Ex-Fire-Department 4×4: 1954 Dodge M37

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I say this too often, but it’s been a while since I’ve wanted a vehicle on Barn Finds more than I want this 1954 Dodge M37. We’ve seen many examples here, but I recently read an article in Hemmings about them and have been hot on finding a good one ever since. The seller has this ex-fire-department version posted here on craigslist in Saco, Maine and they’re asking $12,950. Here is the original listing, and thanks to Mitchell G. for the tip!

With my giant, muscular torso I’d have no problem driving this truck without power steering. That’s true, other than the part about me having a giant, muscular torso. I have a hard enough time driving my puny 1980 Dodge’ubishi D-50 Sport pickup without power steering, I can’t imagine a three-ton 4×4. Maybe it would be a good workout for me, Lord knows I need it. Oddly enough, the only other 1954 M37 that we’ve seen, shown here on Barn Finds, was also red. This one needs a new driver’s window but it’s flat glass so that shouldn’t be a huge issue. The “convertible” top looks ok but we don’t see detailed photos of it, and this M37 doesn’t appear to have a winch but it has a siren on the front.

For a craigslist ad, the seller provides pretty nice photos of the exterior, for the most part. We don’t get an overall shot inside the bed and I’d really like to see that. They show two partial views of what I’m assuming are each side and the “fold-down troop bench” back there, but what’s in the middle? A water tank of some sort for the fire department where this one must have spent some time? Or is that the gas tank? I’m confused. The seller says it has a new, custom stainless steel gas tank, so maybe it is the original gas tank seen in the bed photos.

The M37 is Dodge’s 3/4-ton 4×4 and it was used in the war in Korea and also in early Vietnam, having come out in 1951. It was in service until about 1968, replaced by the very cool Kaiser M715 after 1967, and also the Dodge M880 and M890 in the 1970s. And I don’t mean that there’s anything “cool” about war whatsoever, it’s horrible for everyone involved. But, some of the vehicles that were developed to help the war effort are pretty incredible. The seller doesn’t show the interior that well, only showing the seats and a closeup of the gauges. The speedometer goes to 60 mph but 55 mph is probably all you’d ever want to do with one of these.

The engine is Dodge’s T245, a 230-cu.in. L-head six-cylinder with 78 horsepower, and it sends power through a New Process two-lever transfer case (one for hi/low and one for 4×2/4×4 operation) to a New Process four-speed manual. There are no synchros in first or second gear so double-clutching will be your friend. The seller says that this one is a smooth runner and everything works. They also say there is no rust (!!) and it’s ready for paint, but I wouldn’t change one thing about this 4×4. Have any of you owned an M37? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.

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Comments

  1. Nevadahalfrack Nevada1/2rackMember

    Personally I think theses are GREAT in their own venue but my CFO/CEO/COO said if we’re going to do ANOTHER Power Wagon it’ll have to be one of the WC (full size weapons carrier) style body and drop it on a ‘06 or newer Ram Cummins setup…

    She’s good taste-though that doesn’t account for her getting together with me!

    Like 6
  2. DelBoy

    Oh yes Scottie. I’m hots for taking this truck home too. I like nothing better than a decent, simple, bone jarring, arm wrestling utility truck; civilian or military. Don’t need muscles for the steering, just calloused hands and a grip like a lumberjack. Trust this vehicle goes to a loving, well padded new owner.

    Like 3
    • Ronald Reed

      When I was in the Army circa 79-81 I had either a 1 1/4 ton 880 or multi fuel 2 1/2 ton. The trick for the deuce and a half was to drain the diesel and fill with gasoline, they ran so much better but we couldn’t keep gasoline in them so I’d have to drain the gas back out and fill back up with diesel. The 70’s era Dodge 1 1/4 ton 880 did not have enough power to spin the tires in the dirt while power breaking and there’s nothing you can do, it was just not designed to be powerful but fuel mileage was a concern, the more fuel one uses the more infrastructure needed to keep it fueled. Think 40 miles of Russian Armor lined up out of fuel for weeks! Just think if NATO had been involved, they could’ve wiped out Russians entire invasion force in days.

      Like 3
  3. Cam W.

    I have owned several M-37s, and currently have a WW2 version in my collection. They are really neat trucks, and virtually all parts are available from military vehicle suppliers and companies like Vintage Power Wagons.
    Partly due to their larger size, they are not as popular(or expensive) as military Jeeps. They are relatively easy to work on, but components are quite heavy, so you need the right tools and workspace. They have a 24 volt, waterproof ignition and sealed wiring. With a snorkel kit, they can ford fairly deep water.
    The steering does require a lot of effort at low speed, but is OK once you are moving.
    The truck here looks really decent. Most of the M-37s for sale are already restored, or more often long-neglected projects. This one appears to have had most of the usual needs like fuel system and ignition all replaced. It is also not a rust-bucket like many.
    Many of these trucks were neglected too long to be worth restoring. Units that were taken over by municipalities after military use tended to be decent rides to begin with, and then well-maintained.
    Some may feel the price is high, but fixing a cheaper one may ultimately cost more…… and perhaps not be as good as this one.
    A set of new NDT military tires, a new side-window, and a gallon or 2 of OD paint, and this truck would look great. BTW, the top-frame unbolts, and the windshield folds down, making it into a giant Jeep.

    Like 8
  4. BA

    I would change one thing & that’s the phone number on the back to mine just in case I broke down or for complaints of my driving or maybe a cute girl looking for that not sensible lumber jack who knows ? I had a jeep so that stainless steel tank I would make my fuel tank so I didn’t worry about gas mileage, just my 2 cents

    Like 3
    • Mitchell G.Member

      BA out here playing chess while everyone else playing checkers and that’s what I appreciates about him

      Like 5
    • Ronald Reed

      As a boat builder and racer, make Absolutely certain you have baffles in it which need to be built in before you seal it up. If you don’t, you’ll feel the movement of fuel and a hard stop, you’ll feel about a two second delay of 100 pounds of fuel push you forward. I don’t mean to step on your dick here, I’m not trying to be a smart ass, if you’ve never had a gas tank apart, I mean who does that, you wouldn’t know. I found out after driving my buddies newly built fuel tank on a trailer and found out my first stop sign, “That’s why they have baffles i told myself!”
      Thx for keeping old Military stuff alive, that includes civilian equipment that was originally designed for military use. I think it helps US all remember the Greatest generation who will soon all be gone!

      Like 3
  5. jim

    They work good when they have the factory winch that quite a few have

    Like 2
  6. Karl

    I have owned and restored a couple 52 M37s both had winches. Good pickups easy to work on and since it’s a military vehicle there are TMs available that show how to work on every component on this vehicle. Parts are very available both from VPW and Midwest Military. For a person starting out in military trucks you really can’t get much better and because it’s small there is always a demand for these!

    Like 5
  7. Ken Koch

    I was buying these by the handsful in the mid-late 90s from GSA auctions in the $500-range. All needing something but all be users/runners. Amazing where the prices have risen.

    Like 4
  8. AdamR

    Just watched It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. There was one of these in it being used as a tow truck

    Like 2
  9. Eat Rocks!

    Had one with an ambulance body – great fun to drive if you weren’t going too far. I always thought it would make a great pit vehicle for a racing team but now it’s a mobile billboard for a beer garden in Tijuana, Mexico!

    Like 0
  10. BlondeUXBMember

    ‘54 is the year to have.
    B1’s (1955 and up) used a higher content of recycled steel in the sheet metal.
    The transmission, however, was somewhat upgraded for the later trucks.
    The asking price here would seem to be at the very top of the market or above.
    The civilian Power Wagons always command higher dollars but I prefer the cabriolet. “When the top goes down the price (should) go up… “

    Like 0
  11. FrogMan

    I lived on an Island in the 80s an old US base there was about 8 of these in various configs, really learned alot about wrenching. We had a 66 M37 for a work truck. Plus there was about 6 flathead motors setup as fuel pumps for WWll POL tanks. Wasnt alot to do so id tinker on them get em running and bomb around in them.

    Like 1
  12. mrgreenjeans mrgreenjeansMember

    Thanks for your comments here Karl; good to see you here.
    I own a ’63 model year M37-B1 and will add this. Do not over-rev the engine or you will lose your rod bearings. I bought mine 30 years ago because this very thing had happened to that poor critter; it was owned by a local Volunteer Fire Dept. I bought it on a sealed bid for $550. It wore original od green, needed the seats re-canvassed, an engine refresh, and virtually nothing else. A rust free, damage free body and came with 30,000 miles on the odometer.
    I love all things military as they are a symbol of our past, hard won freedoms and represent the lives given to protect Democracy.
    This looks to be a really nice example to preserve. I hope it goes to a valued member of the many military collectors groups which honors and respects these items.

    Like 3
    • Karl

      Mrgreenjeans I tell everyone the exact same you just said but to tell somebody just because the tack goes up to 2600 RPM doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea! I own and still own a couple Deuces and I never run my RPMs higher than 2200, lots of people disagree with our thinking! Following the manuals doesn’t help our thinking either. I owned a beautiful M920 MET and it had a 45k winch behind the cab and the manual to run the engine right against the governor at 2200 rpm when using the winch, I ran it at 1600 RPM and it worked perfectly there. Not a fan of high RPM s with any of these trucks! Thanks much for the compliment!

      Like 2
  13. wes johnsonMember

    I remember we had one in the motor pool in Viet Nam. A bear to drive, and top end was around 50. Couldn’t take it on convoys as could hardly climb the the mountains. Always kept extra water pumps and radiators around as it would eat them regularly. Used it to go for parts. Only reason I would have one is lawn art.

    Like 1
  14. Flint Fieseler

    I recently saw a similar, restored example for a few thousand more out of Arizona. It had cloth, bucket-ish seats in the rear, as opposed to the benches this one has. A friend of mine also has one, but he uses his as a snowplow. If I were old enough, I’d be all over this, although some gear ratio monkeying may be in order to get it comfortably above 50. With the bed seats, It might be cool to outfit it like a touring car with a removable rear top, so the bed could still be used if need be. Anyway, I’ve got a while to think on it.

    Good night to all,
    Flint

    Like 1
  15. Douglas Plumer

    I ended up buying the last one advertised through BF. Turned out to be a good experience as the truck was better than described. Also used a a civilian fire truck. Also well maintained with low actual miles (10K). These trucks were kept mostly inside and only went to the odd brush fire once a year. Mine also came with a working 2″ water pump attached to the take-off. Bonus! I leaned to drive on one of these many years back and the technique comes back quickly. I will tell you that 40 mph would be a more realistic top speed. You can swap out the rear end but stopping is no fun as is and would be suicidal at higher speeds. Over 3000 rpm causes the valves to bounce off the pushrods. It will pull stumps easily -or anything else you could think of. Buy a good grease gun and you are set. This one looks to be a good way to get into it.

    Like 3
  16. Michael Ernest Allen

    I owned one for years & wish I still had it. 12,000 original miles, original tires, granny low through all gears and never hitting the gas. I’ve heard these trucks pulled everything out of the mud in times of war. Wish I still had mine.

    Like 1

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