No Reserve Project: 1952 Dodge Power Wagon

If I were going to make a movie with a dystopian world view, like Mad Max redux, this 1952 Dodge Power Wagon would be my first prop. Located in Tustin, California, it is available here on eBay for a current bid of $5,539.

This one is an interesting study for various and sundry reasons that I’ll explain later. The Dodge Power Wagon was considered a medium-duty truck and produced between 1945 and 1980 in four-wheel-drive form. The name “Power Wagon” has survived since 1980 in differing iterations under both the Dodge and Ram nameplates. There were both civilian and military versions produced.

So, a Power Wagon should have a lot of power, right? Well, I’m a bit confused about this one. This Power Wagon should have a 230 CI in-line flathead six-cylinder engine developing 94 HP. Instead, it has a 1936 vintage D2 engine which, according to the seller,  was an industrial engine used for generators and the like.  A D2 is a 217 CI flathead six-cylinder engine good for 87 HP and was prevalent in the 1930s. Regardless, the engine doesn’t run and hasn’t in ten years; it does turnover, however. The drive train has had some parts replaced, differential and hubs, but it is basic Power Wagon with a four-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive.

Inside looks, pretty utilitarian, probably too utilitarian as all of the dash gauges are missing. While there is mention of extra parts, no indication if the missing instruments are in the pictured parts pile. The floors appear to be sound however so that’s encouraging. While the door cards and some of the trim are missing, the bench seat is present and intact.

There is a lot of surface rust “patina” on the body but it doesn’t look perforated or rotted – it actually has a “zombie apocalypse” vibe going on. I can see some restoration experts trying to either maintain or recreate this look. That would be the big decision, leave it as is or head towards restoration.

The seller makes no reference to structural integrity but there is a link here to additional pictures and I selected one that is typical. No evidence of serious damage is present to the frame and there appears to be a recent plywood bed that has been installed and secured to the existing cross-members. Originally, it would have been a planked, hardwood bed.

As you stroll through the additional pictures, you’ll see many images of parts, it almost seems like an AMT 3-in-1 model kit, there is a lot of extra stuff available! The good news is that a truck like this usually isn’t as complicated as a car to restore. The bad news is that this Power Wagon is more obscure than most cars and it’s going to be a “put it together yourself” project based on how well you can figure out how to assemble all of the parts. And then there’s the issue of the engine – many unknowns. I generally avoid projects like this but then I know the limit of my mechanical skills too. How about you, would you take a chance on a project like this?


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  1. Grandpa Lou

    Drove one once back to a hunting cabin. Great for off the road, get you anywhere, but as a road worthy vehicle? Not a chance. Too stiff, too loud, handles poorly, couldn’t keep up with around town traffic, much less on the open road. Forget freeways, 55 MPH will drive you crazy. If you could buy it for little or nothing, keep it rough to use on the farm or the deer camp (what it was originally built for) then I would say it is a good deal. But to buy it, toss a trillion dollars into it, spit shine it and pretend you are cool, then you are a fool. Not pleasant to use like that. Same thing as the silly over restoring of the VW vans. Never intended to be a high buck thing, nor use as we use modern vehicles today. The money has distorted old stuff the same way money distorts natural selection in people. Darwin would be aghast, as would the designers and builders of these. Just my two cents worth.

    Like 19
    • al8apex

      well said

      Like 4
    • gerry schram

      Hope you like you stuck & scraping Lexus, Lou

  2. Dean

    Dad used Power Wagons all through the late 40’s and early 50’s in the Wyoming oil fields..some resembling this, but most with winches and gin poles

    Like 4
    • Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

      I was thinking the same thing Dean. Used to see a few of them in the Ohio oil fields in the 60’s. Most owners/operators of wells did not go the expense of all-weather roads, instead they relied on beast-like trucks such as this to facilitate hauling equipment for repair work. One might also see them lumbering along the local gravel or blacktop roads at about 30 mph.

      Like 1
  3. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

    Those days aren’t gone. You just have to change what you’re looking for. There are plenty of affordable classics out there if you stop focusing on only the most popular models.

  4. Carl Hutchins

    Were I not so durn old, plus a few other things, I’d be sorely tempted to bring the beast on to my property !!

    1. When Dad retired, he was a foreman at Ft. Bliss, Texas. His “company vehicle” was a Dodge Weapons carrier. A very close cousin to the vehicle
    described here/ At about 16, I drove it. Open, no top, four on the floor, no power assist whatsoever. I had a ball.

    2. This example appears to be of military origin. Circa 1953, II was a platoon leader in an AA SP Battalion. In lieu of command half tracks, we had 3/4 Dodges as as the example. Slow for sure, but formidable in the rough and tough as nails.

    3. My son has an odd fork lift. It began a tough life as a WWII Dodge Weapons carrier. Same under as the example here. But, as surplus, was converted to fork lift for civilian duty. A tough life, beat up and patched, but works a bunch… Lift at the old rear. All works backwards…

    Like 2
  5. Dan B.

    Hat tip for the AMT 3-in-1 reference.

    Like 3
    • Kellerg

      My thoughts exactly!

  6. Del

    There seems to be a few around, if you want one then you should look for a better one.

    At that price you might even find one that runs

  7. TimM

    I had a friend that had one of these in high school! It was a beast in the woods!!! Mud, water holes, rocks, it didn’t much matter!! It’s true about going over the road though!! The ride was that of a lumber wagon no pun intended!!! Couldn’t keep up in traffic!!! One note though!! If you bring the keg in the woods in the back of this thing wait an hour or so before you tap it!! If not you’ll just get a foam beer!!!!

    Like 4
  8. Richard Martin

    I’ve heard some say that a Cummins Diesel should be slipped in under the hood.

    Like 1
  9. John Member

    Not a military this has “Power Wagon” on the side.
    Drove one when I was 18-19, was in a AA Hq. Bat., loaded radios on it and we drove in convoy and thru the fields. As was sed, 50MPH was about tops,
    the “2 1/2 tons” could run 60 or so. Tough truck and could climb a hill W/O puffin.

    Like 1
  10. Karl

    Hey guys leaving this truck rough would be like leaving an original Hertz rent a racer in rough shape and using it to run out to field to your combine! NOT!
    The 230 ci L head engines are plentiful and cheap, this truck is rated as a 1 ton and since it is a Power Wagon there is no military history since it was built as a civilian only vehicle. As far as the interior and dash gauges they are all very available along with virtually every part on this truck. I am restoring a B1 1950 version of this very truck and I do all my own work on it except engine machining and powder coating the big items like the frame. My truck will be completed early this summer and I will have about 60k into the resto and it will be perfect in every way, when selling the truck comes around I will expect to clear 40k on the deal. These trucks are worth gold now days!!

    Like 2
    • Boris

      Good for you, but what about us who just want it like for what that guy Grandpa Lou said? A truck that sells for that much will never again be used for what is supposed to be used for. For that kind of money, might as well buy a brand new 4X4, cheaper and has a warranty, perform better too.

      Like 2
  11. Richard Gugenberger

    My Brother and I had one of these a 1951 or 53 with a dump body , used it to plow snow , haul logs and scrap cars . what a beast 45 50 top end , rough noisy and tough !1 don’t really want another one of these don’t think my old body could taake it !! good luck to some one !!

    Like 2
  12. Jim King

    I LIKE them myself!….and I would never call anybody a fool for doing something they enjoy! There are over 36 flavors of ice cream for a reason!…if we were all the same Grandpa Lou it would be a boring world!

    Like 2
    • Boris

      I agree with you. GL does seem like a bit of a fuddy duddy, but he does say that to put a lot of money into it and expect a modern driving experience to be the foolish act. What I wanna know is why is he talking like he is one of my high school biology teachers? I hated high school! I bet he is one of those.

      Like 2
  13. Howard A Member

    It’s always a pain putting something together someone else took apart. You always come up short . Again, depends what you want to do with it. You want to bounce through the woods, I’d try and put it back together, you want to drive it down the road, finish it right. It still is a solid truck.

    Like 2
  14. Karl

    Well stated Howard the truck has the potential to be and do whatever the buyer wants, it’s certainly got good bones, so to speak.

    Like 3
  15. Lance Nord

    This truck is perfect for a resto-mod starting with a Cummins 6.7 turbo and an Allison LCT 1000 6 speed. Granted, I would like a crew cab too, but would likely bust the budget…

  16. Karl

    Hello Lance there are two companies that I know of that are taking the bodies of the Power Wagons and mounting them on modern pickup chassis, and they have a standard cab like this one then they modify the cab into an extended version and their 3rd option is a full 4 door cab all still maintaining this old power wagon look. I don’t know what you pain threshold is but the standard cab version is 187,000 the extended cab version is 225,000 and last but not least the 4 door version is 299,000 and that is USD, oh and they have a 1 year waiting list, and no I could not make this insanity up

    Like 2
    • Lance Nord


      I’m aware of those two companies and my pain threshold is not that high. While I would expect to pay a premium for custom work, their prices indicate that I would also need to drop my drawers and prepare to be ass raped with no lubrication.

      Like 2
      • Grandpa Lou

        Really? And I get comments removed for bringing up what I feel to be excessive prices? Jesse, come on, pay attention!

        Like 1
      • Boris

        Ahhh Karl, potty mouth. My Ma would have washed yours out with soap, maybe Lifeboy soap!

        Like 1
  17. CraigR

    The plywood bed would disintegrate in no time,

  18. chrlsful


    Who’s more over the line?
    Lance 4 what he said
    whatever co Karl is quoiting?

    Like Gramps, nice truck, don’t wanna put big bucks in (I got the ’66 Bronk for dat). LOL !!!

  19. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended:Nov 24, 2019 , 1:38PM
    Winning bid:
    US $10,100.00 [ 18 bids ]

  20. David Member

    After all is said and done. I bought the truck… we rolled it down the driveway….and using the clutch in first gear “as the brake”…….the engine turned over. It is now awaiting re-assembly just as it is. The engine will be running within a week……its what we do. Even though the brakes were re-done…it was 10 years ago….and it’ll need wheel cylinders. No body work here……we leave it as it is. Everyone have a great Thanksgiving.

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