Legacy Classic Power Wagon First Drive
Shortly before the US entered World War II, Dodge supplied themilitary with a line of pickups internally codenamed WC, those letters designating the year 1941 and the half-ton payload rating. From 1941 to 1945 Dodge built more than a quarter million of them, and even though “WC” came to refer to the Weapons Carrier body style, the WC range served in 38 different configurations from pickup trucks to ambulances to six-wheeled personnel and weapons haulers.
The story is that soldiers returning from active duty badgered Dodge for a civilian version of that indefatigable warhorse, so Dodge responded with the Power Wagon in 1946. Even for those no-nonsense times the truck was so austere that the first three names Dodge gave it were “Farm Utility Truck,” “WDX General Purpose Truck,” and “General Purpose, One Ton Truck.” “Power Wagon” was the fourth choice, not finalized until just before it went on sale.
Nothing like today’s Power Wagon, the original could be seen as either a glorified tractor or a slightly less uncouth military vehicle – hell-for-leather meant going 50 miles per hour. But it would go nearly anywhere. The civilian version was still built like it had to survive, well, a world war; power take-offs (PTOs) ran all manner of ancillaries; multiplicative gear ratios helped it produce enough torque to make an earthquake envious. Said to be the first civilian 4×4 truck made in America, any organization that needed a simple, sturdy mechanized draught animal knew it needed a Power Wagon.
If that history, the aura of war, and the ruthless functionality attract you but the mean comforts and 70-year-old manners don’t, then you need to get in touch withLegacy Classic Trucks. The Jackson Hole, WY, restorer retains every ounce of the Power Wagon’s orchard-work aptitude, decorated with present-day amenities and the best components.
Each job starts with having to find a usable donor. The city of Breckenridge, CO, bought the red truck in our gallery in 1947 and used it as a snowplow for the next 30 years. In 1977 a log-home builder bought it from the city and used it for another decade as a company hauler. That’s the kind of grueling longevity that lets Ram put a five-figure premium on the 2500 Power Wagon pickup it sells today.
Legacy Classics founder Winslow S. Bent says, “I find them abandoned, with trees growing through them. But I’ll buy it if the frames are good, if I can get half a truck in really good shape.” After he’s removed the flora and dragged it from its resting place, he overhauls his finds with the exactitude we’ve gotten to know from other restorers like Icon’s Jonathan Ward and even Singer Vehicle Design.The frame-off restoration begins by sandblasting and boxing the ladder beams, which were C-section forward of the bed. After that Winslow says they save whatever they can, but any necessary bodywork is re-fabricated, and all of that works is done in the US. Legacy makes new steel bodies, fenders, and running boards, while the beds are made in Detroit.
The cockpit comes in regular, extended, and double-cab configurations. The regular cab presents the classic look but gets a nine-foot bed, a foot longer than on the original. The extended cab gets a 14-inch extension, which means splicing in the ribbed roof panel from a Chevrolet Avalanche overhead and the curved windows from a fifties-era Chevy truck for blind-spot visibility. Behind it is a seven-foot bed. The double-cab is two original cabs welded together – which takes 600 hours to complete – with space for a five-foot bed in back.
Ahead of the cab, there are three engine choices. The buyer looking for high power goes for the naturally-aspirated or supercharged 6.2-liter Chevrolet V8, the former belting out 430 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, the latter 585 hp and 580 lb-ft, both mated to a four-speed automatic. The buyer that needs pulling power opts for the 3.9-liter Cummins four-cylinder turbodiesel with 170 hp and 500 lb-ft. It is always paired with a five-speed manual, the first cog a granny gear, fifth a 27 percent overdrive gear. And ‘purists’ can opt for a 7.0-liter, stroked Chrysler 426 Hemi V8 with 430 hp and 500 lb-ft, also mated to that five-speed manual.