Truck Restoration Projects
An exceedingly rare Day-Elder restoration
Day-Elder trucks, also known as D-E, were manufactured in Irvington, New Jersey USA from 1916-1937. This truck is one of very few that were imported into Australia around 1918 and is believed to be one of only two remaining in the world.
Pastoral company Gippsland and Northern imported these trucks to Australia, with a view to using them in their own business and selling them as well. However, the Day-Elder was highly over engineered and did not sell well, so Gippsland and Northern painted them red and used them for their own business.
An interesting feature of this model is an exhaust system warning device, like a train steam whistle. It’s activated by pushing a pedal.
The Day-Elder Truck in this restoration is believed to be around 1918 vintage and was used on Frank Lockhart’s farm at Berrimal, near Wedderburn.
Frank Lockhart remembered the time he was driving the truck with a load of wool on board, bound for Deniliquin in NSW. Naturally, he had no licence and the farm truck was unregistered! He was told to; “Get on your way, but stay off the main roads”.
The World War I vintage Day-Elder truck was still working in the post-World War II years, because there’s a photo of it, taken by Kath Lockhart In the summer of 1947/48 with a written note on the back of the photo:
Harvesting wheat under Australian skies, Tractor – Field Marshal (diesel), Header – Sunshine, Truck – very old Day-Elder (Really the boys’ bit of fun – they have driven it for years, ’tis a fine toy for them.)
In 1974, Wedderburn Historical Engine and Machinery Society Inc member, Peter Norman, heard about the truck and went to investigate. What he found found was an almost total wreck, with many parts smashed up, ready for scrap.
The surviving bits that Peter Norman collected consisted of chassis, firewall, differential and some springs.
At that time, Peter Norman knew nothing about the Day-Elder brand, but set about researching. He found a restored Day-Elder in Geelong and the owner became a source of information over a few years.
Peter Norman’s searches turned up a Buda engine; a Brown-Lipe gearbox and a radiator.
In the meantime, the Geelong truck was sold and passed through hands in Ballarat, Echuca and Mt Gambier, before ending up in a museum in the Netherlands.
WHEMS Club to the rescue
Peter Norman was unable to do the restoration himself and donated the truck to the Wedderburn Historical Engine and Machinery Society Inc, on the condition that it remain in Wedderburn and is never to be sold.
The Club applied to the Loddon Shire for a grant to restore it. The application was successful but work was delayed due to the pandemic until February 2022 and the restoration began in earnest.
Peter Norman at the wheel
Sourcing parts for the truck proved challenging, but the boys used their initiative, forward thinking and talents to solve the many issues that arose.
The first thing they tackled was the steering. The steering box, which had been used to run on an International GL 200 Header Box, had to be re-converted back to use in the truck. They fitted a Twin City drop arm and a Dodge truck drag link.
To operate the clutch, a clutch fork from an International 554 tractor was designed to work the release for the multi-plate clutch. The brake and clutch pedals came off a Massey Harris 55D tractor. The steering box shaft came from a Buick.
The truck already had modified 20-inch wheels on the back, but four 20-inch Austin rims were modified to suit. Chev’ 20-inch, steel spoked wheels had the centres bored to fit the front of the truck.
A mount was made for a magneto, by building up the water pump shaft and a Fordson magneto was attached. A C-Model Case carburettor was also fitted.
Brake linkages were made from 7-11 Header parts; the tail shaft spline from a Ford truck adapted and the exhaust was fitted.
The crossbar in the chassis was rotted out, so it was rebuilt and strengthened to house the brake rocking rods. Around 300mm of mudguard had to be welded on and one mudguard mount had to be made.
Once the mechanicals were satisfactory, attention turned to the cabin. It was decided to have a C-cab. This was constructed of wood, cut out and assembled for fitting. The seat base was made and a small fuel tank from a baler fitted under the seat. Tray runners and coaming rails were fitted.
Then to the dismay of some, it was pulled apart for painting. The chassis was sprayed black and the cabin was undercoated and painted dark red with two-pack. The surrounds of the tray and under tray runners were painted red and the tray boards and floor boards in the cabin were finished with decking oil.
With the painting complete the next task was the roof that was made up from slats, vinyl, dacron and marine grade vinyl on top. The edging was finished with an aluminium cover strip.
The kerosene lights were rejuvenated and, after some modification, Model T side-light lenses were fitted.
The windscreen was made from scratch and once the size was adjusted to fit the correct glass was purchased and inserted into the frame. There is also an oval glass window in the back of the cabin.
When painted and fully re-assembled, the truck was completed with button upholstery for the seat and a hand-crafted wooden steering wheel.
For the Club members this was a massive project, but, now that it is complete, one that they’re very proud to have been a part of. For Peter Norman the restoration that he thought he never might see has been a little overwhelming.
Despite the fact that this truck could not be restored with genuine parts, the completion of this build just goes to show, ‘where there is a will, there is a way’ and anything can be achieved.