1946-1968 Dodge Power Wagon

Dodge Power Wagon in the 1960s
This custom-built fire truck on a Power Wagon chassis used rear axles from a WW II-era six-wheel-drive truck.
This custom-built fire truck on a Power Wagon chassis used rear axles from a WW II-era six-wheel-drive truck.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Dodge Power Wagon in the 1960s remained tough, but was eventually surpassed by other worthy competitors. By 1968, the Power Wagon's 1939-vintage cab clearly was an anachronism.

Still, had it been possible to test-drive a fully equipped new 1946 model against a completely equipped new 1968, the differences between the two would have been dramatic. The 251-cubic-inch engine produced more power, which made the truck feel lighter and peppier. The larger engine combined with power steering, power brakes, and a synchronized transmission would leave you feeling as though you were driving a thoroughly modern truck.

Dodge produced 95,145 Power Wagons through 1968, by which time the starting tab for a pickup had nearly tripled to $4,634. The peak year was 1957, when 8,706 were turned out, but other years saw anywhere from about 1,400 to 6,000 produced.

Sometimes the cargo a Power Wagon was asked to carry was a precious one -- schoolchildren -- as this bus body mounted on a 1950 chassis shows.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Starting in 1960, assemblies for export markets began to dominate Power Wagon output. (In addition to the Dodge trucks, there were also Fargo-badged Power Wagons made for sale in Canada and some export territories.) Beginning in 1962, this process accelerated when Power Wagons were included in the Military Defense Assistance Program, in which the U.S. government gave or sold military equipment to friendly foreign governments. Having now come full circle in a way, the trucks continued to be made for this program through the end of series production in 1978.

While time seemed to have stood still for the Power Wagon, it certainly didn't for the four-wheel-drive market. As early as mid-1947, Willys came out with a line of one-ton 4×4 trucks. With styling inspired by the Jeep, they were priced comparably to the Power Wagon, though the Willys trucks had less cargo capacity and a four-cylinder engine. By the end of the civilian Power Wagon's run, four-wheel-drive models could be had from any domestic maker of light-duty trucks, and the sport-utility vehicle market was picking up steam, too.

An off-road option group for the Dodge Ram 2500 pickup has been named for the Power Wagon.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Still, the battle-hardened reputation of the Dodge Power Wagon remained as persistent as its appearance. When the division began building four-wheel-drive variants of its more modern conventional trucks in the late 1950s, it put Power Wagon badges on them -- and kept doing so until 1980.

In 1999, Dodge showed a Power Wagon concept truck that was an homage to the 1940s original. Finally, since 2005, the name has returned for an off-road option package -- including a front-mounted winch -- on Dodge Ram 2500 pickups. It seems that the Power Wagon is one old soldier that refuses to fade away.

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