The Power Wagon Appears on The Scene
Still powered by the proven if somewhat underpowered 230 flat head, the basic military drive train
emerged from the war with a set of 1 ton Chrysler axles wearing the sheet metal of the first
civilian Dodge Power Wagon in 1946. Dodge initially introduced it as the Farm Utility, but the
marketing department felt Power Wagon had more cache', thank God. Cruising the back roads in a Farm
Utility just wouldn't be the same. The name was changed before half the year had passed.
To the right is a beautiful specimen of the WM300 1 ton Dodge Power Wagon of 1966 from
one of Dodge's sales brochures. Can you imagine the opportunity to buy this truck off the
showroom floor? I would trade various left side chunks of my anatomy for the chance!
The new Power Wagon sold for around $1600.00, compared to $700.00 or so for a standard two
wheel drive 1/2 ton. It carried the model designation WDX till 1947 after which it went
through so many variations I seriously wonder if anyone knows them all, never mind
understanding why. There was the B-3-PW, the C-1-PW, you had your C-3-PW and C-4-PW,
presumably your C-2-PW, not to mention a B-1 and 2-PW. There are no doubt a bunch I failed
to call to mind or never knew, but you get the idea. Who can guess what changes accompanied
a new model designation.
The 1966 Dodge WM300 1 Ton Military Power Wagon, with
three pocket box. Also known as the flat fender or civilian.
Sometime in all of this the transfer case grew a 1.96:1 ratio in addition to 1:1, although it
never got a neutral position. Hence the reversible PTO's on the transmission. Speaking of the
transmission, these were originally New Process clash boxes called, if I remember, the Four
Speed Gearbox. Later they grew into the 420 with synchros into third and fourth. This particular
420 had the removable shifter that stuck right down into the gear box, not to be confused with
the weaker transmission of the same model number from the M-37 which had a stub shaft the
shifter clamped onto. It shared not a single damned part (or the mounting bolt hole pattern for
that matter) with its like numbered and more common brethren as far as I can tell, and I had
plenty of opportunities to investigate the issue while fixing mine.
In '61, if I recall correctly, the Power Wagon got another horsepower boost with the 115 HP 251
flat head. It's easy to identify these trucks because the grill is mounted out ahead of the front
cowl instead of flush with it. The 251 needed a little more room. Sometime in here the model
designation had made its way through W300M to the WM300 and finally, perhaps, the WM Export, depending
on who you talk to. This was probably around 1969 because the last WM300's for domestic sale were
built in 1968. While production continued through perhaps '78 (certainly '74 because I could've
bought a mint one in '76 for $800.00 that some kid inherited. I could still kick myself in the ass!),
they were sold for export only. Safety regulations had caught up to them. There's just no way to
make a military Power Wagon user friendly in a crash. The other guy ain't going to be too happy,
but you'll probably be hurting too.
The only major appearance changes across all those years were the cowl marker lights being dropped,
don't know when, and the box changing from the old slab sided four pocket model to the three pocket
with the sloped tops (to discourage sitting on the side?) to the flat top embossed three pocket in
1956. There were plenty of variations beyond the pickup version, however, including buses, utility
trucks, fire trucks, even a woody, all built by outside manufacturers on Dodge factory chassis
cowls. For the most part all factory sheet metal will interchange and most of the mechanical stuff
can be forced to work if it won't just drop in. The electrical system got an upgrade from six to
twelve volts in 1955 and starting in '58 you could get an alternator.
While never used by the military in more than relatively small numbers, the truck's obvious
armed services heritage led it to be referred to as the Military Power Wagon, a name that
still holds today. Just to increase the confusion it's also referred to as the civilian
Power Wagon and the flat fender.
There was a time in the 70's when your first hurdle in the quest for military Power
Wagon parts was conveying to the person on the other end of the phone line that you were
talking about a flat fender Power Wagon, not an M-37 or a sweptside civilian.
Next, The Sweptside Power Wagon