Military Vehicles

DUKW TALES PART TWO

In Part One of this article (MVM no. 210, June 2020), we learned a few things about the GMC. DUKW, along with a bit of its history and development. We also explored ways in which a DUKW might be located and purchased, as well as learning what to look for when inspecting one.

Let’s assume you have bought a DUKW and have been able to get it home. What you do next depends on what condition the vehicle is in, and how you plan to use it.

If you bought your DUKW for restoration as a showpiece, my best advice — as with any restoration of an historic military vehicle — is to obtain all the manuals, books, and related literature you can find, along with photographs and illustrations. Contacting other DUKWowning historic military vehicle (HMV) enthusiasts might also be helpful because you will likely get many useful tips in regard to rebuilding and refitting your DUKW (though you might find some of the advice to be contradictory). For this reason it’s wise to get as much input as you can from different people. Then, you can use your own judgment to decide what procedures will work best for your DUKW.

The same applies if you purchased your DUKW for play or practical use: Round up manuals, literature, and photos. In this case, however, it will usually be more helpful to contact folks who have actually operated, repaired, or rebuilt DUKWs for use.

If the DUKW you bought was already running and swimming, you probably won’t need many of the tips in this article... at least not right away. However, if your new DUKW was only semi-operational — perhaps drivable but not swimmable — we should begin at the beginning, which is with the most important part of the vehicle, the hull.

START WITH THE HULL

As we learned in Part I, a DUKW is basically a CCKW cargo truck in a watertight tin box. It’s that box that makes the vehicle so interesting and useful.

For an extensively rusted DUKW, preserving, repairing, and rebuilding the hull should be your first priority. A seagoing ship can lose as much as ten percent of its metal every year to rust, so it shouldn’t be hard to imagine what can happen to a neglected DUKW left out in the elements for seventy years. DUKW hullswere made from the same thin sheet-steel that was used for ordinary CCKW truck cabs, doors, and hoods. You should begin preserving what’s left of the hull as soon as you get your DUKW home.

I have yet to see a DUKW that hasn’t rusted through from the inside due to standing water in the bilges and axle drive shaft tubes. Unless it’s the dry season where you live or you’re able to store your DUKW under some sort of roof, get the vehicle covered with plastic or canvas and keep it covered. You can never replace the original metal already lost to rust, but you can preserve what is left of it.

If your DUKW was used in or around the ocean, there is probably salt residue in the hull. This salt is activated every time rainwater, fog, or even damp weather touches

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