MABELL - By Miranda Kurpe

MABELL - By Miranda Kurpe

What happens when an “I’ve  seen it all” fabrication guy finds a “one of a kind” Bell Service truck? Let's just say it's a match made in fabrication heaven!

MaBell is a 1946 Dodge Utility Truck originally used by the Bell Phone company. Doug purchased the '46 Dodge in November 2020. While at a car show in Morris, Illinois, with his 1948 Dodge Panel Van (VanGo), a guy parked behind him, Jerry, approached him and asked if he would be interested in purchasing a 1946 Dodge Bell utility truck. This piqued Doug's interest instantly! They exchanged numbers, and six months later, he finally reached out to ask if Doug was still interested. The guy was asking 10K, but Doug offered 5K, to which he simply replied, "Come get it."

The truck was a three-hour drive away in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, stored in Jerry’s boatyard, covered since the late '90s when it was 90% restored in a high school shop class Jerry taught. Jerry couldn't find the title, but Doug made him a deal: he'd give him 4K when he took it and would send him the last 1K when Jerry sent him the paperwork. Sure enough, four weeks later, Jerry found the title! Talk about motivation.

One month later, Doug bought a 1999 Dakota RT extended cab donor truck and started cutting it up. He cut the cab off, down to the floor and firewall, and moved the firewall, floor, engine, and transmission 8 inches to make room for the '46 Dodge Radiator. Shortly after that, Doug drove to Ohio (four hours each way) and purchased a 1946 Power Wagon front clip for MaBell.

The whole build took under a year. Doug claims this is due to the fact that the donor truck was in such good running condition. MaBell is powered by the Dakota's 275hp 5.9L V8 “360” Engine and its 46RE Automatic Transmission with the Dakota’s factory 3.92 gears. The chassis was shortened 16 inches to fit under MaBell's original body, bringing the bed closer to the cab.

Doug stayed true to the era and added a 1940s Chicago Morgan Vice and a ladder rack that showcases an original wooden 1940s Bell utility extension ladder. He also fabricated a 1950s toolbox to hide the access to the fuel filler neck. MaBell is equipped with Aliso 17x8 Bronze finish Rhino wheels with 285/70/R17 Hi Country HMI mud tires.

The interior needed some tweaking, so Doug mounted the original Dakota gauge cluster under the dash, along with the ignition, key and cylinder, turn signal, hazard switch, and headlight switch which he stripped off the original Dakota steering column. He then installed an aftermarket steering column, and the bench seat is out of a 1987 Blazer. Doug installed a Pioneer radio in the glove box, and the Headliner, Kick Panels, and door panels were purchased from DCM Classics and painted green. It also has a Long Acre aluminum drilled steering wheel, which he purchased from Speedway Motorsports.

Wanting to keep the exterior era correct, he installed custom Front Viking coilovers and rear 2-inch lowering kit. In the future, Doug would like to install some BanginHeadlights, update the engine to a 408 Stroker, or install a supercharger. He wants to drive it to more out-of-town shows like MoParty in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and most importantly, invest in more burnout tires!

Doug drives MaBell often, mostly on the 60-mile round trip to work, but also to car shows like the Mopar Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. Doug has been going to the Mopar Nationals every year since the '90s!

Doug would like to thank local artist Brian Rogers for doing all the pinstriping and lettering on MaBell, his dad for teaching him everything he knew, giving him the skills he would need for life and work. Doug also wanted to thank his son Dominic for being his car show buddy, team Double D for life! Last but certainly not least, Doug would like to thank his wife for coming to shows with him and for her patience while he spends so much time working on all the projects. "Thanks for not making me the top story on Dateline."

One of Doug's biggest sponsors is Poppy’s Patina. Many years ago, Doug was part of a Classic Truck Facebook group run by a gentleman named Tim Taylor. Tim introduced Doug to Brian. At that time, Brian was retiring from the paint industry and wanted to make a product that worked on a wipe-on clear coat to preserve rusty patina. Doug offered to let Brian use his vehicles to test his product and make advertising content. Brian took him up on that offer, driving from Tulsa to Frankfort, a whopping 10 hours each way! They ended up making a promotional video which got posted to a Roadkill site, and things took off! They still see each other 1-2 times a year and have become like family. Doug will always be one of the customers who truly tests the product, driving it in all sorts of weather conditions! Where most people treat their vehicles gently (as if it is shiny paint), he will push it to its limits, making him the perfect example of the product's durability. Doug says he is honored to be a part of this incredible family business.

One of Doug's favorite pastimes is driving the backroads around town, stopping to take photos with old barns, just hoping not to get shot! Funny enough, most properties now have “No Trespassing” signs that have gone up since he got MaBell.

The transmission is just a cable, so sometimes it gets left in reverse by accident. So when he “parks it,” it starts rolling backwards, and he has to chase it down! Another notable occurrence is for the whole month of October; Doug will drive around in MaBell dressed as Michael Myers from “Halloween.”

Doug has a love for JDMs and currently daily drives a 2009 Honda Civic in rotation with VanGo and MaBell.

Doug is currently in charge of Frankfort Family Automotive Repair, which he has worked at for 26 years. Doug was born in 1983, and his father started Sampognaro’s Automotive Repair in 1989. So there wasn’t a time in his life where Doug wasn’t in the shop! If he wasn’t working in the shop, he was out shoveling snow in the parking lot. The shop relocated to Frankfort Ill and changed its name in 2015.

His first vehicle was a 1992 Eagle Talon; it was manual and had a turbo! As it goes with most teens' first cars, it didn’t last long, six months to be exact! Doug has had around 110 vehicles in his lifetime, averaging 3 or 4 a year, but the one he misses the most is a 1999 Honda Civic Hatchback in Amethyst Purple! At the time, he didn’t realize how rare it was. What was a $500 car back then would be a $9000 car now.

Doug has two kids, Giana, who is 13, and Dominic, who is 9. Dominic already wants to be part of the family business, but Doug isn’t sold on the idea. With 5 hernias, 2 broken femurs, and countless busted knuckles, Doug wants his kids to be smarter, have mechanics as a hobby not as a career. No one wants to feel 90 when they are in their 40s!

Other than MaBell, Doug has a 1947 International KB7 wedge truck, which he did his very first LS swap on! Most notably, Doug has a 1948 Dodge delivery panel van named VanGo! The panel was used as a painter's vehicle in the '60s, and the interior is full of led paint splatters, which is how the name VanGo was born! The '48 Panel body is swapped onto a '99 Dakota RT chassis with the same 5.9L V8 and 46RE transmission as MaBell. Swapping '40s Dodges onto Dakota chassis is definitely a smart move on Doug's part, with the sale of spare parts from the Dakota paying off the build altogether! Lastly, Doug has a 1974 Plymouth Duster, which his father bought for $400 for his 17th birthday back in December 2001. This was Doug's first Classic vehicle, and he valued it immensely. What makes this car so special is that the 416 550hp Stroker engine is out of his grandfather's '71 Challenger! Doug plans to give the car to his son Dominic on his 16th birthday, making 4 generations that the car will have reached, so far.

After being in the industry so long, Doug has seen it all; nothing really impresses him anymore. Which is why when he builds something, he does it right! In the future, Doug wants to build a Dodge '40s/'50s pickup with a Hellcat Engine! Which is good, because the world needs more one-of-a-kind builds, seamlessly colliding old school style with new school reliability! But if there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s gonna have Poppy’s Patina on it! For more info on MaBell and Doug's other projects, follow him on IG at @vango_1948.


Article and Photos by Miranda Kurpe (MNK Photography)


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