Did you know that today's 4-door crew cab design that is so common in off-road trucks did not exist in the United States until the 1960s? In fact, the closest thing to an ancestor that today's power wagon has is the 1962 Dodge Power Wagon. What is so special about this car and its configuration?
What is the history behind it, and how did it evolve into the beloved crew it is today? Let's look back at the 1962 Dodge Power Wagon and its features.
History of Dodge Power Wagons
Dodge established its 4x4 series during world war II by developing heavy-duty trucks for the US Army. The automaker carried the line over into 1946 in what became the legendary Dodge Power Wagon – a non-military version of the previous trucks.
According to company history, the Power Wagon was produced to be a small, rugged, powerful, and fast truck that could travel well on and off-road. Dodge added a power steering option to the line in 1956 and offered power brakes and key-actuated starting in 1957.
The following year, the options included a Leece-Neville alternator or 10,000-pound winch, and many Power Wagons were bought for fire and police departments.
In 1961, Dodge replaced the generator with an alternator and increased the motor size to 251ci. It also increased the maximum GVW to 9,500 pounds. Additionally, the four gauges found in the center dash were given black faces – they showed Fuel, Oil, Temp, and Amp.
While sales were initially high, they dropped in later years even as Dodge remained keen on keeping the Wagons current. Ultimately, the automaker was unable to meet federal safety regulations and discontinued the military-style Power Wagon in North America after 1968.
The trucks had two large headlights mounted prominently on their front benders. Dodge continued building the Power Wagons for export until 1978, when the entire line was discontinued. Between 1946 and 1968 (end of production in the US), the automaker sold 95,145 Dodge Power Wagons in the country.
1962 Dodge Power Wagon
The Dodge Power Wagon is a medium-duty 4-wheel drive truck that was produced in several models from 1945 to 1978 by Dodge. Dodge revived the Power Wagon Name for the 4-wheel drive model of the Dodge Ram 2500 in 2005.
During the 1960s, Dodge did not make any drastic changes to the military design, although it did incorporate the 251-cube six in 1961. The automaker also replaced the Leece-Neville alternator and generator with Chrysler's much more superior alternators.
The 1962 Dodge Power Wagon maintained much of the military-style configuration but featured lockout front hubs. Its overall look, while still rugged, was also more civilian. Not many trucks were produced as Power Wagons did not make up a significant portion of Dodge's production line, but some remain today.
Many previous owners of 1962 Dodge Power Wagons did not go to extreme lengths to maintain them, often driving them in rugged terrain and leaving them outside. Consequently, most of the trucks from this year available today have been remodeled or renovated with newer parts.
Dodge was among the first companies to offer the renowned crew-cab configurations in the US. Their style and look was very distinct as they were adapted from the military trucks Dodge had previously made. Generally, the civilian version had added seats but otherwise maintained its rugged look.
Early on, Dodge used teardrop-style fenders on its military trucks, but they easily clogged the field with mud. The automaker replaced them with older-style, functional fenders, which were then carried over to the Dodge Power Wagons.
Dodge Power Wagons also featured the intermediate axle from the 6x6 with an equal drive axle part number, which was designed to achieve the differential offset for the rear PTO (power takeoff) driveshaft.
Using a mechanical governor, the engine was also maintained at a given speed for different loads. The 2-way PTO allowed the front shaft to operate pups or winches and the rear shaft to be connected to a pulley and operate a saw or mower. The rotation control and PTO lever were then placed inside the man cap.
Thanks to these features, Dodge Power Wagons were used in firefighting, law enforcement, state highways, public utilities, agriculture, and industry. The 1962 Dodge Power Wagon rode on military non-directional tires as high traction tires were unavailable at the time. The rugged, aggressive look of the truck was derived from its large cargo box, grille, bumper, rear fenders, and running boards.
Dodge Power Wagon Engine
Like other trucks in the line, the 1962 Dodge Power Wagon had a 230-cubic-inch flathead-6 unit with a 4.63-inch stroke and 3.25-inch bore. It had a 6.7:1 compression ratio and produced 185 lb-ft of torque at 1,200 rpm and 94 hp at 3,200 rpm. Additionally, the 4-speed transmission had rugged carburized gears.
While the flathead-6 engine was not built for speed, farmers, fire companies, towns, and ranchers bought the trucks for the engine's power. The units were extremely hardy, durable, and very cheap to maintain and fix.
It is important to note that the engine in the Dodge Power Wagon is not similar to a car engine, even when the displacements are similar. Dodge consistently upgraded the engines for rugged conditions and severe usage, especially given the target buyer.
Dodge built 4-wheel drive trucks from 1934 for the US army in different styles and sizes, the latter ranging from half-ton to full-ton. When the war ended, the soldiers went searching for Dodge trucks for their strong build quality and ruggedness.
The automaker responded by adapting its military trucks into versions more suited to civilian life, and, years later, the evolution gave us the 1962 Dodge Power Wagon. This truck is very rare since, among other reasons, Dodge only produced 4,200 power wagons a year until 1968. However, if you manage to get your hands on one, you should definitely buy it.
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Written by Benjamin Smith
Read more posts by Benjamin Smith