Honor This Vet: 1951 Dodge Power Wagon Ambulance

Power Wgn side

Now here is a really big project, but one that is also likely to be  alot of fun to build and even more fun once finished, a 1951 Dodge Power Wagon ambulance for sale here on craigslist in sunny San Diego with an asking price of $4,500. This truck is a Korean War veteran, though there is no information offered by the seller about the Dodge’s history. It might be possible to learn more about it from its serial number and military records, though that is pure conjecture on my part.

Power Wgn engine

The seller claims it is complete, “never wrecked or altered” and the pictures do bear out the very brief description. There are a lot of unanswered questions about this truck, but seeing it on the trailer in all its glory, you can assume it will need every mechanical system completely overhauled or replaced, and that both the ambulance body and cab will need extensive rust repair as well. It’s clearly been sitting for quite some time, and probably not in inside storage.

Power Wgn rust

Even though Dodge Power Wagons use purpose built heavy duty parts for almost every element of these trucks, making the parts not interchangeable with any car derived pieces (including engines), you can source just about any part you need for a rebuild from Vintage Power Wagons.

Power Wgn interior

These Power Wagons were based on a rugged and durable design that evolved during World War II to serve the Army and the Navy in the field. After that war ended, thousands of GI’s came home with fond memories of the equipment that had served them so well, and in some cases had saved their lives in either the European or Pacific war theaters.

Power Wgn ceiling

According to a history of the Power Wagons on allpar.com, Dodge built 226,766 “carry-alls” during the war and after the war ended, was swamped with requests to build them for peace time applications. Four wheel drive was an important and sought after feature at this point.

Power Wgn back

It took until 1946 for Dodge to engineer the heavy duty truck for civilian use, using a variety of off the shelf and new pieces from their truck hardware inventories, and the Power Wagon was born.

Power Wgn seat

The Power Wagon then stayed in production through 1968 without any significant changes to the overall look and feel.

Power Wgn dash

Dodge did make all sorts of mechanical changes and upgrades to these trucks over their long production run, and most of the improved pieces can be retrofitted to the older models like this one to make them drive more smoothly, and converting them to 12 volt systems is a very common change. Power Wagons even got alternators and lock out hubs near the end of the model run.

Power Wgn spring

Dodge finally killed off the original Power Wagon configuration in 1968 because of the cost of meeting modern safety and emissions requirements (but has continued to use the name Power Wagon on a variety of heavy duty four wheel drive trucks ever since.) Dodge made a total of 95,145 of the WDX-WM300 Power Wagons through 1968 and continued manufacturing them for export until 1978.

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Aside from extensive military uses, the original Power Wagons were popular with the US Forest Service and many industrial and agricultural users. The power take off (PTO) capability was an attractive feature that saw wide usage.

Power Wgn ambo

I could not find any sources that show the number of Power Wagon ambulances made, but it’s likely quite a few of them were built during the Korean War. Dodge made a variety of different ambulance body styles, some of which did not come with the PTO option. I did find this later model version for sale in the classifieds section of DodgePowerWagons.com; it’s in Colorado that looks to be in better condition than the San Diego one. The asking price is considerably higher, but the work it needs may be significantly less as well. These are great trucks with a legion of dedicated fans. Hopefully one of them will provide this old veteran with a new home soon. House on wheels anyone?

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Comments

  1. randy

    Yet another truck I missed the boat on, but I am still hoping.

  2. JW

    Where’s Radar & Clinger when you need some advice on one of these ???

    • randy

      I’d rather get advice from Hot lips Hoolahan.

      • Woodie Man

        Adios Wayne Rogers aka Trapper John

  3. Dolphin Member

    With a seller who rolls the dice on public roads like this guy, for the first time in my life I’m glad I don’t live in sunny San Diego with him on the road. I guess he maybe saved $87 on this shorty hauler over one that might provide a margin of safety when hauling things this big.

    Funny comment JW…..gave me a flashback to all those episodes I watched over the years.

    • Ethan Member

      Wow! Didn’t notice that at first. Looks pretty sketchy.

  4. randy

    It looks as though he got the weight balanced out though.

  5. Ed P

    This is mostly a variation on the Power Wagon vehicle. With the flat head six restored, it will go anywhere. It just will not go anywhere fast.

  6. Alan (Michigan)

    Got $?
    Want a cool war wagon like this?
    Want it done right/can’t do it yourself?
    Hit the “Easy Button”: http://www.legacyclassictruck.com/
    Check out Leno’s Garage for a 6X6 this outfit did…. Oh, to have big bucks…

  7. Jim Capp

    My father had one he used in his Handyman Business after he got out of the Army after WWll.

    • Charles

      Great picture!

  8. Rancho Bella

    I feel for the trailer………..that poor thing is crying

  9. charlie Member

    A contractor friend had one, pick up truck style, in the early 70’s which he used to tow a 22′ x 30′ post and beam shed/barn across my back yard to a new foundation. Big lug tires, and just put a steel cable around the shed, telephone pieces for rollers under the new sills, and in low/low crawled across the 100 or so feet of lawn effortlessly.

    • Ed P

      Ah, evidence that proves these trucks could tow a house!

  10. Charles

    Drove several of these ambulance “bad boys” when I was a medic in the Air Force. Rugged as could be, very dependable and serviceable. Big red crosses on each side and the rear doors. Were maintained in excellent condition as they had to be ready to go at a moments notice.

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