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1956 Project Truck

Discussion in 'Pre-1994 trucks, commercial vehicles' started by 5m254, Oct 15, 2017.

  1. 5m254

    5m254 Member

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    -I have a chance to pick up a '56 pickup, V-8 w/auto tranny which I guess means a 2 speed PowerFlite.
    -The body is in pretty good shape and I've always liked the looks of the mid-'50s Dodges.
    -BUT... and there's always a "BUT": a 60 year old truck needs help to match today's roads.
    -Engine/tranny: I guess a 318 or 360 will give me some towing capacity but the tranny is an issue. I've read the ALLPAR articles on the 727 and my experience with the 727 is good except for the fact that it is a 3 speed. Is there a 4 speed tranny that isn't computer controlled?
    -Front end/brakes: what can I do here to get better handling and disc brakes?
    -For the purists who shudder at this "desecration": I plan on saving everything that comes off the truck so the next owner can restore it to showroom standards if he desires.
    -I'll appreciate any and all thoughts, comments and suggestions.
    Thanks!!
     
  2. hemirunner426

    Level 2 Supporter

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    what will you be doing with the truck?Towing capacity?Budget?
     
  3. pt006

    pt006 Active Member

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    The 4 speed transmissions [3 speeds plus overdrive] are larger at the tailshaft area, and might require body/frame mods.
     
  4. valiant67

    valiant67 Rich Corinthian Leather
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    If you stick with a pre-1996 4 speed auto from a truck, that is what you need. The 1-2-3 shifts are hydraulic control, but you need to add a way to make the shift to 4 and lock up the torque converter. These can be manual switches, but there are ways to automate it. There were versions based on the 904 (a500/42RH) and 727 (a518/46RH).
     
  5. ImperialCrown

    Level III Supporter

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    Drive it first. Then decide what direction you want to go with modifications, if any.
    Contact the Forward Look.net, Kanter or AAJ brakes for dual-circuit/disc brake conversions. The original brake set-up may be sufficient for normal driving if it is in perfect condition. You want it safe, no leaks, no rust. A working parking brake that holds the vehicle and doesn't drag upon release is a plus.
    Don't look for good gas mileage with a carbureted V8 and automatic. It may also have a 4.1 or 4.5 rear axle ratio.
    A front sway bar may help cornering, but the solid front axle and kingpins are limited. Good tires and gas shocks may make the greatest improvement. Don't expect handling like today's vehicles, although it should feel competent and secure within reason. Replace any worn parts.
    As an occasional, sunny-day, highway driver, it may be fine as-is. I don't recommend something this old as a daily-driver or really even as a back-up vehicle.
    Install seat belts if it doesn't have them.
     
  6. 5m254

    5m254 Member

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    -For once in my life I actually have some money to spend, and rather than buy a new truck I'd like to fix up an old one. That isn't to imply that money or cost/benefit aren't important but to indicate that this would (hopefully) be a hobby project as well as a means of transportation.
    -So far these are all good comments and I appreciate the information. I'll have to read up on the 904 (a500/42RH) and 727 (a518/46RH) transmissions, particularly the dimensions and how to get into 4th/overdrive.
    -Towing would not exceed 3500# and would probably be closer to 2500#.
    -According to the owner the truck is running and on the road now, but I haven't been to drive it yet. Evidently there hasn't been much interest in it; Dodges don't seem to have the interest level of older Fords & GMC/Chevys. Silly me: I had '51 Willys 4x4 truck way back when.
    -The front axle/kingpin setup has me concerned. I rebuilt one or two many (MANY) years ago but that certainly isn't the way to go these days.
    -If I buy it and if it appears that it won't make a good beater then I'll probably either just leave the PowerFlite or, if that's worn & not repairable, go with a 727 or maybe go manual.
    -Brakes , shocks, a stabilizer, seat belts and good rubber will be the first items tackled. I believe in driving a car like my life depends on it.
    -Thanks for the help so far; more comments & info will be appreciated.
     
    somber and Devildodge like this.
  7. dana44

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    Where there is a spindle, there is a disc brake conversion available, just a matter of finding it, searches help. I also have seen, which makes it available, rack and pinion for straight axle vehicles, which makes steering that much better. Front suspension (and rear), swaps are always available, depends on what you are looking for, some are easier than others, some are bolt-on, some are subframe front ends replacing existing frame portions of a vehicle (Mopar F body subframe to replace front suspension is a common one). I admit I watch a bunch of the car building shows (some are better than others, but I digress), if they can make a new frame for any vehicle, makes sense they can also make a new front half of a frame and associated front suspension setup. Yeah, not cheap, but it would be new, and a reduction in searching and modifying components to work. Swaybars are easy enough to attach, a tape measure to keep it the right size fixes that, and previous sentence would remove the effort to find this.
     
  8. valiant67

    valiant67 Rich Corinthian Leather
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    Besides the info above, another swap I've seen more talk about is putting an older vehicle on a Dodge Dakota frame. More modern power plant, brakes and steering all at once. I have no idea if it's realistic for your 56 or not.
     
  9. Adventurer55

    Adventurer55 Active Member

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    The 56s were good trucks. The V8 if in good running order will have more then enough power. The powerflite is bullet proof also if in good working order. The other idea is to mate a gear vendors overdrive unit to your truck. They are plentiful easy to hook up. The only thing you'd need is a fab shop make an adapter for you. The rear gears are already low enough, most likely 4.1. As far as the front end, good tires and power steering would help a bunch.
    I had a 57 D100 that was a V8 with three speed manual. It would scream at 55. I found a 55 donor Plymouth wagon and put the overdrive unit from it on my truck. A direct bolt on. I could cruise all day at 65 to 70 and motor ran about 2 grand or so. Hope this helps.
     
  10. LordHobbit

    LordHobbit Active Member

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    scarebird conversion for the disc brakes up front. 1955-56 Dodge w/ 11" drum front disc (at https://scarebird.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=64&product_id=174 ) or 1954-56 Dodge 1/2 ton truck front disc (at https://scarebird.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=64&product_id=133 ) I don't know what front brakes you have.

    There is an IFS available for sweptlines, you may be able to make it work if it is of interest to you. Dodge Truck Independent Front Suspension | Gerst Tubular Suspensions (at http://gerstsuspensions.com/products/gts-ifs/ )

    Some have made the Ford Panther (Crown Vic) IFS or the mustang II IFS work with older Dodge pickups.

    This all depends on how deep your pockets go.

    For engines, there is the crate 5.7 Gen III Hemi, but finding the 8-speed auto is tricky. Haven't tracked that down yet ...

    If you are really interested, Cummins now has the R2.8l diesel crate engine also. Cummins Crate Engines - Get Ready to Repower - Cummins Engines (at https://cumminsengines.com/repower.aspx ) This will come with suggestions for transmissions. The guys are really great to work with and have answered what few questions I have sent them.

    Good luck. I love those old C series trucks. Not as much as the sweptlines, but I'm a bit biased ...
     
    Devildodge likes this.

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