Ahead Of Its Time: 1957 Powell Pickup

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This 1957 Powell Pickup rates as one of the coolest pickups that I’ve ever seen. The owner provides plenty of photos and information about the vehicle, and it seems that it is also quite a rare beast. The Powell was referred to us by Barn Finder Fred H, so thank you so much for that Fred. You will find the Powell located in Studio City, California, and listed for sale here on Craigslist. The price for the Powell has been set at $7,000, which seems to be quite reasonable for a pickup of this rarity.

Hands up all of those whose minds jumped straight to an episode of The Simpsons when they saw the name Powell because mine certainly did. Well, this Pickup seems to be a whole lot better than the Homer that was the subject of that episode. This Powell Pickup shows a lot of promise, and while the body has some dings, dents, and surface corrosion, it actually looks quite good. The frame for the Powell was a recycled product, starting life as either a 1940 or 1941 Plymouth chassis. These were a pretty robust item, so being a California vehicle, the chances are that the frame is going to be okay. One issue to be addressed is the glass, because it is all missing. Even here the news actually isn’t too bad. All of the glass on a Powell is flat, so getting reproduction pieces made by a good glazier shouldn’t be difficult. The early Powell Pickups had their bumpers and tailgates manufactured from oak, but these were eventually deemed to be unsafe. The diamond-plate rear bumper and tailgate on this vehicle indicate that this was the Deluxe version of the Powell.

This is one optional feature on the Powell Pickup that I felt was too cool not to mention. This is the fishing-pole storage tube, and these could be fitted to either one or both sides of the Powell Pickup. As the name suggests, it was primarily designed for storing long items such as fishing poles and slid in and out of the space between the inner and outer bed. This pre-dated inbuilt storage in pickups by quite some time and would be a pretty good feature to have on a pickup today. The other thing that you might notice with the Powell is the fact that the cab and bed are fully integrated, not separate units as was the practice at that time (and still is today). This gives the styling of the vehicle a very smooth and seamless look.

The interior of the Pickup is going to require a fair bit of restoration work, but apart from the missing tray in the glove compartment and missing door trims, it does appear to be complete. Being the Deluxe version, the seats would originally have been finished in two-tone upholstery. It is a bit hard to see what the actual colors may have been, but the chances are pretty good that you will find some untouched and unfaded sections of the upholstery when you remove the cover, and this will give you something to get a match from. The rest of the interior is pretty basic, so restoration should be a fairly straightforward task.

The Powell truly is a vehicle that was based on a lot of recycled parts. As well as the chassis being sourced from salvage yards, the engine wasn’t particularly new either. The Powell was powered by a 201ci flathead six-cylinder engine, usually sourced from either Plymouth or Dodge. The transmission is a 3-speed manual, which I believe is also sourced from the same manufacturers. Powell only ever built around 1,200 vehicles, and the recycled nature of so many of the components meant that there could be quite a variation in chassis and drive-train components from one vehicle to the next. However, given the fact that the majority of the mechanical components can still be sourced, there should not be a lot of trouble getting all of the parts together to get this one back up and running.

The Powell Manufacturing Company didn’t achieve great levels of success with their Pickup for the simple reason that their sources of recycled chassis components eventually dried up. Today, there is a far greater focus on recycling than there was in the 1950s, so in a strange way, they were really ahead of their time. With only around 1,200 vehicles built, it is not likely that you will pass one on the road anytime soon. So to me, that makes this a project that is well worth taking on.

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  1. stillrunners

    Kinda neat….lot’s were put away….maybe the first in the long list of hopeful cash in’s. This one looks well used – fun.

    Like 4
  2. Howard A. Howard AMember

    “Whether you’re driving near or far, Powell makes a pow, pow powerful car”,, that episode had me in stitches. Danny DeVito was great.This truck, no relation. IDK, I always thought of these as some kind of generic truck, totally void of any style, with some 50’s IH flair. It looks like it was made in a garage. I think it’s pretty cool as a half baked attempt to enter the pickup truck market. Yeah, right, nice try, but you’d have to be a dreamer thinking you could compete with the big guys, but that’s America, the little guy could give it a shot. I agree, probably one of the rarest vehicles to come through here.

    Like 5
  3. That AMC Guy

    These are really cool but I really don’t understand what kind of thinking was behind Powell’s business plan. They must have realized that at some point (probably not long either) usable 1940 Plymouth frames would become unavailable. Bizarre.

    Like 6
    • Howard A. Howard AMember

      I read, that’s exactly what happened. The fact they came up with like 1200 Plymouth frames and motors, especially after the war, was pretty amazing in itself. They made a wagon too, that was equally as generic.

      Like 2
    • Brakeservo

      Sounds like Tucker – who used salvaged Cord 810 transmissions – the supply of those was obviously limited too!

      Like 2
    • Kris

      Powells are weird. They always strike me as being some home-built body on a donor frame – which isn’t far off of the truth. What would it have been like to buy one new? You were essentially getting a used car for a new price.

      Like 0
      • Miles Chappell

        The running gear was all rebuilt to original spec, there’s factory photos of engines being rebuilt.

        Like 6
  4. Mark

    Looks like a kiddy ride truck at a carnival. Cool,idea. Like that hidden fishing pole or long samurai sword storage area.

    Like 5
  5. bull

    “Rare” means nobody wanted it when it was new either.

    Nothing has changed!

    Like 6
  6. Jim Benjaminson

    The only new vehicle to sell for under $1,000 in 1955-56

    Like 3
  7. Miles Chappell

    I own 2 Powell’s and host the Powell Group on FB. Hope the new owner gets this one on the road. I have glass patterns available, brake parts are available, many repro parts available as well.

    Like 29
    • David

      The door windows were sliders??

      Like 0
      • Miles Chappell

        Yes, all we’re sliders.. it gets blazing hot in the summer, considering roll ups in my resto mod, there’s plenty of room.

        Like 0
    • half cab

      That red n white is purdy.

      Like 1
  8. David

    Since these trucks had random drive trains, I think it would be fitting to continue the tradition, but in a modern way. A slant 6 should fit in there backed by a Mopar 3 speed. I wonder how hard it would be to build a glove box door out of oak?

    Like 1
  9. sluggo

    I had a neighbor here in Oregon and he was a wheeler-dealer type and always had interesting cars. (I did a trade and some cash for 2 prewar plymouth coupes for a 48 Plymouth) But he had one of these Powells, Had the extendo tube as well. Somewhat better condition than this one and less money. I helped broker a sale to another guy I knew up in Washington. Far as I know, he still has it. Probably sitting in his barn.
    My understanding, which could be wrong was the plan was to get rolling with used engines and frames but eventually build their own stuff or source something else, but the endeavor never got ramped up enough to happen.

    Like 0
  10. James

    Very cool truck, but the design looks a bit Eastern European-ish…

    Like 0
  11. xrotartguy

    Never knew about these. I think it’s darn cool! The styling even looks “pretty decent” considering all the flat surfaces.

    Like 0
  12. James Wisniewski

    I hate to mention this, but the Powell photographed is not a 1957. The 1957 had a different chrome design on the sides and the nose. I know as I own one of the 3 or 4 known 1957s.

    Like 0
    • Miles Chappell

      Are you in my Powell Owners Group? Do you mean the chrome on yours isn’t from a ’49 Ford? And your serial number is like this: PMC-7-**** ?

      Like 0

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