Dodge Power Wagon (1946-1968)
Article by Mark Trotta
Designed for off-highway operations, the Dodge Power Wagon was one of the first mass-produced 4x4 civilian trucks. They have been called upon for pulling, snow-plowing, well-drilling, and providing portable power to remote areas. A rugged chassis allows passage through water, sand, and mud - and if they were to get stuck, they are capable of winching themselves out.
During WWII, the Dodge Company produced many trucks for the U.S. Military, including a series of 3/4 ton vehicles. These included command cars, ambulances, telephone installation trucks, and weapons carriers. The Dodge Power Wagon is a direct descendant of these military vehicles.
Read: American Automotive Industry During World War Two
Rolling on 7.50" x 6" eight-ply tires, the long 126-inch wheelbase carries a 4.5' x 8' cargo box behind the enclosed cab. The frame features reinforced side channels with seven cross-members. Overall length of the Dodge Power Wagon is 199 inches, maximum gross vehicle weight is 7,600 pounds.
First-Series Power Wagon (late 1945 to 1950)
Drivetrain for the Power Wagon was Dodge's venerable 230ci valve-in-head straight-six cylinder engine. Output was 94 horsepower at 3,200 rpm, with 185 pound-feet of torque at 1,200 rpm.
In four-wheel-drive mode, the transfer case provided eight forward speeds and two for reverse. A heavy-duty pintle hook attached to the rear of the frame, aiding many types of pulling jobs.
The Power Wagon's mobile power source was achieved by using a two-sided power take-off next to the four-speed transmission. Power could be transmitted rearward through the tailshaft or forward to an optional power winch. An adjustable front draw-bar made off-center towing possible.
Weighing nearly 6,000 pounds and running a 5.83 final gear, top cruising speed was about 45 mph. For highway use, the front-wheel-drive is easily disengaged from inside the cab.
First-Series Power Wagon models include the 1945-47 WDX, 1948-1949 B-1-PW, and the 1950 B-2-PW. An easy way to identify them is their four rectangular stake pockets on each side of the bed.
Early Power Wagons had a round speedometer with a rectangular gauge cluster on each side. The two rectangular gauge housings had the instrument lettering on the glass instead of the face of the gauge.
Through 22 years of production, changes to the Power Wagon were mostly minor. Heavier front and rear springs became available, and when fitted with 9.00" x 16" knobby tires, gross vehicle weight (GVW) increased to 8,700 pounds.
Second-Series Power Wagon (1951 to early 1956)
Model year 1951 saw many changes, including a new pickup bed, and new rubber engine, cab and box mountings. Axle capacities increased and optional, stiffer springs became available. The rear axle capacity was increased from 5,500 pounds to 6,500 pounds, and the front axle went from 3,500 to 3,750.
Second Series Power Wagon models include the 1951 B-3-PW, 1952-early 1953 B-3-PW, late 1953 B-4-PW, 1954 C-1-PW, and 1955 and early 1956 C-3-PW. Identifying features include three sculptured stake pockets on each side, with stamped bed sides.
A new carburetor with a governor was seen in 1952, and engine compression raised slightly from 6.7 to 7.0:1 in 1953. A year later, a new 230ci Flathead six with a redesigned manifold and longer-duration cam brought engine compression to 7.25:1.
Dash instruments changed from military style to civilian style. The center of dash now had a group of four gauges (fuel, amp, temp, oil) with silver/grey faces.
Read: Convert from 6-volts to 12-volts
With a base price of $2,307, a total of 5,601 Power Wagons were made in 1954. Model year 1955 saw the introduction of 12-volt electrics and synchromesh transmission, along with another bump in compression ratio, from 7.25 to 7.6:1.
Third-Series Power Wagon (late 1956-1968)
In 1956, power steering became optional; in 1957, power brakes were offered, and key-actuated starting was implemented. In 1958, buyers could specify a 10,000 pound winch or a Leece-Neville alternator (many municipalities ordered them for police and fire vehicles).
The original Dodge Power Wagon was designated W-300 in 1957, now sharing its nameplate with the more modern-looking W-100 and W-200 Dodge pickups. The generator was replaced with an alternator in 1961, and motor size was increased to 251ci. Maximum GVW was increased to 9,500 pounds.
The group of four gauges in the center of dash (Fuel, Amp, Temp, Oil) now had black faces. Three square stake pockets were on each side of the stamped bed sides. Third Series includes the following years and model numbers: Late 1956 C-4-PW, 1957 W300, 1958-1959 W300M, and 1960-68 WM300.
Despite low sales, Dodge tried keeping the Power Wagon current. However, unable to comply with upcoming federal safety regulations, the military-style Dodge Power Wagon, with its two big headlights prominently mounted on the front fenders, was discontinued in North American markets after the 1968 model year. They continued to be built for export through 1978.
From 1946 to 1968, a total of 95,145 Dodge WDX and WM300 Power Wagons were sold in the United States.
Dodge Pickup Truck History
Classic Trucks History