restore it it runs and drives I bought it

      Like 1
      • Ian Bartels

        Where you located joe, I would be interested in owning this truck

  5. Mountainwoodie

    There is nothing to do with it LOL…But it sure is super cool. My younger self would have bought it and THEN figured out what to do with it. Getting more practical as time goe on is a real buzz kill!

    Like 1
    • Derek

      I suggest you try getting your “younger self” to start paying more attention to what your older (wiser) self has to say, it is the voice of experience.

      Like 1
      • Karl

        That’s exactly what he’s saying.

        Like 1
  6. Ikey Heyman Member

    I’ve bought and sold a few Vermont vehicles, and even though it may look like “rust isn’t a big problem”, crawl underneath with a flashlight and a screwdriver (to poke around with) before you write that check, friendo.

    Like 1
  7. dan

    call for price, that is code for ” I want way more then it’s worth,but I might be able to talk you into spending more $$$ then you want to” lol

    Like 1
  8. Dave Mc

    “Here comes Hell”
    What it would be to fix it up.

    Like 1
  9. geomechs geomechs Member

    Not too often you run into a truck that’s 78 years old and still looking this good. Too nice to be butchered up and/or rat-rodded, ideally it should be restored and kept as a vintage wrecker. However, uses for a wrecker are somewhat limited so I like the idea of parking the actual wrecker and using the bed.

    • Rube Goldberg Member

      While the wrecker portion is ridiculously out of date, the rear body, which looks like a late 30’s Holmes, is attractive. Many of these lifts were home made, and this one looks it, as well. I’d ditch the hoist and just have a big pickup, and leave it as is.

      Like 1
  10. Frank

    It’s cool but the front bumper should now read “Here Comes Junk!” Not sure even Fred G. Sanford and Lamont would go for this one.

    Like 1
    • Charles G. Van De Sampel

      must chevy fanatic

  11. 86 Vette Convertible

    It’s definitely got character. Neighbor growing up had a pickup very similar. There was nothing elegant about it, it was for working – nothing else.

    If you could slide it onto a newer drivetrain yet keep everything else looking the same, that to me the ultimate bumming vehicle.

  12. Rube Goldberg Member

    We chuckle at the corny “Here comes help”, but back in the 50’s, clearly this trucks heyday, I bet it was mighty comforting to see that little yellow light coming, and help was on the way. With no communication, the only way a stranded motorist got help, was from a passing motorist, who would call this guy from the next town.( when fellow motorists looked out for each other) I bet this truck paid for itself many times over.

    Like 1
    • Mountainwoodie

      You know Rube…I know I’m getting older because I really appreciate seeing that that sentiment on the bumper. It speaks to a different time and a different sense of neighborliness… we need today.

      • Rube Goldberg Member

        Imagine the stories this truck could tell. It wasn’t all broken radiator hoses and flats with no spare. I have a friend in the towing biz, and they get called to some of the nastiest scenes, and as we roll by those tragedies, it’s up to the tow truck operator to clear the area. I know I couldn’t do it. It’s a highly under appreciated job.

  13. bob

    My dad was in the auto repair / tow truck business 1950-63. He had a ’42 Chev. tow truck that he bought in ’51 from a city G.M. dealer who was upgrading . It had a 216 ci ,4 speed ,single speed diff., factory made wrecker body ,Weaver crane, P.T.O. driven Tulsa winch ,pusher board front bumper .Engine had a 6 bladed fan which set up a pretty good whirr at highway speed ( 50-55) . He put in a new chrome grille, painted the cab white and the wrecker body silver. He was an artist at using snatch blocks and could move stuff a lot bigger and heavier than his truck. Man ,I miss those days !

  14. ROTAG999

    Resent Valve job ? Afraid to ask…….Nice Find

    Like 1
  15. Barzini

    When I see a truck like this one, I am reminded how much tougher life must have been back then. There are so many modern conveniences that make life easier for us now.

    Like 1
  16. Charles G. Van De Sampel

    So fix it up, remove the old hoist and install a newer hydraulic hoist. Fit it with a ball or pintle hitch and haul your favorite sweetheart ride to the local drag strip.

  17. Mark J. Soderberg

    Fix it up, leave it original. It’s history!

    Like 2
  18. Nrg8

    Deserves to be cast in the next chapter of Jeepers Creepers…..

  19. Eric H

    Swap the body onto a modern wrecker with a modern wheel lift. And put her back to work.

  20. Canadian Mark S. Eh! Member

    I say restore it except with power steering/ brakes ( discs up front ) Cumins diesel mated to a 5 speed over drive gear box. I’d keep the wrecker body but loose the wrecker mechanism. I’d mount a fifth wheel in the back and pull whatever trailer needed pulling, RV, car hauler, horse trailer. I’d paint the body white with navy blue fenders/ running boards as well as repainting the original script back onto the sides. This would be a fun rig to haul a trailer queen around to shows in. JMO.

  21. Roger

    My dad owned a ’46 Dodge semi tractor after he returned home after WWII and on his bumper it said Miss Behave,once after being involved in an accident a newspaper story stated the Miss Behave really misbehaved lol.

    Like 1

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