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: