CC Capsule: Dodge WM300 Power Wagon – Immortality Attained

(first posted 4/5/2011)     What ever you do, don’t ask me what year this truck is. The Dodge Power Wagon long transcended such mere mortal trivialities. I wasn’t planning on this CC, but it so perfectly epitomizes one of the key personality traits of Chrysler, as so well embodied in the 1951 Plymouth Cranbrook: the kind of anvil-tough products America was once famous for. But the Power Wagon makes even the Cranbrook  look like a mayfly in comparison. These military-grade trucks were built with only the subtlest of improvements for over thirty years. This one could well be sixty years old, and it’s getting freshened up a bit for the next sixty.

The Power Wagon was heavily based on the Army’s 3/4 ton WW2 truck. Like Jeep, Dodge figured it might as well try to make some more money from their very profitable war-time contracts after the fighting ended. They grafted on a civilian Dodge pickup cab, and built an eight-foot bed specifically for the PW. The 126″ chassis, 4-speed transmission, transfer case and the 230 CID flat head six were essentially carry-overs, and had more than proven themselves.

That veritable monolith of a motor had its origins in the original Plymouth six of 1933. The PW used the “long block” Dodge version, and after 1961, had 250.6 cubic inches. The truck version that went into the PW had heavy duty components and full oil filtering and full pressure oiling. There is no American engine that I can think of that has a better rep for toughness than these.

Their virtue was not horsepower, but grunt. Maximum torque on these engines was developed at 1600 rpm, thanks to little 3.25″ bores and a mammoth 4.63″ stroke (for the 230). In off-road situations the PW so excelled in, that was perfect. On the highway? It would probably do fifty or so, because of the gearing. Interstates and Power Wagons are mutually exclusive.

The PW stayed in the Dodge catalog right through 1968, but exports continued through 1971, and some were assembled as late as 1978, with slant six engines.

Power Wagons chassis were fitted with a wide array of bodies, including fire engines and station wagons/school buses for those roadless areas. Now that’s a woody that warms my blood.

The PW featured here is undergoing a very leisurely restoration. One of these days, years, decades or centuries, we’ll check back in again and revel in its youthfulness.