Posted by: Mark Polk | 2015

71 Power Wagon – Bed Liner Project

When I painted the bed of the truck my initial thoughts were to have a bed liner professionally sprayed in when the truck was finished. At the last minute I decided to prep and paint the inside of the truck’s bed, but not the floor. I thought it would be kind of neat to do a bed liner on the floor,  wheel wells and tailgate, but leave the inside sides of the truck bed the same color as the rest of the truck.

I have done several bed liners in the past, some were spray in products and others were rolled and brushed in liners. I was going to have it done professionally, but now, towards the end of the truck restoration project, my budget is dwindling fast. I was never a big fan of of the roll-on bed liners because of past experiences, but after visiting three local auto parts stores there were no spray in products available. I was impatient and did not want to order a product online and wait for it to arrive, so after researching some roll-on bed liner products I decided to try a Herculiner bed liner product.

I prepped the bed by washing it really good, welding some old holes closed that were drilled in the floor, and sanding the entire surface. After that was done I taped off the areas I didn’t want the bed liner to get on, and I used compressed air to clean out any remaining debris. The final step to preparing the surface was to wipe everything down using a wax and grease remover. I did the same prep process on the inside of the tailgate.

Next I stirred the bed liner using a drill attachment, to really get the particles suspended in the can. The Herculiner kit included one gallon of bed liner, two textured rollers, and a small paint brush. I used some disposable gloves to keep it from getting all over my hands. I started by brushing the product in all the seams and corners and then used the roller to apply a light to medium coat over the entire surface of the bed and the tailgate. I stirred the product frequently to help keep the particle suspended in the can.

I let the product dry for about 2 hours, until it wasn’t tacky to the touch, and applied a heavier coating over the entire surface. I have used roll-on bed liners before and was not pleased with the outcome, but I really like the Herculiner roll-on product. It covered the surface nice, with an even texture, and the finished product looks great. The only thing left to do is see how it stands the test of time.

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101

When I bought my 71 Dodge Sweptline project truck it was missing the tailgate. At the time I didn’t think much about it, I mean how hard can it be to find a tailgate right? I soon learned that finding almost any part for the power wagon restoration was difficult, but finding a tailgate in good condition, and at what I considered an affordable price was a real challenge.

When we took a trip to Colorado I found a guy in Denver who had disassembled several Dodge Sweptline trucks and filled his entire basement with the parts. He had every part imaginable and I hit paydirt for most of the hard-to-find parts on my list, but he did not have one single tailgate. I still wasn’t too worried about finding one since the project wasn’t close to the bodywork stage yet.

Time passed and I scoured local junkyards and even drove 3 plus hours to a salvage yard that I was told had a Sweptline tailgate. They did in fact have one, but it was beyond restoration. I probably called every salvage yard in North and South Carolina and actually did find another tailgate that was about an hour from where I lived. It had some rust that was repairable, and it was bent pretty bad in the middle, but I thought I could straighten it.

One reason I think so many of these Sweptline trucks are missing tailgates is because Dodge made a camper special model with a tailgate that could easily be removed to put a truck camper on the back of the truck’s bed. I think people took the tailgate off and put it in a shed or barn and forgot about it. On the models without the removeable tailgate it’s not so easy to get the tailgate off the truck, especially after forty some years. When I tried to remove the bent and slightly rusted tailgate I made three trips back and forth, the mile or so into the salvage yard where the truck was located. Each trip I would get additional tools, lubricants and finally an impact screwdriver, a big hammer and a torch to heat the bottom pivot mounting screws up. After spending an entire day working on it I finally got my tailgate. The salvage yard owner only charged me $125.00 and I thought I made the deal of all deals.

I got the tailgate back to the shop and started cutting some of the bad metal out and welding new patch panels in its place. The stamped DODGE letters had some rust that was not going to be easy to fix so I diverted my attention to trying to straighten the bend that was in the tailgate. With the truck on the lift I lowered it placing all of the weight on the bent section of the tailgate. When I left the shop every day I would turn the tailgate over and move it around in an effort to shift the weight to different areas trying to straighten it. I did manage to get some of the bend out, but there was still enough of a bend that it was noticeable, and it was unacceptable for this build, so I was out a few days labor, some metal and $125.00.

After exhausting my search at local salvage yards and on Craigslist I expanded my search to Ebay. I didn’t like the thought of paying for shipping too, but I was at the stage in the restoration where I needed a tailgate. I saw tailgates that were in decent shape but the prices were $400 and $500, and that didn’t include shipping. I contacted several owner’s and made what I thought were reasonable offers with no success. One day when I looked on Ebay I saw two new listings for tailgates. I wrote to both people making offers. One said no and the other one met me in the middle at $250 and $75 shipping. The tailgate was in good restorable condition and I needed it so I agreed. This was by far the most difficlt part to locate and purchase. Now I will probably see a half dozen perfectly good tailgates for $200 or less.

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Now that the truck is painted I am going down the home stretch. I still need to do the exhaust system and lots of little odds and ends, but right now I am fabricating some side steps for the truck. I had some heavy gauge diamond plate steel and 3/4 inch square tubing  left from other jobs that will work great on the steps.

After deciding where and how I planned to mount the finished steps I started the fabrication. I started by cutting 45 degree angles in the square tubing so I could bend and weld the joints. I repeated the process so I would have four arms to mount the two steps to.



Next  I fabricated the pieces that would attach to the arms and the frame of the truck and I cut the diamond plate into the shape I wanted for the steps. I welded the steps to the frames.



I test fit the steps on the truck and drilled the four mounting holes in the step frames and the truck frame.




When everything checked out I ground all the welds, sanded the steps and frames and sprayed them with a good quality etching primer.




The final step in the process was to paint the steps using the darker color I used on the front bumper and the tailgate. As soon as they dry good I can mount them on the truck and then get started on a bed liner for the truck.



Mark Polk

Auto Education 101


In this DIY video host Mark Polk demonstrates how-to install Bushwacker pocket-style fender flares on a 2014 Ram truck. The fender flares in this video were painted to match the vehicle using Bushwacker’s color-matching service, so all you need to do is take them out of the box and install them.

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101

Posted by: Mark Polk | 2015

71 Power Wagon – Paint Job Finished

71 power wagon paint job complete

71 power wagon paint job complete

It’s been a long time coming, but the truck is finally painted. My biggest regret with the paint job was painting the truck in sections as opposed to all at once, and buying the paint on two separate occasions rather than at the same time. The end result is a noticeable difference in color between the sections. If I would have had two or three gallons of paint mixed at the same time it would have turned out better.

The problem started when I made the decision to hire somebody (a professional) to do the body work and paint the truck. Long story short, the guy ended up ripping me off and the only thing he painted was the cab and the doors. He over charged me and his paint job had runs, bugs and dirt in it. At that point in time I spent too much of my budget on him and I had to finish the remainder of the body work and paint myself.

Other factors affected the rest of the paint job too, like the temperature on days I painted, thinning the paint, using two different spray guns, and the list goes on. Hind sight is 20-20, but the next time I know better. I am hoping color sanding and buffing the paint will help some, which is the next step in the process. I will wet sand the entire truck using 1500 grit sandpaper followed by 2000 grit sandpaper and then buff the entire truck using a buffer and a good quality Meguiar’s polishing compound.

After I color sand and buff the paint I can put the chrome, and lights back on the truck. The side chrome pieces that came with the truck were painted black in the middle originally. I removed the black paint and cleaned and polished all the side chrome pieces. At the last minute I decided to paint the middle section of the chrome pieces to match the darker color I used on the front bumper, the center section of the hood, and  on the tailgate. I masked the chrome off, lightly sanded the center sections, cleaned it good with wax and grease remover and sprayed and cleared them when I sprayed the tailgate.

The next piece of the puzzle is to get the exhaust done. Up to this point I have done everything on this restoration myself, but I plan to pay a shop to do the custom exhaust. The exhaust will be done using 3-inch mandrel-bent pipe, exhaust cut-outs, an X pipe, mufflers and tips.

I’ll keep you posted

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101

The truck came with a rear chrome bumper, but it had a couple bad dents that would be difficult to straighten, and it would need to be re-chromed. I fabricated a front winch bumper for the truck and now it was time to do something on the back. I thought about fabricating more of a bulky 4X4 type bumper but my son said I should consider a roll pan for a nice clean look. I’ve seen lots of roll pans on trucks but never considered it on the power wagon. After giving it some thought I made the decision to to try fabricating the roll pan.

fabricate roll pan for power wagonThe first thing I did was cut the old license plate section out so I could use it in the new roll pan.  Once that was done there was no turning back, so I found a piece of good heavy gauge metal in the shop and cut it to the length and width I wanted. I left a little extra on the width since it would need to be heated and shaped to match the contour and rear bed corner lines.

roll pan tack license plate holder in placeNext I cut a section out for the license plate holder and tacked the old piece in place. I fabricated the top and side pieces of the roll pan and welded them in place. At first I wanted to design it so the roll pan could be removed, and I didn’t want any bolts to show when it was installed, so I fabricated some brackets that would bolt to the frame and welded them on the back of the roll pan.

roll pan bondo

I clamped the roll pan down to the work bench with a piece of pipe under it so I could heat the metal and shape it to the curve of the pipe. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked. I ground all of the welds down smooth and used some Bondo to clean up the edges.


roll pan test fit on truck

The only thing left to do is figure out if I want to install any flush-mounted lights in the roll pan our leave it smooth. Then I can prime and paint it to match the front bumper.



roll pan paintedAt the last minute I decided to weld the roll pan in place and do the body work to get a nice clean finished look. I finished the roll pan, sanded the bed and tailgate and sprayed them. This is how the roll pan turned out. Now I can move on to the custom exhaust system.

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101
Posted by: Mark Polk | 2015

Bushwacker Fender Flare Installation Video

In this informative how-to video Mark Polk installs a set of Bushwacker Pocket-Style fender flares on a Ram truck. The fender flares were painted to match the truck using Bushwacker’s color-matching service. Get started on your Bushwacker project today.

Mark Polk
Auto Education 101
Posted by: Mark Polk | 2015

Mopars – Final Resting Place

mopars in fieldIn my search for a Mopar car restoration project I ran across an auction that was less than 30 minutes from where we live. They were selling an old dragstrip and about 60 cars that were parked on the property for many years. The auction ad said there were three Dodge Super Bees  (a 68,69 & 70) and three Plymouth GTXs (one 69 and two 67s) among other cars. I always thought about restoring a Super Bee or GTX and could not believe these cars were this close to us and I never knew it. They also had two Dodge Sweptline trucks (a 67 & 70 model). The day before the auction you could preview the cars and I think I was the first one there that morning. Unfortunately it didn’t take long to see, that except for salvaging a few parts, they were all beyond repair or restoration.

The 70 Super Bee in the picture was a factory 440 six-pack car, but the motor was long gone. By the looks of the hood and the homemade spoiler on the back deck it probably made lots of runs down that old dragstrip in days gone by.

I’ll keep looking for a good Mopar project car.

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101

Poly 318 upper radiator hoseWhen I rebuilt the poly head 318 engine for the 70 Power Wagon project I added an Edlebrock P600 6-pack manifold with 3 Rochester carburetors. At the time I didn’t think about needing access to water jackets in the manifold for additional temperature sending units. The old gauge cluster required one water temperature sending unit for the electric water temperature gauge and the P600 intake had one threaded hole for a sending unit.

It wasn’t until I decided to add an electric fan and mechanical water temperature gauge into the mix that I realized I had a problem. I need two sending units, but only had one space in the intake to install them. When it comes to water temperature sending units I prefer to install  it in the intake manifold as close to the thermostat housing as possible for accurate readings of the water temperature in the engine. My thoughts are if you put the sending unit at the radiator you get a cooler temperature reading because, number one it’s at the radiator not the engine, and number two you get a temperature reading after the thermostat opens.

This is more of a concern for the electric cooling fan than it is for the water temperature gauge because the cooling fan is designed to come on and turn off at a set temperature.  If the water is cooler at the radiator the cooling fan could possibly come on and stay on if the water temperature, which is somewhat regulated by the thermostat,  does not drop low enough to turn the fan off. A bigger problem could be the water at the radiator never gets hot enough to turn the fan on in the first place.

Because of these concerns my plan was to install the cooling fan sending unit at the intake manifold, but the threaded hole was too small for the sending unit threads. I have not looked into adapters yet, or the possibility of replacing the sending unit with one that has the same temperature settings but smaller threads. This leaves the only option for installing the mechanical temperature sending unit at the upper section of the radiator or by splicing into the upper radiator hose using a hose adapter that has a welded bung adapter for another sending unit.

I am still trying to sort this out in my mind and will keep you posted on what I figure works best to sovle the problem.

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101

Posted by: Mark Polk | 2015

Next Project Vehicle – 1980 Jeep CJ7

1980 Jeep CJ7With the 71 Power Wagon project about 75% complete I am planning ahead for the next restoration project. I wanted to find a Mopar project car like a Superbee or GTX, but I stumbled on a true barn find at a good price. It’s a 1980 CJ7 Jeep with a running 304 engine, power steering, a hardtop and not much rust. That makes it a good cndidate for restoration. The Jeep has literally been sitting in a shed since 1999.
 I have owned lots of Jeeps (7) over the years and there was one in particular I wish I would have kept. It was a 1976 Golden Eagle with a 304 engine. I bought it from the original owner when it was less than one year old. It wasn’t long after graduating high school and I landed a good job, but a year later I was laid-off  and couldn’t afford keep it.
Restored 1981 Jeep CJ7About 10 years ago I restored this 1981 base model CJ7 with a 4 cylinder that I bought for $700 in 1997. It’s a nice Jeep, but I always wanted to find another V8 Jeep. The project Jeep is a 1980 model, but I plan to clone it as a Silver Anniversary CJ that came out in 1979. By 1980 the 304 engine was so laden with government imposed emissions BS that the horsepower rating dropped to about 125 hp.  I want the Jeep to be a driver, and we tow it behind our motorhome, so I am not too concerned about the horsepower, but 125 hp is not acceptable for any V8 engine. The Jeep has been sitting for 16 years and after we put a battery in it and an electric fuel pump with fresh gas it fired right up. It had good oil pressure and it ran good with no knocks, but it is burning a little oil which was evident by the blue smoke from the exhaust. Another mechanical issue I noticed when I drove it to the shop was the popping out of gear when you downshift the transmission. This project will not be a full blown restoration since it will be driven and towed on a regular basis.
My preliminary thoughts for this project build are:
1) Do a compression test and open the engine up to take a look. If things are in order I will probably overhaul the engine as opposed to a complete rebuild using a mild cam, new lifters, new rings, and rework the heads.
2) Rebuild the T176/T177 transmission
3) Go through all mechanicals i.e. brakes, steering, axles, hubs and suspension.
4) Add a low restriction free-flowing dual exhaust system.
4) Upgrade the ignition system
4) Add a 4 inch lift and 33 inch tires
5) Do all the bodywork. Paint it and add Renegade decals to match a 79 Silver Anniversary edition Jeep.
My budget for this build is $7,000 and that includes the $2,200 I spent buying it, so I’ll need to pinch pennies. I’ll start looking for good deals on parts now, but won’t start working on it until the 71 Power Wagon is on the road. I’ll keep you posted.
Mark Polk
Auto Education 101


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