Dodge Power Wagon in the 1940s and 1950s
Dodge Power Wagon in the 1940s and 1950s definitely carried its weight. In terms of carrying capacity, Power Wagons were real brutes. They were equipped for gross vehicle weight (GVW) ratings of 7,600 or 8,700 pounds. The latter was achieved by adding extra-cost 1,600-pound-capacity front and 3,000-pound-capacity rear springs, plus larger tires. Standard size for the eight-ply tires was 7.50×16, with 9.00×16 available.
Dodge executives and dealers were concerned with giving buyers ideas for how to use their Power Wagons. (The 1946 sales manual listed 75 types of businesses ranging from airports to well drillers that could be prospects for the truck.) For instance, in an issue of Job-Rater magazine, which was mailed to all Dodge truck owners four times a year, the work of a New York State Telephone Company two-man pole-setting crew was profiled.
Their specially equipped Power Wagon included a boom and winch powered by the truck's engine and an auger that was driven by a six-horsepower auxiliary engine. With this setup, the men could drill a posthole 12 inches in diameter to a depth of 5.5 feet in a few minutes.
To further spread the word about the Power Wagon's potential, Dodge's marketing group came up with a slick idea. It was a color and sound film titled Wheels Across South America made by explorer Armand Denis for free showings sponsored by the 4,000 Dodge dealers.
Denis' 1949 expedition operated in unexplored, trackless jungles using a trio of Dodges -- a four-door sedan, a one-ton panel truck, and the Power Wagon. All three vehicles were equipped with radio phones for communicating in the jungle.
The Power Wagon remained basically unchanged during the 23 years it was on the market. That's not to say improvements weren't made to it, though.
The lone appearance alteration came during 1951 when the style of the pickup box was changed. The original box had smooth sheetmetal sides and four stake pockets. The redesign used three stake pockets and the sides were ribbed for strength and a bit of eye appeal. The new box was similar in style to that of other Dodge pickups of the time, but its eight-foot length was unique to the Power Wagon.
That same year, the Power Wagon adopted the centrally mounted gauges found in Dodge's B-series light trucks. Then, in 1961, the items that had made up the deluxe cab option became standard equipment.
A series of horsepower boosts in the 1950s had the 230 engine up to 113 horsepower by 1957. Four years later, it was finally replaced by another dependable Dodge truck six. It displaced 251 cubic inches from its 3.44-inch bore and 4.5-inch stroke. With a compression ratio of 7.1:1, gross horsepower was 125 at 3,600 rpm; torque peaked at 216 pound-feet at 1,600 rpm. Though it, too, was an L-head design, the 251 was not merely the 230 with different cylinder dimensions. It had an entirely different, longer block.
Maximum GVW was raised to 9,500 pounds in 1957. This was helped by adding 9.00×16 10-ply tires, which eventually became the standard size. Starting in late 1956, the four-speed transmission was synchronized. A switch to key starting was made in 1957.
Also during the 1950s, power steering and brakes joined the options list and 12-volt electrics replaced the former six-volt system. The corporate shift to the alternator in 1961 included the Power Wagon, and lock-out front hubs became available in 1962.
For more on the Dodge Power Wagon in the 1960s, continue to the next page.
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