Big, brawny six cylinder diesel engine: √
4×4 drive train: √
Crew cab: √
Tall stance, big wheels and tires: √
Almost sixty years ago this 1964 Dodge W300 Power Wagon was a real pioneer, the first American production pickup with a diesel engine as well as all those qualities that defines the modern big American diesel 4×4 pickup. Only a handful of these 1962-1964 Dodge diesel pickups were made, and this one here is the only known survivor. You’re looking at he granddaddy of the whole genre, the very first brodozer.
Chrysler had experience with UK-based Perkins diesels, as a number of their cars (and trucks) had been fitted with them in Europe as taxis and such, since their fuel economy was so much better than that of the big American gas engines. Given all of 45 hp that the Perkins P4C four cylinder diesel made, performance obviously suffered, but it was a worthwhile tradeoff for commercial use.
In 1962, Chrysler decided to offer the new and significantly more powerful but relatively compact Perkins 6.354 (354 cubic inches, 5.8 L) 120 hp six cylinder diesel in Dodge medium duty trucks.
Here’s the report from a 1962 Commercial Motor trade journal:
FOR the second time in six months a leading American vehicle manufacturing firm has announced that it is to fit Perkins diesel engines as standard equipment in trucks for the U.S. market. The Dodge truck division of the Chrysler Corporation, Detroit, state that six-cylinder. direct-injection. 120-b.h.p. (SAE) Perkins 6.354 engines will be available this spring in medium-duty trucks designed for city and suburban use. This follows the announcement last August that the White Motor Company, of Cleveland, is fitting the 6.354 in the White Compact range.
Mr. P. N. Buckminster, Dodge assistant general manager, announcing in Detroit the introduction of the Perkins engines, said: “The 6.354 engine is ideal for truck operators in the local, .short-haul delivery field. It is designed specifically to provide outstanding performance and maximum fuel economy in city and suburban delivery service, involving start-and-stop driving.
“We have had a very close association with Perkins for several years through our British truck building operation, and thousands of Perkins diesels are being used in our trucks throughout the British Commonwealth, Europe and the Far East,” added Mr. Buckminster. “Perkins products have proved widely acceptable and enjoy an outstanding reputation around the world. We feel certain they will be as popular with American truck operators as they have been in the overseas market.”
Among the many advantages which Dodge say operators of the new diesel trucks will gain are the lower cost of diesel fuel in most States, a low initial purchase price compared with conventional diesel units, and outstanding fuel economy of 12 to 17 m.p.g. in pick-op and delivery service.
The 6.354 will be available in Dodge D500 and C500 models with gross vehicle weights of 19,500 lb., and in C600 and D600 trucks which have 22.000-lb. g.v.w. The compact size and weight of the Perkins unit will enable it to be installed in the same basic chassis as a petrol engine, which will facilitate repowering of existing models.
In addition to the these 500 series trucks, the diesel option could also be ordered in the W300 (4×4 Power Wagon pickup/chassis) and the D400 series, if the right option code (28-01A) was specified at the time of ordering. It wasn’t exactly cheap though, at $908.90 ($7,893 adjusted). That’s quite similar to the current $9,400 price of the Cummins diesel in 2022 Dodge 2500 and 3500 models. Of course the power of today’s turbocharged Cummins is vastly more powerful, but then that applies to gas engines too.
Just how many found their way into the W300 pickups is unknown, and this ’64 is the only known survivor, which was purchased new by a ranch owner in Montana.
It still runs, and has made a few star appearances at car shows, averaging 17 mpg on the highway driving to them.
This truck was also ordered with the HD instrument cluster, 20″ steering wheel, Bostrom Viking seats (these trucks steer and ride hard), MU-2A winch, NP-420 four speed transmission and 4.88:1 final drive ratio. A hard working ranch truck.
Obviously the US was not ready to embrace diesels in pickups yet. Dodge tried again, in 1978, this time with a Mitsubishi 6DR5 diesel, making only 105 hp. It turned out to be a sales dud too. Finally Dodge found success in 1989 by installing the Cummins 5.9 L six, and the rest is history. Third time’s the charm.
More Dodge diesel history here:
1940 Dodge Diesel: The First Dodge Diesel Engine And The Only One Designed And Built By Chrysler
1978 Dodge Diesel Pickup (And The Missing Diesel Van)
Screaming, wrung-out, all-in, maximum top speed 55 mph: √
Excuse me, I’ll be right back. I have to go climb a wall.
That ad extolling the virtues of the new Perkins seems to be reaching a bit far: Longer battery life and quicker, easier starts (presumably vs the gasoline engine). A diesel takes more power to get started, with glow plugs and much higher compression… and you’re more likely to experience a no-start when temperatures dip and you haven’t plugged the block heater in.
I also wonder why it took so long to get turbodiesels. If there ever was an engine type that begged for forced induction, a diesel would be it. Woulda definitely perked up the Perkins!
What a cool truck, though. I’ve never seen a Dodge truck of this generation with a tachometer.
Perkins introduced a 150 hp turbocharged version just a year or two later. But it would have been even more expensive. Undoubtedly the high cost of the diesel is what kept it from selling, at a time when gas prices were slowly drifting lower in inflation-adjusted dollars. One wonder what the motivation was for this rancher to buy the diesel.
I wonder if the ton builds were ever authenticated?
They’re really not the most “automotive friendly” engine.
Not sure where Cowan’s reference to “quick easy starts” propaganda is, but that’s laughable. Perkins is not an easy start, to wit, the “ring buster” ether starting aid seen on the cowl.
It’s in the last picture, which is an advertisement encircled by two red arrows. Look at the lowermost heading that says: LONG ENGINE LIFE, and read it there.
I wonder if the ton builds were ever authenticated?
That option code (28-01A) was only applicable to the W300 and the D400. The larger (500/600) trucks had three different and unique option codes.
This truck is original, bought from the first owner, including build plate, etc. There were others built too, but none survived.
The 6.354 was available for the W500 under a different order code, as well as the S series school bus chassis cowl.
this is my truck, and I will have to say it pops off immediately when you turn the key. The ether bottle has been empty for the past 24 years that I have owned it. It delivered a metered shot of ether only to assist in starting. If you drove the truck you would not be disappointed in the power and MPG. Like it or not, it is a very unusual and rare truck. W300 Crew Cabs are rare beasts.
attached is a sheet from the Dodge Truck Special Equipment Catalogue (1966) that shows which models could be ordered with the 6.354, including the W300. The data tag in the door jamb is stamped “Special” in the slot for Engine Horsepower, and it retains all of the stickers and emblems specific to a factory Dodge Diesel. I have owned the truck in this article for 25 years and have been very active in the Dodge Power Wagon community for 30 years. No other truck like this one has surfaced, it could likely be the only W300 so equipped. The Crew Cab body was not generally available to the W300 models, so it is another Special Equipment Order. Less than 30 are known, all others are Slant 6 or 318 from the factory.
Love the truck if you ever want to part with it give me a holler
406 350 two one 7 2
“One wonder what the motivation was for this rancher to buy the diesel.”
I’m guessing he had a big ol’ tax-free diesel tank on the ranch for his farm equipment. Convenient, and cheaper, too.
I’ve read that was the reason (cost) Ford didn’t use a turbo on the 6.9 and 7.3 Navistar IDI diesels, until the very end of the run. Same with the GM 6.2/6.5.
It seems plausible Dodge influenced that decision with the success of the turbo Cummins, and Ford, especially, had to scramble to keep up.
Does anyone have any info on Dodge Giant v8 trucks, these were sold in limited numbers here in Australia and survivors are extremely rare
Never heard of that. When was this?
Power Giant was a term that Chrysler applied to Hemi Powered Medium and Heavy Duty Dodge trucks up to 1959. The term continued to appear in Dodge Sales literature into the early 1960s. Power Giant is loosely applied to the 1957-1960 Dodge Light Duty trucks by collectors.
So do the suspension seats make this a Laramie SLT model?
Also, turquoise with white trim really should make a comeback on these. All-black-everything just looks tired and cliched to me.
Great post – never knew the Perkins diesel was offered here in the Dodge in the 60’s. Thank goodness this one survived.
What’s up with the corners of the rear fenders? Are they pre-dented?
Clearance for spare tire stowage.
Room for a side-mount spare.
This is another flavor of Dodge truck that I was not aware of.
The only asterisk I would add to your statement that these were the first of their kind is that Studebaker also offered a diesel option (Detroit Diesel 453) in 1 ton and over 1962 7e series trucks (what had formerly been the Transtar before the Champ took over as the lighter duty 1/2 and 3/4 ton trucks). That said, I have not been able to find any confirmation that the Stude was offered from the factory with a pickup bed – just stake beds and bed-less versions so far as I can tell. And they made around 700 diesel trucks (of all 1 ton and up models) from 1962-64.
I think Dodge was the closest thing to Studebaker in the US light truck market of the early 60s (in terms of being ignored by the market at large), and it is interesting that both of them found this a worthwhile market niche. And that both of them were about equally wrong, at least for the time.
I’m familiar with the Studebaker truck diesel adventure, but I’ve never run across a pickup version.
The first 1964`s green Power Wagon pictured on top looks more Russian than a Uaz .
Most Diesel engines of this general type (“high-speed automotive”) are relatively quick to start once they are warmed up. Moreover, they start consistently so long as all the system components are in good repair. In that era, many gasoline engines were often miserable to start, especially when trying to restart soon after being shut down after a hot, hard run. A restart under these conditions sometimes resulted in flooding, vapor lock, and long cranking times, all to the detriment of the starting system components, as well as potential oil dilution and cylinder wall wear from the excess unburned fuel washing down past the rings. We are all now spoiled by fuel injection’s consistent behavior, but I would have chosen a Diesel in those days for pick-up-and-delivery type service since you haven’t lived until you’ve stuck a stick past your choke butterfly to hold it upon, as you run out of battery power from the marginally sized OEM battery trying to restart your finicky carbureted engine. I’ll take the one coĺd start with its demands for a Diesel any day, in exchange for the carbureted engine’s quirks. There is my old fuddy-duddy rant for the day!
Well said, and I agree 100%.
I remember all-too well the various starting and re-starting maladies of old gas engines: flooding, stuck choke (open or closed) and vapor lock being at the top of the list. Add weak spark due to moisture and such for extra fun.
Having seen how diesel engines back in the day started/restarted almost instantly on all the taxis, trucks and other vehicles in Europe, this was a well known advantage.
To be fair, we should speculate where the same quality of operation and maintenance (lack thereof, more accurately) would leave the diesel.
I’d venture that with deferred maintenance, along with a hot gasoline engine’s choke being flopped closed and requiring fiddling with a stick after a long hard run, the diesel would have its own maladies.
The same conditions of deffered maintenance might have had diesel’s fuel filters filling up with crud. Remember, fuel was nowhere near today’s quality. By jamming on with bad fuel, the same way the gasoline engine operator ignored the temperature gauge, the tips might be burned off the diesel’s injectors. Now let’s see that hot re-start.
The same hypothetical abusive hot hard run that could bring a gasoline engine to the brink of death would take its toll on the diesel too.
The same operator who ignored the gas engine’s temperature gauge could overload a diesel too, and lug the diesel to an early death.
As to driveability, Perkins just wasn’t so “cultured” for automotive use. Not a “nimble” engine.
The Perkins powered Dodge was a start. It’d be a mistake to believe that it was of similar characteristics to today’s diesel pickups.
Notice how the sales literature repeatedly emphasizes stop-and-go and suburban duty? This powerplant wasn’t up to line-haul like highway work. Completely unlike Dodge gasoline engines in that regard.
Neat toy, certainly unique. However, as to being practical, could you imagine constantly running wound-out pedal-to-the-metal to maintain 55mph?
And the weight on the steer axle. Ugh.
There are many good reasons why diesel was slow to gain ground in light/medium applications.
Now I better file my disclaimer. I’ve owned, operated and worked on this series Perkins, a bunch of ’em. I like ’em. However, that doesn’t mean I’ll lie for ’em. lol Facts are facts.
About 35 years ago I had a 1968 Dodge crew cab like this one, I suspect it was the same Perkins Diesel. This Diesel was the fastest starting motor I’ve ever had, once it was warmed up.
I had brought the truck to a local car and truck show. One of the attractions at the show was an ignition starting event, where they would hook up a machine that measured the amount of time it took for the car to start. First prize was $25.
I parked the Dodge in the line for the contest and waited my turn. The guy running the contest tried to tell me it was only for gasoline engines, except none of the advertising papers or the show’s ads said “no Diesels”. He said it was not possible to measure how quickly my truck started.
I told him it was not necessary to hook up any test equipment, the Dodge Diesel was clearly the winner. As I said that, I turned the ignition on, and without depressing the clutch pedal, pulled the floor shift lever from first gear into neutral, and the motor turned over on it’s own compression. The moment the crank began rotating, it was technically running.
About the truck I had:
My big 1968 Dodge Diesel 4X4 crew cab was ordered new by the US Forest Service, and it had that unusual light green color all the Forest Service vehicles were painted. It’s been so long I don’t remember if it was a Perkins 6.354 or a different Diesel.
I attended a US Government vehicle auction that included dozens of Forest Service vehicles. I bought it and a 1962 Studebaker station wagon, a very unusual car, as I’m sure it was built based on the lowest bid price. It had no back seat, the area where the folding back seat would have been located was a simple plywood panel with an angle-iron support frame, all painted that same green. The rear door windows didn’t open, no window crank or armrest of course, it didn’t even have front door armrests. 6-cylinder and 3 speed stick, no radio or heater!
I have read articles on this specific truck before, it’s authentic. It may to be the only W300 with a Perkins diesel in existence today, and there seems to be no information as to how many were made. None of the sales literature that I have looked at from 1964 shows the Perkins as an available option in the W300, only in the D400 and larger medium duty trucks. However, Dodge Truck had a team known as the Special Equipment Group that put together special orders for fleets, and this truck could very well be something they did. The winch and Bostrom seats were also likely part of this special order.
In the US a first for sure but the Dodge/Perkins combination was a lot older on British and Australian Dodges so using the brand in the US I suppose was a natural progression.
Yes, my dad worked for Perkins in Aus in the late-’50’s to mid -’60’s, and they had a ’50’s Dodge ute (or little truck) with one of their own engines. Converters (or Perkins themselves) changed quite a lot of Dodge trucks this way. He later worked for Cummins for a bit, and never found their stuff as good back then (and he was and is no Anglophile).
That is true. This Perkins-powered extremely rusty ’61 Valiant, which gets advertised out of New York (I think?) every so often:
Say, Stern, is that by any chance an Australian, do you think? Looks RHD, and, as mentioned above, Perkins engines were fitted to a bunch of stuff here.
It is a RHD car. I don’t think it was originally an Australian-market car, though these are the only pics I have (no data plate, etc). There have been assertions over the years that Perkins diesel engines were factory-offered in early Valiants in a few far-flung markets, and that’s believable as far as it goes, but I’ve never seen anything like sturdy documentation for the claim. Perkins engines were definitely not offered in Valiants in Australia, but wherever one might be in the world, who the hell knows what clever (or not-so-clever) swaps are done after the cars leave the factory!
Dodge premiered a diesel in trucks in 1939 with an in-house built 6-cylinder diesel.
Do you know the Odometer reading?
Great proportions and patina. They appear rather modern to my untrained eye. Aside from the massive underbite bumper for the big winch.
I’m intrigued by this truck. I really like it. I wonder how it is to drive. I’m also curious how it was used in practice and how many hours are on it. It appears to be very well kept.
That’s a short rear gear, but those are tall tires. They look like they could be 35″ (they’re skinny, and they’re still close to the fender, they could be bigger). With a 4.88, you could cruise at 55 turning 2600 rpm. The tires, wheelbase, seats, and a heavy diesel seem like they would tame the ride considerably. It would certainly be plush compared to a regular cab in more conventional gasoline HD configuration.
It would be loud, but the original owner didn’t need to worry about hearing/being heard on hands free, or anything on the radio.
I’m guessing the guy that bought it had experience with diesel equipment in some capacity and figured he could run it often, inexpensively, and forever, in relative comfort, in just about any condition, in a wide variety of tasks.
You hit the nail on the head. Trucks were used differently back then, and many roads were different too. Our old trucks rarely if ever got to 55 mph, and certainly never for any length of time. This would have been ideal for farm/off-road use, or the run into town to get supplies, or the excursion into the woodlot to bring fuel to the skidded, or similar tasks. Trucks then were tools, not toys, and especially for someone with his own skid tank and pump for tractor and equipment fuel, this would have been the ideal set-up. Beyond that, if the fuel shut-off was mechanical, not electrical, this rig could be push started to make its way home even in the face of total electrical failure. I’ve found mechanical injection pumps to be far more trustworthy when “the chips are down” than the carburetor and distributor on a gasoline engine. This truck wasn’t aspiring to be an F 350 King Ranch, it was designed for its own era, and well designed, indeed.
The tires are Michelin military tires in 255/100r16 36-38″ depending on tread depth.
Maybe the guy had Massey Furguson tractors and liked the Perkins they were equipped with (MF owned Perkins, or still does)
I have a 1964 D300 with the same diesel engine.. so is mine T he only 2×4 in existance? Its all stock down to the diesel emblem on the hood..