Classic Pickup: 1946-68 Dodge Power Wagon

1946_Power_Wagon_03 II

Words and photos by Richard Truesdell

For many truck enthusiasts, the history of Dodge trucks starts in the fall of 1993, with the introduction of the Ram pickup. In a heartbeat, Dodge went from being an also-ran in the light-duty pickup-truck market to a major competitor to established leaders Ford and Chevrolet.

Looking back, it's easy to remember Chrysler executive Bob Lutz saying, “Even though 80 percent of the focus group participants hated the proposed 1994 Ram, 20 percent were in love with it. If only half actually bought the upcoming Ram, then we'll more than double our share!" Since 1993, Dodge's share of the full-size pickup truck marketplace has exploded, with the brand typically capturing about 20 percent of the overall market every year.

But the reality is that Dodge has a heritage in hard-working trucks dating back to 1916. And of all the pickup trucks that Dodge has ever produced, one stands out: the Dodge Power Wagon, the first factory-built 4X4.

The civilian Dodge Power Wagon was designed off an existing T214 Dodge truck chassis that served the Allies during World War II. More than a quarter-million examples were built. It was offered virtually unchanged in appearance from the spring of 1946 to 1968, when the model was discontinued for domestic sales. (Production for exports continued.) The rugged Power Wagon was a no-nonsense truck, a throwback to a time when trucks were trucks and there was little effort to move upmarket with carlike features.   

The civilian Power Wagon, introduced in February 1946, answered the question from many returning GIs: "Where can I get a truck like the one I used in the war?" Dodge answered by producing the no-compromise WDX, now best known as the Power Wagon. The truck cost around $1,600 — more than twice that of more conventional half-ton pickups. (When you adjust for inflation, $1,600 in 1946 translates to about $19,000 today.)

1946_Power_Wagon_09 II
The Power Wagon shared its basic design and 126-inch wheelbase with the three-quarter-ton weapons carrier, and the front shell and grille were similar to the T234 three-quarter-ton heavy-duty truck built by Dodge for the Chinese Army, which earned its stripes along the Burma Road. It should be noted that Dodge was the first to offer factory-built 4X4s, something that was not matched by Ford and GM until well into the 1950s.

The truck’s 126-inch wheelbase was a near-halfway point between the 120- and 133-inch wheelbases on Dodge’s more conventional “Job Rated” one-ton two-wheel-drive trucks. The Power Wagon’s large fenders gave owners plenty of room to increase wheel diameter for extra-heavy-duty applications. Standard wheels were 16x5.50 inches wearing 7.50x16-inch eight-ply tires, or 16x6.50 inches wearing 9x16-inch eight-ply rubber.

The styling of the Power Wagon was a carryover from the truck's prewar 1939 design. The top of the hood and radiator surround were borrowed from one of Dodge’s three-ton cargo trucks. The interior looked Spartan, with functionality its main calling card.

In 1961, a 251-cubic-inch flat-head engine began to replace the original and somewhat underpowered 230-cubic-inch flat-head motor that dated back to the prewar era. A synchromesh transmission, alternator and a 12-volt electrical system upgrade were among the major changes over the years. Many Power Wagons were converted into fire engines, school buses and other specialized applications. (The 1949 Power Wagon firetruck shown here is equipped with a body from the American Fire Apparatus in Battle Creek, Mich.) According to “Dodge Trucks” by Don Bunn, some Power Wagons were even converted with wagon bodywork, making them the original Dodge SUVs. (These were available with both four and six doors.)

1946_Power_Wagon_08 II
A total of 95,145 WDX-WM300 Power Wagons were sold domestically between 1946 and 1968. After that, they were built mainly for export, and owners in less-developed countries appreciated the truck’s reputation for ruggedness.

The dark blue example shown here is owned by Jim Hetrick of Lake Forest, Calif. According to the owner, this is one of the earliest surviving and running Power Wagons from the truck’s first year of production. First-year civilian production totaled 2,890 units. While Power Wagons surface regularly on eBay and other auction websites, the best way to acquire one is to get active in the online Dodge Power Wagon communities and let them know your desire to add one to your collection.

Author Notes

Dodge has used the Power Wagon name several times over the years, starting in 1957 with the light-duty half-ton W100 (two-wheel-drive) and W200 (four-wheel-drive) models followed by the one-ton W300 in 1958. Starting in 1956, the chassis-cab-only W500 two-ton model was offered; production ended in 1971when it was replaced with the W600 for the 1972 model year. Its production ended in 1977 with the discontinuation of all medium-duty Dodge trucks.

1999_Dodge_Power_Wagon_concept_truck II
A concept version Power Wagon, powered by a Cummins turbo-diesel engine, debuted at the 1999 North American International Auto Show. Some of its styling cues were incorporated in the mainstream Ram pickups with the 2002-08 (DR) generation. Starting in 2005, an off-road-oriented heavy-duty Power Wagon version was added to the Ram lineup, where it continues to this day. For more photos of this classic Power Wagon, go to our Facebook page and Like us. 

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Comments

Awesome Truck

I'll take a dozen copies please

GUTS
GLORY
TOUGH AS NAILS POWER WAGON

What do you think about that Lou? RAM....always the leader in innovation!

Nice article and cool truck but boy, oh boy, the trolls will be unbearable!
Brace yourself for a deluge of immature Ram spam.

Where are the airbags?

NO GUTS NO GLORY RAM JUNK! TURD PLACE = JUNK RAM

@ Oxymoron,

Well,fact is GM/Ford/Import fans cant stand the fact Mopar was the first true 4x4 truck ,actually in 1930's the Power Wagon was made for Military use (pretty much identical to the one pictured)

Many X-Military bought them up and drove them around home,the demand was so high after the war Chrysler made them for the general public..As you should know no general public vehicles were made in the mid 40's because of the war. The 1946 was the first year it was sold to the general public,as cars/trucks were starting to be built again after the war.

And what really grinds Ford/GM/Import gears is the fact that GM/Ford/Toyota uses a Mopar HEMI in their Top Fuel/Funny Cars !! That really gets you Anti-Mopar guys boiling mad !

I dealt with you GM/Ford/Import people my whole life,listening to them bash Mopar because they rarely beat them at the local drags,even in their street cars,and when they cant dispute the facts they themselves start knocking Mopar's owners by calling them names (something like you by saying they will make immature Ram spam ) when they are just excited about Mopar's products and on this site extatic that the RAM is gaining in sales and its a real hot truck ! I would be upset to if I were the other brand fans,their drag racing vehicles are powered by Mopar and their trucks look like hell,and the number one selling truck does so by rock bottom pricing ! I could go down to your level and say,here comes the immature ,idiotic Anti- Ram talk by jealous Ford,GM and Toyota people !! But I wont !

By the way Ford/GM fans are under alot of stress because for many years they were disillusioned thinking their trucks were the best,and now people see through them and RAM trucks are gaining in sales you guys are lost,floundering around and you dont know what to think or do anymore because your world is becoming upside down ! I do feel sorry for you guys,thats what shrinks are for ! enjoy your meds ! And remember....

Mopar Rules !

Just want to point out a mistake in the article. The 1999 Dodge Power Wagon concept was powered by a Mercedez-Benz I-6 Turbo Diesel producing 780lb-ft of torque. It was not powered by a Cummins engine, although I wish it had been...

GUTLESS
GLORYLESS
DESCRIBES FORD AND GM TRUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

@JC

Um no, they don't use a Dodge 426, they use an adaptation of it. Do you know what adaptation means? "Something, such as a device or mechanism, that is changed or changes so as to become suitable to a new or special application or situation"

In other words they have to use a similar design. They don't go to Fiat and say, I need a 500 Cubic inch hemi for NHRA top fuel. GM builds their own, Ford builds their own or they have them built by another engine builder specializing in such.

Also if you paid attention to what I wrote earlier in another article that Hemi was bragging about, Chrysler wasn't even the one to design or first use the hemi, many others did, they were just the first one to mass produce it and happened to trademark the name Hemi and the name caught on to the circle jerk fan club. To this day the Hemi isn't a Hemi...

Oh, but in the 60's it was king, no it wasn't. It was towards the top of the heap but GM's 427 L88 was king for a street car that anyone could purchase (but many didn't) and the ZL1 was in many cases faster. The Ford cammer was not put in a production car and was sold over the parts counter, other wise that would be king dingaling. That motor in drag racing is the only one to have won the AHRA, NHRA and NASCAR drag racing series in the same year. Did dodge accomplish that Hemi???

Did you know there was a DOHC unit built back in the day that was whipping the Hemi's butt and setting records, but the others cried foul and wanted a standard so they went back to the rough outline of the 426 hemi which has been used every since.

Cliff notes, Chrysler not the first to use hemi chamber, Chrysler still doesn't use hemi chambers, the Top fuel engine isn't a Chrysler motor but a similar architecture to use as an outline for the engine builders. Not even the most powerful production motor in the 60's/70's.

Anyone want to guess who left Nascar? Who doesn't participate in V8 super car series?

Thank you, carry on...

PS, those are bad ass trucks though in the article!

It's only kinky the first time! ...love it!

Who cares what brand it is.

That is one good looking old truck that has been saved from the crusher, or left to rot is some field!

"Brace yourself for a deluge of immature Ram spam."

LOL Ram spam. = spRam.

CHEAP
FLIMSY
JUNK

DESCRIBES A GM AND FORD TRUCK

@Tyler, Being a Drag Racing fan and a huge Hemi and Chrysler fan who goes to two races a year can assure you those top fuel engines are Chrysler Hemi design. Tyler Chrysler's engineers did not event the Hemi head they perfected it. You can go right up to any top fuel team and ask them in the pits. Being a huge hemi fan i ask every time just to hear it again it's a Chrysler Hemi design from the 426 elephant engine from 1964 to 1971.
The engine has evolved through the 50, 60, 70, but has the same valve design rocker shaft distributor location etc.etc.
The blocks started being made of aluminum in the 70's because Chrysler stopped making the elephant in 71 so racers were running out of blocks. There are three manufactures in top fuel Drag Racing for the engines TFX. BAE,
Don garlits put a Hemi in his dragster in the 50's and the rest is history.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBc6ib9krdc

Top Fuel Dragsters: The fastest-accelerating vehicles in the world, these are the most recognizable of all drag race cars. The 25-foot-long landlocked missiles can cover the quarter-mile in 4.4 seconds at speeds faster than 335 mph. The engine of choice is an aluminum version of the famous Chrysler Hemi. The supercharged, fuel-injected nitromethane-burning engines produce an estimated 7,000 horsepower.
Funny Car: With aerodynamically enhanced carbon-fiber bodies that loosely resemble the production cars on which they are based, these supercharged, fuel-injected, nitromethane-burning machines travel the quarter-mile in 4.6 seconds at more than 330 mph, slightly slower than a Top Fuel dragster. Most teams use an aluminum version of the 426 Chrysler Hemi engine that produces an estimated 7,000 horsepower.

http://www.nhra.com/streetlegal/nhra101.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

Love this. I will own one one day....

The first scout vehicle for the ARMY was a 1916 DODGE car.
The first motor vehicles used in actual combat by the U.S. Army were the 1916 Dodge touring cars in which forces under the command of General John T. Pershing pursued and engaged Pancho Villa following Villa's raid on Columbus, New Mexico, March 6, 1916. A young Army Lieutenant, George S. Patton, saw his first motorized combat as a member of this "punitive expedition." The success of these Dodge cars in cross country operations gained them a high priority on the Army's procurement list for World War I.

http://www.texaspowerwagon.com/military.htm

427 ac cobra fastest production car for a very long time, 427 sohc 427 farilanes- king of the drag strips, boss 429 and 302 were tops in nascar and oval, you go to the dragstrips the average racer runs a chevy, 289 ford & 283 chevy hailed as greatest engines ever, the only good engine dodge ever made was a slant 6 and arguably the 318 ....is this how you dodge nuts want to do every blog? my ford is better? my dodge is better? my chevy is better? come on people all 3 have had there blue ribbins, their shining moments etc etc
grow up, this article is about a very nice OLD power wagon that is awesome, great article Mark, keep them coming !

that concept powerwagon is uber-ugly

Check out this Power Wagon with Cummins Power. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IROvCfVS9ZQ&feature=plcp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ulw_zoubCtc&feature=plcp

THE LEGEND CONTINUES:

1946-1968

2005-PRESENT

According to Four Wheeler’s technical editor, Sean Holman, the fight between the two trucks was incredibly close but the Power Wagon’s superior trail performance in multiple off-road scenarios helped give it the win. The heavier Power Wagon also beat the Raptor in 0-to-60 mph performance and in the quarter-mile. Hardware features, like an integrated winch, front diff locker and powerful 5.7-liter Hemi engine solidified the Power Wagon’s position.
The staff of Four Wheeler magazine, photo credit: Ken Brubaker
“The new Power Wagon is quite nearly the best of all worlds,” said Four Wheeler Editor Douglas McColloch. “Its tall stance and body-on-frame architecture don’t get in the way of delivering a pleasant and relatively quiet highway ride. Its work-truck ethic is belied by its eight-lug axles and 10,000-pound tow rating. And once off the pavement, deep in the dirt, the Power Wagon can simply go places, and do things, that no other fullsize truck on the planet can. Locking differentials, a disconnecting front swaybar, and a 12,000-pound winch---delivered straight from the factory---will do that for you. All in all, the Power Wagon is a very worthy winner of our Pickup Truck of the Year competition.”

That truck needs more (obviously never used) log chains hanging off of it.

Dodge, Chevy, GMC, Ford, who cares? I'd take one of those older models over a newer one in a heartbeat. Heck, I'd buy an old Jeep Gladiator or IHC or even a Toyota T100 if given the chance.

Last month I spotted a 1963 Studebaker Champ in real good condition with only a few rust spots. I tried my best to buy it from the owner but he wouldn't budge.

jake H., Here is a Power Wagon using those chains.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgMTtAZZebo

You hear that Sergio?? DODGE! NOT RAM, DODGE RAM! It's the DODGE BROTHERS CO.! I respect you, I respect the Italians but dammit, DON'T screw with our heritage man! Let's work together and Keep It Real! As for Ford... blah. Their Super Duty is cool but that's about it. At least it has a SFA so.. GM sucks. Government Motors Company to the bone soon to be owned by the Chinese. By default GMC sucks because they are GM"c". Buick sucks because they aren't even a REAL brand!! LOLOL!!! Just a badge on an Opel. Old Chevy's kick serious ass though. That's where their reign ended. It's Dodge's turn to take over the #2 spot where Chevrolet once stood.

@HEMI V8 and Tyler
The Hemi's used in drag racing are an adaptation of the original Hemi.

The original Hemi blocks were cast iron and Top Fuel/Funny cars use alloy blocks that are strengthened for starters. There have been other changes as well.

The Hemis have evolved. I don't even think parts are interchangable.

@HEMI V8
Top Fuel and Funny Cars don't even use Chrysler parts.

Read this article, particularly the 4th paragraph onwards.

I do understand you have an affliction for Hemi V8s. They are good engines and they have been evolved into great engines for drag racing, but please understand be accurate.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/automobiles/at-1000-horsepower-a-liter-a-v-8s-life-is-short.html

@ hemi v8
PW beat Raptor 0 - 60 when raptor was tested with 5.4l, not 6.2l as i recall.

Cool truck.

I'm surprised by all of the fanboi posts from the Rambo fanboi's.
They must have spooge proof keyboards and computer screens.

It was a great truck. But back in the late 70's at a four wheel drive race in northwestern Pennsylvania, I saw a 1972 half ton Chevy 4x4 step up to a challenge from a Power Wagon displayed in this article. They hooked a chain to both trucks butt to butt. And believe it or not the Chevy pulled that Power Wagon backwards. We were all surprised but not as surprised as the owner of the Power Wagon. The Chevy belonged to my younger brother and I lost $20 that day in a bet with him. The higher rpms from the Chevy was just too much for that big Power Wagon. The story still comes up in our family discussions today.

Mopar madness, I wish you could have been there that day when that 1972 Chevy embarassed that Power Wagon. By the way the Dodge trucks today are junk. I hauk rvs for a living and transmissions and ball joints are junk on the new Dodges. Four Dodges with the Cummins with blown engines in one week out in Indiana. My son owns a Dodge 2500 and it is a money pit. I told him when he bought it and now he agrees with me. By the way, the government bailed out Chrysler too and it was the second time that has happened. My 2006 2500HD with over 300,000 miles on it and still going strong. Original ball joints too.

Did any of you Dodge boys read what happened in the last two pull offs. Dodge finished dead last right where it belonged. Do yourself a favor and buy a real truck next time.

Wow - a Chevy troll workin' a Dodge thread.

Will wonders never cease?

I just read that Dodge is getting out of NASCAR after 2012. I guess they are tired of losing.

Well I must say I'm impressed by the reaction to this feature, the third in my series of classic pickup truck reviews. If you want more, let Mark know. All I'll tell you about the next one is that it's a Jeep. Started working on it over the weekend and just got photos from the owner. I think you guys are going to be blown away, the Jeep is just so damn cool.

I'm looking for at least two more classic trucks before I restart the series with a second Ford entry. First, I'd like to find a full-size International pickup (not a Scout, I'm saving that for a future series on smaller, SUV-based pickups) and the other would be a Hudson or Terraplane like this one http://bit.ly/N7qY5y seen last weekend at the Concours d'Elegance of America in Plymouth, Michigan.

If you have a truck that you think would be a good fit for this series, please contact me at [email protected] When you write, tell me a bit about your truck and include a representative set of exterior, engine, and interior photos.

Thanks for the story Rich Truesdell. This Power Wagon is my favorite truck. The orginal 4x4 truck. Dodge also had semi trucks in the 70's The Big Horn.

@ Rich Truesdell - keep the stories coming.

I noticed that the truck had split rims. Must be hard finding a shop that will actually work on them.
Why did the owner put those chains on the truck?
It detracts from looks of the truck.

@ Rich Truesdell I have not commented previously ,but a very good article. Keep posting similar articles.

Wow, Lou is working for trolls in a Dodge thread. Same old Lou.

Rich,
MORE GUTS

MORE GLORY

MORE RAM!!!


I think it is a bit of a stretch to say the Dodge 'invented' the 4X4 pickup/light truck. Ford, GMC, Chevy, and International all had designed and manufactured 4X4 light trucks for the U.S. Army in the years right before World War 2 (read the book 'U.S. Military Wheeled Vehicles' by Fred Crismon). It is probably safe to say that Dodge was the first to offer a 4X4 pickup for sale to the public, however.

Yes, between 1960 and 1975, Doge produced a full line of diesel powered heavy trucks. I was around them, and let's just say they were 'interesting'. Most were Cummins powered, but quite a few were powered by General Motors (Detroit) diesels too.

Nice truck, I'd love to own it.

What to you see this Dodge Power Wagon.

http://www.4wdaction.com.au/news/12948-massive-replica-1950-dodge-power-wagon

I wonder when Frankie will be here to troll the Dodge and GM threads??? It has been a few days since I've seen him. Come out Frankie wherever you are!!

The Power Wagon was not the first 4x4, not the first factory built 4x4. The only place I see this mentioned is by people on pickuptrucks.com It is not mentioned anywhere else so I don't know why Ram people keep claiming it. You can see here that there were other 4x4's, 4x4 trucks, and 4x4 factory built trucks before the Power Wagon.

Just take this one truck for example:
When it debuted in 1918, the Model A was the most advanced production 4x4 truck in the world.
http://www.therangerstation.com/resources/history_of_4x4.htm

Wow! I just love this truck. It is really gorgeous. Thank you so much for the share.

Nice article, neat truck. Up until maybe 10 years ago an independent mechanic used one of these old Power Wagons (I would say late 40s) for a tow truck and it ran like it was never going to quit. Once he died and his grandson took over for a while (I think the garage is closed now) his grandson put it out to pasture (I don't think that was because it quit, I just think he maybe didn't want to drive it). I have seen a few of these old Power Wagons restored. As for the 1994 Dodge Ram when I first saw it I hated it but after a while it grew on me.

As for Dodge and NASCAR the Penske Racing Team switched to Fords and Dodge could not find another team the size of Penske. Dodge still has awesome motors and they could compete very well in racing but you have to have top drivers to win. You can have the most powerful car in the World but without a top driver it will not do you much good. Another thing is NASCAR is starting to lose fans. I live in Northern Kentucky where for years the Kentucky Speedway has tried to become a NASCAR track through Craftsmen truck races and etc. They are close to becoming NASCAR but the audiences on all NASCAR races have peaked. Younger people are more interested in other types of races and maybe Dodge is going to go for some of those, RAM in particular could be doing more Baja and other truck competitions. NASCAR is kind of wanning in popularity and although I don't think it is going to die its fan base is shrinking as it appeals to older fans.

looks like they added biger tries, which hurt articulation, and the spare is no longer fulsize, it looks good but i think th ecurrent tires would hurt it off road.
On the split rims, the military still uses them in certain aplications, they have to be inflated in a aproved tire cage, to prevent injury inevent of failure, i do not know where to get comercial splitrimms worked on nor would i want to work on them myself.

@MoparMadness --I like Dodges and respect RAM but I think your comments really suck. I happen to like Chevys too and I really like my old S-10. Maybe some of the newer Chevys are not as good as the older ones but they will run many years very reliably. Fanboy comments from anyone regardless of brands degrades this site. Maybe you are a pimple faced teenage nerd boy or an immature adult but when you start slamming others you just lost all credibility. As for Buick have you even driven one of the Opel Buicks? Probably not or you would not make such an ignorant ill informed statements. The Buick LaCross is a beautiful car with World class handling. Just because Buicks are based on an Opel platform does not make them inferior but maybe you are one of the ignorant red necks that believes anything foreign is bad and that America has nothing to learn from Europe, Australia, Asia, Canada, and the rest of the World. If all foreign based platforms are bad how can you defend the Dodge Dart using a Fiat platform. All of the auto companies are tapping their international divisions so you better get use to it or crawl under the rock from which you came.

@Hemi V-8-Nice link about General Pershing and the Dodge car (neat old car). Dodge had a long history with the military and as I told you my great Uncle in the late 40s and early 50s helped build the main road in Thailand and his team ran a group of 4 wheel drive Dodge trucks which he says were the toughest trucks he ever had seen.

@Rich Truesdell-I really like this old truck articles. I wish I still had my 63 IH 1000 Series because that would have been a good one to do a writeup on (58,000 miles). It was a stepside with a straight 6 oil bath filter, and 3 on the tree. I sold it several years back a mistake I still regret. Please keep all these old truck articles going. I really enjoyed the story on the 1974 IH Travellett.



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