You can turn any pickup into a powerful workhorse by converting it to a "doodlebug" according to John Willamon, Byron, Minn., who got the idea 40 years ago when his father converted a 1930 Dodge into one of the first "doodlebugs". Willamon says the idea later became popular among area farmers. Some farmers even converted automobiles into doodlebugs.
A doodlebug is a pickup with an extra transmission, for low gear pulling, and a shortened-up frame for increased power, extra traction and more stability. The truck is also weighted down with a cement-filled sub-frame to increase traction. Doodlebugs can be used to pull mowers, hay rakes, wagons, sprayers, light tillage equipment and for any number of other chores.
"My father used his doodlebug to pull a horse drawn plow that had been altered to work as a mounted implement. It worked great for plowing," says Willamon.
He started with a 1971 Ford F-100 pickup with a 3-speed manual transmission. Willamon says the truck had seen better days and would have needed extensive repair if he'd planned to keep driving it on the highway. He decided to convert it for farm work as a doodlebug.
The first step was to remove the pickup box and rear springs, which he sold to a scrap dealer. He then removed the drive-shaft and installed an auxiliary 4-speed Chevrolet transmission as close to the rear of the original transmission as possible, using as much bracing to mount the add-on transmission as necessary. The next step was to shorten up the driveshaft as much as possible and move up the rear axle, fastening it to the frame in its new position. Then he cut off the overhanging frame behind the axle, and attached a drawbar, and rerouted the brake lines. He built a ballast box around the frame and filled it with cement and then built a 72 by 32-in. cargo box on the rear frame above the ballast box and cut a hole in the cab floor and altered the seat to make room for the gear shift lever off the auxilliary transmission. The final step was to remove the driver side door to make it easy to get in and out.
"The 302 engine has more than enough power for most farm chores and, with the large selection of gear ratios, I hardly ever operate it with the engine running at much more than idle speed," says Willamon, who had help from a local machine shop in making the conversion.