Segment Five: 1939 to 1947 Job-Rated Pickups

Author: Don Bunn
This is a very historically important segment of Dodge pickup history. First the engineering and design work to develop a light-duty Dodge military 4 wheel drive truck began in 1940. Second, the first light-duty factory built 4WD pickup was introduced in 1946 (The Power Wagon will be covered in a later segment). Third, these were the first pickups to be assembled in Dodge Truck's huge, new trucks-only manufacturing plant. Fourth, Dodge was the first of the Big Three truck

A 1939 Dodge TC 116-inch wheelbase half-ton chassis cab with special telephone body. The two-tone paint design shown was standard. The dark color is black. It was powered by the 201 cubic inch L-six engine. (Photo: DaimlerChrysler)

manufacturers to offer a diesel powered truck. It was all the more remarkable because Chrysler engineered and manufactured its own heavy-duty diesel engine. And lastly, these pickups are the most popular pickup series with Dodge truck collectors.

The government came to Dodge Brother Company in 1917 with a problem. They asked the Dodge Brothers if they could build a French gun

of a type never before manufactured in this country. This involved not only constructing a special plant but also the designing and manufacturing of specialty machinery and tooling. The brothers agreed to take on the project and four months later they had the plant built, the machines in place, and were producing guns. After the war ended the plant was converted to a truck plant which stayed in continuous use until the last 1938 model truck was built in November of that year.

A 1939 Dodge TD-21 133-inch wheelbase one-ton pickup with a 9-foot box is shown. Note the "speed lines" on the lower rears of each fender. This pickup was powered by the 218 cubic inch L-six engine. (Photo: DaimlerChrysler)

It was mandatory for a modern 1939 truck to featured streamlined styling. In the later 1930s streamlining was a requirement for trucks, cars, boats, planes, and trains and the new Dodge trucks were no exception. Streamlining was evident in the new sloped windshield, long sleek front and rear fenders with embossed "speed lines", and a sharp "V" shaped grille.

Dodge engineers changed the 1939 pickup's floor construction from all-steel to wooden planks with steel skid strips. This method continued into 1985 when the last Utiline pickup was built. For those of you restoring a cargo box of this type please note the correct way to finish the wood is to paint it black regardless of body color. Note too the left side taillight and tailgate chains wrapped in a rubber-type material. (Photo: Daimler Chrysler)

A 1940 Dodge VC 116-inch wheelbase half-ton pickup is shown. The two clues that tell us this is a 1940 are its restyled grille and the small parking lights on top of the headlight. Along with the rest of the auto industry Dodge switched over to sealed beam headlights in 1940. (Photo: DaimlerChrysler)

From half- to 3-ton models the new trucks featured a single distinctive design. The 1939 pickups were new from the wheels up with the exception of their drivetrains. Dodge engineers changed to the 70 horsepower 201 cubic inch L-head six cylinder engine for half-ton pickups; 3/4- and 1-ton pickups stayed with the 75 horsepower 218 cubic inch L-head six. This lineup remained unchanged through 1941.

In this Series Dodge sold the three basic pickups we are familiar with -- half-, 3/4- and 1-ton models. Included a half-ton 116-inch wheelbase with a 7 1/2-foot box and two one-tons on either 120 or 133-inch wheelbases with a 7 1/2- and a 9-foot box respectively. A 1 1/2-ton pickup was offered in the 1939 to 1942 trucks on a 133-inch wheelbase carrying a 9-foot cargo box. This was the one-ton pickup with larger wheels and tires.

After the War the 1 1/2-ton pickup was dropped and the one-ton was built only on the 120-inch wheelbase chassis with a 7 1/2-foot cargo box. Beginning in 1939 all Job-Rated pickups featured boxes with wood floors covered with steel skid strips.
The 1940 model was given a revised grille. The grille design was changed again in 1941 but this one continued through 1947 except that the lower chrome strips were deleted after the War.
Dodge engineers revised the light-duty truck's engine availability in 1942. The 95 horsepower 218 six powered half- and 3/4-ton pickups and the 105 horsepower 230 cubic inch six powered the one-ton. No further engine changes were made through 1947.

This is a 1941 Dodge 4WD half-ton open cab weapons carrier pickup with winch. (Photo: DaimlerChrysler)

If you can find a prettier pickup than this 1941 Dodge WC half-ton you should buy it. Note its overall one-color paint design; this was the first year for the cowl mounted parking lights; the new grille; the horizontal chrome bars on the lower grille are found only on 1941 and 1942 model trucks. The WC model designation continued through 1947. (Photo DaimlerChrysler)

The evolution of Dodge-built light duty trucks is clearly seen in this photo. On the right is a 1940 half-ton command car with civilian front sheet metal, in the center is a 1941 half-ton command car with military style front sheet metal and on the left is a lower and wider 1942 3/4 ton command car. Over 255,000 of the 3/4 ton series were built during World War II. (Photo: DaimlerChrysler)

The WC pickup shown was built in March 1945. It was called a "blackout" model, that is the items normally chrome plated were painted. Chrome was again used on the 1946 models. (Photo: DaimlerChrysler)

Next Segment:

1948-1953 B-Series Pickups