After battling for our country from behind the wheels of many unique four-wheel-drive vehicles in WWII, returning military men looked to manufacturers to produce civilian vehicles that were much like the ones that had held up so well in the field. Dodge responded to this request with the creation of the Power Wagon, a 4×4 truck similar to the ¾ ton weapons carrier many military men had come to know well. Check out this unique off-road machine in this week’s Vintage Monday!
The Dodge Power Wagon was introduced as a civilian vehicle in 1945 with a design similar to WWII weapons carriers with a closed cab, 126-inch wheelbase, and a front hood and grille design similar to the Burma Road Truck, a Dodge-produced military vehicle used by the Chinese Army. Rounding the truck out was a special bed made to haul a variety of things that stretched 8 feet long, 4-½ feet wide and nearly 2 feet in depth. With this rugged design and early 4×4 capabilities, the Dodge Power Wagon could pretty much go anywhere and haul anything.
When the truck was first introduced to the public, it featured a 217ci Flathead-6 engine, 4-speed manual transmission with two-way Power Take Off (PTO) and a 2-speed New Process transfer case. The Power Take Off was used for sending power to either the front or the back of the truck to run auxiliary equipment where the front shaft could run things such as a front-mounted winch while the rear shaft could operate various power equipment, like an air compressor or saw.
The Power Wagon saw a variety of upgrades in 1951, from increased axle capacities and optional stiffer springs, to more “civilianized” instrumentation and rubber engine mounts. Following model years brought higher compression ratios, a new carburetor and the introduction of the 230ci Flathead-6 engine in 1954. This engine was tied to a sliding gear manual transmission. A syncromesh transmission and 12-volt electrical system was introduced in 1955, followed by optional power steering in 1956 and power brakes in 1957.
By 1958, there were a variety of Power Wagon models to choose from, from the new more civilian friendly W100, W200 and W300 models introduced in 1957 (really a different model but also branded under the Power Wagon name), to the two-ton W500 Power Wagon marketed as the C3-HW, and of course, the standard military-esque WDX-WM300.
Dodge also offered Power Wagon Town Panels (an early panel van of sorts) and Town Wagons beginning in 1957. New mechanical improvements to the Power Wagon included an optional Braden MU-2 10,000-pound capacity winch and a Leece-Neville alternator.
In 1961, though the overall design of the Power Wagon line hadn’t changed much, Dodge replaced the 230ci engine with a 251ci inline-6, which now featured a Chrysler-built alternator. A W200 crew cab was also introduced that year, which featured Dana 70 axles in both the front and rear.
In 1962, lock-out front hubs became available, followed by a dual master cylinder in 1967. In 1968, the original military-style Power Wagon was cut from Dodge’s American lineup, with exports continuing through 1971. Just 95,145 WDX-WM300 Power Wagons were sold between 1945 and 1968.
The civilian-style Power Wagon line introduced in 1957 continued on through 1980 with a revised body design introduced in 1972. This brought varied grilles, paint schemes and the introduction of the Club Cab model in 1974. In 1975, the truck’s four-wheel-drive was switched to a full-time featue. The continuing line of Power Wagons also brought about a 383ci V8 engine option.
In 1981, the Dodge Power Wagon name went by the wayside only to be brought back in new form in 2005.