According to Jack White, he and his wife Helen weren’t actively pursing a project, but were always on the lookout for the right truck. “We figured there was probably a Ford or a Chevy out there that would be just right.” They were passing through Lakeview, Oregon, on their way from Santa Rosa, California, to Boise, when they spotted this ’37 Dodge parked in the town’s one used car lot. It wasn’t on display, but sitting back by the service bay. After a few questions, Jack determined that the truck belonged to the shop owner at the dealership, who had owned it since high school. It had seen time as a parts truck before the start of an unfinished rebuild. The mods that had been made to the truck at the time included a Camaro front clip, a 350/350 engine/transmission combination, and some red paint described by Jack as “shabby.” Technically, it wasn’t for sale, but in reality, everything at a used car lot is for sale. Before long, the Whites (who hadn’t planned on buying) and the owner (who hadn’t planned on selling) struck a deal—and the Dodge was on a trailer heading for California.
When Jack and Helen were ready to start the rebuild they contacted Zane Cullen at Cotati Speed Shop. Cotati is not only one of the prominent rod shops in the country, it is located in Santa Rosa, not far from the Whites.
The Smeding Performance 383...
The Smeding Performance 383 small-block was dressed up with a Billet Specialties air cleaner, valve covers, and belt drve system.
The first step of the project was to redo the suspension. The plan to rebuild the ’rails quickly expanded into a new Art Morrison chassis featuring a 2x4x6 frame reinforced by tubular X-members. Cotati Speed Shop fabricated custom mounts for the cab, bed, and running boards. The suspension includes a sway bar in front and Art Morrison parallel four-link and Panhard bar in the rear. Strange single adjustable coilovers all around. Wilwood Dynalite 12-inch disc brakes in front and Ford 11-inch “police special” drums in the rear, using a GM Corvette-style master cylinder and Wilwood proportioning valve. A stainless gas tank from Rick’s Tanks in El Paso was built-to-fit for the new frame.
This Dodge gets its power from a Chevy, but it’s no generic small-block. Smeding Performance built the 383 with Edelbrock aluminum heads, hypereutectic 8.9:1 pistons, and a custom ground hydraulic roller cam. The induction combo includes a Holley 650 four-barrel on an Edelbrock manifold. Billet Specialties provided the valve covers, air cleaner, and Tru-Trac drive assembly. Sanderson headers run into Flowmaster U-fit pipes and mufflers.
Transmission is a Gearstar 700-R4 with a B&M Tork Master 2000. Brad Saunders at Drive-Line Service in Santa Rosa built the driveshaft, spinning 3.50 gears in a limited-slip Ford 9-inch.
Zane Cullen’s approach to exterior modifications was “understated,” as Jack put it. The beautiful deco lines of the ’36-’38 Dodges don’t need much help, so most of the the sheetmetal mods were limited to tightening up the gaps and cleaning up the surfaces. The ram ornament and crank hole were removed from the reshaped grille, and the stock hood was replaced with a custom three-piece version built by Jack Hashman Jr. The factory louver sections were added on the hood sides. King Bee style headlights were relocated on the fenders; the taillights were replaced with ’41-’48 Chevy taillights. Both bumpers were eliminated. Swan neck mirrors on both sides fit perfectly with the curving lines of the body.
Those sweeping fenders were wasted sitting high up over stock skinny tires. They look a whole lot better filled with a stouter tire and wheel combo, in this case 215- and 205-series Toyos Proxes 4 high-performance tires on 17x7 and 16x7 Budnik X Series Sweeper rims.
Jack and Helen spent a lot of time trying to find the right color. The one they chose was Crystal Red, a contemporary Cadillac color. Cotati Speed Shop used DuPont Performance Coatings to mix a custom tone called Claret Red, which was a mid-’90s Dodge truck color.
The body color carries over to the cab, where it is complemented by “tobacco” tone leather on the modified Glide bench seat and the door panels, and on the piping on the German square weave carpet. Minaglia’s Auto Upholstery in Healdsburg, California, created the upholstery, and added some beautiful stitching throughout. The factory dash was smoothed, but otherwise unchanged, including the center Dodge emblem. Dakota Digital instruments were installed in the original configuration on both sides of the emblem. Vintage Air rotary knobs were installed to control the air conditioning and heat. The Budnik Sweeper steering wheel sits on a Flaming River column-shift tilt column. Kustom Kar Audio in Santa Rosa provided sound, courtesy of an Alpine CD/radio unit with Boston Acoustics speakers.
The floor of the bed was redone...
The floor of the bed was redone using a Show Deck bed liner from Bruce Horkey’s Wood and Parts in Windom, Minnesota. Instead of the more typical ash or oak, the Dodge bed was built from African rosewood. The natural wood color is very close to the paint color.
The Whites are very happy with how Zane Cullen and the Cotati staff brought out the best qualities of the Dodge. Cotati Speed Shop finished the project in September. It was in the photo studio less than one month later. You’re looking at a very fresh truck. All that’s left, Jack says, is to take the Dodge to shows when he can, and “drive the wheels off it,” the rest of the time. He’s been driving it around town mostly (800 miles so far), but the trips are starting to get longer and longer. CCT